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Writing Your Resume and Curriculum Vitae
Resumes may vary in content as well as form, appearance, style and layout. It is important to remember that a resume is a personally written document that allows for some individual variation. It should present a positive image to the potential employer. Highlight your strengths by positioning the most important information related to your objective first and devoting the most space to it.
Many employers use applicant tracking systems to enter resumes into databases and then electronically search for candidates using identified criteria. The same basic principles apply to all resumes. Everything that makes sense for computer scanners to easily “read” resumes makes sense for human readers, too. The simpler your resume, the better. Once a computer has selected your resume based on the identified criteria, a human usually reads it to make the final decision about contacting you for an interview.
The following checklist is provided to assist you in drafting your resume:
- Word process: Word process your own resume. Do not use resume templates, programs or resume writing software.
- Length: One-page resumes are generally expected for recent college graduates in all fields except teaching, where two pages may be necessary. Graduates with advanced degrees may also have two-page resumes. There is no length requirement for a CV in the United States. It can be as long as it takes to list all pertinent information. If you are using the CV to apply for a position in a country other than the United States, check the requirements for that country.
- Margins: One-inch margins on both sides, left and right, are required. This means you will need to adjust the default margins of most word processing programs. Top and bottom margins should be equal, to center the text on the page, and between one inch and ½ inch to fit the information on the page.
- Point size: Use a single point size throughout, size 10-12. Your name may be as large as 14-point. Anything smaller than 10-point may be too small to be read.
- Font style: Use one common, non-decorative font style throughout. The two most common styles are Times New Roman and Helvetica. A few other common fonts are Arial, Palatino and Calibri. Do not vary the font style within the resume.
- Italics and Underlining: Do not use italics or underlined text. The letters may touch or run together and scanners may have difficulty recognizing the individual characters.
- Capital letters and Bold: Capital letters and bold type may be used for effect and to grab the reader’s attention, but use them sparingly.
- Graphics and Shading: Graphics and shading should not be used on a resume unless you are in a field in which creativity on a resume may be appropriate.
- Photographs: Do not include a photograph on your resume or CV when you apply for positions in the United States unless you are applying for acting positions. If you are applying to employers in countries other than the United States, check their resume or CV requirements. In some countries including a photograph is expected.
- Bullets: You may use bullets that are solid, not hollow, in your “Experience” section. The text should be right next to the bullet or up to two blank spaces between, but not more. You will have to adjust the automatic spacing for bullets within most word processing programs because they place a full tab space between the bullet and text.
- Parentheses and Brackets: Do not use parentheses or brackets. Scanners may interpret them as letters, numbers or punctuation and will not be able to “recognize” the text within them.
- Lines: Do not use lines, vertical or horizontal. Some scanners have been known to interpret the lines as page breaks and information may not get appropriately credited. Do not underline any text.
- Wording: Use industry-specific jargon and buzzwords. Maximize your use of keywords and words that define the requirements of the particular job you want to do. Consult job descriptions for ideas of words to use. Ask people in your target industry to review your resume to make sure you haven’t missed anything. If you are applying for positions in different industries, you may want to write a targeted resume for each industry.
- Format: Put the most important categories first and in the most detail. Work keywords into the body of the resume. Use an outline format. Use phrases and lists, not full sentences. Begin all phrases with verbs. Do not use personal pronouns. No “I,” “me,” or “my” on the resume. Within each category, the entries should be listed with the most recent first.
- Spacing: Single space your entire resume. You may double space between sections if you have space.
If printing hard copies of your resume:
- Paper type: 8 ½” x 11” quality bond paper with some cotton content. Use the same paper for your resume, cover letter and reference page.
- Paper color: White paper is best for scanning; however, off-white, ivory or other lightly tinted paper could be acceptable. If you use a lightly tinted paper, it should make clear copies and have good contrast for readability by humans and scanners.
- Printing: Use a high quality printer and use black ink only. Print on one side of the paper.
