How to Write an Effective Resume

The Basics

Introduction

A well-written resume is one of your most valuable tools in a job search. Its purpose is to win you an interview. It does this by summarizing your education, work experience, and other qualifications to show the employer that you have what it takes to be successful in the position. It is also so pleasing to the eye that the reader is enticed to pick it up and read it. It stimulates interest in meeting you and learning more about you. You should consider developing three versions of your résumé:

  1. A Print Version, designed with bulleted lists, italicized text, and other highlights, ready to print and mail or hand to potential contacts and interviewers.
  2. A Plain Text Version, a plain text file ready to copy and paste into online forms or post in online resume databases.
  3. An E-mail Version, another plain text copy, but these ones specifically formatted for the length-of-line restrictions in email.

Many people still think the resume you put online is not the same document that you created to print out, email, or mail to prospective employers or hand to interviewers. This is not true. You do not need a different resume; you only need to alter the format of your resume to make it easy for you to post, copy and paste, or email to employers. To learn how to easily create these versions go to "Preparing Your Resume for Emailing or Online Posting".

Plan And Prepare

  • Attend a Resume Writing Workshop or schedule an appointment with a Career Services counselor to assist you.
  • Review resume writing resources found in the Career Services Resource Center or the Library Learning Center.
  • Make a list of all your work, education, student organizations, athletics, volunteer activities, honors, awards, hobbies, military experience, etc. Identify the responsibilities, accomplishments, results, skills and qualities developed or demonstrated as appropriate for each of these activities.
  • Determine the position(s) you will be targeting. Identify the skills, knowledge, and qualities needed for the position(s). From your work, education, and extracurricular history, identify the results, skills, knowledge, and qualities that are transferable to the position(s) you are targeting.
  • Make your resume easy to read. It should be symmetrical, balanced and uncrowded. Use as much whitespace between sections of writing as possible. Keep writing in sections to short bulleted statements. Be uniform and consistent. For example: If a period is at the end of one job description statement, a period should be at the end of all description statements; if a job title is in boldface, all job titles should be in boldface.
  • Use action words such as "supervised", "managed"," directed" instead of passive phrases like "responsible for" or "duties included" (see Power Verbs For Resume Writing).
  • For your Word Document version use italics, capital letters, bullets, boldface, and underlining for visual appeal and emphasis.
  • Use keywords that an employer may search for if they scan your resume electronically. For instance, "SQL Database Programmer" is generally easier to find in a database than "Designed and implemented departmental database" or "Manager for Windows XP engineers, Microsoft Corp" instead of "Responsible for a team of 'cutting edge' computer engineers". Check job advertisement and go to O*NET Online and /or Occupational Outlook Handbook for keywords for your occupation.
  • Review the sample resumes in this section or in the resume books in the Career Services Resource Center.
  • Recent college grads should limit their resume to one page. Talk to your counselor for exceptions.
  • Reproduce your resume on quality paper with a high-quality copier, laser printer or printing service.
  • Prepare cover letter to accompany your resume (See Job Search Letters on our website).
  • Absolutely no errors. No typographical errors. No spelling errors. No grammar, syntax, or punctuation errors. No errors of fact.

Components Of A Resume

Contact Information

At the very top of your resume you should have your name, address (both permanent and current, if appropriate), telephone number, cell phone number (record a neutral greeting on your cell and answering machine), email address, and web page(only if the web page reflects your professional ambitions).

Objective

Briefly describe the type of position you seek and the two or three qualities, abilities, or achievements that will make you stand out for the position. Focus on the employer's needs, not yours. Employers prefer candidates who are realistic, focused, and directed.

Education Information

List most recent educational institutions you have graduated from or expect to graduate from first. Indicate your degree, major, minor, and concentrations as well as your date of graduation. Including your grade point average is recommended if over a 3.00. Academic honors and other recognition should be included. Teaching candidates should include their area(s) of certification.

Relevant Courses

List selected courses that will help convince the reader of your qualifications for the job you are seeking. List your courses in two bulleted columns. The most relevant courses should be in the first column.

Experience

List work experience as well as military service, co-op/internships, and major volunteer roles, because the section is labeled "Experience". It does not mean that you were paid. List your experiences in reverse chronological order or in order of relevance to your work objective. Briefly list your position title, company or organization, city/state, dates of employment, responsibilities, accomplishments, and skills. For every skill, accomplishments, or responsibility described, use the most impressive action word you can think of (which is also accurate). Use the language of your profession. Teachers and counselors should include student teaching, internship and practicum experiences.

Honors/Activities

Indicate your awards, involvement in student professional and non-professional organizations, volunteer activities, athletics, and other school and non-school related activities. High school activities may be included if you are a freshman or sophomore seeking a co-op or other experiential learning.

References

You may put "References available upon request" or "Excellent references available upon request" at the end of your resume, if you wish. This is a standard close. Have available three to five reference names, with addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses. Be sure to request the permission of these individuals.

Other Components

  • Profile or Highlights of Qualifications
  • Computer Skills
  • Interests
  • Languages
  • Certifications
  • International Education or Travel

Reminder

  • Resumes should be updated each semester.
  • For dates and times of resume workshops go to Workshops & Classes on this website.
  • Free publications are available in our office, which include sample resumes, cover letters, and other helpful job search information.

Make an Appointment

103 Administration Building
715-232-1601
careerservices@uwstout.edu
Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.