A résumé is a brief summary of your skills, accomplishments, and other relevant information to support your application to a specific job.
Review our video on the Principles of Strong Application Materials before constructing your résumé.
Considerations for Writing a Résumé
- Create a positive impression by tailoring your résumé to each position and employer.
- Determine experiences and skills needed for the job.
- Identify skills that apply to many work settings. For instance, employers highly value teamwork, leadership, and communication abilities. Also consider specialized skills, such statistical analysis, computer programming, and language ability that may be of particular interest to an employer.
- Choose a résumé format that highlights your background.
What to Avoid
- Citizenship, unless indicating U.S. work authorization
- Personal information such as Social Security Number, age, marital status, sex/gender
- Picture of yourself
- Use standard font styles between 10- to 14-point in size.
- Clear and consistent formatting creates an easily readable document.
- Start bullet points with action verbs.
- Describe and quantify experiences as much as possible.
- Include key words from the job description.
- Place the most important information at the top of the document.
- Limit to one page at the master’s level and two pages at the doctoral level.
- Read closely for spelling and grammar mistakes.
There are multiple formats used to present information on a résumé, and each format has its own strengths and weaknesses. Choose the format that best highlights your past experiences and connects them to the job to which you are applying.
- Description: Experiences presented in reverse chronological order.
- Benefits: Highlights progressive work experience. Is most traditional and easiest to construct and understand. Best for those who have significant experience in the field where they are seeking a job.
- Problems: Less effective if changing careers, have little work experience or need to draw a connection between an experience and a job that seems unrelated. Can cause an older but highly relevant experience to get buried at the end.
- Description: Experiences are grouped based on type (technical experience, leadership experience, etc.) and are listed in reverse chronological order within these categories.
- Benefits: Can allow a less recent but highly relevant experience to appear at the top. Categories can help draw connections between experiences.
- Problems: May be difficult to categorize experiences.
- Description: Descriptions for several different experiences are grouped by skills (leadership, management, etc.) and the actual titles and dates of the experiences are listed at the top or bottom of the résumé.
- Benefits: Good for job changers, those with little work experience or those with gaps in employment history.
- Problems: Employers often don’t like this format. It can be confusing because the relationship between a skill and an experience can be lost. Generally not recommended.
- Description: List your past experiences in reverse chronological order. Within each experience, separate descriptions by sets of skills (leadership skills, analytical skills, communication skills, technical skills, etc.).
- Benefits: Excellent for people with 1-3 extensive experiences that used multiple skills. Also very useful in drawing connections between experiences that don’t appear relevant but do use transferable skills.
- Problems: Sometimes hard to classify skills used within a particular experience.
Since résumés should be structured to emphasize your strengths, choosing the sections to include depends upon the goals of the résumé and the audience. The order of the sections of a résumé may also vary to represent your strengths and experiences in the best possible light according to the job description. References and very old or irrelevant information, such as hobbies or salary history, should not be included as sections in a résumé.
- Name, address, telephone number, and email address, should always be placed at the top of a résumé.
- Never include information about age, sex, race, marital status, or citizenship status on a résumé unless it is an important component of the job for which you are applying.
- Next section on most résumés of current students or recent graduates.
- Include the institution name, city/state, degree, and graduation (or anticipated) date.
- Listing significant honors such as Phi Beta Kappa or magna/summa cum laude under education is appropriate.
- If your thesis or dissertation is relevant to the job, you may also include it here.
- Describe your relevant experiences since entering college and/or graduate school.
- Internships, volunteer work, leadership positions, and other professional experiences should also be included in this section.
- The first line of each experience should consistently detail your position, organization, location, and dates.
- Relevant tasks should be described in concise bullet points. Avoid long phrases and blocks of text that will be difficult for employers to read quickly.
- Useful primarily when distributing unsolicited résumés, such as at a career fair.
- Make sure the content conveys your qualifications for this position.
- Typical objective format: “To obtain a ____ position in a ______ which uses my ____ and_____”
Qualifications Summary or Profile
- Brief statements that tell the employer a little more about you than an objective statement.
- Summary can clarify the skills and abilities you will bring to an organization, especially if your background is not an obvious match to the position.
- Sample qualifications summary: "Excellent verbal and written communication skills, honed from several years of teaching undergraduate students. Proficient using software packages such as Microsoft Access, FrontPage, SPSS, and SASS. Strong organizational, marketing and leadership qualities, as demonstrated by previous teamwork experiences."
- May be a separate section or incorporated into other sections.
- Emphasize experiences where you utilized skills relevant to the position for which you are applying, such as management or leadership experience.
- Remember to keep your audience in mind when deciding which activities to include.
Honors and Awards
- Generally do not require a separate section.
- Consider choosing your top few honors and including them in your education section, listed as bullets under the degree in which you received them.
- Unless you are a listing an extremely prestigious and widely known honor, be certain that you provide a context (e.g.: awarded to the top graduate English student in a department of seventy-five students).
- Should be included as a separate section if you are applying for a technical position.
- Otherwise, consider incorporating these skills into the bullets of your experience section.
- Include on résumé, particularly if they are relevant to the job to which you are applying. Proficiency in foreign languages does impress employers.
- Be certain to designate your level of skill (e.g.,: fluent in Spanish, reading proficiency in German and Latin, basic skills in reading and speaking French).
- International travel (such as study-abroad programs) might also be mentioned in this section, if pertinent to the position sought. These items might also be listed in your education section if they do not warrant their own separate section.
Publications and Dissertation Information
- Often an unnecessary section.
- List only those publications, dissertation topics, posters, and presentations that are directly relevant to the position you are seeking.
- Can include a phrase under teaching or research experience indicating publication experience, such as "Co-authored and published three articles in professional journals."