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Home > Career Center > Resumes

The resume is written only to get the interview! Here are some tips.

  • Keep the resume to one page. Most employers don't want to be bothered reading about you if it takes too long.
  • Don't use an "objective." Objectives are the exclusive province of recent college graduates who are entering the workplace for the first time.
  • Make your resume "accomplishment-oriented" and keep it that way, consistently.
  • Chronological resumes are preferable to functional ones because the chronological format is easier to follow. Use a functional resume when you must minimize gaps in employment and erratic career advancement.
  • Take particular pains to avoid typographical and grammatical errors. As a reflection of intellect, a resume with typos or poor grammar may be discarded on that basis alone.
  • Don't lie. There is nothing wrong, however, with "event glorification."
  • It is acceptable and perhaps beneficial to respond to a job advertisement more than a week after it appears. Your resume has a better chance of being read if it is received in the "trickle" instead of the "flood" of responses.
  • Never write "Health: Excellent." No one has ever written "Health: Poor."
  • Always accompany your resume with a personalized covering letter. This indicates that the job has enough interest for you so that you took the time to personalize your response.
  • An effective covering letter should also be short, precise, accomplishment-oriented and end with a request for an interview. Wherever possible, address the letter directly to the individual who makes hiring decisions. Avoid addressing it to "Human Resource Department" or "Personnel Department." Instead, send it to someone you know. Ask for the interview! Close the letter with that request.
  • Research! You can find the name of the individual you seek usually by making a telephone call. If that doesn't work, consult on-line directories which are easily available on the Internet.
  • When you respond to a classified or display advertisement, you are usually in competition with hundreds, if not thousands of applicants with similar qualifications. Therefore, directing a covering letter to a specific individual will bring greater returns.
  • Whereas the resume features accomplishments in your employment, the covering letter should emphasize personal characteristics (tenacity, communication skills, rapid promotions, etc.) and how your qualifications meet the advertiser's requirements.
  • Persistence Beats Resistance! One, two or even three follow-up letters may be necessary to penetrate your target.
  • Ignore requests for salary history or requirements. That request is an attempt by employers to either disqualify you or assume an unfair advantage during salary negotiations. If your resume and letter are interesting enough, that should be enough to provoke a response.

Writing your resume

A resume is a positive outline of what you have to offer an employer. Its purpose is to stimulate interest, demonstrate your value, and to secure an interview for you.

An effective resume:

  • supports and strengthens your job objective.
  • attracts attention to your special abilities and personal qualities.
  • encourages the employer to find out more about you.
  • demonstrates your future value to an employer.
  • reflects your uniqueness as much as possible.
  • creates a favorable impression.
  • is concise, well-organized and attractive to the eye.
  • is well-typed and professionally copied.

Resume Contents

Identifying Data:

Name, Address, Phone Number/Message Number (include area code). If you are residing at a temporary address, it is appropriate to include both current and permanent addresses. Include also the date on which you expect to leave the temporary address. The inclusion of an e-mail address is also appropriate.

Job Objective:

This brief description of the type of position desired should follow your name, address, and telephone number. Job objectives help you and the employer to focus on a specific position or career goal. Including it in your cover letter is not the recommended option, as employers prefer to see an objective directly on the resume. Your resume should be able to support your objective.


Name of School, Major, Degree and the date received. Including honors and grade point average information is optional, although recommended when it will enhance your image. If you are including your GPA, be sure to list the grade scale used, for example, 3.7/4.0. If you graduated from more than one school, list the most recent first. It is not always necessary to list all the schools you have attended. Do not list high school, unless you need to emphasize some important aspect of it that is related to your career goal, e.g. listing a technical high school because you are entering the engineering field. Additional training you have received may either go under Education or a separate heading.

