How to Write a Resume

how to write a resume

(Metaphorically) break through the glass ceiling with our tips on how to write a resume. Photo courtesy of Alex Proimos

How to Write a Resume

Entering the workforce as a recent college grad is, I assume, kind of terrifying—especially when you aren’t sure how to write a resume. Or maybe you’re going to apply for an internship during the fall semester (if that’s the case, you should check out my internship tips here).

How do you fit everything you need to make yourself look like the best potential employee without going over one page?

Not to worry! We’ve answered the most common questions that arise when writing a resume, and included a mock-up of my own resume (that has been edited for my privacy) for you to use as a template in your own job hunt.

What sections you need to include in your resume.

how to write a resume

Does your resume feel like a nonsensical jumble of words? Read on to make sense of it all. Photo courtesy of jm3

How to Write a Resume

A typical resume includes four sections: contact information, experience, education, and skills. You can add more later, but this is the best outline for beginners.

Your contact information is, obviously, everything that an employer may use to contact you. Because it’s the header, it’s the first section that your employer sees. Your name should be the biggest, baddest, and boldest part of this section, followed by your phone number, email address, and even your social media handles and usernames.

Your experience section will list all of your previous jobs beginning with the most recent position you held. Underneath each job, there should be a few bullet points detailing your duties, accomplishments, and anything you feel is noteworthy.

Your education is pretty cut and dry: your most recent educational endeavor should come first, followed by (I assume) your high school education.

Finally, your skills should come last. This is where you get to let your employer know that you’re an expert at Microsoft Word and Excel (seriously, is anyone not familiar with those?). In all seriousness, include things that set you apart from other candidates. Are you well-versed in the ways of a Canon?

Does your GPA go on your resume?

Some people wish to include their GPA in their educational section, but this depends on the position you’re seeking as well as your overall GPA. A career counselor at my school advised me that people should include their GPA if it is a 3.5 or above—otherwise, keep it to yourself.

If a job requires your GPA, or you feel the need to put your it on your résumé, make sure you’re using your cumulative GPA. Paste it underneath the details about your major and minor.

Keep lists of what you do at your job(s) while you’re working

I know I’ve said this before, but when you’re working, it’s easy to think you won’t forget all of your responsibilities at your job. Once you sit down at your computer, however, everything flies out of your head.

Keep a sheet of paper or a planner and write down everything you’ve done at your job that day. Nothing has to be in “resume language” quite yet—you’re just using this for your records.

Later, you’ll condense everything you did into three or four bullet points for each position you held.

The best words to use on your resume

When you’re condensing everything into those bullet points, it’s hard to not write, “In charge of making sure things got where they need to be.”

I’m exaggerating a bit, but professional language is a whole different ballgame compared to English Lit papers and lab reports. Business buzzwords can make the simplest job sound like the epitome of teenage responsibility.

Here’s a handy table of common phrases and their polished counterparts that you can use to spice up those bullet points:

“In charge of…” “Responsible for…”
“Took care of…” “Maintained…”
“Watched over…” “Oversaw…”
“”Moved units of…” “Transported…”

These are only a few of the words you can use on your resume. It might feel like cheating, but as long as you aren’t embellishing or exaggerating your responsibilities, but simply polishing your language.

how to write a resume

Make an eye-catching letterhead! Photo by Letterhead

Make a letterhead

The best resume advice I’ve been given came from a random guest speaker in one of my journalism classes. While his discussion focused mainly on broadcast journalism, he did touch upon good resume skills that are relevant in my field that I still do today.

What has stuck with me the most was his tip on creating a letterhead for your resume. You don’t need to be a master typographer, or even know what typography is. All of your tools are available on Microsoft Word or Pages, and the whole process takes about one minute.

  • Center your cursor and type your name in 18-point font. I personally like to include my middle initial because I feel it fills out the top of the page a little better, but it’s up to you.
  • Next, put your name in small caps. Microsoft Word users can do this by highlighting the desired text, right-clicking, and scrolling down to “Font.” A small window will open and there will be a box next to “Small Caps.” Click that and then soak in the professionalism.
  • Insert all of the relevant contact information beneath your name.
  • Separate items with a vertical bar (located just above the forward slash on your keyboard).
  • Double-check that your information is all accurate and up-to-date.

You’re done! Now your name is the biggest thing on your resume, but it isn’t an eyesore.

Should you include your social media accounts on your resume?

how to write a resume

Did you graduate from the School of Hard Knocks with a degree in Twitter? Maybe you should put that on your resume.

Social media is becoming more and more important in the professional world. When applying for jobs, potential employers want to see that you know how to handle hashtags, handles, and blogs as well as most of the important sites like Hootsuite, Facebook, and (increasingly) Reddit.

Basically, whatever you’ve used to procrastinate through high school and college could potentially be used in your career..

I realize how tempting it is to change your name on Facebook or delete everything and start fresh, but this is probably not wise.

My dad, who was in charge of hiring employees at his company for a few years, says it’s now way more suspicious to have absolutely no presence on social media than to have one photo of you and a few friends holding beers in college.

Of course, it’s all up to you and how private or how public you want your online life to be.

How to Polish Your Resume

Extracurricular activities are a great thing to add so you can show your employers that you’re a well-rounded person with a range of interests (or, in my case, that you were very committed to Girl Scouts for 13 years).

These can range from your years as the captain of the football team to random clubs you were in throughout college. These extracurriculars should be relevant to your potential employment—no one cares about that time you ate the most hot wings at Buffalo Wild Wings one night in high school.

Stick to things that emphasize leadership, responsibility, and professionalism in your own field. The skills and extracurriculars that I list probably wouldn’t be the best options for, say, someone looking for a job as an engineer.

“Awards and accolades” is another great section to include because it’s possible that they don’t fit under “Education” or “Experience.” Make sure they’re noteworthy–employers care more about your Gold Award than your Perfect Attendance Award from 2009.

*          *          *

After writing two blog posts offering career advice, I want to leave you with an amazing Ted talk I found. In the midst of all of this stressful and career-heavy conversation, I wanted to remind you to live a good, full, and balanced life that you are proud to live.

Happy resume drafting, and happy living.

– Katie Smith
Contributing Writer