Your resume is arguably the most important item you bring to the table when it comes to applying for a job. The elements of your resume should amount to a solid representation of you – who you are, what you have done, and why the stranger you’re giving it to should be interested. They will brand you based on what they read, which is why it needs to be professional, organized, and comprehensive. There are 7 elements to a resume that you should use as a starting basis; however, you can deviate a bit depending on the specific things you have done. Resumes are generally only one page, so keep it simple and only include information that you feel is vital or truly helpful in getting yourself noticed. Consistency is also very important – keep the same format throughout your resume. If you put organization names in bold and positions held in italics in one section, make sure you do it in the others.
At the top of the page, include:
- Permanent and local addresses (if you have multiple addresses, identify when you can be reached at each)
- Email address
- Phone number
This is the first thing that the employer will see when scanning your resume, so make your name stand out so they can remember you. Put it in bold or all caps.
While an objective is optional, it does provide employers with an rough idea of your career goals. This helps employers understand how deeply aligned your goals are with theirs. In other words, it helps them decide if you’d be a good match for the position. If you include an objective, make sure it is tailored to the specific opening you’re going for.
List the schools you attended and where they are. Include:
- Degrees (with dates)
- Majors, minors and concentrations
- If your GPA is at least 3.0, it doesn’t hurt to include it (if your major GPA is a lot higher, you can include that, too)
- Experience studying abroad
- Honors thesis title (if you have one)
Including high school information is a toss-up, so focus on what you’ve done since then. If you must, limit yourself to what still matters. Honor roll, AP classes, or important awards still bode well for your work ethic and academic competence.
Honors and Awards
If you have less than three items, weave these into your education section. If you have three or more, then include:
- Dean’s List
- Honor societies
- Academic awards
- Scholarships (if based on merit)
This section can include a variety of diverse experiences, both paid and unpaid:
- Part-time jobs
- Full-time jobs
- Summer jobs
- Volunteer experience
- Extracurricular activities
For each item, Include:
- Organization name and location
- Your position there
- Your duration there (include start and end date, including month and year)
- Summary of what you accomplished or gained (make these descriptions support your objective)
- Only include experiences that demonstrate you can succeed in this job opening
- Be concise and start points with action verbs
- Use hard numbers to quantify your success where possible (like statistics or percentages)
Here are three examples of experience points for an item, from Cornell’s career success guide:
- Reorganized inventory procedures, shortening process from 3 days to 2 days.
- Designed and implemented marketing strategy that increased sales 25%.
- Trained and coordinated activities of 33 volunteers, whose efforts resulted in raising $5,000.
You might want to shed new light on minor tasks by focusing on what you got out of them. For example, did you improve your organizational skills by filing? Did you enhance your customer service skills by answering phones?
Include key skills that relate to the job, such as:
- Computer languages and programs
- Foreign languages
- Laboratory and research skills
- Analytical skills
- Management skills (if not mentioned elsewhere)
Never lie on your resume, especially not here. You’ll look like a fool when an employer asks you to back up your “Excel” skills, and you can’t even find it.
Activities and Interests
Prioritize these in order of importance:
- Student organizations
- Professional associations
- Community involvement
Identify the offices or leadership positions you had in each. Try to avoid high school activities unless they are extremely relevant to the job. After activities, you might want to list interests such as music, sports, and the arts, particularly if they pertain to your career interest. Steer clear of controversial content like religious activities or extreme political views as much as possible: they will probably work against you.
The interests section is essentially your only chance to get personal (at least on your resume) and try to connect with your employer. Who knows: the person interviewing you might share an interest with you. I used to mention cars as an interest on my resume, and in a college interview, the guy asked me about my favorite cars. This led to a 10 minute conversation about the guy’s 1965 convertible, and probably a played a big part in how he thought back on our interview.
Next: 10 Tips to Get Your Resume Read