Resume & Cover Letter
The Resume: A Reflection of You
A resume is a promotional piece. It is a calling card to introduce you, with your unique combination of skills and experience, to a potential employer. Accompanied by a cover letter, its purpose is to get you an interview.
Resume writing is not an exact science. There is no “right way” to create a resume. Suggestions that appear below are general guidelines, not a blueprint. Since the resume is a marketing device, it should SELL YOU. Examples have been selected to emphasize basic resume structures. More examples are provided in the Office of Career Services.
The Format: Distinguishing Yourself
Although there is no one correct way to write a resume, there are strategies to promote your abilities and to catch a reader’s attention.
Formatting your resume can be the most creative aspect of resume writing. Although there are popular standard formats, your format will depend upon your target audience and the manner in which you want to present yourself.
Effective resumes have these qualities:
- they’re usually one page
- they’re easy to scan
- the wording is clean and forceful
- they stress achievement
- the print is of laser quality
The most popular formats are Reverse Chronological and a format that separates and emphasizes experience related to your objective.
This format lists work experiences in a reverse chronology (from your most recent experience to the furthest in time]). Nevertheless, experiences can (and should) be listed by importance rather than by time sequence. Keep information free from “eye sores,” allowing the reader to scan the resume easily. Since the eye flows down the left-hand side of the resume, put dates and locations of experiences to the right side of the document. Use bold print judiciously to highlight items of most importance.
Emphasizing Relevant Experience
In this format you select those items from your experience which relate to the field you are trying to enter and place them in a separate category. These need not be paid experiences. For instance, if you are seeking a position in public relations, you could include a PR internship, experience as publicity coordinator for an organization, experience as a writer for The Campus newspaper, and a work study position in which you designed and created posters and flyers.
Start with the categories listed below, and write everything you think of that relates to the heading. Don’t edit things out at this point. Let whatever comes to mind spill out on paper. Templates are available in the OCS.
The Resume Heading
Every resume should highlight your name and address. Typically, you’ll include both home and college addresses and phone numbers. Be sure the phone number you use will be answered. It doesn’t help you to list a college resident phone that seldom gets answered, one where messages won’t be taken, or to have an unprofessional message on your answering machine.
Career Objective or Qualification Summary
These are optional sections. Some students choose to give their resume focus by starting with a career objective. This is helpful when your experiences do not indicate a particular career direction and you are targeting a field. If many of your experiences point to a direction, such as teaching, an objective may not be needed.
If you choose to use an objective, avoid flowery phrases, cliches and vague general language. An objective can focus on a function, an industry or the skills you wish to use. Examples:
- An entry-level position in arts administration
- To obtain a position in which I can apply my skills in writing, research and copy editing
- An internship in a biochemical research lab
Some people choose to use a Qualifications Summary instead of a career objective. This is a list of the strongest qualifications you can bring to the job. Example:
- Enthusiastic, motivated, results-oriented, team leader with extensive editing, writing and proofreading experience. Skilled in multi-tasking and various print technologies.
Since you have spent the last 12 years or more in formal education, this usually appears as the first section of an undergraduate resume. However, if you have had significant experience (work, volunteer, college activities, etc.), you may want to list EXPERIENCE as your first section. Keep in mind the following points when formatting your education section:
- College: Start with your most recent educational experience; Allegheny College, with city and state. List your degree, major, minor if applicable, and graduation date. If you are still in school enter in your anticipated date of graduation.
- GPA: Most people list the GPA when it is above 3.0. If your major GPA is higher than your overall GPA, you may wish to list it as well.
- Senior Thesis and Junior Seminar: Few colleges require a senior thesis. Highlight yours. If your junior seminar is relevant, include it as well.
- High School: For freshmen and sophomores this may be included. List only unique experiences or those applicable to the position.
- Foreign Study and Exchange Programs: List these experiences and mention a fluency, proficiency or familiarity with a foreign language.
- Honors and Awards: These can be either placed under the Education section or highlighted by themselves in a separate category. Select only those awards or honors that represent a composite picture of your strengths.
- Course Highlights: This is optional. You may wish to highlight particular courses, but include no more than eight.
- Computer Literacy: The computer software, hardware and any computer languages you know can be included in the education section or listed separately. Be sure to include it unless your knowledge is very minimal.
- Additional Training: Seminars or outside classes relevant to your career goal can be included.
- Tuition: If you have earned a significant portion of your college tuition, state the percentage.
