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Guidelines for Resume Writing Webster University I Career Planning & Development Center

Guidelines for Resume Writing

Your resume communicates your goal while highlighting your education, experience, and skills. The primary purpose of your resume is to secure an interview. Resumes are also used as a marketing tool for yourself when conducting informational interviews as well as networking.

Content included in this resource will outline best practices for preparing a standard industry resume including formatting recommendations, required and optional content sections, customization strategies, and a collection of sample documents.

Resume Strategies

Be aware of your audience: Who will be reading this resume and for what purpose? When writing a resume, you will need to customize the content to appeal to the reader. You should have multiple versions of your resume, tailored to the intended audience.

Highlight your key skills and experience based on the purpose of each resume: Your customized resume is a tool you can use to market your skills, especially as they relate to an individual job. In a job posting, the employer will outline a list of skills and qualifications that their ideal candidate would possess. As you're crafting your tailored document, concentrate on describing your skills and experiences that align most directly with the employer's needs. You do not need to include your entire academic and work history in your resume. Instead, focus on the most relevant pieces of information.

Consider multiple sources of experience: Every activity in your life is a source of valuable experience, providing skills that are either specific to your job of choice or transferable to multiple fields. When deciding on the types of experiences to include on your resume, think about your entire background including co-curricular activities, internships, jobs, academic projects, etc.

Request feedback: Ask others for assistance in reviewing your resume. Industry experts, faculty, and employers can provide feedback regarding mechanics and content, especially as it relates to your field of choice.

Create a theme throughout your application materials: Connect your resume content to other pieces used in the application process. How does your cover letter reinforce key areas of skills/qualifications that are highlighted in your resume? How will this connect to your interviewing approach? In preparing your application materials, ensure that you unify the message that you want to relay to your prospective employer.

Resume Format

Templates: Do not use a resume template. Resume readers can immediately identify these formats. They also limit your ability to change the content and style of your resume.

Layout: The layout of your resume should be well-organized and consistent. The reader should be able to quickly pick out information from the different content areas of your resume.

Length: Limit your resume to one page. If you have a few years of relevant experience, your resume may be longer. Certain industries or occupations, such as academia, may favor longer resumes.

Margins: Set all margins (left, right, top, and bottom) no smaller than 0.5” and no larger than 1”.

Font and Font Size: Use one professional-looking font. Consider using Arial, Times New Roman, or Times. Font size should be between 10 and 12 point. Font size for headings and subheadings may be slightly larger to draw attention to them.

White Space: Use white (blank) space effectively to make your resume look balanced, professional, and easy to read. Avoid filling the entire surface of the paper with information. However, you don’t want to leave too much white space either.

Enhancements: Enhancements bring attention to certain parts of your resume that you want to highlight. Use indention (tabs), bolding, capitalization, and bullet points to bring attention to important information.

Key Content Areas

There are a variety of content areas that may be included in a resume. The key content areas of a resume, in their suggested order are:

  1. Contact Information
  2. Education
  3. Experience

Contact Information

Your header is at the top of your resume and will be the first piece of information seen by your intended reader.

  • Include your first and last name, telephone number (including area code), and e-mail address that is a variation of your first and last name.
  • Optionally, include your permanent and/or temporary mailing address and a web-link to your LinkedIn profile.

Education

The education section of your resume lists degrees, certificates, or licenses you have earned.

Required Education Information:

  • Degree and Major
  • Month and Year of Graduation (not duration of attendance)
  • College or University
  • Geographic Location of College or University

Optional Education Information:

  • Minor(s), Area of Concentration, or Related Coursework
  • Overall GPA (if 3.0 or higher) and/or Major GPA (if 3.0 or higher).
Note that GPA is more important to include on a resume if you’re an undergraduate. If you’re at the graduate level, related experience is more valued than GPA.

Study Abroad

For students who have studied abroad, inclusion of this information can be presented in the education section of your resume. Include the name of the institution, its geographic location, and duration of your study abroad experience. You may optionally highlight coursework taken or any co-curricular activities through study abroad in this section.

