Writing Your Résumé
Before You Get Started
Your résumé should demonstrate your value to a potential employer. Therefore, consider two main steps before writing your résumé.
Step 1. Research Your Intended Field or Industry
- What kinds of skills, experience, and background are important to potential employers in your field?
- What attributes do you have that would be of interest to a potential employer?
Research jobs that interest you. Look at the job requirements that occur most frequently for people at your experience level (co-op/internship, entry level, experienced, etc.). Hunt for key words and phrases that are common to the industry. Visit professional organization websites. Get to know what skills and attributes employers are looking for in a candidate.
Step 2. Evaluate Yourself
- What do you have to offer an employer?
- How do your experiences and abilities complement the industry research you did?
Highlight your skills, strengths, and accomplishments that fit the expectations and needs of jobs in your field. Remember to examine all facets of your life: work, volunteer, and activities. After all, managing the basketball team for four years might be more relevant than your paid job at the convenience store.
Sections in a Résumé
There are nine basic sections of a résumé. You may or may not use all of them. Steinbright encourages you to tailor your résumé as much as possible to highlight your talents, strengths, and experiences.
Your full name, address, telephone number, and email address should appear at the top of the résumé. Consider also including your preferred pronouns in this section. If you are a current student with both a school address and a home address, consider maintaining two versions of your résumé — one for each address. This allows you to have a résumé for each region in which you may pursue a job search. If you are pursuing a job search across a wide range of locations, you can simply use the address where you will be reachable through the duration of your job search.
A job objective is not necessary when applying for co-op jobs, and, in fact, it may be limiting to co-op students who are trying to explore different career fields. For a student seeking a co-op job outside the SCDConline interviewing process, a goal can be stated in a cover letter. Job objectives are most appropriate for graduating students and post graduates who have become more focused in their career goals.
List your education in reverse chronological order. Include the degree you earned or are currently pursuing, your major(s), your date of graduation or anticipated graduation date, and the name and city of your school. Listing your high school is optional for co-op, but not recommended unless it is very prestigious or well-known high school or a field-related charter school. If you took college courses while in high school, that information can be included. Since in most cases you were not pursuing a specific degree you can just put "Major: General Studies." Transfer students should list previous schools. While there are no definitive rules, a 3.0 GPA and above is notable and should be mentioned in this section.
Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Bachelor of Science in English, Anticipated Graduation: June 20XX
Cumulative GPA: 3.3
My Previous University, Scranton, PA
Major: English, September, 20XX - June 20XX
Cumulative GPA: 3.8
List any honors (Dean's List, honor societies, scholarships awarded, etc.) and the year in which you received them. It is acceptable to list honors and awards that you received both in high school and college. If the source of the award is not clear, spell it out (Community Service Corps versus CSC.) As you gain more honors at the college level, you can begin to eliminate your high school achievements, keeping those that are particularly unique.
This category can be used to note relevant skills that may be important to a potential employer. For example, experience with tax forms, computer languages, familiarity with laboratory equipment, technical knowledge of cameras/editing equipment, CPR and other certifications, and travel experience can be essential to some positions.
Software: Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Photoshop
Certifications: CPR, First Aid
Languages: Spanish (fluent), Mandarin Chinese (conversational)
For majors where computer skills are a key component of a job, you can create a separate section to itemize your computer proficiencies. If you do have a Computer Skills section, be sure to list hardware, software, languages, and operating systems.
Example: Computer Skills
Hardware: IBM, Macintosh
Software: Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Adobe Photoshop
Operating Systems: Windows NT, Mac OS X, DOS, UNIX
List six to ten courses by name that relate specifically to your major or career goals. The purpose is to convince potential employers that you possess the fundamental skills for the position. When listing courses, write out the name of the course so that it is descriptive. For example, Economics I and II should be listed as Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Do not refer to courses as 101, 201, etc. Rather, use Roman numerals (Ex., Civil Engineering I, II, III) if necessary.
For the majority of graduating seniors and professionals, it will not be necessary to include a listing of coursework. Instead, if you have acquired skills from coursework that you would like to emphasize consider adding to the résumé a "Special Skills" or "Qualifications Statement" and then include statements that highlight the specific skill or ability.
List all of those experiences which demonstrate your knowledge, accomplishments, skills, and strengths. It is important not to limit your experience to just "paid" jobs. Often your unpaid accomplishments (chaired the local blood drive, developed a website for a recreational baseball league) are as important as your time spent working at the mall. Some examples of relevant experience are the Freshman Engineering Design Project, Interior Design projects, film/photo projects, volunteer experiences, and significant high school activities.
