Résumé Tips

A memorable résumé can open doors to employment, internships and volunteer work. It can also provide an important supplement to help the writers of your letters of recommendation. A résumé provides prospective employers with a brief summary of your history and qualifications.

When designing your résumé, the following tips may help you present yourself as the most qualified candidate for the position you seek.

  • Evaluate and organize the content. Consider the relevant skills and experiences you have to offer. For example, if your prospective employer is the director of a day-care facility, you'll want to provide information on your babysitting jobs and summers as a camp counselor, but you might not need to list all of your extracurricular activities. Organize a list of your jobs, volunteer experiences, training sessions, extracurricular commitments, awards and honors. You should aim for a one-page résumé, so emphasize experiences that prove you are qualified for the position and reveal you to be a well-rounded, responsible individual.
  • Create an attractive, eye-catching layout. You'll want your résumé to appear professional and organized, with attractive fonts and a clean, concise presentation of the information. Begin with your résumé heading, typing your name, address, phone number(s) and e-mail address at the top of the page. Look at some sample résumés of friends or family to gather ideas about organizing the information and selecting professional fonts. For example, you might decide to center your personal information or type your name in all capital letters in order to make it stand out. Remember that you want the presentation to be effective, coordinated and simple.
  • Structure your résumé. The body should include the following components:
    • Objective: If you begin your résumé by stating your goal, you let your potential employers know what you are seeking; for example, a position in sales. State the position and level of responsibility.
    • Summary of Qualifications: You might provide three or four statements that describe you as the ideal candidate for the job or position. A phrase like Proficient in French and Spanish might set you apart from other applicants to an English as a Second Language tutoring program, while a description like Committed to environmental causes might catch the attention of an earth-friendly nonprofit organization seeking interns. Try to highlight strengths that you feel will make you good at the job. To help you come up with useful descriptions, imagine how a friend or family member who is proud of you would describe you.
    • Related Work Experience or Professional Experience: Include paid work and volunteer jobs in this section. List these experiences in chronological order, starting with the most recent (or present) job. Include the dates of your employment or volunteer position first and then provide a brief description of each experience.
    • Activities/Extracurricular Commitments: While running track might not relate to your desire to work at a restaurant, you'll want to present yourself as the multitalented, involved and committed person you are. List a few of the interesting things that you do with a very brief description of the activity or interest.
    • Awards/Honors: List any impressive accomplishments that might set you apart from the rest of the applicant pool, including community honors, academic achievements, contest victories or athletic awards. You might also include your grade point average in this section.
  • Consider your word choices. Think about the writing of the résumé as more than just creating a list of your past experiences. Like any other writing exercise, carefully choosing words and paying attention to style will result in a more effective presentation.
    • Focus on results, not just duties. Rather than simply listing your job duties, think about emphasizing results and accomplishments. For example, instead of just explaining your responsibilities as a cashier at the local grocery store, stress how your presence there made the organization a better place and prepared you for your next step. Emphasize your ability to work cooperatively with a team of customer service representatives for a national food-service chain. Use your description to stress such strengths as your leadership skills, readiness for teamwork, friendliness with customers, and trustworthiness as an employee of a major organization. As you describe your extracurricular activities, emphasize if you served as a founder, officer, captain, etc. Use your brief description of each experience to let the reader of the resume know the impact you had on the places where you have worked.
    • Shift your tenses. Résumé-writing is a very rare situation in which you can actually break the strict grammatical rule that all verb tenses must be consistent. Consider writing the descriptions of your current jobs in the present tense, while describing past experiences in the past tense.
    • A sample listing of work experience might appear as follows:
      Sample format
  • Invest in quality paper. Splurge a little on the good stuff in the paper aisle of the office supply store. A fresh print on fine paper indicates that you care about the presentation of your qualifications.
  • Consider the competition. Even the smallest typing error or sloppy printing job can influence an employer to file your résumé in the circular file (otherwise known as the trash can). Edit your résumé thoroughly, read it again after you have checked your spelling, and ask another person to proofread it for you. Paying attention to all of the small details reveals that you believe in a job well done, something all employers are looking for as they select the members of their teams.

Résumé resources. The following resource offers more tips and exemplary résumés to help you build and format your own: