Build Your Resume
These resume tips are for U.S. based work only; for an international application, please see country specific tips at GoinGlobal.com.
The process of developing a resume is an extension of your self-assessment. Unless you have thoroughly and honestly determined what your skills are and identified specific situations in which you have either developed or successfully used your skills, your resume will not be distinctive or effective. Keep in mind that resume writing is not rocket science (!), but neither is it simple. It requires careful thought, attention to detail, and understanding of purpose. Prior to working on resume specifics, please keep in mind the following important ground rules:
13 Resume Basics
- One page? Two pages? Three pages? That's right! Resumes are built from the inside out; page boundaries should not restrict you. You may need more than one page to effectively state your strengths. Most undergraduates will develop a one-page resume; MS students and alumni may require two, and PhD candidates, three pages or more, when including publications, presentations and references.
- Know why you are writing a resume. Your sole purpose in writing an effective resume is to stay in the game and obtain an interview. It is that simple.
- Rome was not built in a day. You cannot write a resume in an hour or two. Writing an effective resume is time-consuming, requires planning, feedback, edits, and adjustments. In fact, a resume is never "complete"; adjustments continually improve content and format.
- Presentation matters. Content should be interesting, descriptive, and relevant. Format or layout should be professional, consistent, and logical. templates are strongly discouraged.
- Who reads anymore? No one will actually "read" your resume (this is sad news); they will, however, scan it. Only if it catches their attention and contains keywords, will they read it. If you do not visually attract the attention of the readers in the top third of the page, you will lose their attention and therefore, consideration.
- Keywords. Employers often search resumes for keywords. Read current job postings and employer website to determine key skills currently sought after. Include buzzwords in your area of interest.
- Spell check. Don't simply rely on MS Word's spell-check function. After all, "software" and "soft wear" are both correct in the "eyes" of the computer.
- You are not the expert. Rely on experts to help you. Career Services staff in your school or college and others with experience in current employment practices should be consulted. Listen carefully and make wise decisions regarding the development of your resume.
- Resumes as newspapers. How do you scan a newspaper? What do you read first? The answer for most of us is headlines, captions and emphasized stories featured on the front page. If attention is captured early - more detail is sought. Relate this to resume writing, as well as our reading process: reading left to-right. It follows that more important information (i.e., job titles or degrees) will be at the left margin, while dates (less important) will follow. Use bullets, boldface, italics and white space to emphasize details. Generally, one form of highlighting a specific entry is sufficient. Boldface, CAPITAL LETTERS and underlining are excessive.
- Have a nice photo of yourself? Save it for the family album. Do not use photos or logos on resumes. This includes the impressive UW logo—do not use it. Lawyers have enough work.
- A veteran of the low-carb diet? Good for you, but do not include your weight, height, health or marital status on the resume.
- Fifteen minutes of fame. Any topic on your resume welcomes a question. Can you talk about your academic project, ASME membership, computer skills or leadership role for 15 minutes? The resume lists and describes events; the interview validates them. Think about the next step—the interview!
- Do not pay anyone to develop your resume. They don't know you. And, it costs too much. Develop your resume yourself with the many resources available through your career services office, including workshops, and examples.
Your Contact Information
This section includes your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address. It is preferable to list only one set of contact information. If this is not possible, consider adding the dates you are at each address and make sure you identify Present or Permanent. You should still have only one e-mail address and phone number listed. Make sure you also go ahead and check that voicemail message to make sure it is employer-ready! Same for e-mail address - nothing silly or cute.
How to Write It
1234 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, 608-555-1234
Use wisc.edu or uwalumni.com E-mail.
1330 E. Gorham St., # 9
Madison, WI 53706
3900 Lake Cheyenne
Port Mark, IL 60600
Your Career Objective should be contained in one or two concise phrases, and should be as targeted as possible. Your career objective informs the potential employer of:
- Position you would like to apply for
- Industry you would like to work in and/or
- Skills you have to offer or would like them to focus on
Furthermore, a typical career objective can also cover:
Functional area of interest and/or specific job title (sales, research, copy writing...)
Type of organization (social service agency, financial institution...)
