Getting Started With Your Resume

A resume is a one or two page summary of relevant information giving a prospective employer an idea of who you are by outlining what you have done and highlighting your experiences and qualifications as they pertain to the needs of the position and/or organization. In an outline form, you define how your education, skills, and experience relate to the position(s) you are seeking.

A well-designed resume should be a clear and concise summary of your experiences, skills, achievements, and qualifications. Your resume will serve the following purposes:

  • Self-inventory: You will be better prepared to discuss your capabilities and career goals once you've analyzed your present and past experiences.
  • Interview agenda: An employer will use your resume as a guide during an interview.
  • Reminder: Your resume will be useful to the employer as he/she considers you for a position after an interview.

An effective resume, above all else, accurately reflects who you are. Make it work for you. Let your own creativity and the image you wish to present be your ultimate guide. To get the best results from your job search, you have to market yourself effectively. A targeted and well-written resume is an essential component of a directed and an effective job search.

Evaluate Your Experiences

The best place to start in preparing your resume is to do an inventory of your past experiences. If you haven't already done so, you should complete the self-assessment exercises that are presented in the Career Search Guide. These exercises will help you determine how you want to market yourself, including what areas to emphasize and your transferable skills. Make sure you consider all of your past experiences, including jobs, internships, extracurricular activities, academic accomplishments, and volunteer work. Under each of the areas, list what your experience entailed, including:

  • level of involvement, leadership or responsibilities
  • tasks or duties performed
  • accomplishments and outcomes
  • specific skills and abilities used (e.g. analytical, research, creative)

Critique what you have recorded as if you were the employer, and remember to tailor your resume to highlight those items that reflect your career objective. You may even elect to write more than one resume if you plan to apply for positions in different fields and will be focusing on different skills (e.g. research vs. sales).

Types of Resumes

The chronological and functional resumes, or some combination of these two formats, are the standard types of resumes used by job seekers in today's employment market. To select the type which best supports your needs, review the following information.

Chronological

In this type of resume, you organize job history chronologically with the most recent information first. This type of resume emphasizes job titles and organizations and describes in details the accomplishments and responsibilities associated with each position. A chronological resume is easy to read, since it highlights names of employers and job titles, and emphasizes career growth. It is best suited to those whose career goals are clear and whose job objectives are aligned with their work history.

Functional

In a functional resume, you highlight skills and accomplishments developed through work, academic, and community experiences. This type of resume benefits candidates looking to enter a field not directly related to their major or those who are changing careers. As a job seeker, you can focus on your skills and minimize your lack of experience or gaps in work history. It is important to note that employers often view functional resumes more critically for just those reasons.

When writing a functional resume, be sure to talk about those skills you possess that will transfer over into the profession you are looking to enter.

Blended

For some candidates, a blended resume provides the best of both formats. By blending the two formats, you can highlight your important skills and fully explain your work experiences. This format works well for candidates with more than three years of experience.

Appearance

Although you may have a strong background, if your resume doesn't look good, you may not get invited to an interview. Make sure that you have several people review your resume for errors and omissions. When you print your resume, use a laser printer. When choosing a paper to use, it is best to stick with neutral tones-white or ivory. Avoid gray and/or "speckled" paper because it does not copy or fax well. Buy the bonded paper made for your type of printer-it is heavier than regular printer paper. Print your cover letters and reference list on the same paper as your resume.

Resume Length

A resume should be 1-2 pages long. Most students will be able to construct a thorough one-page resume. However, the length of a resume ultimately depends on a person's experiences. If you have a substantial work history, don't sell yourself short! Just make sure that all of the information is strong and relevant.

Common Sections

There are several sections that need to be included on your resume. They are: Heading (your contact information); Objective or Skills Summary; Education; and Experience. Additional topics you may include are: Coursework; Honors/Awards; Skills; Leadership; Community Service; and Interests.