Craft a Strong Resume

A resume is a tailored document highlighting your skills, education, goals, and experience. It is a summary of qualifications for a job, internship, scholarship, or other opportunity. Employers will often spend far less than 30 seconds looking at each resume, so yours needs to stand out. The resources below will help guide you through the process.

Why Do You Need a Strong Resume?

  • Your resume is a tailored document that conveys to a potential employer the skills, experiences, and qualifications you have for a position you are interested in pursuing. 
  • In most cases, your resume will be part of every job, internship, or graduate school application you submit. 
  • Your resume—along with your cover letter —is what will determine whether you are invited for an interview. 
  • Your resume is one of the few parts of the job search process over which you have 100% control. The effort you put into your resume also sends clues to potential employers about the level of effort you put into your work. If your resume looks like it was put together quickly with little attention to detail, what message might you be sending? Make sure your resume is excellent! 

 

Key Points

  • Content and formatting matter. If you have great content, but your reader can’t easily make sense of it or find it, you won’t get invited for an interview. Likewise, if you have a beautiful document, but don’t articulate your skills and experiences effectively, you won’t get invited for an interview. 
  • Your resume should be one page. For nearly all students, the resume you submit for any job or internship will be one side of one page. That said, you can create a longer master resume that includes all your experiences and from which you can pull the most relevant information each time you apply for a position.
    • If you're an advanced graduate student, you may, at times, submit a resume of no more than 2 pages.
  • Use keywords wisely. Be sure to include keywords from the job description that can easily be picked up by an Applicant Tracking System (i.e. human resources software used by many organizations to collect resumes and organize the recruitment process). 
    • Learn more about Applicant Tracking Systems here
    • Use this article to learn how to write an resume that gets through applicant tracking systems. 
  • Your resume is a dynamic document. Continue to add to and edit your resume on a semesterly or annual basis as you gain more experience. If your career interests change, it is recommended you rethink how you convey your experience on your resume to align with your new field of interest.

 

How to Write a Strong Resume

Start with a blank document. We don’t recommend templates as they become restrictive when you are trying to adjust formatting later. Then add each of the sections detailed below. 

Use this worksheet to help you plan and develop your resume content. 

 

Career Field-Specific Resume Tips

 

Action Verbs and Keywords

Can one word make a difference? Yes! Choose your words carefully when writing a resume. Strong action verbs provide power and direction. Start each line of your resume with an action verb instead of more passive words. Use keywords to make sure your resume gets noticed. 

Keyword Strategies

  • When you’re applying for a position, be sure to include keywords or skills from the job listing in your resume.
  • Browse online job listings in your field. Words that appear consistently in a variety of ads are your "key" words. Company pages on LinkedIn are another good resource.
  • Talk to professionals in your industry.
  • Include at least four industry- or job-specific keywords in your resume. The ideal number is 12.

Keyword Examples*

PROFESSIONAL SUMMARY: Award-winning corporate controller with more than ten years’ experience in two $500 million corporations. Impressive record implementing financial record database architecture that saved over $2 million annually. Proficient in Oracle, Prism, Red Brick, and SAP systems, as well as MS Project, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and FrontPage.

SKILLS
Languages: C, SQL, C++, Assembler, Pascal
Software: Oracle Developer 2000, Informix NewEra, FoxPro
OS: UNIX, Windows NT/95/3.11, MS-DOS
RDBMS: Oracle7, Informix 7

*Pam Dixon, Job Searching Online for Dummies

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