For students who have significant study abroad or international travel experience, that information may be presented within its own separate content section.

Experience

The experience section of your resume tells the reader what type of experience you have that makes you qualified for a specific position.

Sources of Experience Include:

  • Full-time or part-time jobs
  • Internships
  • Military service
  • On-campus student employment
  • Significant involvement in student activities or community organizations
  • Volunteer positions
  • Freelance work
  • Athletics leadership roles
  • Major class projects, papers, or performances
  • Independent or collaborative research
  • Significant roles on committees

When preparing your resume, you may organize different sources of experience into categories. For example, you may have a "Related Experience" section highlighting an internship or part-time job that aligns to your employment goal, and an "Additional Experience" section that highlights any experience where you have demonstrated transferable skills.

Transferable skills are the skills you develop and transfer to future employment settings.

Required Experience Information:

  • Company/Organization
  • Location of Company/Organization (city and state)
  • Job Title
  • Duration of Employment (start month and year to end month and year)
  • 3-5 Bulleted descriptions that clearly state your experience-related actions, outcomes, and accomplishments.

Begin each bulleted task description with a verb. View our list of bullet point action verbs here.

Optional Content

Your resume is used to present your strongest transferable skills and qualifications to your intended reader. Optional content may add value to your resume, but only if it's relevant.

Continue reading to learn about optional content to feature in your targeted resume.

Summary of Qualifications & Objective Statements

A summary of qualifications or objective statement can assist with providing focus to the skills and qualifications you present to your intended reader.

With a limited amount of time an employer may spend reviewing resumes, a summary or objective may help an employer identify your transferable skills and qualifications in the first few lines of your resume.

A summary of qualifications is a brief, block style paragraph or 4-5 bulleted descriptors that summarizes your education, experience, and skills relevant to the position you are applying for and is the first content section of your resume beneath the contact information/header.

An objective statement tells the reader about your career goals and/or expresses your interest in the specific job you are applying for.

The major parts of the objective, in their suggested order, are:

  1. General or specific job title (Examples: entry-level position, accountant, graphic designer, etc.)
  2. Occupational field or industry (Examples: human resources, banking, entertainment, etc.)
  3. Qualifications/skills (Examples: computer expertise, languages, teamwork, management)
  4. If applicable, add information related to the position that may interest the reader to consider you (Examples: willingness to travel and/or relocate, work authorization, etc.)

Skills

The point of keeping your resume concise is to allow for an employer to figure out the value you could create for the company after reviewing your resume.

With this in mind, dedicating space on your resume to highlight the technical skills they’re requesting of a candidate is highly recommended to include in your document, even if the skills are mentioned elsewhere in your resume.

Group together related skills into categories, such as:

  • Computer/Technical
  • Language Proficiencies
Soft, or interpersonal skills, do not need to be highlighted within a separate content section.

Soft skills include a variety of skill areas developed through multiple sources of experience, such as leadership, teamwork and written communication.

Soft skills are valuable to employers, but can be presented in other content sections of your resume, such as in a summary of qualifications or in bulleted descriptors within your work experience.

Honors and Recognitions

Include any honors or recognitions to feature in its own content section if you believe this information will add value to your document.

Include the issuer and name of the recognition, and the month/year awarded in reverse chronological order. For example:

  • Webster University, Leigh Gerdine Scholarship for Academic Excellence, April 2019
  • St. Louis Regional Chamber, Distinguished Student Award, May 2018

Professional Organizations

Membership in a professional organization puts you into a unique network of like minded professionals. If you have multiple memberships in professional organizations, you may optionally select to highlight this information in its own content section if your membership is active.

Include the name of the professional organization and the beginning month/year of membership through the present in a reverse chronological format. For example:

  • National Association of Colleges and Employers, May 2015 - Present
  • American Marketing Association, April 2014 - Present

Resume Examples

Resume examples included in this section reflect a wide selection of academic and career interests.

Credits:

Created with images by Bram Naus - "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. -Steve Jobs" • Helloquence - "Brainstorming over paper" • Bram Naus - "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. -Steve Jobs"