Tips and Guidelines

There is more than one “right” way to create your resume but these tips and guidelines will help you design your resume as an effective marketing tool that captures the reader’s attention and works to get you an interview.

How to Get Started

Creating a new or updating an old resume may seem like an insurmountable task but don’t be intimidated.

Begin with these five steps:

  1. Seek inspiration: Ask friends, colleagues, mentors, and supervisors if they are willing to share their resumes with you. This is a great way to view a variety of different formats. You could also visit a bookstore or library and browse through the resume books to identify formats and phrasing that appeal to you. You can also look at resume samples provided in this toolkit.
  2. Break the task up into smaller steps: Take each section and work on it over several short sessions. If you take it in stages over a few days or a couple weeks you’ll have a completed resume in no time.
  3. Get organized: Gather all the facts before you sit down to write your first draft, including job titles and dates, previous job descriptions, past performance reviews, educational history, certifications, licenses, training completed, technical skills, honors and awards, and anything else that you think will help you create your resume.
  4. Read the job posting and highlight the required and preferred skills, abilities, attributes and qualifications.  Remember to use these keywords in your resume.
  5. Decide what information is relevant to include in your resume.  This may vary from job to job.  In order to clarify what is relevant to a particular job, ask yourself the following questions:
    • What skills and experiences are identified in the specific job description?
    • What skills do I have that are relevant to the position?
    • What are my strengths as they relate to the position?
    • How do my skills and experiences match up with the job description?
    • What aspects of my education are most relevant?  (This can include degrees, certifications and specific courses.)
    • Do I have any unique experiences or talents that relate to the position?
    • Determine which format (chronological or functional) is most appropriate for the position for which you are applying. 

Additional Guidelines

  1. Keep your resume to one or two pages; two pages is a standard length if you have had 5 years or more of professional work experience.  Resumes should not overwhelm the reader with information.
  2. Customize your resume for each position by including information from your skills and experience that best demonstrate the reasons you should be hired.
  3. Describe your unique accomplishments to avoid having your resume sound like a repeat of your job description.  Your accomplishment statements will help make your resume different from someone else with the same position description.
  4. Include keywords, which can be identified by analyzing the position description, conducting informational interviews, and doing research about the occupation.
  5. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms unless you are absolutely certain the reader knows what the abbreviations mean.  Remember that someone without industry knowledge, such as a recruiter, may be screening your resume.
  6. Make your resume easy to read.
    • Use plenty of white space.
    • Use wide margins (use at least .75 inches on the top and sides and at least .5 inches on the bottom)
    • Use bullets to highlight key points.
    • Use a readable font and size.  Avoid using tiny print in trying to get your resume on one page.
    • Indent or double space to separate sections.
    • Be selective with your use of bold, special typeface and print size.  Use no more than two fonts and special types.
  7. Use plenty of white space.
  8. Use wide margins (use at least .75 inches on the top and sides and at least .5 inches on the bottom)
  9. Use bullets to highlight key points.
  10. Use a readable font and size.  Avoid using tiny print in trying to get your resume on one page.
  11. Indent or double space to separate sections.
  12. Be selective with your use of bold, special typeface and print size.  Use no more than two fonts and special types.
  13. Do not use personal pronouns such as “my” or “I”.
  14. Keep your verb tense consistent.  Use present tense for your current position and past tense for previous positions.
  15. Make sure your resume is clean and professional looking (e.g., no hand corrections, misspellings or grammatical errors.)  Use spell check and ask someone to proofread your resume.
  16. If you are printing a hard copy, use a high quality printer and high quality paper in light tones, such as ivory, light gray or off-white.  Use the same paper for your cover letter, references or any other attachments to your resume. 
  17. Have your resume critiqued by someone knowledgeable about your field.  Ask if your resume markets the qualifications needed in your profession.
  18. If you are submitting an electronic version of your resume it should be in PDF format and use a professional subject line if sending it in an email (e.g. Sam Avakian Resume for Program Assistant Position).
  19. Every time you send out your resume, you need to re-evaluate.  You may need to shift the order of the text or rewrite certain sections.  Always put the most important information first to ensure the reader sees it.
  20. Leave off personal information and hobbies unless they are particularly relevant to the position. For example, if you spend your time fostering kittens and apply for a position with the SPCA.
  21. Be truthful and don’t exaggerate.