There is no "perfect" or "right" resume format. The format you choose will depend upon the job for which you are applying and your past experiences. The following guidelines are just that—guidelines for what to include in your resume. Use common sense and imagination to highlight your background and experience in a well-focused resume. Remember, the purpose of a resume is to get a job interview. The interview gets you the job.
A one-page resume works well for the recent graduate. If you have an extensive work history, limit information to what is pertinent to the position to which you are applying. Students with advanced degrees will likely have a vitae instead of a resume. Vitas are much longer and more detailed than resumes.
An organized, readable layout determines whether a resume is read or tossed aside. Make sure the information is well-organized and concise. Use bullet points and lists while avoiding dense text and paragraphs that are difficult to read. Using high-quality white or light-colored paper is recommended.
Design your resume with a particular objective in mind. Present information important to the objective first. List information in descending order of importance. Be selective about what you include in your resume, but never falsify or exaggerate information. Sell yourself—attract attention to your special abilities and concentrate on your skills and competencies.
Make sure your name is the most obvious piece of information on your resume. Also include your mailing address, email address, and phone number with voice mail capabilities. Do not include personal information such as age, marital status or health condition.
List your educational background in reverse chronological order, starting with your highest college degree and working your way backwards. Do not include high school information. If you have not yet completed your degree, be sure to include your expected graduation date. Listing your grade point average is optional, but recommended if it is over a 3.0. Dissertation and thesis topics are also included in this section as are honors bestowed at graduation time. You can also choose to include formal study abroad experiences here.
This category includes volunteer or intern experience as well as employment that is relevant to the position being sought. Military experience is also listed in this section. Include job titles, employers, responsibilities, and dates. Concentrate on your contributions and impact using action words. You may include paid work experience, academic assignments of significance, and extracurricular assignments relative to your desired field of employment.
Leadership and Campus/Community Involvement
Use this section to list your extra-curricular activities, membership on committees, volunteer experiences, or other experiences that may be relevant to a potential employer.
An objective gives your resume a focus. It also gives credibility and direction to your resume and suggests commitment on your part. It should be specific enough to tell the employer the kind of work you seek, yet general enough to include the full range of jobs you will consider. If preparing your resume for a career fair, the objective should state if you are seeking an internship or full-time employment.
Qualifications or Technical Skills
Qualifications, or skills, may be established from any prior employment, educational achievement, internship, volunteer experience, and hobby or community service. This section is particularly helpful to students whose major is not obviously related to the job objective.
You can list this section separately, as a part of the qualifications statement, or in the additional information section if there is likelihood that this ability will be viewed as beneficial. Specify the language(s) you read, write, and/or speak and your facility in each.
Publications and Presentations
List articles you have published and those which have been accepted for publication. Bold your name in the citation. You can also list any seminars or presentations which you have given in this section.
Give employers insight into your professional abilities and training by listing relevant research projects on which you have worked.
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Cover letters provide an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other job seekers. You should always include a cover letter to introduce your resume when responding to a job opening via the postal service or when it is requested as part of the application process.
Tips for writing a cover letter
The first paragraph is the most important. It should capture the reader's attention and motivate him/her to read the rest of the letter and to look at your resume. Describe specific personal knowledge of the company and avoid broad generalizations. Tell the reader why you are writing the letter. For instance, are you applying for a particular job, or are you inquiring about a possible position?
The second, and maybe third, paragraphs explain your qualifications and how they pertain to the position. Begin with a statement that summarizes the theme of your letter. Discuss why you want the job, and what benefits you will provide the company. Explain how your experiences, whether they be work, academic, extracurricular, or volunteer, make you a good candidate for the position. Do not repeat information on your resume unless you elaborate or apply it to the specific position for which you are applying.
The final paragraph suggests your plan of action. Explain to the reader what you want and what you plan to do. Refer the reader to your enclosed resume. Express your desire for an interview, and mention that you will call after a specified period of time. Thank the reader for his/her time, and provide your contact information. Close with a statement that encourages a response.
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