Resume Writing for Graduate Students & Alumni
A resume is a potential employer’s first impression of you: Your personal marketing statement. Remember, the purpose of the resume is to get an interview, not a job. Therefore, tell the employer only what they need to know to want to meet you, and organize it in a way that is clear, easy to read, and quickly shows how your skills match their needs. Remember your audience! There is no one right way to write a resume. Put your information in a format that your audience likes to get information.
Recent studies show employers will scan your resume in approximately 5-15 seconds. With limited time, your job is to show them efficiently how you are qualified and why you should be interviewed.
- Tailor the resume to the specific job or job category; the resume may need to be changed slightly for each job
- Put the most relevant information in the top 1/3 of the resume
- Use reverse chronological information (most recent is first)
- Use action verbs and consistent verb forms
- Make it easy to read and follow
- Error-proof your resume (have others proofread it too!)
- Include enough white space
- Limit the length to one page whenever possible, unless you have 6-8 solid years of experience in your field
- Spell out numbers that are single digits (e.g. “four” instead of “4”)
- Be consistent in format and content (e.g. organizations are always in the same place with the same font, etc.) Use bolds, CAPITALS, and italics (or a combination) (Note: underlines work best for headers only.)
- Use a laser or letter quality printer
- Use PDF when sending resume via email if you need to preserve formatting
- Title your resume “Your Name Resume.doc” so that if it gets detached from an email it is clear whose it is
- Use a basic, readable font like Verdana or Georgia, size 10-12 point
- Use 8 1/2 x 11-inch bond paper in white, cream, or gray with black print (if printing)
- Use personal pronouns
- Number or letter categories
- Use a picture
- Include age, sex, or religion
- List your references on your resume (Make a separate document for that)
For most recent graduates or those still in school, your education is the strongest experience you have in your field. If this is the case, this information should go first. If not, you can put Education after Experience. Include: type of degree, concentration, academic honors, and date of graduation or expected graduation (Note: Only put the month and year you graduated, not the span of years). You can also list projects that you’ve done within your coursework. You do not have to include your GPA, especially for your Graduate degree.
List pertinent experiences (for the job you are applying for) in reverse chronological order. This experience can include paid work, summer jobs, internships, volunteer work, and school activities and organizations. Include name of the organization, city and state, dates employed, your job title, and a brief job description. Your description should emphasize accomplishments and major responsibilities. Descriptions can be in paragraph or bullet form or a combination, depending on your preference. If you are currently in a position, you may write that description in either present or past tense.
Tell Your Story! You want to demonstrate to your audience that you can persuade and entice your audience, as this is the role of almost any Emerson College degree. Show your duties and accomplishments, and give enough details of what you’ve done so that the reader/hiring manager can relate and understand your experience. Using numbers and names can help give a sense of scope of the project and what actions you did to help the project succeed. See this handout for a sample list of these action verbs.
Remember that sometimes the resume has transferable skills rather than direct skills. For example, working in a management role at a restaurant might not show your skills in marketing, but it does show your ability to manage multiple projects, which is applicable.
You can also make separate headers to group your experiences (e.g. MARKETING EXPERIENCE and ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE) so that you can highlight those that are most appropriate for the position.
This is where you can list the particular skills that you’ve developed or other languages you are fluent in.
Objective, Profile, or Summary
We don’t recommend you use an objective, as your objective is to get the job. Your experience, education, and skills should make that obvious. If you have numerous different experiences that doesn’t make it clear what you’re looking for, you can have a Summary or Profile statement that says who you are and what you have to offer.
List college or professional affiliations that are relevant to the field. Indicate offices held and achievements related to these activities. Avoid listing religious or political affiliations you had a role where you want to highlight your accomplishments within the role.
You will most likely not be listing interests, but might if you don’t have enough to fill up one page of content. If you do, make sure that they relate somewhat to the position you have a back story ready in case someone asks you about it. What does this say about you?
There are several main resume formats commonly used. A chronological resume format is usually the best option for undergraduate and graduate students as well as many alumni. It describes each job in reverse chronological order (most recent job first, in order of the position you ended most recently). As stated above, you can have different sections (e.g. VIDEO PRODUCTION EXPERIENCE) to bring your most marketable skills to the top of your resume.
Make sure your date formats are consistent throughout the document. If you have less than five years experience, we recommend month and years (e.g. March 2011).
Resume language needs to be:
- Specific rather than general
- Fact-based (quantify or qualify – use numbers and dollars when appropriate)
- Skill, not task based – i.e., not “answer phones” (task) but “provide customer information over telephone” (skill)
- Articulate, not “flowery”
- Value added – make sure each word counts! Why should they care about what you have to say?