How to Write a Resume

Resume writing is career marketing

It is the understanding that you have a product to sell (yourself) and determining how to best merchandise that product to the right audience. Your challenge is to create a top-flight marketing communication – a powerful resume that will open doors, get interviews and help you land the job you want. Your task is to identify the skills, qualifications, experiences and achievements you possess that are most relevant and supportive of your job search. In one page, you want to paint a picture of yourself that will generate interest leading to an interview. The purpose of the resume is to get an interview – resumes alone do not get jobs.
You should think of your resume as a flexible living document. That means that as you apply for positions, you will change elements of your resume often to suit the job or employer you are targeting. Save your resume in several different places to safeguard against its being lost if something should happen to your computer.

The Difference between a Curriculum Vitae (CV)  and a Resume

Curriculum Vita (CV)

  • A summary of your educational and academic backgrounds as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors and affiliations.
  • There is no page limit.
  • Typically for graduate school and academic positions including faculty openings, assistantships, and internships; also grant, scholarship and fellowship applications.


  • A synopsis of the most relevant professional experiences you have for the particular job for which you are applying.
  • One to two pages in length.
  • Typically, you will use a resume when you apply for business, industry, governmental, and non-profit jobs.  The main purpose of the resume is to help you get an interview.  A polished resume is your chance to make a good first impression with potential employers.

Choose a Format

There are three basic types of resumes, chronological, functional and a combination of the two.  The type you select depends upon your qualifications and experiences.  Chronological resumes track your educational and work history in reverse order (start with what you’ve done most recently and work back in time).  This is the most common format and it is widely accepted.  A functional resume focuses on your skill set and downplays work experiences.  A combination resume is one that frequently suits new graduates by placing emphasis on skills while also highlighting education, internship or work experience.

No two resumes are alike and they shouldn’t be.  Your resume is a very personal document that reflects who you are. When thinking about which format you’ll use, carefully consider what it is that you most want to emphasize about yourself.  Chances are it will be your education and any academic honors quickly followed by relevant real-world experience, internships and special study opportunities.  The samples that follow are general guides to content and format – make your resume a unique document that describes your efforts, accomplishments and aspirations.

Think about your target audience – who will be reading your resume?  What’s important to that person?  What would make you the perfect candidate?
Consider all of your accomplishments, including work experience, volunteer, internship, research, study abroad, co-curricular and classroom activities.  Also think of your computer skills, foreign language ability, certifications, presentations, publications, professional or student associations, honors, travel, and personal interests.  Then try to relate those experiences to your current aspirations.

Common Resume Sections

At the top of your resume, begin with your contact information, this should include your full name, permanent address, school address, telephone numbers and email address.  Make sure all contact information is current.

New graduates and entry-level candidates may include an objective statement; however this space should not be wasted with a sentence that is too general or broad.  Good objective statements should describe for employers the position and industry you are targeting.  You can include skills relevant to the position.  Focus on the skills you offer, not what you hope to gain from the position.  Avoid using an objective that does not clearly define your focus.
Good objective statement:
A position in the field of marketing, utilizing economic understanding, leadership, interpersonal communication and presentation skills.
Bad objective statement:
To find a position that allows me to use my skills and education in a real world environment.

This section includes any information about your degrees, where and when you will be graduating; dates, major, minor, concentration, certification are all appropriate for this section.  Degrees should be listed in reverse chronological order beginning with the most recent.  GPA is optional and your choice to include it or not should be determined by requirements of the field you have chosen or individual employer requirements. The rule of thumb is not to include a GPA that is below a 3.0.  If you studied abroad for a semester or longer, include the name of the school, its location and the dates you were there.  Optionally, you may include courses you studied or the focus/concentration of your program.  Honors, awards, courses or activities may each have a subsection in this area of a heading of their own and separate sections depending on how relevant the information or activities are to your job focus.

Juniors and seniors should not include high school information on their resumes unless you received a significant award, your high school activities are extremely relevant to your career objective, or if you are networking with an alumnus/a from your high school.

This section may include a variety of activities.  It is not limited to paid employment experiences:

  • Paid or unpaid internships and work study positions
  • Part-time or full-time employment
  • Independent study
  • Co-curricular activities (Greek organizations, professional societies, clubs, SGA, etc.)

The structure of the experience section depends on the type of position you are seeking.  Use this section to highlight the opportunities that you’ve participated in that demonstrate leadership, initiative, or competence in an area.  Be factual in your descriptions but include information that enhances the job description. You do not need to list every position that you have ever had. Most importantly, include information most relevant to your potential employer and try to group that information together when possible.

For each position include:
Name of the organization, your job title, location of the organization (city and state) and dates employed.  Using month & year, Jan. 2004-May 2004 can be more effective than “Spring 2004” since employers do not think in terms of semesters. Analyze each experience in terms of your responsibilities and outcomes.  Describe your skills and accomplishments, such as contributions to the organization, and how your work helped to increase profit, funding, motivation, efficiency, and productivity. Attempt to quantify your accomplishments by using number, dollar amounts, and percentages.  This helps the reader to evaluate the scope of your duties.  Stress your achievements. Consider what problems you have faced and what solutions you found. Begin each description using action verbs and incorporate present tense verbs to describe current positions and past tense verbs for previous positions.

Co-curricular activities, such as professional associations, Greek organizations, athletics, SGA, student organizations, honor societies, and community volunteer activities can be listed separately from your experience section. Identify leadership roles that you held in these organizations and dates of involvement. If you have too many too list choose activities that have the strongest connection to the type of job you seek.

If you have received any awards or presented your work in a public forum, this is a great place to list those achievements. Campus events such as the Liberal Arts and Sciences Symposium or Science-Palooza would be a perfect fit for this section.

Any work that has been published in any capacity can be listed in this section. Don’t forget to include any of your original work that has appeared in the Stormy Petrel newspaper, The Tower literary magazine, the Oglethorpe blog, and your personal blog if you contribute to it regularly current.

This component of your resume is optional and may be used to detail your computer skills (Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, etc.) and language skills (Spanish language proficiency).  Unique travel or learning experiences may be included here.

Place your references on a separate page.  Generally, employers ask for three references.  Use faculty, staff, and employers as references, not personal acquaintances.  Include the name, title, company name, address, email and phone number for each reference.  Leave off the phrase, “References available upon request.”

Information to Omit

Do not include personal information such as photographs, graphics, or images, social security number (unless applying for a U.S. government position), date of birth, height, weight, health or marital status.

10 Most Commons Errors in Resume Writing

A strong resume conveys your level of literacy, ability to conceptualize or analyze your own interests and strengths, your pattern or performance or success, who you are, what you’ve done, and your view of the employer. Here are ten common errors beginning resume writers frequently make.

  1. Not keeping the needs of the employer in mind when writing the resume
  2. Too long, short or condensed (entry level resumes should be one-page long)
  3. Poor format or crowded appearance (stay away from resume templates)
  4. Misspellings, poor punctuation, bad grammar, or wordiness
  5. Too boastful or dishonest
  6. Critical categories missing
  7. Hard to understand or requires interpretation
  8. Doesn’t convey accomplishments or pattern of performance
  9. Unclear or vague objective
  10. Includes lots of fluff or “canned resume”