Employers often spend only 30 seconds scanning a resume, so it must work hard to quickly communicate your skills and value. Think of it as a marketing tool that shows that your product (you) meets the needs of your potential customer (the employer).
A resume is a succinct outline of your education, experience, activities, accomplishments and skills as they pertain to your career goals. Effective resumes get noticed because they:
- Emphasize relevant accomplishments and potential contributions
- Focus on the skills and requirements of a specific field or position
- Are concise, well-organized and easy to read
6 Steps to a Great Resume
- Assess your skills. Career development begins with your current skills and interests.
- Think about your experiences. These may include education, coursework, jobs, internships, activities, honors, publications, language skills, study abroad experiences and community service.
- Create a rough outline. This should cover the past three-to-five years.
2. Do some industry research.
- Visit job posting sites. Review job descriptions to uncover industry needs. All employers will be interested in communication and leadership skills.
- Seek out keywords. These include nouns and phrases, industry buzzwords or acronyms tied to a field. Often, these are found in job descriptions or employer requirements. If your resume includes industry keywords, it is more likely to be selected. Only list terms you can speak to in an interview.
- Compare. Match your qualifications to employer requirements and decide what to highlight.
3. Write your first draft.
- Know the architecture. View the sections of a resume and guidelines before you start writing.
- Be concise. Express your qualifications and accomplishments succinctly. For students and recent graduates, a 1-page resume is recommended. If you have extensive experience, or are applying for graduate/professional school or academic fellowships, you may create a 2-page resume or a CV.
- Observe the forms. Do not use first-person pronouns (I, me, my) or articles (a, an, the).
- Don't get personal. Your picture, age, gender, religion, political affiliation, ethnicity, marital status, social security number, references or salary expectations/history should not be included.
- Format professionally.
- Font: Use an easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Cambria or Garamond.
- Size: Stay between 10 pt. and 12 pt. Your name can be larger than 12 pt.
- Margins: Ideal margins are .75” all around, and no smaller than 0.5”.
4. Create multiple versions (optional).
Multiple resume versions may be needed for various industries or positions. By leveraging industry research, you can develop tailored resumes that emphasize relevant skills pertaining to any number of fields. You will also need to create formatted and non-formatted (text) versions for various modes of distribution.
5. Edit, proofread and critique.
- Create hierarchy. Organize your resume so that the most relevant information appears closer to the top.
- Review for content. Be sure that you have effectively conveyed the right skills, abilities, or accomplishments.
- Proofread. Spelling, capitalization or punctuation errors are 100% unacceptable.
- Find readers. Have your resume critiqued by a career counselor and, if possible, others within the field.
6. Save in multiple formats.
- Create a PDF. Convert your Word document version into a PDF to retain the original formatting when sending as an attachment. Save as yourname.pdf.
- Format in text. Use Notepad or another text-editing program to convert your Word document to a non-formatted version suitable for copying and pasting into online applications or the body of an email. Save as yourname.txt.