Since resumes are generally skimmed, it is important that at a glance they appear well organized and easy to read. The following guidelines will help you create a visually attractive resume.
- Allow sufficient margins, at least .5 inch on all four sides.
- Use font variation to highlight information, including bold face, italics, underlining, all caps, and different sized fonts. Be consistent in the use of these display techniques.
- Make use of white space. Your data, in black print, gains impact from contrast with the white paper.
- Balance material on the page so that the total effect is pleasing to the eye. If possible, focus your "selling points" around the optical center of the page, about 1/3 of the way from the top.
- Choose the layout that works best for you. The two basic options are: centering the resume text or aligning the text with the left margin.
Use present tense when describing your current functions. (Example: Produce and edit videos, prepare scripts and storyboards)
Use past tense when describing previous functions. (Example: Produced and edited videos, wrote scripts and storyboards)
There is a subtle but important difference between active and passive use of words. Good use of active words makes a resume "come alive." Consider the following examples.
Passive: Responsible for the development of marketing strategies.
Active: Develop marketing strategies.
Whenever you state a series of events or accomplishments, you must use the same grammatical construction for each element of the series. Consider the following examples.
Nonparallel Construction: Developed new inventory system expediting orders and cut costs by $500 per month.
Parallel Construction: Developed new inventory system that expedited orders and cut costs by $500 per month.
Other Language Tips
- Avoid use of articles (a, an) or pronouns, especially the pronoun "I"
- Be brief and to the point.
- When displaying dates, write out the month and year (November, 20xx) rather than the numerical notation (11/xx).
- Limit the use of abbreviations to degrees, street names, states, and commonly understood descriptors (e.g., G.P.A., Inc.)
Know the language of the field in which you are applying. Speak their language, but don't use slang or jargon.
Choosing a Format
Presents education, experience, and achievements in reverse chronological order under each category (see samples #1 and #2). This format works best for applicants who have recent work and/or educational experience that are directly related to their job objective.
- Highlights progression in degrees obtained and job titles held
- Employers are comfortable with this style because it is used often
- Draws attention to frequent job changes
- Focuses on positions held and degrees obtained rather than skills
- May appear redundant if you've held many similar jobs
Organizes skills and accomplishments into functional groupings that support a job objective (see sample #3). This format works best for applicants who have acquired skills through self-learning or non-paid positions, as well as those who are looking for a job not directly related to their major or past employment. The typical number of skill headings is three, with four generally being the maximum.
- Highlights accomplishments and areas of potential rather than job titles
- Camouflages frequent job changes or periods of unemployment
- Harder to link accomplishments and duties performed with specific employers
- Can result in a longer resume
Combines elements of the Chronological and Functional formats (see sample #4).
There is no set format for a creative resume. Applicants can demonstrate their creativity by adding artistic elements to a chronological or functional format (see sample #5), or by disregarding these formats and developing a unique way to present resume text. This type of resume is a good choice when applying for jobs in which written or visual creativity are strong requirements.
Parts of a Resume
This first section of your resume should tell who you are and help prospective employees reach you quickly.
- If you have a name that is hard to pronounce, it is advisable to spell it phonetically in parentheses right after your last name.
- Include both your current address and a permanent address if you plan on moving within six months.
- If you are employed during business hours, you should list either a work phone number (if you can take calls at work) or a cell phone number. List area codes for all numbers.
- Don't list e-mail addresses that sound unprofessional (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org).
For most graduates, the most important qualification they have to offer employers is their education. Therefore this section should be listed on your resume directly below your objective statement. As working experience is accumulated, the experience section should become a more prominent part of your resume, going before your education section.
- List the names and dates of degrees conferred in reverse chronological order along with the names of the degree granting institutions.
- It is advisable to specify major and minor fields of study, and to list courses of particular relevance to your job objective.
- Special achievements or honors can be included in this section or in a separate section titled, "Honors and Awards."
- If you have a strong G.P.A., list it. If not, you can list your class ranking (ranked in the top 30 percent of my class), your major G.P.A., or spotlight grades in relevant courses(maintained a 3.0 average in English courses). What is a strong G.P.A.? For most majors, anything above a 3.0 should be listed on the resume.
How you describe your experience will vary depending on whether you use a chronological or functional format. When using a chronological format, list your position title, the name of the organization you worked for, and the dates you worked in the heading for each experience. Follow the heading with a description of the work performed (see sample #1). When using a functional format, group your experience descriptions under like categories (see sample #3).
Experience descriptions may include your paid employment as well as any significant academic, community service, or internship activities that are job-related. One of the biggest mistakes novice resume writers make is limiting descriptions to listings of duties performed in their various jobs and volunteer roles. Remember, effective resumes convey achievement orientation and emphasize factors that relate to qualifications sought by the employer (e.g., compassion, attention to detail, etc.). The following guidelines and "formulas" apply for both chronological and functional formats.
- Highlight what you have done in a concise way that emphasizes your potential.
- The more that a past experience is related to the work you are seeking, the more space you should allot to its description.
- When possible, note any key lessons learned from your experiences.
ACTION - OBJECT
ACTION = a verb
OBJECT = the "what" that the action was applied to
Example: Designed and produced over 20 promotional brochures annually
ACTION = Designed and produced
OBJECT = 20 promotional brochures annually
ACTION - OBJECT - OUTCOME
ACTION = a past tense verb
OBJECT = the "what" that the action was applied to
OUTCOME = the achievement resulting from the action
Example: Developed filing system that resulted in 40% reduction of patient billing errors ACTION = Developed
OBJECT = filing system
OUTCOME = resulted in 40% reduction of patient billing errors
Having trouble thinking of the right verb to use? Click here for a list of common resume verbs.