Writing your first resume can seem like a daunting experience—but it doesn’t have to be. This guide breaks down the sections of a resume and what information to include in each. You’ll also find resume do’s and don’ts to help you avoid common mistakes.
Start your resume by listing your contact info at the top of the page. Include your first and last name, location (city and state), phone number and email address. Include any additional links, like an online portfolio, that are relevant to the roles you’re applying for in this section.
If you don’t have a more “professional” email address yet, now is the time to create one. Keep it simple and consider just using your name (email@example.com).
While optional, it’s helpful to include a summary statement when applying for an internship or entry-level job. Think of it as a short “highlight reel” that will capture the employer’s attention and explain why you’re the right candidate for the role.
Your summary should briefly outline your relevant skills, experience, and professional goals. Your summary should be specific and customized depending on the role you’re applying for. It should also be short—two or three sentences is sufficient.
Students and new grads should put your education at the top of your resume. Once you have more work experience under your belt, you should move this section under experience. If you’re in your first or second year of school, you can also list your high school information.
Include your school name, major, degree, and your graduation month and year (or expected date). You can also list courses you’ve taken or major projects completed that are relevant to the job. Also highlight any academic honors or awards you’ve received—don’t be shy!
What about GPA? Including your GPA can help boost your resume, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience. If your major GPA is higher than your overall GPA, you can include that instead, but be sure to list it as such. Once you’re two to three years out of school and have more work experience, remove it from your resume.
The most common way to organize your experience section, especially when you’re starting out, is to list in reverse chronological order—meaning the most recent experience is listed first.
This is where you’ll outline current or previous internships and part-time or on-campus jobs. If you don’t have much previous work or internship experience, emphasize your involvement with clubs and organizations, volunteering opportunities, and other ways you’ve taken on leadership positions. All of these experiences, on and off campus, have helped you gain transferable skills, and make you a desirable candidate.
Under each employer or organization name, include the title you held and list a few bullets describing your responsibilities and achievements. Start each bullet with an action verb, not a pronoun or your name. Words like “led”, “analyzed”, “coordinated”, and “designed”. Keep the thesaurus handy for this section!
Include numbers, percentages or other concrete measures of success whenever possible. And make sure you read through the job description and find relevant keywords you can include in your resume. This will help your resume get noticed when recruiters (or recruiting software) are quickly scanning it.
There are two types of skills to include on your resume: hard or technical skills, and soft skills. Examples of hard skills include a foreign language or an industry-specific software program. Soft skills include communication, problem solving, and creativity. One type isn’t more important than the other—employers are looking for both soft skills and hard skills in potential job candidates.
Your skills should demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the industry and role you’re applying for. If you have skills that are mentioned in the job description, definitely list them here!
Have a draft? Ask for feedback
When you have a draft of your resume done, and you’ve read through it a few times, share it with a family member or other contact with professional experience. Ask them for feedback on how you’ve phrased your objective and experience. Have you made a compelling case for why you’re a great candidate? Does your resume fit with the industry and role you’re applying for?
Then contact your school’s Career Center and make an appointment to go over your resume together. The Career Center staff are experts on what makes a great resume, so reach out to them for advice.
Resume Do’s and Don’ts:
- Be concise. Keep your resume to one page.
- Be consistent. Use the same font, layout and style throughout (that includes spacing, indentation, capitalization, verb tense and bulleted lists).
- Spell it out. Don’t use abbreviations or slang.
- No crazy fonts. Choose one that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri, and stick to size 11 or 12.
- Proofread. Double and triple check your spelling and grammar!
When your resume is ready, the last step is to save it as a PDF and upload it to your Handshake profile!
For more information on how to upload a doc to your profile, check out this Handshake Help Center video.