There’s no easy answer to the question posed above because everyone has an opinion—and everyone thinks that opinion is best! However, there are some conventional approaches to writing a resume that can help you produce a resume that, at the very least, shouldn’t offend anyone. In the Resources section of this website you’ll find detailed advice on how to produce a basic resume, but in this post I want to just give you a few short tips on how to organize your information…and some ideas about what to leave off your resume!
When you are preparing to enter the job market for the first time after graduation, the format of your resume may be a bit different from someone who has been out of school for several years. At this stage of your career, your education is of primary importance. Later, education may take second place to work experience. For now, however, your education should be the first category under your name and contact information. Use “Education” as the header for the section, and include the following information:
- The full name of the college or university you are attending.
- The anticipated date of graduation.
- The exact title of your major (for example, B.A. in History, B.S. in Civil Engineering). If you have more than one major, include the full title of each.
- The title of your minor, if you will complete a minor
- Your overall GPA as long as it is at least a 3.0 as well as your GPA in your major. If your overall GPA is below 3.0, just list the major GPA. If your GPA in your major is below 3.0, you may want to consider changing majors.
- A list of any specific courses relevant to the job for which you are applying. List them by name: do not include course numbers as they are typically meaningless outside your college or university.
The next section of your resume should cover “Work Experience.” In this section, provide a chronological list of jobs you have held, beginning with the most recent. Include any internships or co-op experiences in the Work Experience section. For each job, include the following information:
- The name of the organization where you worked.
- the start and end dates of your employment.
- Your job title.
- A short, bulleted list of tasks you completed at that job unless you worked in a job that was both irrelevant to your career plans and is commonly known. By this I mean that you do not need to list task associated with being a waitress/waiter, retail clerk, camp counselor, baby sitter, barista, and so forth.
After you have completed those two sections, you have some choices about what to include next. You should definitely create a “Skills” section, where you list technical and/or language skills, and an “Activities” section, where you list extracurricular activities, including offices held or committee work completed. Another option is to include a section called “Awards,” “Honors,” or “Scholarships,” depending on what you have achieved in those areas.
Do not include:
- Information about high school classes or activities unless they are directly relevant. For example, if you are applying for a job as a high school physical education teacher or a sports reporter and you were involved in sports in high school, then list that. Otherwise, it's probably not necessary to include it.
- A list of your references and their contact information. That belongs on a separate document that you provide only if asked.
- A statement similar to "References available upon request." Obviously, if a prospective employer asks for references, you're going to give them a list of references. Don't waste space on your resume!
- Wishful thinking or exaggeration. Your prospects will diminish rapidly when this type of thing comes to light--and in the age of the internet, it can come to light pretty easily.