This section generally includes the employer’s name with city and state, employment dates, job title and job description. When listing your responsibilities, focus on professional level tasks and those related to your career objective. Emphasize accomplishments and quantify them when possible. Example:
- Formed the Allegheny Cycling Club and drew 25 members.
Paid and unpaid experiences can be listed together if they relate to your career goal as Related Experience. List experiences in order of importance. You do not need to list every job you’ve had – you may want to summarize the less important ones in a sentence.
Leadership and Activities
Many employers are interested in your participation in campus activities. List student organizations, sports, community groups, committees, etc. Include any leadership roles you have held.
If you have extensive campus leadership, you may want to create a section called “Leadership.” If the responsibilities you assumed are relevant to your career objective, you may decide to include them in the Related Experience section.
Items that Can be Omitted
A personal section: birth date, marital status, height, weight, health, etc. By law, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age or marital status.
The tag line “References available upon request”: if employers are seriously interested in hiring you and want references, they will let you know. However, be sure to have people in mind that can serve as references should you be asked. For specific fields or positions that require unique skills or experiences, tag lines such as Portfolio Available Upon Request or Sample of Work Available Upon Request can be added.
- Always have two spaces after a colon (:)
- Use bold or underline separately, not together
- Begin each word in your thesis title with a capital letter (except for conjunctions)
- Avoid “widows” (one or two words which take up a whole line of space)
- Do not use personal pronouns or abbreviations, except for states (PA)
- Notice spelling of commonly misspelled word: liaison
- Avoid using more than two fonts in your document
- Use simple, everyday language
- Keep sentences short; begin with varied action verbs
- Do both a “spell check” and a “grammar check” through your word processing program, if available
- Be honest, don’t exaggerate
- Use high quality bond paper: blue or gray do not scan well
- Keep margins and spacing clean and inviting to the eye
- Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
The Lingo of Employers: Skills and Results
Employers assess your credentials to determine if “you have the right stuff” and to judge whether you can deliver results. Sell yourself to employers by showing demonstrated skills and by adding details which show your achievements. The job description may give you clues as to what skills the employer is looking for. Begin sentences with “action verbs,” and be specific when showing the extent to which you added value to an endeavor. The following samples can help you get started.
Add power to resume statements with action verbs and clearly-stated results. Examples:
Characteristic: Creativity, initiative
Simple Statement: Organized rush activities for fraternity
Powerhouse Entry: Developed new rush strategies; doubled number of prospective members
Characteristic: Philanthropic Nature
Simple Statement: Worked for Meadville Soup Kitchen
Powerhouse Entry: Devoted over 100 hours to feeding needy within Meadville community
Characteristic: Hard worker
Simple Statement: Served as Hostess and grill worker Powerhouse Entry: Promoted to Hostess as result of long, production hours on grill.
Preparing the Scannable Resume
Some larger employers are now using computer programs to sort through large numbers of applicants to find desirable employees. These resumes are scanned into a database; key word searches are then conducted to identify applicants who have the desired traits.
These electronic tracking systems can extract skills from many styles of resumes. The most difficult resumes to read are those with poor copy quality, blue or gray paper, or unusual formats such as a newspaper layout, complex fonts, graphics or lines.
When possible, you can ask the contact person for the position whether or not a scannable resume is recommended. When this is not possible, you can either include a scannable resume along with your regular resume, or make sure that your resume is scannable.
Tips for Maximizing Scannability
- Use white paper and do not fold or staple
- Use laser printed original; avoid photocopies
- Use standard typefaces such as Helvetica, Futura, Optima, Univers, Times, Palatino
- Use font sizes of 10 to 14 (Don’t use anything smaller than Times 12 pt.)
- Do not condense spacing between letters or use a condensed font
- Use boldface and/or all caps for section headings as long as letters don’t touch
- Avoid fancy styles such as italics, underline, shadows and reverses
- Fax only when necessary. When faxing, fax in “fine” mode if possible
- Use white space: computers recognize that one topic has ended and another has begun by how white space is used.
Tips for Maximizing “Hits” (Matches with Search Criteria)
- Include a Qualifications Summary detailing your most relevant skills and experience
- Use jargon and acronyms specific to your field. Use action verbs.
- Increase your use of key words by including specifics such as software names – Microsoft Excel, Access, database, etc.
To receive assistance in writing or finalizing your resume, contact the OCS at (814) 332-2381 to set an appointment!