Experience/Work History:

Paid employment, internships, field work, volunteer, and military. Emphasize duties, responsibilities, accomplishments, skills, and abilities appropriate to the position for which you are applying. Note the employing organization (city and state), dates of employment, and if appropriate, job title. Internships and field work may be described under Education, Experience, or in its own category called Internships. New graduates can list part-time and summer jobs whether or not they relate to the career goal. If you have had many unrelated jobs, you may briefly summarize your duties and responsibilities, in a few sentences, under one heading.


When selecting a format, it is important to choose one that allows you to best emphasize your particular strengths. There is no "right" format for a resume. Remember that with any format you choose, the unique and creative manner in which you write headings, sequence sections, and design layout should serve to further enhance your image. While there are many different formats for resumes, the most widely used is the REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL. This format lists your background with the most recent experience first. You may arrange or subdivide your headings in various ways depending upon which aspects of your background you want to emphasize or want to have noticed first. An exception to the "reverse rule" (most recent first) might occur when your past experience is more related to your goals than your recent experience, in which case you would list past experience first.

Optional Contents

The following optional information may be included in your resume:


If your degree included courses in areas relevant to the position for which you are applying, you may indicate six to eight of these course titles, for example, Personnel Administration or Machine Design, not the course number and credit hours. They should be upper level courses only. You might want to include any significant coursework concentrations you have also had; for example, Marketing or Energy Systems.

Special Projects:

This is a good way to demonstrate accomplishments/experience gained through class projects, internships, and volunteer or other extracurricular activities. Select projects that can demonstrate relevant skills or accomplishments.

Special Skills:

These should be marketable skills in your career area, e.g. Foreign Languages and Computer Skills, not communication skills or working with people.

Campus Activities:

Clubs, Intramurals, Student Organizations. List any offices or leadership roles held. A brief description of your duties can be included if it relates to your career objective.

Community Involvement:

Many important skills are developed through community, volunteer, and philanthropic work. Significant projects and offices held should be mentioned as they relate to your career goal.

Licenses and Certifications:

Teaching, Broadcasting, Health-related, etc.

Profesional Affiliations:

Membership in professional organizations (offices held).

Research and Publications:

Include Title, Name of Periodical, Publisher, Place of Publication, and Date.

Personal Data:

This information (e.g. height, weight, age, etc.) should not be listed on a resume, cannot be required by potential employers under federal regulations, and, in fact, may provide the employer with a basis for discrimination.


May be included to reflect a wider range of information about you as a person and are particularly helpful if they relate to your job objective or goals.

Electronic Resumes

Another development in the world of resume writing is the growing use of e-mail in the sending and receiving of resumes. Given this addition you'll need to know the following:

  1. Attach the original resume document (.doc file) to your e-mail message and "cut and paste its contents into the body of your e-mail. Employers may not open e-mail attachments for fear of viruses. They may also not have access to the word processing software used to create the resume (we recommend using MS Word). In either case you risk the chance of an employer not opening your resume. Successfully completing both steps ensures that employers, with or without particular software, will view your resume.
  2. Use text or ASCII Format. When sending your resume within the body of your e-mail message be sure it is saved and sent in text format. This format may also be referred to as ASCII format. All e-mail/document processors are able to view correspondence when sent in this format. Sending your resume using text format or ASCII eliminates the possibility that the employer cannot read your resume format.
  3. Limit each line in your resume to 72 characters in length. In ASCII or text format, most e-mail programs wrap text around to the next line at or after the 72nd character. As a consequence be sure to limit your character length to preserve your chosen resume layout.
  4. E-mail your resume to yourself. To be sure your resume formatting and layout are correct, send your e-resume to yourself before sending it to employers. Doing so will allow for error correction and reformatting of the layout if needed.
  5. Include a cover letter within the body of your e-mail. All resumes should be accompanied by a cover letter. This includes resumes sent by e-mail. Your cover letter should follow the above rules for e-resume writing and it should be included in the body of your e-mail - just prior to your resume.