How to Write It
Interested in a career in media or market research with a large agency. Particular focus on corporate communications.
Seeking position as a programmer or systems analyst with an interest in marketing and finance applications.
Pursuing a personnel assistant post in a public service organization, utilizing communication and leadership skills.
Start with your university, then degree (ex. Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science) and expected grad date, and then major, certificates, GPA, etc. If your GPA is 3.0 or above, you probably will want to include it. Make sure you include X/4.0 so they know the scale. You can list just Cumulative or Cumulative and Major if your major GPA is higher. You do not need to list your high school in this section (or anywhere on your resume). You can also list relevant coursework, honors and academic awards, and study abroad in this section.
How to Write It
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Bachelor of Arts, May 20XX
Double Major: Psychology and Spanish
GPA: 3.2/4.0, Psychology GPA: 3.4/4.0, Spanish GPA: 3.5/4.0
Marketing, Human Resources, Public Speaking, Communication and Mass Media
Dean's List (2 semesters), Chancellor's Scholar
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, expected May 20XX
University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Overall GPA 2.9/4.0 Major GPA 3.1/4.0
Academic Design Projects
- Turf Smurf: Worked as a team with a turf grass company designing and fabricating a device that simulated golf cart wear on various grasses.
- Rowing Exercise Machine Modification: Worked with corporate customer to design, fabricate and-implement a universal rowing machine usable by people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and paraplegics. Developed prototype and presented project to group.
Selected Course Work
- Advanced Graphic Analysis, Materials Selection, Manufacturing Processes, Energy Systems Laboratory, Electronic Circuits and Power Conversion, Construction Project Management
If little or no work experience: List and describe academic projects. Also, include projects outside major to illustrate qualifications and/or interest areas. Use course work listings for this purpose, also.
The content of your experience section is critical and more flexible than you may think. You may include experiences that are related or unrelated (to your intended job), as well as paid or unpaid.
For each experience list: your position title, name of group or organization, the location (City, ST or City, Country), dates of employment (Month and Year started and ended) and use a consistent order for all on your resume. You can then go on to write descriptive lines. These are the bulleted statements that describe what you did and what skills you used, learned, or developed. These descriptive lines can answer the questions: How did you do X? Why did you do X? What resulted?
To make your resume really stand out, consider grouping similar experiences under specific section headings. Consider something like "Media-Related Experience" and "Leadership and Service Experience" instead of "Work Experience" and "Volunteer Experience". You can also combine paid and unpaid positions. For that matter, you can combine jobs, internships, student organizations, major class projects, volunteer opportunities, etc. Experience should be listed in reverse chronological order within each section (most recent listed first).
Possible experience headings include: Administrative experience, Classroom Teaching, Clinical Experience, Community Organizing, Community Service, Counseling Experience, Cross-Cultural Experience, Customer Relations, Editorial Experience, Event Planning, Field Work, Fundraising Experience, Graphic Design and Layout, Health Experience, Human Resources Experience, International Experience, Leadership Experience, Managerial Experience, Marketing Experience, Market Research, Performing and Visual Arts, Program Design/Development, Project Experience, Promotion and Publicity, Public Relations Experience, Public Speaking Experience, Records Management Experience, Research Experience, Research and Writing, Supervision and Training, Technology Experience, Writing and Editing
How to Write It
Badger Herald, Madison, WI
Communications Intern, September 2008-May 2009
Reporter, September 2007-May 2009
- Gained valuable media knowledge while honing writing and interviewing skills, writing 2 feature stories per week
- Interacted effectively with fellow staff members and community members, gaining access to exclusive stories
Letters & Science Career Services, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Effectively worked with professional staff to create new resources for the office, including information on negotiating job offers, different styles of interviewing, and guides for choosing graduate school programs
- Met one-on-one with students to discuss and review their resumes
Atwood Community Center, Madison, WI
Volunteer, August-December 2006, May 2009-present
- Coordinated events for local children on celebrating cultures and led workshops on learning about their own culture
University Study Abroad, Oaxaca, Mexico
Selected Participant, January-May 2007
- Took courses taught in Spanish and lived in the home of a local family
Using different sections can allow you to keep the most important experience first on your resume, but still maintain reverse chronological order within each section.