There are several acceptable styles for organizing material in your resume; however, the following categories should be included:
- Place your name in all capital letters and in bold at the top of the page
- If you will be at the same address for at least one year from submitting your resume, place your address, telephone number, email address and customized LinkedIn URL under your name.
- To conserve space you may divide your contact information across the top of the first page: street address, city and state on one side, telephone number and email address on the other.
- If you plan to leave your current residence within a year from submitting your resume, use two addresses. Your current address should be placed on the left side and, on the right side, place the address of someone who has agreed to accept your mail and will be at the address for at least one year. Most students use their parents’ address, however, you can use anyone’s with whom you have a relationship. Under each address specify the dates until which you can be reached at your current address and after which you can be contacted at the other address.
- Do not bold your contact information.
- Remove hyperlinks for email addresses and web pages.
- If your resume is two pages, place your name at the top of the second page with the words “Page 2.”
Objective vs Qualifications Summary
There are different schools of thought on whether to use an objective or a qualifications summary. If you know what a specific employer prefers, do that. If you fit one of the following categories of job seekers, use an objective:
- Entering the workforce for your first professional job
- Re-entering the workforce after an extended absence
- Changing careers
- Include an objective. Although some employers may not place importance on having an objective, many do. An objective helps the employer see that you have direction, that you’ve thought about what you want to do and you have a sense of what you are getting into.
- Everything on your resume should follow from and support your objective.
- An objective quickly identifies what you are interested in and assists the employer in making appropriate referrals.
- State the position you want or the type of work you want to do now. Say: “A summer internship in advertising.” Do not say: “A summer internship in advertising where I can learn about the industry while contributing to the growth and advancement of a cutting edge company.”
- If you have more than one objective, you may want to tailor separate resumes - each with different objectives.
The qualifications summary should state the expertise you have in a particular function and/or industry and your relevant abilities, skills or knowledge. The summary should not be more than 3-4 lines, 2-3 phrases. You might also want to highlight some of the information using bullets.
List the institution(s) where you have completed, or will soon complete, your education, with degrees or certifications, most recent first. Under specific circumstances you may list schools you attended but at which you did not complete a degree or certification
- Write “University of Minnesota Duluth” without any punctuation – there is not a comma or dash in the official name. Do not bold.
- Write out (do not abbreviate) and bold the correct name of your degree.
- On the same line as your degree, indicate the month and year you received it or will receive it. You do not need the words, “degree,” “anticipated,” or “expected.”
- Bold the subject names of your major(s) and minor(s). Do not bold the words “Major” and “Minor.”
- You may list honors and/or coursework under “Education” or you may create separate sections.
- Study abroad experience may also be listed in this section. List the name of the college or university where you studied, city and country. You may include a description of your study experience (e.g., names of courses, field experiences, living with a host family and additional travel).
- List your grade point average if it is 3.0 or higher and indicate it is on a 4.0 scale. For example, say: “3.3/4.0.”
- If your overall grade point average is not 3.0 but the GPA in your major or your last two years is, you may specify and list it.
- High school is usually not listed unless you are a freshman or sophomore seeking a summer or part-time position.
- For accounting majors seeking CPA licensure, include a statement such as, “Will complete/Completed 150 credits by graduation.”
- Experience may include paid and volunteer positions, full- and part-time work, internships and projects.
- If you have experience directly related to your objective, list it in a category with the specific name of the experience, such as “Sales Experience,” “Teaching Experience,” “Research Experience,” or “Management Experience.”
- Experience that is not exactly the same as your objective, but still has some relationship to it, may be listed in a “Related Experience” category.
- Experience that is not directly related to your objective but shows skills and abilities important to employers may be listed in a category titled “Additional Experience.”
- Within each “Experience” section, begin with the most recent experience.
- Listings should be formatted with your position title first, in bold. Your title should be a noun, something you could call yourself and should give the reader some idea of the duties in the position. If you don’t have a title or your official title doesn’t adequately convey what you did, formulate one that does. If you have difficulty coming up with a title and to ensure the title is acceptable, you may want to consult your supervisor in the position. Be careful not to “over-inflate” the position (e.g., use “Custodian” rather than “Sanitation Removal Engineer”).