When using text or ASCII Format, be sure to:

  1. Use size "12 point", Courier New font (or other monospaced fonts).
  2. Start every line at the left margin.
  3. Avoid using bullets and instead used dashes (-) or asterisks (*).
  4. Avoid using Bold, underline, or italics for any text.
  5. Put your name and resume categories in UPPER CASE.
  6. Use spaces to not only separate words but to perform any and all indenting (tab key and centering do not work as this formatting is not maintained in the copy/paste process.)

Scanning your resumes

Always send your resume as the text of an e-mail message unless an employer specifically states on its website or in its job postings that it will accept resume sent as attachments. Reason? The threat of computer viruses sent as attachments.

E-mail technology cannot accommodate the centering, paragraphing, bolding and other "eye friendly" features installed in the document by your word processing system. You can easily remove them, however, by using the "Save As..." function on your computer and creating a second version of your resume in ASCII text or Rich Text Format. Once that's done, proofread the document carefully to be sure that no information was garbled or inadvertently eliminated in the re-formatting process. Then, you'll have to make two other changes to prepare your document for its journey in e-mail:

  • First, remove any business or higher mathematical symbols from the document. Currently, e-mail technology can interpret and understand only the characters that appear on your computer keyboard. Such symbols as "", the copyright sign, and "", the division sign, are unintelligible to e-mail systems.
  • Second, change the margins of your resume to 65 characters in width and end each line with a hard carriage break (i.e., by hitting the Enter button). Unfortunately, e-mail systems have margins that are much narrower than those of word processing systems and cannot "line wrap" or continue sentences onto another line when they exceed the margins. Therefore, slimming down your resume is the only way to ensure that nothing gets dropped into the cyber waste bin when the document arrives at its destination.

    If you send your resume to a recruitment site for inclusion in its resume database (monster.com, flipdog.com, hotjobs.com or the site maintained by your professional association), always DATE the document. Resume in public databases are often copied and recopied by other sites so there's no knowing where your resume may end up. Dating the document, however, will avoid any embarrassment later when your employer finds that old document out there on the net.

Writing Action Verb Statements

The use of well-chosen action verb statements is a proven, highly effective resume writing technique. Incorporating action verbs with the description of your experiences emphasizes the strengths and skills you possess.


  • "Tutored" a group of underachievers in remedial reading.
  • "Organized" information for budget and "delivered" to management.
  • "Conducted" interviews with prominent sports figures for student newspaper.
  • "Directed" test programs to insure conformance of equipment to customer requirements.
  • "Planned" group sessions in math and "created" individual lesson plans for problem students.
  • "Selected, supervised, and trained" a staff of 20.
  • "Created, built, and tested" a piston pump later adopted by the company.
  • "Collected and interpreted" survey data. "Documented" results and conclusions.
  • "Prepared" monthly reports and "created" an index file system for quick retrieval of documents.

A simple way to begin your building of action verb statements is to first write your experiences in complete sentences beginning with the pronoun "I". For example:


I called our customers to collect the unpaid bills they owed us. I invented some form letters to send to our customers asking them to pay their bills. I wrote up the daily remittance report to give to the comptroller. I helped to settle disputes our customers had about faulty merchandise. I changed our filing system to make it easier to find things in a hurry.

Now, drop the capital "I" and begin your statement with an action verb. Make sure you statements are to the point.

  • Collected $1.0 million in receivables in one year.
  • Developed form letters which resulted in more efficient cash flow.
  • Compiled daily remittance report.
  • Reported directly to corporate controller.
  • Settled customer disputes.
  • Reorganized filing system resulting in quick access to all departmental information.

Here's an example for an Education resume:

I constructed and then taught lesson plans according to specific IEP objectives for Resource Room Students grades 6-8. I worked on a learning center so that students could understand colors. I went to a few meetings with parents. I met with students after school to help them study for an exam on a book we were reading. I led a field trip to the Niagara Falls Aquarium and used the experience in my science class.

Now, drop the capital "I" and begin your statement with an action verb.

