A resume is a snapshot of what you have to offer an organization. It is an individualized document and represents how you are packaging your experience and background to a potential employer. Typically, an employer views a resume for about 15-20 seconds. Consequently, your resume should be attractive, concise, easy to read, and error free.
Start with a Self Assessment
- What are your goals/targets?
- How can you connect your experience to your goals?
- Take an inventory of your strengths, skills, and values.
A resume should have a clean, readable, and easy to follow format and look balanced on the page. It should be laser printed on neutral-colored, resume paper (typically cotton or linen bond). Avoid “gimmicks,” such as textured or graphic-laden paper stock.
There are a number of resume types. Most people use a chronological resume, which presents your experience in a reverse chronological order. This is the preferred format with employers. A functional resume groups accomplishments using skill categories (e.g.., management experience, communications experience, technical expertise, etc) rather than using separate job entries. However, some people use functional resumes to hide gaps, which is why functional resumes tend to be viewed with suspicion. One way to address that is to use a combination of chronological and functional—showing skill categories but also including a brief work history—rather than just a functional approach. This type of resume is typically used in career transitions to emphasize transferable skills. Employer information also is included in a ume after the skill areas and accomplishments are enumerated. As with all resumes, bulk the most important information toward the top of the resume when choosing a functional format. For additional information and examples of functional and combination resumes go to:
A curriculum vitae is a document that comprises all of your professionally-related activities. It can be any length. Many international organizations accept a CV. Specific fields, such as academia, require a CV. See the CV section for more information.
In addition, some organizations (such as some U.S. government agencies and international organizations) request resumes in a specific format or special items to be added. You will need to follow these requests on a case-by-case basis. However, do not put items such as marital status or Social Security Number on your resume unless required by a reputable organization.
The sections that follow focus on the reverse chronological resume.
If you know that your resume will be scanned, you do not want to include graphics of any kind, including lines. You also don’t want any formatting that has characters touching each other (such as italics or underline).
Resumes can be one or two pages. If you are applying for a job in the for-profit sector, a one-page resume is preferred. If you have a two-page resume, you need to put your name and “Page 2” or “Page Two” on the second page. Generally, the rule of thumb is if you have five or more years of experience you may need a two-page resume. Unless you are writing a curriculum vita, resumes should be no more than two pages. If you do have a second page, make sure you use the entire page. Utilize your formatting to display information on either one or two pages so it is easily readable and the most salient information tops the first page.
The document should have a consistent and professional look. Do not feel limited by the margins a computer program gives you, the resume you used to have, or the layout that other people use. Because your background/experience is unique, your resume can be too.
Highlight key information by placement on the page as well as the use of formatting tools, such as bold, italics, all caps, etc. The more you use formatting, the less effective it can be, so use these elements carefully. Proper size ranges from 10-12 for the traditional Times New Roman typeface. Your name, as the main header of the entire document, should be bigger. And category headers can be a bit bigger. If you use a different font, make sure it is easy to read. Don’t use special characters that not everyone will have.
Stay away from template formats! Your resume will resemble other resumes in the pile. Templates also force you to format your resume in a way that may not be conducive to your needs. Use caution if using a professional resume service. The very process of creating and updating your resume is an exercise in self-assessment that is key to the job search and interviewing. Being very familiar with your accomplishments, skills, and areas of expertise are crucial. Who knows you better than yourself?
Some people have more than one resume depending on the types of jobs and internships they’re seeking. You can target your resume in many ways, such as using different categories and changing some of the entries, especially in the categories outside of the work/professional section. Use the language from the job announcement throughout your resume. If you have some gaps in your work history, you can’t change that. However, you don’t want to take entries out that will create major gaps. Other ways to target your resume are to change the order of the descriptions under each experience entry or to add more specifics to your description.
Categories and Content
While there are some necessary categories to include in your resume—such as contact information, education, and professional experience—you have some leeway with the other categories you include, as well as the name you present for your categories. For example, you could list your work history in a general category, such as Professional Experience or Work Experience. Or, if you’ve always worked in one particular field that you would like to emphasize, you could label it Research Experience, Political Experience, or something else. Categories outside of the professional realm could include Volunteer or Leadership Experience, Computer and/or Language Skills, Presentations, Publications, and others. Volunteer and other unpaid experiences can be just as important to include as paid jobs. Use the best approach for you based on your experience and the job (or internship) you want. Always think relevancy.
Avoid all personal pronouns and minimize articles (i.e., “an,” “a,” and “the”). The document must be free of spelling, grammatical, and punctuation mistakes. Spell out acronyms. Avoid jargon; use lay language instead. Be careful about potentially controversial items (such as political parties, religious organizations, etc.) if you’re not looking to work within the specific field/mindset.