Kohler Co., Kohler, WI
Co-op Engineer, May 2003-January 2004
- Developed and fabricated acoustic scanning robot. Monitored exhaust emissions. Worked with team of multidisciplinary engineers in sound power analysis. Co-presented final project to management.
Bob-O-Link Golf Course & Country Club, Highland Park, IL
Caddie, Summers 1998-2002
- Developed strong interpersonal skills in working with customers and management.
- Enhanced strong work ethic by working 12-hour days for three months each summer.
- Saved $9,000 over four summers.
- Promoted to caddy master in 1998.
- Trained and supervised new hires.
Use descriptive phrases to emphasize "what" you did and "how" you did it. Use action verbs and keywords, as well as quantify the scope of a project (use #, %, or $).
The best resumes describe job tasks, skills, and concrete accomplishments accurately and completely while still being succinct. Effective use of language is the key to conveying your marketable talents to employers. Depict your experience clearly, so they will understand exactly what you learned and what youÕll bring to the position you are applying for.
- Good: Wrote press releases
- Better: Wrote press releases about upcoming events to enhance publicity and increase participation
- Best: Wrote 15 press releases detailing upcoming events which were sent to 100 local media outlets to raise publicity and attract up to 2,000 community members to a movie premiere
How to Write It
- Reconciled end-of-day receipts with cash and credit transactions to account for daily sales averaging $1500
- Honed time management and planning skills by maintaining full-time academic status and employment
- Protected the integrity of confidential, privileged information, and large cash transactions
- Handled late accounts effectively, securing $5000 in past-due accounts
- Organized database to track business contacts and was commended for attention to detail and accuracy
- Gained a reputation for working well on a team, receiving "Team Player" award
- Entrusted to work and uphold protocol within corporate office among high-level executives
- Served as an office liaison, communicating employee concerns to management
- Established and maintained good rapport with over 20 colleagues and managers
- Broadened and maintained an extensive network of contacts and clients
- Interacted with diverse customers on a constant basis, promoting excellent communication and customer service skills
- Diffused situations with angry customers and efficiently resolved complaints
- Raised over $10,000 at annual fundraiser, increasing attendance and media coverage from previous year
- Initiated redesign of office management systems resulting in easier access to information
- Entrusted with special projects that afforded the opportunity to work independently
- Exceeded fundraising goal, doubling the profit from the previous year
- Maintained internet site as it grew to over 2000 pages and images that generated 200 hits daily
- Developed strong communication/leadership skills supervising two other prep cooks
- Manage daily operations of upscale bar and restaurant including opening and closing operations, inventory management, new employee training, customer service, and sales
- Supervised lawn care maintenance team, including customer satisfaction, planning daily schedule and sales, maintenance of equipment, landscape construction and snow plowing and removal
- Wrote features articles for the Badger Herald, a student newspaper with a daily circulation of over 17,000
- Presented research findings to panel of 8 faculty and students at undergraduate research symposium
- Praised for the ability to solve difficult problems independently and efficiently
- Named "Sales Associate of the Month," September 2007
Use consistent verb tense (generally past tense). Start phrases with descriptive action verbs. Supply quantitative data whenever possible. Adapt terminology to include key words. Incorporate action verbs with keywords and current "hot" topics, programs, tools, testing terms, and instrumentation to develop concise, yet highly descriptive phrases. Remember that resumes are scanned for such words, so do everything possible to incorporate important phraseology and current keywords into your resume.