  • Developed and implemented lessons from sixth-eighth grade resource room classes based on students' IEP objectives.
  • Created a learning center called "Crazy Colors" to reinforce a unit on rainbows.
  • Participated in parent-teacher conferences
  • Organized after-school literature study group for To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • Facilitated field trip to Niagara Falls Aquarium.
  • Planned and taught lessons on aquatic life utilizing hands-on experiences.

Notice how adding specific titles (e.g. Niagara Falls Aquarium, Crazy Colors) adds authenticity and is more eye-catching. Also notice that the first bullet in each example provides an overview of your major responsibility(ies). Bullets following the overview speak to individual and specific accomplishments and achievements.

The following is a sample list of verbs commonly used in writing resumes. Using this list, think of additional action verbs which appropriately describe the skills you used. You may find other examples of action verbs in written job descriptions. A dictionary of synonyms might also be used. Use present tense when describing current work; otherwise use past tense.


Writing Job Objectives

There are two reasons for including an objective on your resume:

  1. To show that there is a match between the kind of work you are seeking and the position being offered.
  2. To clearly state your job target for the employer who needs assurance that you have clear goals. Potential employers may be hesitant to take a risk on a candidate who is unsure of his or her career direction.

The ideal resume and objective are tailored to a specific position and employer. The savvy job seeker modifies a resume to emphasize different skills and experience for different opportunities. The myth that one resume will do for all positions is just that, a myth. Remember you can change your job objective to more closely align with the position for which you are applying.

There are several types of objectives to choose from:

  1. A simple statement of a professional position, e.g., Programmer Analyst, Biologist, Graphic Designer, Wellness Coordinator, News Reporter, Youth Counselor.
  2. A statement reflecting your functional area of interest.
    • a position in food systems management
    • an environmental engineering technologist position
    • a position in public relations
  3. A statement which notes your functional skills and may include preference for a particular sector of employment, size of organization, and/or geographic area.
    • an administrative position utilizing fundraising and public relations skills
    • an editing position at a community newspaper


  1. Be specific! A vague objective invites a vague response or no response at all.
  2. Avoid the use of trite terms, such as:
    • "an entry-level position"
    • "a challenging and interesting position"
    • "opportunity for advancement"
    • "dealing with people"
    • "a progressive organization"
    To understand why, put yourself in an employer's place. They read hundreds of resumes. It can safely be assumed that each resume writer is seeking a situation which can be described by the phrases above.
  3. State only one functional area, e.g., Marketing as a single objective. Do not state "Marketing or Finance." You will need to create a different resume for each stated job objective.
  4. Make your objective "work-centered" rather than "self-centered." An employer needs to know that the organization will benefit from hiring you. They don't particularly care to know how they can help you.
  5. Don't count on your cover letter to do the work of an objective. Cover letters and resumes are frequently separated by employers who are overwhelmed with paper. As a result, employers will be unclear as to which position you are applying for if your job objective is not stated clearly on your resume.

Cover Letters

One of the most important and often overlooked parts of the job search process is the "Cover Letter." It literally means any letter that accompanies or "covers" another sheet of paper, such as a resume or an application. Basically, it is the first letter you send to an organization as a means of introduction. It should always be accompanied by a resume unless you are simply asking for information or an application. Here are three cover letter basics:

Here are three cover letter basics:

First. The cover letter should always be written specifically for a particular organization. Never send a duplicate or form letter! Your letter needs to demonstrate your knowledge about, and specific interest in, that particular establishment.

Second. Your letter needs to generate interest about you. After reading your letter, the employer should want to review your resume for more information.

Third. As it is the first impression that a potential employer has of you, the letter needs to be visually pleasing. It should be grammatically correct, have the appropriate name, title, and address of the employer, and be laser-printed on good quality bond paper.

There are two types of cover letters:

Letter Of Application
- This is written when you are applying for a specific position that you definitely know is open within that organization.