Keep in mind that every work and academic experience you have do not need to go under one general "Experience" section. Experiences can also be divided into separate sections such as "Relevant Experience" and "Other Experience." The distinction between these sections allows you to compile all field and industry related experiences into one section ("Relevant Experience") which highlights your discipline related abilities for a prospective employer. Then, you can include additional work experiences in "Other Experience" which can demonstrate your overall work ethic and skills gained from other experiences, projects, and activities.
Visit How to Write an Experience Description for more detailed information.
Your activities and volunteer experiences are a good way to highlight those skills that are difficult to quantify but still very important to potential employers, e.g. leadership, ability to work in a team, and time management. Organizational memberships and elected offices can also demonstrate those qualities. List the activity, your participation if significant, (e.g. president, group leader), and the dates that you participated. Start with your most recent activities and moving in reverse chronological order.
- Drexel University Yearbook, Activities Editor, September 20XX–Present
- Drexel University Intramural Lacrosse, September 20XX–May 20XX
- Walk for the Cure Volunteer Day, April 20XX
Volunteer experience is important to list on a résumé because employers are interested in learning about your contributions to your community. Depending upon the duration of your service, level of commitment, and relevance to your career field you may choose to list such experiences in different ways. You may choose to briefly mention an experience in the Activities Section (see Walk for the Cure example above.) If there are skills which are important to a potential employer, you may choose instead to expand the description of what you did into an Experience Section.
Junior Achievement Program
West Philadelphia Elementary School, Philadelphia, PA
Teaching Assistant, January 20XX– June 20XX
- Supervised class of 20 eight-year-olds
- Assisted in preparation and implementation of lesson plans
- Individually tutored children ages 8 - 12 after school hours in Math and Writing
The information found in a résumé is often structured in one of three formats: chronological, functional, or combination. How you choose the appropriate one among them can depend on the amount of relevant experience you have and the sections of the résumé that you wish to emphasize.
- Chronological Résumé – This is traditionally the most frequently used résumé format. While the name may be counterintuitive, a chronological résumé lists experiences in each section by the most recent first — often referred to as "reverse chronological order." In addition to providing a description of each job you have held, a chronological résumé can also include relevant coursework, activities and volunteer work, academic honors, and applicable skills.
- Functional Résumé – This type of résumé focuses on transferable skills, aptitudes, and qualities that were learned in one setting, but are useful in a variety of situations. This kind of résumé is useful for someone whose background may not directly match the job for which they are applying. One drawback of this résumé is that it can be difficult to follow the sequence of your work history.
- Combination Résumé – This résumé format is used to emphasize skills acquired through past work experience. The primary difference between a chronological résumé and the combination résumé is the order in which work experience appears. Instead of going in chronological order (most recent experience first), the combination résumé groups work experience according to the most important function of the job. On this résumé format, the employer's name, location, and position title are listed together with the job description. Alongside or just above the employment listing is a header that may say something like "communication," "administrative," or "technical."
Additional Résumé Guidelines
- In general, limit your résumé to one full page as a co-op student and even as a recent graduate. Experienced professionals or graduate level students may extend to two full pages. Depending on your industry, a curriculum vitae (CV) may be used and are generally three pages or more.
- Proofread your résumé for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Then have another person proofread your résumé for additional errors. Do not rely solely on a spell check program.
- Be proud of your accomplishments, but never exaggerate or falsify information (e.g., inflated GPA, fabricated work experience). Employers will check your references and background information.
- Do not list a desired salary or previous salary history.
- Do not write the word "Résumé" at the top or the date you wrote your résumé.
- Avoid abbreviations (State abbreviations are acceptable).
- A photo of yourself or personal information including height, weight, eye/hair color, marital status, religious affiliation, social security number, or visa status/nationality should not be included on your résumé. This may automatically invalidate your candidacy, as it is illegal for employers in the United States to consider these factors when making hiring decisions.
- If distributing your résumé electronically, be sure your résumé has an appropriate, clear filename. It is recommended that you include your full name and the word "resume" to make it easy for managers or recruiters to find and reference your résumé. For example, a file name could be "JohnSmithRésumé.pdf."
- Including references or listing "References available upon request" is not necessary on your résumé; it is understood that you will supply references if an employer requests them. You should have a prepared references sheet [PDF] that contains your contact information and the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of at least three professional and/or personal references. You should obtain permission from your references before listing them on your references sheet and identify their preferred contact information (personal vs. work or school).
- Use Correct Tenses. If the dates of an activity have an end date, write about them in the past tense. If you are currently involved in an activity or experience, or if an experience is ongoing, use the present tense. Maintain consistent tenses within each separate entry.