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Resume Writing

Examples of Resumes

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Resume Verbs  Applying Online

What is a Resume?

A resume is a short, enthusiastically written summary of your skills and experience as a working person. It is primarily used to convince a prospective employer to grant you an interview. It is therefore either mailed or emailed with a cover letter, unless dropped off in person. It is currently common for a resume to be uploaded into internet search engines, or copied and pasted into an employer’s application online. It can also be used when presenting yourself in other, less formal job search situations.

The language in a resume does not have to be boastful, exaggerated, “puffed up”, “beefed up”, or anything like that. A resume must be only two things: clear and interesting. If you are clear about your motivation, skills, and personal qualities, you will eventually be able to describe these in an interesting way. This guide will help you write a good resume.

Remember that a resume is the first part of dialogue between you and your prospective employers. It helps to think clearly, not about what you feel you should write down, but about what you really want to say. There are really only three “shoulds” regarding a resume.

The Three “Shoulds” of a Resume

1.   A resume should be easy to read.

  • Capitals, page breaks, indentations, and different fonts or types should be used to make your subject matter clearer, not fancier.
  • Keep your resume concise and effective.
  • Your resume must be COMPLETELY FREE of all typographical, spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. A hard copy should be neatly reproduced on a good printer, then copied on a good copy machine on high quality paper, or reproduced by a good printing establishment. Uploading your resume on the internet is best using a text only format or a pdf.

2. A resume should “market” you.

  • Focus on knowledge and experience that will be interesting to the people for whom you want to work – and on what you feel you have done well.

3. A resume should make you feel good.

  • Trust yourself. If you like it, and if it is easy to read and highlights your skills and background, chances are it is good enough. If you are uneasy about how it looks or reads, you might want to work on it a bit more.

Resume Formats

  1. Chronological Format. A chronological format lists education, work experience, activities and other items in reverse chronological order (most recent to least recent). Job titles and place of employment are highlighted. This format works best when past experience is directly related to future goals, when you want to give a general sketch of your background, or when prior job titles or places of employment are impressive. It might be considered the “standard” resume format, and is the one that employers will generally expect and like.
  1. Functional Format. This format highlights the areas of specific strength or skill that relate to a career or job objective. Job titles and places of employment are de-emphasized. The functional format works best when changing careers or applying for a position that requires specific skills, but in a field in which you have not worked before. The disadvantage is that it is harder for an employer to grasp your actual work history, may be confusing, and (at worst) may look like you’re trying to hide something.
  1. Combined Format. The combined format highlights job titles and places of employment – like the chronological formal – but is also organized according to skill areas – like the functional format.

Examples of all three are given in this guide.

What to Put in a Resume

Identifying Data: Name, address, email address and phone number of both home (permanent) and cell/mobile.

Job Objective: Only if you have something fairly specific in mind. This is optional.

Education: Name and location of institution, degree granted, major, minor or concentration, date of graduation. May include GPA, honors, awards, or special certifications.

Significant Experience: Paid work, volunteer, or academic.

Activities/Additional Experience: Memberships and other leadership positions in community organizations. Include personal interests only if relevant or somehow striking or important. Computer skills, foreign language ability, publications, or travel experience may be included, or highlighted in a separate section.

References: Contact information for references is generally not included with the initial cover letter and resume, but it is customary to include a line on the resume stating that references are available. This line is optional.

How to Write a Resume

1. Give the context in which experience occurred – with whom you worked, to whom you reported, or for whom a project was done. Use phrases that indicate the extent and scope of your work, such as:

“…in a busy firm of six lawyers”

“…for a cabin of 12 girls, ages 8-13”

“…with a team of reading and special education teachers”

“…for the largest department in this upscale clothing store”

2. Use words that are specific with respect to skill. It is not enough to say you are “good with people.” If you are good with people, you might manage, coordinate, delegate, encourage, teach, coach, organize, and so forth. All of these words are refer to “people” skills. Use action-oriented verbs that accurately describe what you did. For a helpful list of suggestions, see the link or section entitled “Action Verbs.”

3. Describe the results of what you did. Try phrases like:

“Contributed over $3,000 toward college expenses by successfully managing a small painting business.”

“Developed plan for social studies unit subsequently used by full-time third grade teacher.”

“Designed and produced newsletter to assist in marketing campaign for a small social service agency.”

“Developed the methodology to synthesize a masked diene to be used in subsequent Diels Alder reactions.”

“Gained valuable insight into corporate environment through working a variety of temporary assignments.”


  • Before you write anything down, ask yourself the questions: What did I do in this job? What did I do well? What did I get out of this experience? What did it really teach me? What is the first thing I would like to say to a prospective employer about this experience?
  • Write this down IN YOUR OWN WORDS first, or make some simple notes… phrases. Do not try to sound fancy. Just make some detailed notes.
  • Then use the “Action Verbs” and the samples to translate your language into “resume language.”

Do not overlook anything, or take your experience for granted. Most jobs teach us something. We usually get a chance to contribute in some way.

Go For It!

Writing a resume is hard work, and there really is no way to minimize that. The important thing is just to get started. Don’t say to yourself that you will write a resume “this weekend” or “tonight.” (Who would look forward to a night like that?!).

Instead, make up your mind to work on a resume for 30 minutes at a time. Just 30 minutes at a time, perhaps after dinner, or with your morning coffee, but don’t spend more than 30 minutes at a stretch. Little by little, you will see a beautiful piece of communication come into being, and become much more aware of your skills and capabilities in the process.

And as always, please see a career advisor at Pathways Career and Life Planning for assistance.

Please see our appendix at the end of this guide for notes on posting resumes online.