Writing Resumes

Resume Tips

There is an old adage that implies a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Your job search is composed of numerous links and the ability to produce an effective resume is a vital link to this chain. Consider the following when approaching this potentially intimidating task:

  • There are no hard and fast rules.  An effective resume reflects your “uniqueness” as an individual.  IT IS YOUR STORY and should be regarded as a “Living Document”, requiring updates several times each semester.
  • The “story” told on your resume should reflect a TRUTHFUL summary of your accomplishments.  Misrepresentations and overenhancements always lead to trouble with potential employers.
  • You only get one chance to make a positive first impression! Make sure your “story” is told free of grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Have fun with this project – it should be an enjoyable “story” for you to produce!
  • Remember, resumes don’t get you jobs – they get you interviews.  Hence, another important link to your career chain!

Your resume “story” should be composed of several relevant “chapters”.  The following are suggestions for each of these:

Objective

  • Not all modern-day resumes include an objective statement.  If included, be specific to the point of what you are looking to achieve or obtain with your internship or job search.  Most employers are scanning resumes very quickly looking for key words and if the first item they encounter is a weak objective statement, there is a good chance you may not make it to the first round of interviews.

Education

  • School(s) attended (usually do not include high school).  If multiple, list the most recent first.
  • Degree (Associates, Bachelor of Science, Masters, Doctoral) and date receiving degree.  Spell these out versus using abbreviations (BS, MS, PhD, etc.)
  • Major(s).  Include Option/Emphasis within major if offered.
  • Minor(s)
  • Grade point (optional)
  • Thesis/Dissertation title for graduate level degrees
  • Percent of college education financed by self

Relevant Coursework

  • Although often times looked upon as “filler” by employers, specific coursework may be beneficial for research-based or technology careers in which certain lab techniques or computer skills are desired.

International Experiences

  • Today’s college student is provided the affordable opportunity to experience a diverse array of study abroad or international experiences.  These experiences definitely belong on a resume as recruiters recognize their value.  They may also be very beneficial in answering many of the behavioral-based questions asked during the course of an interview.  Tell me about….
  • On the resume, limit each experience to a couple brief sentences summarizing the major purpose or accomplishment of the trip.

Work Experience

  • Organize chronologically – most recent first.
  • Utilize bolding to emphasize “company” and italics for “position title”

Example

Company, location
Title, dates of employment
Bullet (describe job responsibilities/job accomplishments)
Bullet
Bullet

  • Utilize bullets to summarize responsibilities and accomplishments (Example - capstone internship project) rather than paragraphs. Quantify if possible.
  • Bullets can be complete or incomplete sentences.
  • Incorporate action verbs (get a list of these!) and “buzzwords” associated with your area of interest.
  • Watch verb tenses – past vs. present.  Pronouns are usually not necessary – “I”.
  • Avoid word redundancy (Example - repetitive use of same verb in bullets).
  • Farm background??? Make sure you include it on resume as recruiters recognize work ethic and values associated with it.  Include specifics – farm size, crops, livestock, machinery, ownership, etc.
  • Can include volunteer activities in this section.
  • Remember, regardless of the type of job, there are always universal tangibles that can be pulled from the work experience.  Example – teamwork, customer service, management responsibilities, computer skills, etc.

Activities & Honors

This is one of the most important sections of the resume as recruiters are looking to hire potential leaders.  If you don’t have any activities – find some!  It is never too late to start.  Include the following:

  • Campus clubs/organizations (list specific offices held – ex. President)
  • Professional organizations
  • Fraternities & sororities
  • Athletics
  • Volunteer activities
  • Scholarships
  • Dean’s List
  • Honorary academic memberships (Alpha Zeta, Gamma Sigma Delta, etc.)
  • Other academic recognition

Note: As a freshman and sophomore it is acceptable to include important activities/honors from high school (Valedictorian, Iowa FFA Degree, etc.) on your resume.  However, as you progress during your college years these activities should be replaced with current college activities and honors.

Publications & Presentations

This section is usually reserved for graduate students but may occasionally apply to undergraduates.  If applicable, list appropriate authors, publications, conferences, etc.

References

  • List them on your resume!
  • There is no magic number on how many to list (3-4 is standard).
  • Keep current and include references from academic and work experiences.
  • Be detailed (name, title, work affiliation, address including zip code, email and telephone number)
  • Always ask if they will serve as a reference and inform them when you are applying for specific positions. Extend a note of “thanks” for their efforts if you do get the position.

Other tips for a successful resume include:

  • In most cases a two-page resume is acceptable.  Curriculum Vitae may be longer.
  • Use white or light-colored, standard size (8-1/2” x 11”) paper, printed on one side.  Since many resumes are faxed or photocopied, do not use dark, marbled, speckled, or heavy paper.
  • Mail resumes and cover letters in large manila envelopes to avoid folding.
  • When emailing a resume, include specific name (example - John Doe Resume) of resume in email subject line.