Contact information: You should list your name, address, a telephone number, and e-mail (without the hyperlink). Try to list only one telephone number to make it easier for the employer to know how to reach you. Only provide the telephone number that has a professional voicemail message and will always be answered professionally.
Objective: There are very few occasions when you will need an objective on your resume. If you are sending a cover letter, that will more than suffice for providing context to your resume, which is the basic mission of an objective. An objective might be useful for recent undergraduate alumni. If you decide to write an objective, it should be specific enough to have meaning (and be targeted for the specific job/organization), but not so specific that it potentially locks you out of other possibilities. It’s a balancing act. Plus, you want to keep it concise. Beyond the position itself, don’t mention anything that you want to get out of it (such as “growth” or a “challenge”). If anything is mentioned at all, you want to talk about the types of skills you’ll contribute. Too often, people use vague, meaningless objective statements (such as “A challenging position providing growth opportunities”) that are more of a space taker than anything helpful.
Profile/summary of qualifications: Again, if you are sending a cover letter, that will more than suffice for providing context to your resume. However, for people with experience (generally 10+ years), you might consider adding a profile or summary of qualifications on your resume.
As an undergraduate you may have utilized an objective statement on your resume. Once you have gained significant experience in your industry/field, however, a summary statement may be a better way to highlight key skills and strengths. A professional summary allows you to pick out the most salient information from your resume that is quantifiable and specific-skill driven. Summary statements may be adjusted to correlate with the particular job description you are applying for (e.g., include industry “buzz words” and particular organization needs).
Your personal summary should present you clearly and succinctly. Include information such as your profession, areas of expertise, types of organizations/environments you have worked in, and unique skills.
For more information and a sample, visit http://workbloom.com/articles/resume/professional-resume-summary.aspx.
Example of a Professional Summary:
- Higher Education administrator with more than eight years in the field.
- Extensive experience programming, planning, and implementing strategic goals.
- Volunteer management expertise and supervisory skills.
- Professional association annual conference planning experience.
- Increased student appointments by 25 percent over a two-year period.
Professional experience: An entry does not have to be a paid one to be included in this section. You don’t have to include everything you’ve ever done. However, now is not the time to be modest either (but you must be honest, of course). Always think about your content in terms of what’s relevant.
You should include five elements for each entry—title, organization, location, dates, and description (but not necessarily in that order). When describing what you did, use meaningful active verbs that communicate the skill involved, such as “organize,” “manage,” coordinate,” and “research.” (See more verbs at the end of the resume section.) If you are actively doing such activities, you should use present tense verbs. Verbs should be in the past tense for anything done in the past or any fully completed tasks at a current job. Avoid any descriptions beginning with generic statements such as “Responsible for” or “Duties included.” Think about the skills required at the job that you want. Indicate (honestly) where you have demonstrated these skills throughout your experiences. Be concise; always think about what is relevant and what message each item is communicating. Use a minimum amount of words to maximize what you’re communicating.
Quantify information whenever possible if it will enhance the description. Doing so can provide a context and scope for the skill involved. You can quantify your description in many ways—amounts (e.g., budget size, number of pages/reports written/articles published), numbers of people, levels of people (e.g., corporate executives, board members, interdepartmental), how often, and more. If the dates occur in the same year, you only need to list the year once. You should consider including the five elements for other experience-related categories on your resume (such as Volunteer or Leadership).
You can use bullets or a paragraph format to present this information. Bullets are preferred and highly recommended for any for-profit jobs/internships. It is easier to see a person’s skills when using bullets. However, paragraph format saves space, which may come in handy.
An example would be:
Pharmaceutical Sales Representative
XYZ Company, Philadelphia, PA (March 1999-present)
- Met with doctors in both private practice and hospital settings to promote the awareness of gastrointestinal drug innovations.
- Covered three states and more than 110 clients.
- Increased sales revenues by 20 percent within first year.
- Awarded citation for excellence in customer service (2001).
- Aided in the implementation of new software for sales representatives to track effectiveness and provide more extensive pharmaceutical background.
- Extremely familiar with FDA approval methodology and regulations.
- Founded monthly networking group for new sales representatives to share information and learn from experienced company leaders.
Other experience-related categories: If you include additional categories—such as Research, Leadership, or Volunteer—try and use the same format (or at least one that is very similar) as the one you used for your work/professional experience. It makes it easier on the person looking at your resume. Consistency is key.