POWER VERBS: Working with People
Communication (Writing and Public Speaking)
address, clarify, collaborate, communicate, compose, correspond, demonstrate, document, edit, entertain, exhibit, explain, express, illustrate, interpret, interview, investigate, lecture, perform, plan, present, promote, proofread, read, relate, relay, report, review, revise, speak, summarize, survey, translate, transcribe, write
advise, aid, correct, counsel, demonstrate, display, encourage, enhance, enlist, ensure, grade, guide, help, influence, instruct, introduce, lecture, mentor, program, provide, rate, steer, suggest, support, teach, test, train, tutor
advertise, advocate, attend, coordinate, convince, deal, dispense, disseminate, distribute, fundraise, handle, influence, lobby, persuade, poster, publicize, publish, recruit, screen, seek out, sell, service, target
acclimate, accommodate, adapt, answer, anticipate, assist, assure, bargain, care, coach, collaborate, confer, confront, consult, converse, critique, develop, encourage, familiarize, form, foster, fulfill, gain, handle, implement, inform, interact, intervene, join, listen, litigate, mediate, model, motivate, negotiate, participate, provide, recommend, reconcile, rehabilitate, represent, resolve, share, suggest, treat, understand
POWER VERBS: Working with Data and Things
Acquire, analyze, classify, collate, collect, compile, conduct, deliver, detect, determine, discover, dissect, evaluate, explore, examine, formulate, gather, identify, inspect, investigate, locate, name, obtain, observe, pinpoint, prepare, prioritize, receive, research, specify, survey, test, trace, track, verify
Abstract, account, add, appraise, audit, budget, calculate, collect, compute decrease, determine, divide, enter (data), estimate, file, finance, formulate, increase, insure, inventory, invest, market, maximize, minimize, multiply, process, project purchase, record, reduce, solve, quantify
Appraise, apply arrange, balance, catalog, categorize, connect, coordinate, define, edit, establish, facilitate, file, group, issue, modify, orchestrate, organize, overhaul, place, prepare, program, qualify, reorganize, rewrite, schedule, set, sort
Adjust assemble, build compose, customize, develop, design, devise, enlarge, format, implement, improve, innovate, install, invent, fix, function, make, manufacture, navigate, operate, propose, refinish, renovate, repair, restore, update, upgrade
Activate, complete, compose, conserve, construct, contract, create, discover, draft, draw, engineer, execute, expand, generate, inaugurate, landscape, launch, modify, mold, produce, reconstruct, redesign, remodel, shape, synthesize, transform, unite utilize
Act, apply, anticipate, change, check, contribute, cover, decide, define, diagnose, effect, eliminate, emphasize, establish, facilitate, forecast, found, give, learn, navigate, offer, perform, propose, receive, refer, referee, register, reinforce, resolve, respond, retrieve, save, select, serve, set, simplify, study, take, travel, use, win
Other Resume Section Headers
While the previously mentioned resume sections—Contact Information, Objective statement, Education and Experience—are expected on your resume, other relevant information should be included as well. The following section headings illustrate some of the available options: Activities, Campus Involvement and Service, Community Activities, Computer Skills, Conferences, Entrepreneurial Achievements, Experience with Children, Global Profile, Honors & Awards, Information Technology Expertise, Interests, Laboratory Techniques, Language Skills, Leadership, Licenses/Certifications, Marketing Projects, Memberships, Military Experience, Multi-media Skills, Patents, Presentations, Professional Affiliations/Associations, Professional Development, Publications, Relevant Coursework, Research Interests, Research Projects, Scholarships, Senior Research Project, Senior Thesis, Teaching Interests, Technical Skills, Volunteer Activities.
How to Write It
Fluent in Cantonese and English, can understand Mandarin
C++, Java, Pascal
PRO-II, CapCost, Windows 2000/XP/NT, MS Office
R.M. Jones and M.D. Graham, "Macromolecules in Microdevices: Multiscale Simulation of DNA Dynamics in Model Microfluidic Geometries", submitted for publication.
R.M. Jones and M.D. Graham, "Macromolecules in Microdevices: Multiscale, Simulation of DNA Dynamics in Model Microfluidic Geometries," Technical Proceedings of the 2005, International Conference on Modeling and Simulation or Microsystems.
R.M. Jones and M.D. Graham, "Stochastic simulations of DNA in Flow: Dynamics and the Effects of Hedrodynamic Interactions," Submitted to J. Chemical Physics.
R.M. Jones (speaker), J.J. de Pablo, and M.D. Graham, "Macromolecules in Microdevices: Multiscale Simulation of DNA Dynamics in Model Microfluidic Geometries," to be presented at the Fifth International Conference on Modeling and Simulation of Microsystems (2004), San Juan Puerto Rico, USA
- French, fluent
- Italian, proficient
- Lived and studied in France; Extensive western European travel
- Experienced in working in diverse environments
Contact the International Student Services Office regarding employment regulations and OPT/CPT applications. See www.intstudents.wisc.edu/, 608/262-2044. If you are a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with an international name, include your work authorization directly beneath your name.
