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Things to Know before Writing that Resume

Your resume is a summary of your professional and personal qualifications for a job. It should provide the employer with a “snapshot” of your education, skills, work experiences (paid and unpaid), activities, and achievements.

Most employers will only spend 30 to 60 seconds initially reviewing your resume, so first impressions count! Your resume should be well-formatted, concise, and easy-to-read so that the employer doesn’t have to fish through blocks of text to find your qualifications.

If your resume effectively demonstrates how you have used relevant and transferable skills to produce results, it will make the employer wants to learn more about you as a candidate.

Ultimately, the primary purpose of your resume is to convince the employer to offer you an interview where you can then “close the deal.”


Should I add an “objective” statement at the top of my resume?

  • Not necessary, but a matter of personal preference; sometimes an objective can be helpful if you are submitting a resume as a standalone document without a cover letter
  • If you must write an objective, keep it clear, concise and focused
  • Keep in mind that you need to change your objective for different types of jobs; this is one more thing to keep track of and can lead to mistakes. It could be detrimental to have an objective saying you want to be a teacher on a resume submitted to a consulting firm.
  • In general, Career Services recommends against including an objective

Does it really matter if my formatting isn’t perfect or if I have one little spelling error?

  • Often, yes; there is a LOT of competition for jobs or spots in graduate programs, so many reviewers will honestly eliminate applicants based on very small mistakes
  • From the reviewer’s perspective, if you can’t pay attention to detail and represent yourself well in the application process, you may not be their type of candidate
  • An error is not always fatal, but don’t press your luck; have more than one set of eyes review your resume and other application materials

Should I list my Education activities on my resume?

  • This is usually acceptable you may need to include some high school activities to help fill out a one page resume
  • As you move through your career at any organisation, your education experiences will become less relevant and you should choose to replace them with more recent experiences and activities
  • If you had significant accomplishments while in school that may impress a potential employer, then by all means include those on your resume

How can I highlight the skills and achievements I gained at a basic level job?

  • You don’t have to go overboard or exaggerate to make basic jobs sound better than they are or were.
  • However, don’t overlook skills you developed or possible achievements or certifications you earned in your basic jobs (e.g., customer service skills, food handling/preparation training, winning the employee of the month award for your hard work, etc.)
  • Spend more time and space showing how you are results-oriented for your more meaningful experiences

Can I use a resume template in Microsoft Word?

  • You can, but Career Services recommends avoiding them
  • These templates can be very rigid, with lots of preset formatting that can make your resume appear cluttered
  • You may think you can start with a template and adjust your settings from there, but this can end up being a frustrating and futile experience
  • You should write your resume from scratch, creating your own personal, clean, flexible template
  • Resumes are so boring and you have a million layout rules in this guide; are you serious?
  • Career Services wants you to put your best foot forward in achieving your career goals, and the resume is often a foundational document in your career planning process
  • There is plenty of room for you to make your own stylistic and content decisions within the framework of this guide (in fact, we hope that you do; we don’t want every resume to look identical)
  • If you want to go further and use wacky fonts, unusual formatting, and outrageous phrasing, we will not stand in your way; we will advise you that your chances of success with a weird resume may be lower, but ultimately, it is your resume
  • The two things we tend to be dogmatic about are no spelling or grammatical errors, and limiting your resume to one page


Contact Information

  • Include Name, Address, Telephone, and Email Address at the top of your resume
  • Include a phone number that you check often and that will allow you to receive calls or messages from employers
  • Include an e-mail address that you check regularly and that is simple and professional
  • Make sure that your email address doesn’t expire


  • List in this order: College name, Location, Degree, Major/ Minor, Graduated Date (or Class of 20xx)
  • Study Abroad: College name, Location, and Semester and year attended
  • Relevant Courses (Optional):
  • Grade / GPA: list if favourable (typically 3.00 or above); carry out to 2 decimal places (e.g., 3.25)

Honours & Awards

  • Include academic honours, scholarships, honour societies, or awards
  • You should include the dates you earned these awards and year is sufficient


