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Composing a Resume

Maybe you're a student who’s preparing to graduate and look for a job, or maybe you're an alumnus who’s seeking a career change. This guide will help you organize your thoughts and life experiences as you begin to compose your resume---the document that will help you get a job! Keep in mind that this handout is meant to give you some general suggestions for composing a traditional resume. If you have any particular needs or concerns, stop by the Career Services Center to speak with a counselor.

What is a resume?

A resume can be described as an advertisement about YOU: where you have been, what you have done, and where you are now directing your career. A resume highlights positive facts about your accomplishments and your work-related duties and responsibilities. However, it is NOT meant to be a complete autobiography that includes negative experiences. The goal of a resume is to convince a prospective employer that you have the skills they are looking for.

Some General Resume Tips
  • Make it one page in length in most cases. It ought to be one FULL page. PROOFREAD your resume!!!
  • It MUST NOT contain any grammatical or spelling errors.
  • Be consistent in your format with capitalizing, italicizing, bulleting, and bolding.
  • Use concrete specific nouns and strong action verbs (power verbs).
  • Use appropriate verb tense when describing current or past job experience.
  • Avoid using personal pronouns such as I, me, my, mine, etc.
  • Make sure your margins are even.
  • Use a professional style font. Keep the font size between 10 – 12 points.
  • If your resume is too long or wordy, determine which information is most relevant and marketable, and OMIT UNNECESSARY INFORMATION.
  • Design your resume so anyone can skim through it quickly and easily. Use bulleted lists.
  • Quantify as much as possible, that is, include the number of people supervised or trained, amount of budget responsible for, etc.
  • Use a nice quality paper – white or off white. (Do not use paper with graphic designs.)
What kind of information goes into a resume?

Before composing a resume, you’ll need to have a certain amount of information about yourself at your fingertips. You may want to sit down at your computer or take out a pencil and some paper and write a summary about yourself focusing on the following areas:

College Education: Include information on name and location of institution, dates of attendance, expected graduation date [month/year], type of degree, area of study (major and minor), overall GPA, courses completed and grades received, significant projects and/or papers, academic or other school-based honors or awards.

Work Experience: For each job you’ve had, include information on name and location of employer, description of employer, job title, dates of employment [month/year], name and phone number of direct supervisor, major accomplishments on the job, major responsibilities, new knowledge or insights gained, new skills acquired or improved upon. Include paid and volunteer experiences as well as internships.

Activities: Name of organization [or hobby], your position or title if any, dates of involvement, principal activities of organization, personal accomplishments, major responsibilities as a member, and skills acquired or improved upon. Include participation in academic, professional, social, religious, political or charitable clubs and fraternal organizations. You may also want to include well-established hobbies or leisure pursuits.

Additional Training or Workshops: If you have participated in any continuing education, seminars, or workshops, list them and be sure to include the title and subject of the training or workshop, the name and location of the institution that offered it, and the skills or knowledge you acquired.

Skills: Include those “concrete” skills you have acquired that can be easily observed or measured. Some examples of concrete skills may include those specific skills needed to repair a car or to operate specific computer programs.

Choosing a resume format

Before writing out your resume, you’ll need to determine what format or style your resume will take. Generally speaking, there are two basic formats when developing a traditional style resume: chronological and functional.

Chronological: The chronological resume is the most common style for college students and is usually recommended for a first-time resume. Features of the chronological style resume include:
  • Job experience arranged in order of time with the most recent experience first.
  • Action verbs used to describe the responsibilities of each job experience.
  • A stable work history with no employment gaps.
Functional: The functional resume emphasizes categories of skills you have acquired rather than where and when you worked. Functional resumes are often referred to as skills-based. Features include:
  • Information is organized under broad “skill categories” such as Teaching/Training, Computer/Technical, Management, Leadership, Organization, and Finance to name just a few.
  • Action verbs are used under each “skill category” to list examples of how you gained this experience. These examples are your specific skills.
  • This style is a good choice if you have held several different positions with the same basic experience at each location.

Resumes can also be a combination of the two formats described above. Look through our “Resume Samples” packet or see a career counselor for assistance.

