Your résumé is an inventory of your education, work experience, job-related skills, accomplishments, volunteer history, internships, residencies, and/or more. It’s a professional autobiography in outline form to give the person who reads it a quick, general idea of who you are. With a better idea of who your are, prospective employers can see how well you might contribute to their workplace.
As a college student or recent graduate, though, you may be unsure about what to put in your résumé, especially if you don’t have much employment history. Still, employers don’t expect recent grads to have significant work experience. And even with little work experience, you may still have a host of worthy accomplishments to include. It’s all in how you present yourself.
For many people, the process of writing a résumé is daunting. After all, you are taking a lot of information and condensing it into a very concise form that needs to be both eye-catching and easy to read. Don’t be scared off, though! Developing a good résumé can be fun, rewarding, and easier than you think if you follow a few basic guidelines.
Here is a list of information you should include in your resume:
- Your contact information: name, address, phone number, professional email address
- A summary of your skills: 5–10 skills you have gained in your field; you can list hard skills as well as soft skills (refer to the Professional Skill Building topic in this course)
- Work experience: depending on the résumé format you choose, you may list your most recent job first; include the title of the position, employer’s name, location, employment dates (beginning, ending)
- Volunteer experience
- Education and training: formal and informal experiences matter; include academic degrees, professional development, certificates, internships, etc.
- References statement (optional): “References available upon request” is a standard phrase used on résumés, although it is often implied
- Other sections: may include a job objective, a brief profile, a branding statement, a summary statement, additional accomplishments, and any other related experiences
Résumés resemble snowflakes in as much as no two are alike. Although you can benefit from giving yours a stamp of individuality, you will do well to steer clear of personal details that might elicit a negative response. It is advisable to omit any confidential information or details that could make you vulnerable to discrimination, for instance.
Your résumé will likely be viewed by a number of employees in an organization, including human resource personnel, managers, administrative staff, etc. By aiming to please all reviewers, you gain maximum advantage.
Here is a list of things you should not include:
- Do not mention your age, gender, height or weight.
- Do not include your social security number.
- Do not mention religious beliefs or political affiliations, unless they are relevant to the position.
- Do not include a photograph of yourself or a physical description.
- Do not mention health issues.
- Do not use first-person references (I, me).
- Do not include wage/salary expectations.
- Do not use abbreviations.
- Proofread carefully—absolutely no spelling mistakes are acceptable.
Remember that initially, employers may spend only a few seconds reviewing each résumé—especially if there is a big stack of them or they seem tedious to read. Here is a list of top ten tips for a successful résumé:
- Aim to make a résumé that’s 1–2 pages long on letter-size paper.
- Make it visually appealing.
- Use action verbs and phrases. See Action Words and Phrases for Résumé Development.
- Proofread carefully to eliminate any spelling, grammar, punctuation, and typographical errors.
- Include highlights of your qualifications or skills to attract an employer’s attention.
- Craft your letter as a pitch to people in the profession you plan to work in.
- Stand out as different, courageous.
- Be positive and reflect only the truth.
- Be excited and optimistic about your job prospects!
- Keep refining and reworking your résumé; it’s an ongoing project.
Take a look at this partial resume for Rilke Dietche. Do you see anything that you think he should change?
If you picked the email address, you’re correct. The email address email@example.com is not appropriate for a resume. Rilke should obtain a new address to use for business purposes.
Let’s look at another partial resume, this time for Pamela Lipschutz. Do you see anything that you think she should change, or does everything look good?
Pamela should not include salary expectations in her résumé. Salary negotiations will take place later in the hiring process, usually after the first or second interview.
For the last example, let’s look at a partial resume for Martha Peron. Do you see anything that you think she should change?
Martha has two spelling errors in the “Highlights and Qualifications” section title. In a résumé, absolutely no spelling mistakes are acceptable. It’s always a good idea to have one or two people look over your résumé for you to ensure that you catch every last spelling mistake.
Remember that your résumé is your professional profile. It will hold you in the most professional and positive light, and it’s designed to be a quick and easy way for a prospective employer to evaluate what you might bring to a job. When written and formatted attractively, creatively, and legibly, your résumé is what will get your foot in the door. You can be proud of your accomplishments, even if they don’t seem numerous. Let your résumé reflect your personal pride and professionalism.