Resume title page.

15 Fast Tips for Developing Your Resume

Your resume is essentially your own personal flyer or advertisement. The way it is written, your vocabulary or the words that you use, the layout, detail, and consistency…all of these things are a reflection of YOU. Therefore, when writing one, you have to use business or marketing strategies and carefully articulate your goals, passions, educational background, skills, and accomplishments to get “buy in” from employers. The resume generally serves one, main purpose, and that is to get you an interview. It is not the only thing that will get you an interview, but it will play a major role. Employers and hiring managers do not often read every, single detail. In fact, they will likely spend less than a minute looking at it prior to your interview, or they could simply scan it and toss it based on a few small errors or something that they do not like. So, you need to make certain that your resume has marketing power.

Here are 15 tips for writing a good resume:

1) Limit it to one page; unless you are a seasoned professional and have several years of experiences that are related to the position you are applying for, you can easily fit it on one page if you get to the point, and…many employers will not read it or make all of their judgments about you within that first page.

2) Make sure the margins are set at 1 inch on all sides of your paper, use common fonts (e.g., Times New Roman or Ariel), and 11-12 point font so it is easy to read and looks neat, or professional.

3) Identify the ways in which your education, volunteer, and or work experiences are relevant to the position; look at the position description or list of tasks you would be responsible for in the job ad, and articulate how your experiences qualify you for that position.

4) Highlight information with headings and or bold font (for example, sample headings may include: education, work experience, educational or organizational leadership experience, professional activities, honors and awards, publications, presentations, references); your headings will have to be tailored to your background and the position to which you are applying.

5) Put your education and experiences in chronological order (current and then, most recent experiences listed first); although there are several types of resumes, chronological resumes emphasize how you have progressed, and it is easy for employers to read.

6) Use action verbs when talking about the responsibilities you had in certain position and talk about skills that can be applied to the job to which you are applying (see Owl Purdue Online Writing Lab for examples).

7) Check for consistency (in font, punctuation, and format for each heading and information under each heading).

8) Avoid using more than 3 types of font or formatting…and consequently, a resume that appears chaotic or cluttered.

9) Be concise; do not ramble or repeat yourself.

10) Write descriptions of anything you are currently doing in present tense; write anything you have done in the past in past tense, and do this consistently.

11) Only list experiences or skills you have; lying or fabricating the truth will catch up with you (for example, during the interview); thus, it is a waste of your time, as well as the employer’s time when you are trying to sell someone else.

12) PROOF READ, have your peers edit it, ask a mentor to read it, and take it to a career services counselor or professional on your campus; everyone will have multiple perspectives on how it should look. By having others proof-read it, you will have the opportunity to gain knowledge and make certain it represents the “best you” and is error free…and it is possible that others that know you well will think about skills that you possess that you forgot to list.

13) Ask professors or previous employers who know you well in advance if you can list them as a reference, and continue to keep them updated on what positions you are applying for.

14) Start writing it now…BEFORE you are applying for a job if possible. Planning ahead will help you be aware of skills or experiences that you need to gain before applying for your job.

15) Print it on professional or water-marked, neutral colored paper (for example, ivory or light gray and about 25% cotton fiber), and make certain the water-mark is face-up when you print (although it may seem small or petty, it can reveal your attention to detail…or lack thereof).


Sources and additional resources for writing resumes:

Resume Magic – 4th Edition


Also, see other Career Skillet articles on this topic:

A Good/Bad Resume

The Resume: It May Be the First and Last Impression

About Jill Bowers

Jill is a certified family life educator (CFLE), certified family and consumer scientist (CFCS-HDFS), and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Human and Community Development at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She developed the idea for this project when she was working on a research project where she interviewed emerging adults (18-20 year olds). Work and career related content was something about which the emerging adults were most interested in learning more, and many of the issues that were at the center of their daily concerns were those surrounding their career plans and navigating the job market. Although some of the emerging adults in the study were aware of the fact that they could find information on the Internet to answer their questions or that there were resources available through their college or University, most of them could not recall being required to participate in any professional development courses that helped them with career-related skills and most of them suffered from “information overload” related to their Internet searches for information that would help them with their career paths. For example, some of them had been told about the importance of networking (e.g., at Career Fairs), but they did not really understand what this was or how to do it. Therefore, as a result of her experiences working with emerging adults, Jill initiated this project to help FCS students by providing them with information that will help ensure their success as they navigate the job market.

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