Developing a Winning Resume

Resume Formats

There is no "perfect" or "right" resume format.  The format you choose will depend upon the job you hope to find and your past experience.  Listed below are different resume formats.   Look them over and determine what format or combination of formats will present you in the best possible light.  Remember the purpose of a resume is to get you a job interview.  The interview gets you the job.

General Resume Guidelines

The following guidelines are just that-guidelines for what to include in a good resume.  Remember, your résumé's function is to obtain a job interview for you.  Use your common sense and imagination to highlight your background and experience in a well-focused resume.


A one-page resume works well for the recent graduate.  If you have an extensive work history, two pages are reasonable.   Remember individuals with extensive work history should limit information to what is pertinent to their current job objective.  If you do go to two pages, make sure that most important information is stated on the first page.


An organized, readable layout determines whether a resume is read.  Direct the reader's eye with the format.  Make sure it is well organized and concise.  Avoid dense text appearance that is difficult to read.

  • Consider using high-quality white or off-white paper.
  • Always type or word process your resume and have it professionally copied.
  • Make sure there are no typographical, spelling, or grammatical errors.
  • Information that has been crossed out or handwritten is unacceptable.
  • Make sure your resume will copy well.  Do a photocopy test.


  • Design your resume with a particular objective in mind.  Present information important to the objective first.  Edit.
  • List information in descending order of importance.
  • Be selective about what you include in your resume, but never falsify or exaggerate information.
  • Sell yourself-attract attention to your special abilities.
  • Concentrate on the positive and use action verbs to describe your background.

 Resume Inventory

The following categories are usually found on a resume.  These are suggestions.  You should adopt those that best fit your needs.

Necessary Categories

Personal Data

Make sure your name is the most obvious piece of information on your resume.  Also include address and phone number, with ZIP and area codes.  List a message phone number if you do not have an answering machine, and give an e-mail address if you have one.  It is unnecessary to include personal information such as age, marital status, or health.


An objective gives your resume a focus.   It also gives credibility and direction to your resume and suggests commitment on your part.  It should be specific enough to tell the employer the kind of work you seek, yet general enough to include the full range of jobs you will consider.  This will take some thought.  If the statement is so specific that it would eliminate you from consideration for other jobs in which you have interest, you might consider having a resume for each type of job (not necessarily each job).  Some disciplines require objectives; others discourage their use.


List your educational background in reverse chronological order starting with your highest degree and working your way backward.   Do not go back to your high school degree.  Listing your grade point average (GPA) is optional.  Dissertation and thesis topics are also included in this section as are honors bestowed at graduation time.


This category includes volunteer or intern experiences as well as employment.  Include job titles, employers, responsibilities, and dates.  Remember to list the city and state of your place of work.   Concentrate on the positive and use action works.  A statement of the percentage of college expenses earned can be included if you were self-supporting or nearly so.  You may include paid work experience, academic assignments of significant proportion, and extracurricular assignments relative to your desired field of employment, etc.  If your experience has not been relevant to your field of desired employment, you should still include a description of your responsibilities.  Strive to show growth or contributions you made while in each assignment.

Additional Information

Skills, activities, honors, awards, membership or committees, or in honorary societies, public service, or even language ability can be placed under this, or a more specific category.


It is acceptable to use the phrase, "Available upon request."  Be prepared with a typed list when requested.   Generally, a reference sheet will consist of the name, title, business mailing address, and phone number of three to five academic or business references.  Do not use relatives, friends, or other students as references.  Be sure to obtain permission from each person you plan to list.

Additional Categories

Qualifications or Technical Skills Statement

Qualifications or skills may be established from any prior employment, educational achievement, internship, volunteer experience, hobby, or community service.  For your qualifications statement, list your past in terms of skills you have acquired that are relevant to your résumé's objective.  This section is particularly helpful to those who are making a career change or for students whose major is not obviously related to the job objective.

Language Ability

You can list this section separately as part of the qualifications statement, or in the additional information section if there is a likelihood that this ability will be used by employers.  Specify the language(s) you read, write, and/or speech and your facility in each.


In the functional resume, your military experience can be included in the "Experience" category.  A chronological resume would list military either under a separate heading or in chronological order under "Experience."


List articles you have published and those which have been accepted for publication.


Give the employer insight into your professional abilities and training by listing the past and present research projects in your field in which you have participated.