Presentations/publications: If you have any presentations or publications, it would benefit you to highlight them in a separate section. These serve as demonstrated proof that you have good communications skills, something every employer wants in an employee.
Affiliations: List any relevant professional associations of which you are a member or serve in a leadership capacity.
Related training: If you have completed relevant specialized training or professional development, you may want to highlight it in a separate section. You could also include it in a job description or in your education section. Include any professional associations you are a part of and any leadership roles or involvement in those associations. For example, did you help plan a conference, serve on a board, co-chair a committee? Also include any relevant training you may have undergone within and outside your company. Languages, licenses, certifications, military experience, publications, and/or technical skills also should be listed.
Skills: This is a very important section. You can list computer and language skills separately if you want to emphasize each or combine them into a general skills category with computer and language as subheaders. For computer skills, you can simply list the applications you know or you can divide the applications into the levels at which you know them.
If you list language skills, do not present the years you studied the language. Rather, you want to list the level at which you can speak, read, and converse. If you can do all three at the same level, you can just list the language and the level (such as “Spanish: Fluent” or “Proficient in Spanish”). If you have different levels, you may wish to write them out.
Some people want to highlight travel or other items that might not fit elsewhere. It is possible to list these items under the general skills section with another subheader to provide some context for what those items represent.
Education: List your undergraduate and any graduate degrees in reverse chronological order. Include the degree, university, location (city and state; list country if it’s outside of the United States or if you’re an international student), and the date you graduated (not necessarily in that order). You do not need to list the dates during which you attended.
If you have studied abroad, present that experience as a stand alone entry. Other items you may wish to include in the Education category are concentrations, minors, honors, related awards, certificates, relevant coursework, and a thesis. If you are applying for a consulting job, put your GPAs (undergraduate and graduate) on your resume, unless they are under 3.0. Even if you use bullets in other sections, you typically don’t use bullets in the Education section. Do not include high school unless you know it would be highly relevant to the employer. For a thesis (formerly called the practicum), you can list it with the title in italics—Thesis: This is the Title of Your Thesis. In most cases, the Education section will be at the end of your resume. However, if you recently graduated or your degrees are the most important message of your resume (for a career transition, the Education section can be listed first).
Honors/awards: In general, it usually makes sense for these entries to be presented under the related category rather than a separate one. For example, education related honors and awards would be included with the specific school entry where the item was received or achieved. Awards received at jobs would be listed with that job’s description (such as “Received employee of the year award in 2000”).
Interests/personal: Including an interest section should be considered thoroughly before doing so. Some people have items that are always noted positively during an interview. Those are interest items you probably want to keep. However, listing your general interests rarely involves anything relevant and just takes up space. You should avoid listing personal information unless it is specially requested; you should only provide it if the employer is credible. Some international employers will ask for what might be considered in the United States as non-standard information.
References: Don’t include references on your resume nor a mention of providing references, such as “References available upon request.” In doing so, you’re just taking up space. If you want the job and the employer asks for references, you’ll provide references. You should have a separate document for references (see later sections for tips and an example).
Final Thoughts and Reminders
- Avoid any spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors—always run spell check after any changes and have someone else look over your resume before you send it! You don’t want to give an employer any reason to screen you out.
- Do not use any personal pronouns (such as “I” and “their”)
- Minimize articles (“a,” “an,” and “the”)
- Be consistent!
- Do not include your marital status, Social Security Number, salaries, work addresses, supervisor, and other such information unless specifically asked for by a credible organization
- Make sure your resume is easily readable!
- Remember, a resume might help you get an interview, but not the job. The interview is the vehicle for getting the job.
Resume and Cover Letter Review Services
Georgetown University's Alumni Career Services (ACS) provides resume and cover letter review services to alumni. Visit the Resume and Interview Services section of Georgetown Alumni Online for more information.
- Served (as)
Curricula Vitae (CV)
A resume is an individually designed summary (usually one or two pages) of personal, educational, and experience qualifications intended to demonstrate fit for a particular position or type of position. A resume focuses attention on an individual’s strongest qualifications and develops them to fit the specific or general purpose for which the material is provided.
A curriculum vitae (CV or vita) is a comprehensive biographical statement (of any length) emphasizing professional qualifications and activities. Typically a CV is used for academic, international, research, scientific or educational arenas and/or for scholarship/fellowship applications. (Applying for positions internationally can be a bit tricky. Be sure to research the country you are applying within to find out what information they would like included in the CV. It may differ from the U.S. standard.)