- After your title, list the name of the organization with the city and state. Do not bold this information.
- Dates should be listed somewhere in the body of each entry. Be consistent with where and how you list the dates. Dates should not be listed on a margin. The dates should include only months and years, or just years.
- For each entry, briefly describe what you did in the position. Describe your experiences by beginning all lines with action verbs and using outcome/ results statements with numbers, quantities and details to emphasize skills, accomplishments and knowledge. Tailor the description of your experiences to fit the job duties, responsibilities and qualifications listed in the internship or job posting. Example: “Trained, supervised and evaluated 10 employees” rather than “responsible for supervising employees.”
- Your descriptions may be formatted using bullets or paragraphs; choose one format and use it for all of your entries.
- Use present tense verbs to refer to the things you are currently doing. Describe things you have done and probably will not do again using past tense verbs. Do not use the “-ing” form of the verb.
- For each entry, list the descriptive statements in the order of importance or relevance to the position you are seeking, not in the order of the frequency of what you did or are doing
The following categories are optional; however, you may want to consider including them if they will strengthen your resume:
Include a few lines describing any individual or group work you’ve completed for classes. List the title of the project first and then the description of what you did. Use action verbs and results statements as you do in describing entries in your “Experience” sections.
You may want to list foreign language abilities, special licenses or certifications, computer knowledge, travel or other skills related to your objective as “Special Skills.” You may also name the category to reflect the skills listed such as “Computer Skills” or “Language Skills.”
- Include research projects, both individual or group, completed for classes, outside of class on your own, or with a professor (e.g., the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program).
- List the title of the research with a description of what you did identifying software, equipment or techniques. You might also include results and presentations and publication of results in a separate section. If you are applying to graduate or professional school, you might also list the name of your research advisor.
Honors might include Dean’s List for Academic Excellence, scholarships, awards or special recognition. List the exact name of the award and the year it was received.
Licenses and Certifications
Include licenses and certifications such as teaching license, professional engineering license or tests taken, First Aid, CPR or Water Safety Instructor if they are relevant to your objective.
- Include publications such as an article you coauthored with a professor or a poem you wrote that was included in an anthology.
- List the publication using the appropriate citation style of your field.
- Publications can be listed as “pending” if they have been submitted.
Include presentations with title, audience, and year.
Grants and Fellowships
List grants and fellowships with title and granting or employing organization.
If your military experience is not related to your objective, you may include a separate “Military” section.
If you have military training and experience relevant to your objective, include the training under “Education” and the experience under “Experience.”
Include memberships in student groups and local or national organizations. These may also be included under "Activities."
- Co-curricular and community activities, especially if they are related to your objective, can be extremely important. Participation in activities can point out your leadership and social skills and demonstrate your interests and energy level.
- If you held a leadership position in an organization, list the title of your position first, in bold, and then the name of the organization.
- You may list dates, or not; just be consistent for all the entries within the section.
- List more interesting items and not the more typical such as reading, walking and cooking. Include uncommon or unusual activities to generate interest and make you memorable.
- Say “References available upon request” as a means of bringing closure and visual balance to the resume. Referring to your references indicates your resume has come to an end and there is not a missing page. If there is not enough space on the page, omit this.
- If you include your references with your resume and cover letter, you may say, “References included” or “References attached.”
- Obtain permission from the people whose names you intend to offer as references. These people should be familiar with your academic and/or work abilities.
- See references for additional information about references.
Final tip: Always proofread your resume for content and typographical or spelling errors. Have several people also proofread your resume. You cannot proofread your own writing and expect to catch all the errors. Finally, plan ahead. Do not expect to write your best resume overnight. Your resume is an essential tool in your job and internship search. Make it the best possible!
For assistance with your resume, visit the Career and Internship Services website for options.
1. In this section the word "resume" is used to refer to both the resume and curriculum vitae (CV).↩