  • Potential section titles may include: Experience; Work Experience; Employment; Professional Experience; Leadership Experience; Additional Experience
  • For targeting your resume to a particular job/industry you may categorize your experience using special titles (e.g., Research Experience; Teaching Experience; Environmental Experience; Cross Cultural Experience; International Experience)
  • List your current or most recent employment first and continue in reverse chronological order
  • Include full and part-time work experiences, internships, volunteer work, significant projects outside of the classroom (you may choose to list volunteer work in a separate “Community Service” section of your resume)
  • Include job title, employer name, location, and dates of employment
  • Use action verbs and skill words (see action verbs page) to detail and quantify your accomplishments, duties, and work responsibilities
  • All experience does not need to be included on your resume; carefully select the experiences that demonstrate your qualifications and will help land you an interview
  • Avoid using personal pronouns such as “I”, “me”, or “my” on your resume; the use of these pronouns is not considered standard practice in resume writing

Optional Resume Sections


  • Computer Skills: list software programs and hardware with which you are proficient; for Microsoft Office, list out each type Office software with which you are proficient (e.g., Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access)
  • Languages: include level of proficiency (e.g., native, fluent, proficient); don’t list if only at a beginner or intermediate level
  • Technical Equipment: list for media, lab, and science positions
  • Activities: List the organizations, positions held, and dates involved (if the involvement is related to the job/ industry you are applying to, you may consider including it in your experience section)
  • Types of activities might include student government, student clubs, athletics, music groups, community service, special projects, and volunteer work


  • This can include travel, personal interests, and activities that can often serve as “icebreakers” in an interview
  • Don’t go overboard listing out lots of interests or interests that may come across as pithy, banal, or make you seem unprofessional (e.g., reading, pranking, going to the beach)
  • Only include interests you have genuinely pursued


  • List any of your work that has been published, especially if it helps demonstrate your knowledge, expertise, or interest in areas relevant to an opportunity
  • Use standard citation format


  • List the dates and names of your presentations/lectures and the organizations or conferences where you presented

Professional Affiliations & Memberships

  • List your roles and membership in professional organizations, groups, or societies that might demonstrate your leadership abilities, organizational talents, or other valuable skills


  • You should not list references on your resume unless stated otherwise in the application’s instructions
  • It is standard practice to list your references in a separate document; most employers will then ask you to submit this at some point during the interview process although you should always refer back to the application instructions to be sure
  • You should obtain permission from your references before you submit their names; for each reference, you should confirm a preferred e-mail address and phone number where he or she can be contacted by your potential employer
  • Typically an employer will ask you to submit contact information for 3–4 individuals (usually work supervisors or professors, occasionally peers or non-supervisor colleagues) who can address your work activities, academic abilities, and personal qualities. Resume Layout

Grammar & Spelling

  • You should have no spelling or grammatical errors on your resume
  • Be aware that spell check does not catch all spelling and grammatical errors, especially if your word is spelled right but used incorrectly
  • Avoid abbreviations and inside jargon as much as possible; you may use abbreviations as long as you spell out the abbreviated phrase initially and then show the abbreviation you will subsequently use in parentheses (e.g., “Orientation Adventure (OA)”)
  • Use present or past verb tense consistent with the time of your experience


  • Between .5”–1” for both left-right and top-bottom
  • You don’t want your resume to have too much white space or seem too crowded into the margins


  • Use relatively plain, easy-to-read fonts; you want your font to be clean in case your resume is photocopied, or scanned one or more times
  • Times New Roman, Arial, Garamond, Helvetica, Calibri, Palatino are good choices
  • Stay between 10–12 point; any lower can make your resume difficult to read
  • You can use a slightly larger font for your name at the top of your resume

Text Effects, Indentation, Line Spacing

  • Keep it simple; too many different effects (bold, italics, underlining, all-caps) and indents will make your resume look cluttered and busy
  • Keep it consistent; if you all-caps the name of one resume section, do it for all the section names; if you have one line space between your sections, be sure you do that between each section; be sure bullet points are aligned and sized the same; be sure your fonts are the same size and style
  • Use text effects strategically to emphasize things that you want to stand out (like school names or employer names) and to help create visual breaks between different experiences within the sections of your resume


  • Use bullets to write about the content of your experiences
  • Bullets help separate this content under your job titles and employer/activity names
  • You do not need to use bullets for job titles and employer/activity names • o Avoid using sub-bullets
  • Your bullets should begin with an action verb and do not need to be written with complete sentence structures (though they should be grammatically correct)
  • Since they are not complete sentences, you DO NOT need to use periods at the end of your bullets (remember to be consistent; don’t end some bullets with periods and other without periods)
  • Don’t use weird bullets


  • Working experience resumes should only be 1-2
  • Keeping your resume to a page demonstrates to the reader that you can express yourself concisely and effectively

Credit to Pitzer College

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