Simply state U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident. When you are studying in the U.S. on a student visa or other temporary visa, it is important that you inform the employer of your status. We suggest that you include a statement (as a footer) stating your status; for example, F1 Visa: Eligible for Occupational Practical Training, or simply, F1 Visa.
Consider & Ask References
Think carefully about selecting your best 3-4 references: 1 academic, 1 work-related, 1-2 additional of either.
Carefully consider people who are enthusiastically willing to serve as references for your job search. You will list reference names and contact information on your resumé. Employers will generally contact references by phone or E-mail; they will not request a formal letter of recommendation. So, how do you select references? Some factors to keep in mind as you review past and present mentors, supervisors, advisors, and professors in an attempt to develop the best reference list possible:
- The ideal reference list includes a former employer or supervisor and a professor, assistant professor, or lecturer. The third reference will be an additional employer, professor, or mentor.
- Always ask individuals if they would be willing and able to serve as your job search reference. Provide them with a relatively easy way to decline your request. By proceeding in this manner, you will be assured that, if accepted, the reference is genuinely enthused about your career path and will not be "bothered" when employers call. An example of such a request might follow these lines: "Professor Hill, I know you are extremely busy editing your new textbook, but I was hoping you would consider being a reference for my current job search. Enclosed is a copy of my resume and a list of potential employers who might be contacting you. Although I haven't assisted you with research, I thoroughly enjoyed your classes and the special XXX project we worked on in teams. If you feel that you have enough understanding of my qualifications and the time to talk with these employers if they contact you, I would appreciate it very much. If, however, you do not, I certainly understand."
- References should be included with each resume for full-time hires, particularly at the graduate level. This is especially true if your references are recognized in their field.
- Although references are generally not checked prior to the first interview, you will be better prepared for the job search if you have completed a references list as soon as possible. The fact that several individuals are willing to recommend you is already a plus.
- Include a phrase or brief description defining the relationship between you and the reference. It should state "advisor," "co-op supervisor," "mentor at Harley-Davidson," or "professor for ME 309 and ME 416."
How to Write It
Shirley Thompson, Undergraduate Research Scholars Program Director
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Room 123 South Hall
Madison, WI 53706
Jenni Smith, Professor of Biology
Center for Biology Education
1234 Genetics-Biotech Center Building, Henry Mall
Madison, WI 53706
Relationship: Current Supervisor
Timothy Kilpatrick, Program Director
Wisconsin Union Directorate, Memorial Union
123 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706
Provide each reference with a complete resume and list of references. Ask them for input regarding your job search. They may have colleagues who would be interested in discussing a job opportunity with you. Be prepared to give a References List to a recruiter. While it is not necessary to have a list prepared for your first screening interview, it can be helpful even at this early stage. A References List can also be attached in your follow-up thank you E-mail sent immediately after the screening interview. Certainly be ready to provide complete information regarding 3-4 references at the on-site interview.
Reference/resume formatting suggestions include:
- Do not include References Available Upon Request. It simply states the obvious. Use this valuable resume space more effectively to further describe experiences or list qualifications.
- For a one-page resume, develop a Reference Page as an addendum to your resume.
- Graduate students or experienced alumni with a multi-page resume should develop a Reference Page as an addendum, or present references as the last section of resume.
- List three references with contact information. Obtain approval from each reference and determine which contact information to present to employers (phone, E-mail, or both—what does the reference prefer?)
- Keep your references aware of the status of your job search—still looking, considering offers, or accepted-employment.
- Thank your references.
Put It All Together - Sample Resumes
- Sample 1 - Journalism Major
- Sample 2 - Health-Related Position
- Sample 3 - Biochemistry Major
- Sample 4 - Communications and Marketing Position
- Sample 5 - Non-profit Advocacy Position
- Sample 6 - Teaching Position
- International Position Sample
- Download Fill-in the Blanks Resume