How is a resume organized?

Now that you have summarized some information about yourself, it’s time to categorize this information for use on a resume. You’ll be using most of the information you’ve put into your summary, but not all of it. This section will guide you through the most common categories found on most resumes.

Name and Address
  • Your name is listed at the top of the page (either centered or pulled out to the margin) and should stand out in some way through bolding, capitalization or italics.
  • Your full address should also be listed, including your zip code.>
  • Your entire phone number (include area code) is listed next. Also, if you have a cellular phone, you may list this as well. Voice mail and answer machine messages should be polite and professional.
  • Include your e-mail, fax number, and home page URL if applicable.

Keep it short and concise. Avoid the extremes of being too general or too specific. Keep in mind that the objective clues the reader of your resume into what your goal is.

If you are applying for jobs in various fields (such as education or business), be sure to have a targeted objective (and resume) for each field.Never combine job objectives onto one resume to save time or paper.

If you are very qualified for a certain position, consider putting a “Summary of Qualifications” or “Profile” in place of an objective.


In this section you will need to include the name of the college you attended, the location (use city/state NOT the street address and no zip codes) of the college, the type of degree you will receive (do not abbreviate), the month and year you received your degree, and your field of study (major/minor).

If you hold more than one degree, list the most relevant degree that corresponds to the position you are seeking. You are not obligated to list additional degrees you feel would be irrelevant or unnecessary.

List study-abroad experience if applicable.

If you lack experience when applying for your first professional job, consider a “Relevant Courses” sub-section listing those courses that relate to your career goals. Be sure to use only upper level “elective” courses. Do not include “required” courses in this section.

Include your overall GPA if 3.O or above. You may want to consider including the GPA from your specific major, but be sure to refer to it as “Major GPA.”

It’s OK to include high school information ONLY if you graduated from high school within the past 2 years or if it is relevant to the job you are applying to. For example, if you applying for a job as a teacher in a Jesuit University and you went to a Jesuit High School.


Include the name of your employer, the employer’s location (NOT address; NO zip codes), your job title, dates of employment (month/year), and a description of what you achieved.If you’ve had multiple short-term jobs, you may want to include only the year of employment

Include experience from full or part-time jobs, seasonal employment, work-study or internships, volunteer work, military service, parenting and raising children. It’s OK to make separate categories for different experiences. You may want to include a category on “Additional/Other Experience” to describe odd jobs such as waiting on tables, painting houses, or mowing lawns.  Feel free to include experience from maintaining a household, taking care of parents, or raising a family.

When describing any experience or job, always give concrete examples of your duties, accomplishments, or achievements and back them up with numbers or percentages if possible.


If you have chosen a functional format, your skills will be the main focus of your resume. Review all your jobs and experiences and consolidate them into relevant “skill categories” as described in the above section on “Choosing a Resume Format.”

Use “action verbs” to describe your skills in a more compelling way. A list of selected “action verbs” is provided for you on a separate hand out.


It is very important to involve yourself in a variety of extra-curricular activities while in college. Include involvement, if applicable, in school and community clubs, organizations, fraternities, sororities, and athletics. Involvement in extra-curricular activities shows any potential employer that you are a well-rounded individual.

Include the name of the organization, your title if you had one, accomplishments, and skills you developed. You can include dates, but it’s not necessary in this section.

Acknowledge any leadership positions you’ve held, such as captain, treasurer, president, and team leader.

Honors & Awards

If you’ve been on the Dean’s List, identify the number of semesters. Be sure to give a one-line description of any honor or award that is not well known.

Areas of Interest

Include an interest’s section only if you need to fill up some empty space.

Include only non-controversial interests. Stay away from politics and religion if you are not sure a potential employer would share the same interests.

Additional Categories to Include

Certifications, Relevant Coursework, Research Projects, Licenses, Professional Affiliations, Presentations, Community Involvement, Volunteer Experience, Special Projects, Professional Development, Military Service, etc.

Adapted from, Job Notes: Resumes, by Princeton Review Publishing, 1997.

Updated by AW 9/26/06; please notify the Career Center if you experience any technical problems.

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