Resume Writing Guidelines
Click on the dropdown menus below to find detailed information on individual sections of your resume.
A resume is a summary of your educational and professional experiences, and this may include: colleges attended, internships, job shadows, volunteer experiences, work experiences, research or other relevant information, depending on what you are submitting it for.
- Employers review resumes very quickly, approximately 15 seconds on first review, making these guidelines essential to follow.
- The best resumes briefly describe job tasks, skills, and concrete accomplishments accurately and honestly while still being succinct.
- Good resumes are effectively tailored to position for which you are applying.
- Be clear and concise; avoid a narrative format.
- Make sure every word on your resume is important and contributes to your goal of obtaining an interview.
- Resumes are searchable, so use terminology that connects your experiences to the position.
As you prepare your resume, think about how an employer would look at it. If it is well done, it will communicate your competence and your interest in the position. On the other hand, if it is disorganized or has mistakes, it will show a lack of attention to detail. PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD
- Create an original document. Use Microsoft Word, do not use templates. If you don’t know where to start, look at the resume examples on the Career Services website.
- Make your resume neat and easy to read. Use a clear and crisp font. Times New Roman, Arial, and Calibri are good examples.
- Be consistent with the use of fonts and bullets to maintain uniformity throughout your resume.
- Accent the positive. Emphasize your strengths and accomplishments.
- Make certain your resume is current; do not send it with an outdated address or phone numbers. You might see a resume with two addresses, local and permanent. If you aren’t getting mail at your permanent address, you don’t need to include it. Likewise, your ‘home’ phone number is unnecessary, if you have a cell phone.
- Don’t include personal information such as weight, marital status, date of birth, and photograph.
- Don’t use paragraphs or full sentences. Use bullet points with phrases, leading with action verbs. This eliminates the need to use personal pronouns, like "I" and "my". You also don’t need periods.
- Use dates in the employment and experience sections; however, avoid excessive use of dates in other categories, such as volunteering or involvement.
- Don’t include salary requirements or wages from previous jobs. If a job announcement asks for salary requirements, include that information in your cover letter.
- Length should be dictated by the amount of information you have to convey. Never try to crowd two pages of information on to one page.
- Please use an e-mail address that conveys a professional image. For example email@example.com, not firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Include a cover letter with your resume whether you are sending it by mail, email or faxing it to an employer. For more information, see the cover letter section on the Career Services website.
- If you print your resume, as a rule, stay with conservative paper colors such as white, off-white, or gray. The same rule applies to the use of color with fonts. Remember resumes may need to be faxed or copied and the quality of the copy will diminish with colors. Print only on one side of the paper and should be printed on a quality printer.
Begin with your name as the heading, preferably in a larger font.
Include a complete present address and/or permanent address where you can be reached or a message can be left.
For graduating seniors, use your personal email address (or consider using your alumni account, available through the Alumni Association). University email addresses will not be accessible after graduation.
To maintain flexibility, you may choose to omit an objective on your resume. Your cover letter is a good place to share what your career or job objective is.
If you decide to use an objective, make sure it will enhance your employability. Vague objectives will not tell an employer what kind of job you are seeking.
You may want to avoid using the term "entry level" in your objective. In some organizations, entry level positions may be at a lower level than you wish to work.
Keep your objective short. Typically, you should only address immediate plans in your objective. Not all employers will value your plans for graduate school or your interest in management. Also, your long range plans may change once you have been with an organization for a while.
Section heading suggestions
You may wish to use "ACADEMIC BACKGROUND" instead of "EDUCATION", or "UNIVERSITY INVOLVEMENT" instead of "EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES".
Use categories relevant to your experiences and career goals, such as "RESEARCH EXPERIENCE" and "PRESENTATIONS AND PUBLICATIONS".
Category headings may be changed to meet your needs.
List your degree, month and year of graduation first, followed by the name of your institution and city and state and your major(s), minor and any special concentration or emphasis. Include your grade point average if you feel it is to your advantage. You can give your major or minor area grade point average if either is better than your overall grade point average, as long as you identify what it represents. Use an online GPA calculator to provide accurate information.