Letter Of Inquiry
- This is written when you are contacting an organization to inquire about possible openings when you are unsure of availabilities.

- This means that someone has suggested that you write the letter and agrees to you using their name in the letter. This can be used for both a letter of application or inquiry. CAUTION! Make sure that your referral person's name will mean something to the person receiving the letter!

The difference between the three types usually amounts to the wording of a sentence or two in the opening and closing parts of your letter.

Regardless of whether they are letters of application or inquiry, cover letters generally have three parts.

The Opening or First Paragraph:

  1. Captures the reader's attention.
  2. Shows your knowledge of the organization or field.
  3. Tells how you heard about the organization or job.
  4. States why you are interested in that organization or job.
  5. Focuses on them not you.
  6. Utilizes your referral person (if appropriate).

Examples for the opening paragraph:

  • "I am applying for the position of editor at your magazine that was advertised in the Niagara Gazette."
  • "This letter is an expression of my interest in an Elementary Education position in your district. I am excited about the opportunity for employment in an urban district which stresses the whole language approach to learning."
  • "David Anderson at Bank America told me about your plans to begin treasury operations in New York City. I will soon be relocating to Manhattan and would enjoy the opportunity to speak with you about this initiative."
  • "I read with great interest the article in last week's The Buffalo News which discussed your recent expansion. Micromacs venture into convo-imaging is not surprising as I learned about this cutting-edge technology during a recent internship."

The Body (One or two Paragraphs)

  1. Focuses on you.
  2. Matches your qualifications with their needs.
  3. Demonstrates what skills qualify you for the position.
  4. Highlights a few major points of your background.
  5. Enhances, but does not simply repeat, information to be found on your resume.

Examples for the body:

  • "My placement at Baker Hall, a facility similar to yours, was rewarding as I counseled adolescent boys with emotional and physical disabilities."
  • "My writing and organizational skills were enhanced when I led a letter-writing campaign to promote campus safety. As a result, the undergraduate student government recognized me as student activist of the year."
  • "During my student teaching in an urban district, I was able to integrate a variety of learning experiences, such as..."
  • "Throughout my internship the Finance Manager assigned me tasks such as budget preparation, payroll distribution, and employee evaluations.

The Closing or Final Paragraph

  1. Summarizes why you would "fit" the organization.
  2. Is not vague; suggests date (and/or time) to meet.
  3. Requests action to be taken e.g. asking for an interview or application.
  4. States that you will be calling to follow up on the status of your application. Exceptions to this would be when the employer requests "no phone calls" and/or you do not know the name of the organization or contact to which you are applying.

Examples for the closing paragraph:

  • "I would like to meet with you to discuss the possibility of teaching in your district, and will call you the week of June 3rd to arrange a meeting."
  • "My knowledge of consumer issues, combined with my enthusiasm for public service, make me an excellent candidate for this position. If I have not heard from you by the 23rd, I will contact you regarding the status of my application."
  • "I will be in your area after July 1st and would welcome the opportunity to discuss my candidacy. I will call then regarding a possible meeting."

The following tips should also be considered when writing your cover letter:

  • Address your letter to a specific person using his/her title. This can usually be obtained with a simple phone call or by utilizing one of the many job search directories in GC 306.
  • Avoid being cute, humorous, or overly pushy.
  • Keep the tone positive. Don't apologize for poor grades etc.
  • Highlight key points of your experience. Be specific!
  • Keep it short and to the point. Edit ruthlessly.
  • Do not start with a question, e.g. "Are you looking for a bright, talented person to fill your needs?"
  • Should be kept to one page.
  • Tell what you can offer them, not what you anticipate they can do for you.
  • Think in terms of quality of letters not quantity of letters.
  • If you are asked to provide salary requirements in your cover letter it is advisable to give a general range of your expectations (after you researched salaries in your field). Then qualify this by stating that you would be happy to further discuss compensation during an interview.
  • Keep a copy of every letter for future reference.