Extracurricular Activities

Employers often look to extracurricular activities to indicate how you developed your interests and leadership abilities during college.  The extracurricular activities you list should include organizations in which you have membership and offices you have held.  You may also wish to include awards, honors, hobbies, and interests in this category.  Avoid listing controversial activities particularly those that are political or religious in nature.

Action Word List

The Web may give you access to job leads, but your success will hinge upon your ability to close the sale during the interview.

If the cyberspace boom has not yet compelled you to log on to the Internet, it should at least have grabbed your attention. If you are looking for a job, the Internet is an information superhighway system that gives you access to an ever-growing number of career, employment, and company sites with just a few mouse clicks.

At the Starting Line

Navigating the information highway is much like driving a paved one. Though you will encounter rush-hour bottlenecks, it's all about how you maneuver the I-way. First, you will need a computer, a modem, a communications program, access to a phone line, and an account with an Internet service provider. These are likely supplied for you (at no cost) on campus, at computer labs, and in residence halls.

Today, the most popular way to access the Internet is the World Wide Web (WWW). By using browser software such as Netscape, Mosaic, or NetCruiser, you can travel to countless home pages on the Web. These pages then can link you quickly to various locations with related data. You also can secure a little corner of cyberspace for yourself by creating a personal home page where you can invite visitors- including prospective employers- to get a peek at your career objectives, talents, and qualifications.

The quickest way to get to a Web site on the Net is to type in its "address," or Uniform Resource Locator (URL). But even if you don't know the address of your destination, you can get started by using a search engine. These are directories for the Internet that allows users to type in the subject or keywords in which they are interested. It then scans existing Web sites for a match. A popular choice is Yahoo! 

Usenet Groups

Usenet groups, also known as newsgroups or discussion forums, are devoted to a vast array of focused topics, including some on career and job search issues. Usenet group discussions tend to be more well-thought-out than those on chat lines and have standard behaviors-netiquette-that dictate communication. So, before you send a message or respond to a posting, spend some time reading a posting entered by other users.

Usenet groups can be a valuable forum to make connections with people, keep up with industry trends, access job listings, and post resumes. To read or post to newsgroups you will need news reader software. If you want to participate in job hunt discussions, check out

View the Net From the Employer's Perspective

Employers from corporate America to government agencies are increasingly turning to the Net. They are hunting actively for talent through employment bulletin boards, commercial resume data banks, and their own corporate home pages. A recruiter from Tandem Computers in Cupertino, Calif., says enthusiastically: "I love the Web. It gave me the solution I had been looking for - a fast and cost-effective way to direct computer-literate candidates to a database. We went live on the Web with our homepage in 1994. We post job openings, college recruiting dates, and other employment-related information; but most importantly, we give our homepage visitors an intimate look at Tandem."

Preparing Your Electronic Resume

You may choose to send your resume via e-mail or post it to databases located on commercial online services, bulletin boards, newsgroups, or mailing lists. Remember that the Internet is predominately a text-based (not voice/ video-based) tool. The first impressions you make during your job search are always the strongest, so it's critical that the application letter and resume you send via email immediately set the right tone for the reader.

Figuring out how to get discovered and stand out on employers' computer monitors is actually quite simple. The answer is, keywords! Today's Internet search programs leverage keywords. Pay attention to the job descriptions, skills, and talents the employer is seeking. Use these keywords in your application and resume so that they naturally fit the keyword searches a hiring manager would use when scanning the resume databases.

One successful Internet job seeker offers this advice: When applying for jobs online, don't send your resume as an attachment to an e-mail message. Create it in ASCII [plain text] and make sure it is clear and easy to read. Since the plain text does not allow you to do much with formatting and layout, it is doubly important to present your experience in a cohesive, orderly manner. I tried to leave the format as naked as possible, brought my most relevant information to the top of my resume, and used clear vibrant language."

Close the Sale the Old-Fashioned Way

Placing your electronic resume online is one thing, but getting a job is quite another. The Web may give you access to job leads, but your success will hinge upon your ability to close the sale during the interview. Since organizations put so much information on their Web sites, you can conduct your research in a fraction of the time you would use through traditional means. So there's really no excuse for not being prepared for your interviews. Be sure to give as much consideration to interviews which you have obtained through online job searches as you would to those received through more traditional means. And finally, follow up with a thank you e-mail.