Resume Essentials

When writing your resume, your goal is to showcase your accomplishments and demonstrate your fit for the position. Here are some things to think about as you are writing.

Action-oriented Language

Use action verbs and phrases to present yourself as a “doer.” Skills and achievements are best highlighted this way. Phrases like “Duties included:” and “Responsibilities included:” is passive and should be minimized.

Adapted

Delegated

Fostered

Observed

Screened

Administered

Delivered

Founded

Operated

Selected

Advised

Demonstrated

Generated

Organized

Served

Analyzed

Designed

Guided

Participated

Set up

Applied

Determined

Harnessed

Performed

Sold

Arranged

Developed

Illustrated

Persuaded

Solved

Assisted

Directed

Implemented

Planned

Streamlined

Balanced

Earned

Improved

Prepared

Structured

Billed

Edited

Innovated

Presented

Supervised

Briefed

Eliminated

Instructed

Produced

Supported

Carried out

Enabled

Introduced

Programmed

Surpassed

Communicated

Enforced

Invented

Provided

Surveyed

Compiled

Enhanced

Launched

Published

Targeted

Completed

Established

Led

Received

Taught

Computed

Evaluated

Maintained

Recommended

Teamed with

Conducted

Expanded

Managed

Reduced

Tested

Controlled

Expedited

Mastered

Reorganized

Trained

Coordinated

Facilitated

Mediated

Reviewed

Tripled

Created

Filed

Monitored

Revised

Utilized

Defined

Formed

Negotiated

Scheduled

Wrote

Transferable Skills

In general, an employer is looking for someone not only with the technical or hard skills to do the job advertised. Soft skills matter, as well. These are transferable from one work environment to another and are often what make an employee an asset.

Soft skills include:

  • Communication
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Self-motivation or initiative
  • Problem-solving abilities or an analytical mind
  • The ability to work on a team
  • Dependability
  • A capacity for leadership
  • Strong work ethic
  • Interpersonal skills and friendliness
  • The ability to handle stressful situations
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Organizational or time-management abilities

Showcase Strengths

As a graduate student, your resume should be one page. There are exceptions, however, if you are applying for a research position and include your publications. In those cases the resume should not be longer than two pages.

Prioritize for impact.

Be sure to place the bulk of your achievements on the first page, to quickly capture employer interest. 

Be relevant.

Each item in the resume should highlight some ability. For example, if you are applying for a consulting position, you may want to highlight the skills that consulting firms often seek: analytical skills, research ability, strong communication skills and leadership experience, for example.

Aim for balance and variety.

Recruiters expect a diversity of academic, extracurricular and work experiences. Aim to include more than academics. Most graduate students do not have time to participate in a great number of volunteer or community activities. If this is you, consider including those you did as an undergraduate. 

Visual Appeal

  • Watch your margins. Your resume should have adequate margins (no smaller than .75").
  • Design to impress. Use formatting strategies that highlight rather than clutter.
  • Be consistent. Use bold type, italics, and capitalization in a consistent manner.
  • Err professional. Do not use highly unusual fonts or those too small to be easily read (10-12 point is acceptable).
  • Manage text size. All text should be the same font size with perhaps the exception of your name, which can be a couple font sizes larger.
  • Print for impact. If printing, use high-quality bond resume paper in white or off-white.