Resume Writing Basics
The suggestions that follow are based on several years of experience with the recruiting process and employer feedback. Most rules for a good resume are not set in stone, but are strong guidelines. There is no one “right” way to write a resume. Employers have different opinions on what they prefer; therefore, it is important for your resume to best highlight your skills and interests.
Overall Appearance of a Resume
- Easy to read, follow, and understand
- Creative fields allow for more creative resume formats; creativity should not deter from the overall content and flow
- Templates limit formatting choices and content
Tabs and Bullets
- Bulleted action statements are not complete sentences and do not need periods
- When creating bullet points, use the bulleting function rather than a bullet character and spaces
- One-page resume for new and recent grads is recommended, exceptions include extraordinary directly-related career or leadership experience
- Margins should be between .5 and 1 inch (often this makes the difference between a one and two-page resume)
- One font and one color should be used throughout the document
- Font size between 10-12 point (font size will vary depending on the font you choose, the same applies to the size of your margins)
- Differentiate section headers, selectively use different types of highlighting text
- Serif fonts are easier to read than sans-serif fonts, experiment with fonts like Georgia, Garamond or Bookman Old Style to determine one that suits you
Grammar, Spelling, Typos
- No grammatical or spelling errors
- No personal pronouns (I, me, my, etc.) are used
- Unless necessary, avoid definite and indefinite articles in descriptions such as “a”, “an”, “the”
- All information is delivered in bullet, action-word statements
Elements of a Resume
- Your name as you want to be referred to professionally and formatted to stand out appropriately
- Phone number with area code, update your outgoing voicemail message including your name so employers know they have the correct number
- Email address (professional addresses only)
- LinkedIn profile address, learn more about LinkedIn
firstname.lastname@example.org | 309-394-7000| linkedin.com/in/gusviking
A clear objective helps focus on select information. Although you may wish to make your objective broad, do not make it so broad that it says nothing. If you are pursuing employment in more than one field, simply create different objectives for each field and job application. There should only be one objective per resume.
Your career objective should answer the question, “What do I want to do?” Is it for graduate school, a part-time job, an internship, a professional position after graduation, a scholarship? Make sure your objective is clear.
Seeking a summer internship in a communications related field using organization, public speaking and media communication skills
Summary of Qualifications
If your career goal is obvious and the intent of your resume is clear you may consider using a “summary of qualifications” depending on what’s most appropriate.
A Summary of Qualifications should summarize your resume and accomplishments much like an introduction might summarize a book. You could also think of this as a “tagline” for yourself and the rest of the resume will have the supporting information for your “advertisement.” You can use this space to match your accomplishments to the qualifications of the job to which you are applying.
These should be written in the third person, not using “I” or “me” throughout, and should provide the top items that set you apart as a candidate. Think of the top three or four things that highlight you as a candidate and differentiate you from the other candidates in the pool.
If you speak other languages, you could highlight it here. Additionally, if you are from abroad, your work-authorization status may be mentioned in order to reduce confusion with prospective employers.
Personable and motivated entry-level marketing professional with experience in both non-profit and for-profit environments. Skilled in marketing plan design and implementation. Efficient presentation and communication skills acquired through student leadership positions.
- Two years of internship experience within a Fortune-500 company
- Proven leadership experience with a student organization
- Fluency in Spanish
For each degree-conferring institution beyond high school:
- Name of educational institution or specialized training program
- Location (city, state) of each institution
- Degree or certification obtained
- Major(s)/minor/area of concentration or emphasis
- Actual or anticipated graduation date (month and year)
Additional/Optional items to include:
- GPA/Major GPA (if proud of it, usually <3.0) Include all decimal points with the scale. If you include Major GPA then you should also include your cumulative GPA.
- Certifications and/or licenses related to career goal
- Relevant coursework, projects, and/or thesis
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology and Biology May 2023
Augustana College, Rock Island, IL GPA: 3.2/4.0
High School information
If you are a first year or sophomore student, having high school information is acceptable on your resume. Once you have enough experiences during your college years, we recommend that all high school information is deleted.
Do not list schools from which you did not receive a degree
Courses that you took which are related to the position you are applying for can be included on your resume. List the title of the course, course numbers are not necessary. Include the semester and year taken.
Relevant Coursework: Computer Literacy in Business (Spring 20xx), Media Writing (Spring 20xx), Public Relations Principles (Fall 20xx), Media Law (Fall 20xx), Ethical Problems of Mass Communications (Fall 20xx)
This part of your resume may include several sections such as:
- Career Related OR Related OR Relevant Experience: really any area in which you may have significant experience and is related to your career goal, even remotely
- Additional Work Experience: use this to list jobs you have had to show consistency, longevity, or just simply that you know how to work. Sometimes this section does not include bulleted action word statements because what you are doing may be obvious such as Bartender.
- Briefly describe for each position:
- Job title, organization name, city, state, date (month and year)
- List your responsibilities for each position using bulleted action statements to describe situations and achievements
CORE Ambassador, CORE/Career Development, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL, August 2019- May 2020
- Promote CORE events through classroom presentations, outreach to student organizations, and workshops
- Provide instruction and guidance in use of CORE technology – Handshake, Viking Score, Viking Connections, Arches, co-curricular transcripts, career resources, etc. to fellow students and workers
- Check the department email and respond accordingly or forward to proper staff
- Attend, host and assist with logistical needs for various campus/career-oriented presentations and visit days throughout the school year
List each experience in reverse chronological order; more recent first. If your most career-related experience was a year ago and listed towards the bottom of your resume create a new section. The section can be titled many things such as career-related experience, related experience, relevant experience or any title where you can group your most significant experiences related to the position.
