Before crafting your resume, learn the rules that typically frame them. We say typically, because contrary to popular belief, resumes do not all have to be cookie-cutter, especially in creative fields. Still, it is important to understand the form at its most formal, as many industries will expect to see certain information.
Follow these general guidelines when developing each section.
Include your name, current address, email and home or cell number. You may wish to include your home address, but this is optional. The URL for a personal homepage is optional.
An objective statement is optional. It can be helpful if it is clear and focused, and not broad. Example: “Seeking a position as a Financial Analyst utilizing quantitative, research and technical skills.”
Qualifications and Experience
Summary of Qualifications or Highlights of Accomplishments
While not commonly used by undergraduates, the goal of this section is to capture immediate employer interest. Highlight strengths or relevant expertise. Writing a summary section can be very useful in thinking about your key strengths. It also prepares you to talk about yourself in an interview. Those in career transition from the academy to an outside position may find this section beneficial.
This section covers your educational institutions, degrees and dates. Dates should be listed in the “Graduation month, year” format, instead of “Class of____” Indicate courses that demonstrate knowledge, especially if they were outside of your discipline and are useful for the position.
This section may include all of your experiences, paid and unpaid, volunteer or professional. Analyze each experience with regard to the skills, abilities and accomplishments gained. Quantify the statements, where possible, and use action verbs.
There are several formatting options:
- Reverse chronological: This format emphasizes experience. It lists the most recent experience first, and is the most typical. List your position title, name of the organization, department or division (optional), location (city & state), dates employed in years and a description of skills and accomplishments.
- Modified functional: This combines the highlights of experience with additional information about employers, dates and other details.
- Functional: This format is valuable if you wish to highlight skills over experience. The names of employers, position titles and dates are less important than qualifications. Note that entry-level recruiters tend to prefer a chronological resume from college students.
Volunteer or Community Experience
These activities may power you with communication, leadership, teamwork, event planning, budgeting, fundraising and other highly valued skills. Use the same format as the experience section.
Your extracurricular activities may offer great transferrable skills. This may also be an opportunity to show your interests and how well-rounded you are. Use the same format as the experience section, with or without descriptions.
Skills and Accolades
Awards and Honors
This section is optional, and usually not included unless you have earned prestigious awards relevant to the position. Sometimes there are included under other headings, such as Education.
These may include laboratory skills, foreign language ability, computer skills and others.