What is a resume?
A resume is a "living" professional introduction of you! The term resume is French, meaning "summary". It is a brief document that highlights and summarizes your experience and qualifications. It's your opportunity to give a potential employer a positive first impression of you and entice them with your abilities so you will be invited to an interview. Therefore, it is important to spend the necessary time, energy, and thought it takes to produce your best resume. Update this document regularly to keep it current.
A resume takes time to complete. It should be well-organized and thought out. To get started, use our Resume Toolbox worksheet so that you have all the information included on paper. Type this information onto a Microsoft Word document. Do not use a template, these show a lack of creativity and originality.
If you need formatting ideas, open the celebrity samples on the right hand side!
You can also use our handy Resume Checklist to ensure that you have all the right content and formats.
Which document do I choose?
When it comes to creating your document, there are three different examples you can choose from. They include a resume, curriculum vitae, and a cocurricular resume.
Let's start with a quick overview of resumes, since they are the most familiar document in the United States. A typical resume is a general and concise introduction of your experiences and skills and how they relate to the position in which you are applying. As such, a resume may have to update for each position you are applying for so that you may include the most relevant skills for that particular employer. Resumes are usually no more than one page in length. A typical resume will include the following information:
- Name and Contact Information: your residential address might be most appropriate, especially if you do not want your current employer to know that you are looking for another job!
- Education: a listing of your degrees or certifications and educational institutions or programs.
- Work Experience: names of the companies or organizations that you have worked for, the location of each company, the dates worked, your job title, and duties performed.
In contrast, a curriculum vitae, or CV, is a fairly detailed overview of your life's accomplishments, especially those most relevant to the realm of academia. As such, these documents have their greatest utility in the pursuit of a job in academia or research. Because academic researchers are often working on and completing many projects and teaching responsibilities simultaneously, it is wise to think of a CV as a living document that will need to be updated frequently. A typical CV for someone in the beginning stages of his or her graduate school career might only be two or three pages in length, while the number of pages of a more seasoned researcher's CV may run into the double digits. In both CVs and resumes, information within sections is usually organized chronologically. A typical CV will include the following information:
- Name and Contact Information: contact information for your current institution or place of employment may work best, unless you do not want your colleagues to know that you are job-hunting.
- Areas of Interest: a listing of your varied academic interests. Education: a list of your degrees earned or in progress, institutions, and years of graduation. You may also include the titles of your dissertation or thesis here.
- Grants, Honors and Awards: a list of grants received, honors bestowed upon you for your work, and awards you may have received for teaching or service.
- Publications and Presentations: a list of your published articles and books, as well presentations given at conferences. If there are many of both, you might consider having one section for publications and another for presentations.
- Employment and Experience: this section may include separate lists of teaching experiences, laboratory experiences, field experiences, volunteer work, leadership, or other relevant experiences.
- Scholarly or Professional Memberships: a listing of the professional organizations of which you are a member. If you have held an office or position in a particular organization, you can either say so here or leave this information for the experience section.
- References: a list of persons who write letters of recommendations for you, which includes their contact information.
A co-curricular resume is an official document which represents your cocurricular involvement and leadership experience here at SFA. It allows you to record your activity outside of the classroom and identify, develop and articulate essential skills you have learned as you transition into full time employment upon graduation. Research indicates that employers and graduate schools want to see more than good GPAs; they want to recruit students that demonstrate skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork, initiative, verbal and written communication, budgeting and event planning, all of which can set you apart from other applicants. Take advantage of these opportunities to get involve and ultimately enhance your employment opportunities. Involvement includes, but is not limited to:
- Participation in clubs and organizations
- Leadership and services projects
- Intercollegiate athletics
- Seminars, workshops and conferences
- Documented on and off-campus volunteer work
What should I include?
The heading of your resume should include your name, mailing address and professional email address. Your full name should be prominently placed at the top of the page.
Download/Print the Heading Tool for help with this section.
A good objective statement verbalizes the job and/or field you are pursuing. It demonstrates the value you bring to the position. It is important to tailor an objective to the position or field to which you are applying.
Download/Print the Objective Tool if you need help with this section.
Your education section should let the employer know the official title of the degree you are receiving (ex: Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts). There is no need to list related and relevant coursework along with your degree. However, specifying your cumulative or major GPA if it is over a 3.0, is a great asset. Be sure that this section is in reverse chronological order (your most recent degree should come first and then work backward). After your sophomore year of college, omit your high school information.
Download/Print the Education Tool if you need help with this section.
Your experience section is where you include your work history, internships and/or other relevant experience. Each experience entry should include your position, the organization you worked for, the dates of employment and a bulleted list of accomplishments. Each accomplishment should begin with a different action verb (click on the link for a helpful list of action verbs).
Download/Print the Experience Tool if you need help with this section.
The most important thing to remember about your resume format is to keep it consistent in style, font and sizes. You want it consistent so it looks clean and sharp.
Some other formatting tips:
- Avoid using resume templates
- Reduce or expand your resume to 1 page in length
- Dates on your resume should be aligned on the right hand side
- List education before experience and keep all entries in reversed chronological order
Download/Print the Other Tool if you need help with this section.
If you still are having trouble filling out your resume due to lack of experience, focus on your education and college involvement. Include a Summary of Skills section showcasing your strengths. Be sure to list achievements that indicate leadership ability.
Downlad/Print The Empty Resume if you need help with additional experience.
Many employers ask that a cover letter accompany the resume! A cover letter is formal, customized correspondence officially stating your interest in a job.
Here are some tips about writing that attention-grabbing cover letter!
- Address your cover letter to a specific person, rather than "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam"
- Make sure you spell names of people and the organization correctly
- Use a heading including your name with contact information (refer to the Heading Tool for assistance)
- The body of your cover letter should include:
- An introduction of yourself
- Why are you writing them? What interests you about their position?
- How do your qualifications fit the job?
- Ask for an interview
Download/Print Cover Letters 101 if you need help with this section.
How do I write a references page?
Select your references carefully, they should be able to attest to your positive work-related qualities. Try your best not to include people who only know you in a social setting. It is advisable that you ask past and present employers, faculty members, advisors and coaches to be your references.
Remember to ask your references for permission before you include them in any of your documents. Confirm that they remember who you are, verify their contact information and that they will speak favorably on your behalf.
Be sure to include the following set of information for each reference:
- Full Name (using a proper salutation, such as "Mr." or "Mrs.")
- Mailing Address
- Phone Number
- Email Address