Class Projects (Optional)
If you have little experience related to your career objective, think about class projects that demonstrate your skills. List these just like a position with the name of the project, name of the class, Marquette University, and semester (Fall 20XX). Then list the objectives, tasks and accomplishments of project just like you would list bulleted action statements under each position.
General Psychology Course, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL, Augie Wellness Class Project, Spring 20xx
- Collaborated with student project team to identify and implement one wellness initiative to offer to incoming first year students
- Coordinated event planning and marketing for event with attendance of over 100 students
Honors, Activities, Leadership, or Special Skills (Optional)
Front load these with those most important or most pertinent to your objective (career goal). You may want to use specific headings such as professional organizations, computer skills, and leadership positions. Include any honors, scholarships or recognition awards that you have received. If you were actively involved in any clubs, teams or committees while in college, those may be included also. The key to this section is keeping it brief. If you feel you need more detail, use the guidelines from the Experience section and make it a complete section.
The trend is to keep away from any extraneous information that does not clearly connect to your career goal. However, if you are applying for a position in which you have experience through a hobby or leisure activity, you may want to consider adding it to your resume. For example, if you are applying for a forest ranger position and you enjoy hiking in the wilderness, include it by stating: Skilled in all-terrain hiking, camping and navigating. What you need to ask yourself is, “Will this information help the potential employer learn more about how well I can do the job?” If your answer is yes, then be sure to include the information.
Technology/Computer Skills (Optional)
More employers are asking about these skills, and many assume that college students today are very tech-savvy. Many of you do not have industry-specific tech skills, but if you do, then those need to be highlighted. It may be that you do not have space for a separate “technology” section, in which case a “Computer skills include …” line could be added to your profile, or you could address the skills in the description of the job in which you used them. You do not need to list Microsoft Office programs or other applications that are commonly used.
Once the employer has quickly read through your document and determined they want to revisit it in more detail, the quality of your bullet points will be a major factor in determining if you get an interview or not.
The PAR Method
The PAR Method is an easy to use formal method for creating bullet points. With few exceptions you should follow this method whenever possible. Each bullet point in your resume should have the following three features in order (A+P+R):
- Action– An action verb describing a specific skill. Stay away from generic verbs such as “assist”, “Help”, and “Worked with” as they do not convey a skill to an employer. Action verbs should generally be in the correct tense based on the position. If you are currently in a position verbs should be in present tense, and only in past tense if the task was completed and is no longer a part of the position. If you no longer have the position verbs should be in past tense.
- Project– The project is whatever your action verb refers to (i.e. Managed a team of workers).
- Result– How your action benefited others, why you did it, or show some sort of unit of growth. This is the hardest part of the resume as it requires you to think from a top down perspective. Why do you do a task? Why does anyone do this particular task? How does it impact other people? These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself when thinking about creating a result. If you cannot think of a result then it may not be important enough to put on a resume.
There are times when the PAR method does not work in the APR format. In the instances listed below you can swap the order of the PAR Method to RAP to fit your needs. These three instances are:
- Grammar or sentence structure– Many times you will find it does not make sense, or is blatantly grammatically incorrect to have a bullet point in the APR format. Moving the result to the front may fix this fairly easily.
- Describing similar skills in a new way– You have multiple positions where you did the same, or similar, tasks. The goal is always to highlight as many different skills and reduce redundancy in your resume. Moving the Result to the front may fix this issue as long as the sentence is slightly altered.
- Changing the focus of a bullet point– When you are applying for similar but slightly different jobs changing the order of existing phrasing can dramatically change the focus. A good example can be found below. The top phrasing would be an excellent order for a hiring or general manager position, whereas the phrasing on the bottom would be great for a logistics manager.
Writing Bulleted Action Statements
Bulleted action statements are concise phrases describing skills, accomplishments, or attributes related to your work experiences. These phrases begin with action verbs. The bullet point in front of these concise statements serves as visual landmarks to aid the reader in navigating the document quickly.
Steps to writing a bulleted action statement:
- Choose an action word: Action words are written in present tense for current experiences and past tense for experiences which have ended. Example: “Established”
Access Action Words & Phrases Resource
- Identify skills, attributes, or accomplishments from your experiences. Examples: built professional relationships, used written communication skills, friendly and efficient
Access Transferable Skills Resource
Access Career Readiness Skills Resource
- Describe the skill, attribute, or accomplishment: Be specific, concise, and quantify if possible (to help you be specific, consider the following questions: how many, how often, what type, where, with/for who, how much)
- Examples: “over 20 customers,” “monthly”, “20% increase of sales from 2014 to 2015”
- Put it all together: Example: Established professional relationships with over 20 customers monthly through friendly and efficient written communication resulting in an 20% increase of sales from 2018- 2020
Action statement writing tips:
- Statements should not be paragraphs. They should be to the point including information specifically related to the role of application.
- Quantifying your work helps to you to be specific. The reader should be able to picture what you were doing by reading the statements.
- Statements should not be paragraphs. They should be to the point including information specifically related to the role of application.
- Review the transferable skills necessary for the position. These may be listed in the job description or you many need to determine them on your own
- Statements should be focused on your accomplishments and responsibilities not only on duties. The statements should relate to what you did specifically. They should not describe what any person would do in the role
- Try to use vague action verbs as little as possible; assisted, helped, and worked
Access Applicant Tracking Systems Resource
Curriculum Vitae Guide
A curriculum vitae (also referred to as a CV) is a type of resume that tends to have a more academic focus. For those applying to certain graduate programs, medical school, and academic and research positions, a CV would likely be the best fit.
Access Curriculum Vitae Guide Resource