Unless requested by name, it is usually unwise to send a vita in a first contact. If a resume is requested, send a one- or two-page, tightly drawn document with the notation that a vita will be sent later upon request. It is far better to start out with a one- or two-page resume than it is to stifle the reader’s interest by prematurely sending an overly long vita. (Excerpted from “Writing a Vita: For a Higher Education Job Search,” University Career Services, University of Virginia.)
Vitae and resumes both have similar purposes—marketing documents that provide key information about your skills, experiences, education, and personal qualities that show you as the ideal candidate. Where a resume and a curriculum vitae differ is their use, format, and length. A curriculum vita tends to be used more for scientific and teaching positions than a resume. Thus, vitae tend to provide great detail about academic and research experiences. Where resumes tend toward brevity, vitae lean toward completeness.
Unlike resumes, there is no set format to vitae. You need to find the balance between indicating the depth of your qualifications and providing too much information.
Typical Categories or Headings
(Excerpted from “Preparing a Curriculum Vitae” by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.)
- Personal Information (Name, Address, Phone number(s), Email)
- Academic Background (Postgraduate work; Graduate work/degree(s), major/minors, thesis/dissertation titles, honors; Undergraduate degree(s), majors/minors, honors)
- Professional Licenses/Certifications
- Academic/Teaching Experience (Courses taught, courses introduced; Innovation in teaching; Teaching evaluations)
- Technical and Specialized Skills
- Related/Other Experience (Other work experience)
- Professional/Academic Honors and Awards
- Professional Development (Conferences/workshops attended, other activities)
- Research/Scholarly Activities (Journal articles, Conference proceedings, Books, Chapters in books, Magazine articles, Papers presented/workshops, Ezine articles, Work currently under submission, Work in progress)
- Service (Academic, Professional, Community)
- Academic/Research Interests
- Foreign Language Abilities/Skills
- Volunteer Work
Some Miscellaneous Tips:
(Excerpted from “Preparing a Curriculum Vitae” by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.)
- Do not mix styles in any category; be consistent in format
- Do not use double entries; do not list a citation or activity more than once
- Do not mix chronological orders
- Good vitae are…summaries and contain no complete sentences and little punctuation; use short phrases, succinct word choice, and action verbs
Virtual Resume & Cover Letter Reviews
In the midst of a job search? Thinking about a career transition? Want to have your resume "ready to go," just in case? A typical resume will be viewed by an employer for 15-20 seconds. How does yours fare?
Alumni Career Services offers this unique service that allows alumni to submit a resume to an experienced career professional for a thorough examination, followed by an individualized critique.
How it Works
- To submit your resume for review, simply e-mail it in a Microsoft Word format (2007 or earlier version) or PDF document to firstname.lastname@example.org. Reviews are typically conducted via e-mail.
- Prepare your resume and cover letter for review by consulting the tips and advice available for FREE in the resume section above or the cover letter section.
- Submit one or two brief descriptions of positions that you are currently seeking so that we can ensure that your resume will be uniquely tailored to suit your career goal.
- Indicate the e-mail address to which you would like your critique sent.
- You will receive a private e-mail that provides constructive feedback and advice to help you on your way to landing the career you desire.
- Resumes are reviewed on Fridays, and you will receive feedback on or before the following Friday.
- Please be aware that we sometimes experience a high volume of request for resume and cover letter reviews. We do our very best to adhere to the turnaround time designated. You will be contacted via email if we experience any delays.
Resume & Cover Letter Guidelines
(Please read before submitting your resume.)
- Under certain circumstances, it may not be immediately possible to provide a resume critique. More information may be needed about your work experience and/or expectations. If we need additional information, you will be contacted via e-mail with a request for more details. Your speed and cooperation upon receiving such request will determine the amount of time necessary to review your resume.
- Having a clear career goal and job search strategy can greatly assist in the resume & cover letter review process.
- Please keep in mind that if you are trying to meet a deadline to submit a resume before a certain date, we may be unable to provide a critique in the time that you require. Resumes are reviewed on a first received, first served bases. Resumes are reviewed on Fridays, and you will receive feedback on or before the following Friday.
- If you make changes to a resume or cover letter that we already reviewed and wish for a staff member to re-review, your request for a second look will be placed in queue and processed in the order it was received. Please be aware that we sometimes experience a high volume of request for resume and cover letter reviews.
- Trends and styles of resumes and cover letters change over time and vary by industry. It is common for feedback to vary from person to person as well. The information provided through reviews by Alumni Career Services’ staff is provided as a recommendation and are no way meant to guarantee your ability to secure a job interview, a job or entry into an educational program. We highly recommend that you have your resume and cover letter reviewed by a trusted colleague or friend and/or someone in the industry you are seeking employment.
For more information, please contact Alumni Career Services.