A resume is easily confused with a curriculum vitae (CV), which is geared towards academic employment.

The Purpose of a Resume

  • Motivate the employer to interview you.
  • Provide a concise summary of your experience/background relevant to the job for which you are applying.
  • Provide a medium for marketing/highlighting your relevant competencies and accomplishments.

How to Write a Great Resume

You want to create an image of yourself as an active, vital participant in the workplace. You are convincing the employer not only of your potential contributions to the job, but also your ability to adapt to a different environment.

Use action verbs to begin your descriptions, such as:

  • Developed sales and marketing strategies.
  • Collected, measured, and evaluated chemical properties of soils.
  • Coordinated committee meetings.

Eliminate non-essential phrases.

  • Phrases like "responsibilities included" are passive. Use active phrases.
  • Example: Designed, prepared, and taught laboratory exercises to 30 students

Use quantitative and qualitative information.

  • Increased sales by 10%.
  • Wrote 3 research papers, presented 5 papers at national meetings, and led 10 seminars.

Describe achievements, skills gained, and responsibilities.

  • Example: Received award for excellence for design and implementation of an innovative computer program.
  • Developed financial management skills through processing of daily transactions.
  • Managed budget of $3,000.

Presentation and Layout

The resume should be one page (two pages if you include publications).

  • Highlight items by underline, italics, capitals, bold, or indentation.
  • Vary fonts (be careful not to over-do by making resume look too busy or cute).
  • Allow white space. Be consistent in form. Balanced margins and adequate space make for easier reading.
  • Watch verb tenses. Do not use “I”.
  • Use a font size that is easy to read, i.e., 10-14 point.
  • Proofread several times.

Content and Organization

Resume content and organization can vary from field to field. Note that information such as age, weight, race, salary requirements, and marital status are not included in a resume. Information on citizenship is not required. If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent alien, however, it is a good idea to include this information. 

Resumes have two basic styles: Reverse Chronological and Functional or Skills format. Reverse Chronological is the most common format because it is clear and easy to read. The Functional/Skills resume emphasizes skills areas.

Common Resume Categories

  • Applicant Information
  • Professional Objective (optional)
  • Qualifications (optional)
  • Education
  • Honors and Awards
  • Work Experience
  • Leadership and Volunteer Work
  • Skills

Other categories could include Professional Memberships, Publications, and Presentations.