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From Resumes to Getting the Job: Advice & Strategies

Resumes, cover letters, interviewing tips, and job hunting

Résumé Basics

Illustration representing a resume being edited with pencilA résumé is a professional summary of your relevant experience to the job you are applying. It should be brief, concise, and include the following information:

  • Contact information
  • Previous employment
  • Education
  • Special skills/awards

Your résumé is the first thing that an employer sees, so it needs to leave a good impression. Be sure that it is completely free of errors, including misspellings, typos, or poor grammar.

Quick Tips

Do:

  • Be concise. Use bullet points, not paragraphs.
  • Be specific. Avoid clichés like, "hard-working" or "detail-oriented". Provide concrete examples of how you demonstrated these traits in your work.
  • Use traditional fonts and size. Calibri, Times New Roman, Arial, or similar fonts are standard. No less than size 11 and no larger than size 14. 
  • Keep it to 1-2 pages at most. Don't pad your resume with unnecessary words or have a single job dominate half a page. 
  • Submit online in PDF format. Formatting can be lost when you submit as a .docx or similar file types. A PDF will preserve the exact look of your resume. 

Don't:

  • Have any errors. Double-check for typos, misspellings, and grammatical mistakes before submitting. Have someone else look over it to catch any that you missed. A second set of eyes can save you a lot of trouble.
  • Include personal hobbies or interests that have no relation to the job. This is a professional summary, not a dating profile. If you were treasurer of a hobby club, that might be relevant. Bug collecting is not.
  • Name your resume "My Resume." Include your last name to help identify your resume from the crowd. Name it something like: Smith_Resume.

Résumé Sections

The contact information section should include:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Professional, personal email address

Optionally, you can include a permanent address, a link to your LinkedIn page or professional website/online portfolio, a second phone number, etc.

Your email address should be some variation on your name, not your personal "treehugger1846047" one. Use an account that's specific to you rather than a shared family account. In more technical fields, Gmail accounts or those from your ISP or a personal mail server, are often viewed as indicative of tech-savvy, compared to Yahoo or AOL addresses.

The previous employment section should include:

  • Names of the companies
  • Job titles
  • Dates you worked there
  • A brief list of responsibilities/achievements for each position

Be specific in your list of job responsibilities. If you led a team, how many people were on it? If you increased sales, by how much? Providing concrete details is crucial. 

Organize your duties/accomplishments by significance and relevance to the position you're applying for. For a supervisor position you are applying for, if you did manage multiple people, that should go higher than troubleshooting day-to-day tech issues.

The education section should include:

  • Degree awarded, as named on your diploma
  • Name(s) of the school
  • Date(s) attended
  • Special honors
  • GPA, if higher than a 3.5

Your high school should be included only if you have not attended college. As you develop more relevant career experience, your Education section will become less important and therefore should appear farther down your resume.

The skills and awards section highlights special skills relevant to the job you are applying to, which may include:

  • Knowledge of specialized computer programs
  • Typing speed
  • Certifications
  • Foreign languages you are fluent in

Pay attention to the skills required or preferred in the job description, and make sure you're matching your resume skills to what's being sought by the employer.

Most jobs will request three or more professional references.

Use references who are professional, not personal. Interviewers prefer to hear an evaluation of your work performance, not your skills as a friend.

Some great references are:

  • Past Supervisors - Listing these is your highest priority. They will be able to talk about your work, performance, and what you excel at. Even if you do not list these, most jobs will seek them out and speak to them anyway. As a rule, never leave a job on bad terms and try to keep in touch so that previous supervisors remember you.
  • Past/Current Coworkers - These are secondary. They will be people who can speak to your work ethic and your attitude. Look for people who worked with you on crucial projects, not just people you spoke with frequently, as they will best be able to corroborate your job strengths.
  • Past/Current Instructors/Advisors - These are tertiary, unless you are applying for a position in an academic institution. They can talk about your work ethic, your personal skills, and how you responded to pressure and deadlines. If specific qualifications are necessary for the job, they can also talk about your ability to grasp concepts. 

 

Step-by-Step Guide

Résumé Online Resources