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Resume Tips


Preparing a resume for a new job is a critical step to get the interview or foot in the door. 

Resume Types: 

There are three main types of resumes.  Here are short descriptions of each: 

Chronological Resume:  This resume type is the most common and is best for someone with a solid and steady work history.  Chronological resumes start by listing the current or most recent job and list jobs in reverse chronological order.  They also will include education and contact information and may include professional memberships or licensures. 

Functional Resume:  Functional resumes may work better for someone who has large gaps in employment, has internships or apprenticeships that they wish to highlight, or someone who is changing careers.  They are becoming less common however they do serve a purpose and can be a useful tool.  They place an emphasis on the skills you possess and use work experience as an illustration to highlight these skills.       

Combination Resume:  Just as the title suggest, the combination resume combines elements from both the chronological and functional resume.  This type of resume usually lists skills near the top of the resume and follows with work history in reverse chronological order.  It is best to keep the skills section concise, usually no more than 4 or 5 bullet points. 

Electronic Resume:  This resume type may vary greatly depending on your field of study and can take many forms.  The most basic format is simply a text only resume.  This format allows you to paste your resume directly into an email or onto an online job board and allows employers to easily search for keywords.  If you need to email your resume as an attachment it is best to use PDF format.  The problem with emailing resumes in word processing applications, such as Word or OpenOffice, is that the formatting may change from computer to computer so the recipient’s copy may look very different than the original.  For some career fields, such as web design and creative arts, it may be advantageous to have a personal website to highlight your work.  This is another example of an electronic resume.  

Main Sections 

Whatever resume type you choose, the information should be clear, concise, and show why you are the right candidate for the position. 

The main sections that nearly every resume should contain are: 

  • Contact Information- This section is pretty straight forward.  Always include your name, address, phone number, and email address.  If you have a cellphone that doesn’t have voicemail set up, set it up!  If your voicemail box is always full, clear it out!  If an employer can’t contact you, they will move on to the next candidate.  If your email address doesn’t contain some variation of your name, create a new email address.  Your friends may email you at but keep that email account far away from your resume. 
  • Objective- Some say the objective section is optional but for current students, students recently graduated, or those looking to change careers it can be a very useful tool.  It can explain why someone with no experience in accounting is sending in a resume for an accounting position.  On its face it is simply a short statement that makes clear your intent and hints at how hiring you will benefit the employer.  Your objective should always be tailored to the specific employer and position to which you are applying. 
  • Work Experience- This is an extremely important section in the resume.  From it employers can not only see what relevant work experience you have but also where you’ve lived, how long you’ve worked at different jobs, and if there are any large gaps in employment.  These things speak to the potential stability of a candidate.  If you have limited work history or large gaps in employment there are different resume types and strategies to emphasize the skills you bring over your actual work history.  When listing work experience always start with your most recent or current job and work your way backwards.  Information to include when listing work experience is the name and address of the organization, dates of employment, position title, and your job responsibilities.  When listing your responsibilities be concise but don’t sell yourself short.  Make sure to highlight any responsibilities you had that directly relate to the position for which you are applying.  When listing responsibilities make sure to use action phrases, such as “supervised five employees” and “inventoried stock daily”, rather than passive phrases like “responsibilities included supervising and taking inventory”. 
  • Education- It will usually be adequate to list the highest degree you’ve earned unless lower degrees will enhance your qualifications to the specific position you are seeking.  You want to make sure to list the institution that granted the degree, level of degree (A.A., B.S., M.A., etc.), field (Medical Assisting, Accounting, etc.) and date graduated.  If your GPA is above 3.0 you may want to include it as well but it isn’t usually necessary.  If you haven’t yet finished college you should list the colleges you have attended in reverse chronological order and it is sometimes helpful to include the number of credit hours completed.  It is usually not necessary to list your high school but if your job search is in an area local to where you grew up you may consider including it.  It may be that the person reviewing your resume went to the same high school and this could be a small thing that makes you stand out. 

Additional Sections 

Additional sections that are optional to your resume.  These sections usually appear lower on the resume than the above sections: 

  • Volunteer Work – Whether the experience is relevant to the position or not, volunteer work is usually viewed as a sign of good character.  It is also helpful if you have limited work experience. 
  • Relevant Courses – If you are a student without a lot of experience it can be helpful to list courses that relate closely to the position to which you are applying.  Course names are sufficient.  You do not need to include a description. 
  • Certifications – Where to list certifications on your resume depends on how important they are to the position for which you are applying.  If you are applying for a lifeguard position then CPR/First Aid certification would probably be a good thing to bring to the table.  Therefore you may want to list it at the top of these additional sections.  If you only have one certification to list, try combining this section with another section. 
  • Professional Associations – Maybe you served as an officer of an organization or maybe you simply paid annual membership fees, but this can enhance your relevant experience.  Only include relevant affiliations to the position to which you are applying and if you did serve as an officer, say so.  If you are running low on space this section can be omitted. 
  • Honors or Awards – Listing any honors or awards you have received is a chance to personalize your resume.  Academic honors, scholarships, and professional awards are some things to consider adding.  This is usually the last section so it can be as long or short as you need it to be depending on space available. 

Online Resources 

The Federal Resume Guide (What you should know when applying for a federal career) 

Job Hero gives resume samples searchable by job title has great information on how resumes have changed over the years 

Resume Workshop (Tips on how to write a great resume) 

Zety (formerly uptowork) charges for resume services but you can check out their blogs for free detailed tips on resume writing, optimizing your LinkedIn profile, and building military to civilian resumes among other topics