Writing a good resume
Content is the most important part of a resume. Many students have had a lot of great work-related experience that they just haven't thought about. The trick is to reflect on everything you've done and translate how you think about your accomplishments into how an employer might think about them.
- Write down each group you've belonged to since high school. This includes sports teams, clubs, sororities, fraternities, outreach groups, volunteer organizations, and employers.
- Near each group, write down the roles you filled, for example, "member," "captain," "treasurer," or a job title.
- Now start a new piece of paper and write down every task that you did in that role, what method you used to do it, why it was worth doing, and the result of your doing it.
Next, turn your tasks into accomplishment statements—the little blurbs that go underneath your jobs or other positions and say what you did. The goal is to show potential employers that you have done worthwhile things competently and consciously.
- Begin with an action verb.
- Answer the questions "what, how, why, with what result" and "how much or how often."
- Include enough detail so that anyone can tell what you did.
Interrogate yourself! Act like a detective trying to determine exactly what happened. Here's an example of how to revise a bad accomplishment statement:
- Original statement:
- Change to begin with a verb:
- Interrogate: What data? What software or other method was used to manage it? What does "manage" mean, anyway? What was the point of managing it? What was the result of managing it?
- We'll break our original statement into two:
- Good statement 1:
Researched and implemented data backup and recovery plan using Poppenheim Plus 3.1 software
- Good statement 2:
Recovered data and restored operations three times after server crashes
- Good statement 1:
Continue to think about your past accomplishments until you've compiled as many as you can. You'll need a lot of material for the next step, trimming and modifying your resume to respond to a particular job.
Modifying a resume for a particular job
Your resume demonstrates that you:
- Write well and can attend to details like proofreading;
- Took the time to research the employer's company and this specific position;
- Have substantial past experience that proves you're qualified for the job.
You're writing the resume to match the employer's specific needs, not to give a complete picture of yourself. To get into the employer's mindset, take the job ad or any written information you have about the position and underline all the parts that describe the ideal applicant. For example:
Successful candidate will be able to work independently, overcome objections in the selling process, and analyze sales data for individual territories.
In this case, you would choose accomplishments that prove you have worked independently, persuaded people to do or buy something, and analyzed some kind of data. If you can't think of good examples, try talking about some of your past experiences with an advisor during a drop-in advising appointment.
Some guidelines for your resume:
- Begin every accomplishment statement with a verb.
- Do not send a general resume. Customize each resume for each position.
- Use the organization's name and the job title in your objective statement, if you have one.
- Do not include anything from high school.
- Keep it to one page. To trim, avoid redundancy, e.g., fully listing duties for two similar positions.
- Include the sections that make sense for your experience and this job; don't rely on templates.
- Use a laser printer and the same high-quality paper as your cover letter.
- Proofread for formatting, grammar, and spelling until your resume is flawless.
For more comprehensive instructions and two sample resumes, read the resume handouts in our document library. If you need help or want someone to read through your resume, come to the Career Development Center for a drop-in advising appointment.