Students from UW-La Crosse graduate in May, August, December and January. Even if you participate in the May graduation ceremony but take summer classes, August is your official graduation date. Your name will not appear on the official May graduation list. This is very important if an employer calls to verify your degree.
If you attended more than one institution, or received more than one degree, list the most recent school and degree first.
As a rule, omit high school information.
Academic honors or awards (dean's list, scholarships, honors graduate, etc.) may be included in this section or listed in a separate section labeled "HONORS AND AWARDS". List the number of times you have received an honor (i.e. Dean’s List – 4 semesters).
Education graduates should include Wisconsin subject code number(s) and grade level(s) for education majors. Current certification numbers are available on the Wisconsin DPI web page.
International, language or multicultural experiences
Consider including all experiences such as study abroad, unique travel, and volunteer service programs.
Discuss what you studied, what you learned and where you traveled.
If you list additional languages, include your level of proficiency (basic, conversational, fluent, native)
Certificates and licensures
Include only certification information appropriate to your education or profession. Do not include certifications that are not related to your employment interests.
Appropriate certifications might include CPR or Water Safety Instructor for a recreation position, or CPA for an accountancy position or medical related certifications or licensures.
List only those that are current. If there is something you are planning on getting in the future don’t include it as a current certification. If you are in the process of getting it (taking a class, etc.) note that. For example, CPA Eligible in May.
This section is typically used only on resumes of those students seeking internships, fieldwork, etc. However, if you are graduating in biology, chemistry and microbiology you may wish to include course work on your resume and indicate which courses included a lab section.
List the titles, not the numbers, of the courses which are relevant to the type of experience you are seeking.
Identify the courses you are currently completing.
Project and/or research experiences
Employers are very interested in learning more about class projects and undergraduate research projects.
List the most important project first.
Describe the project, your involvement and outcomes in a bullet point format.
Utilize this section to outline special skills and knowledge that you will bring to the job. Examples might include laboratory skills, advanced computer skills, foreign language skills (if not in a different section), or photography skills.
Describe yourself according to your ability, using qualifying adjectives such as extensive knowledge in..., basic understanding of..., exposure to..., etc.
Use course descriptions from the university catalog to help describe knowledge gained in classes.
Don’t use vague ‘skills’ like hard worker, dedicated, timely, etc. Use skills that are demonstrable and relevant to the field and position you are applying for.
Consider categorizing and prioritizing your experiences using several headings such as Internship and Project Experience, Professional Experience, Related Experience (Fitness Experience, Sport Management Experience, Accounting Experience, Lab Experience), Research Experience, Additional Employment Experience or Teaching Experience. Within headings, list most recent position first.
Introduce each position with job title, organization name, city, state, and dates of employment. You may wish to de-emphasize dates by listing them after the city and state or after the description of each position.
Describe your responsibilities and achievements, the skills you gained, and the impact you had in your work experiences. Highlight skills that are valuable to employers and list most important job responsibilities first.
Remember to include all positions from which you have gained meaningful experience; related to your major. Do not describe obvious or commonly understood responsibilities of positions (server, bartender, cashier, lifeguard, etc.).
If you choose to omit some positions, you may want to make a general statement such as: "Have held various other full (or part) time positions to finance college education."
Describe your skills and responsibilities with action verbs. When applicable, use adverbs such as effectively, successfully, or consistently. Use quantitative descriptions when possible such as "Increased membership by 50%...."
Discuss what you observed/ learned/ gained an understanding of/ were exposed to as a developing professional.
If you personally paid for more than 75% of college costs, without loans, you may wish to indicate the percentage of your education for which you are responsible.
Campus and/or community involvement, professional activities and interests
List campus and community organizations, including athletics, if you have been an active member.
Include offices held, committees, responsibilities, and results of projects and activities. This illustrates leadership qualities and time management skills. List significant offices held first.
You may want to list some of these items under other experience categories.
Consider the negative implications when listing politics, religious and other affiliations.
List personal interests, if relevant and/or appropriate.
Professors, intern supervisors, and employers are usually considered the most significant references. Their names should not be listed until they have agreed to serve as your reference. Do not use relatives, and as a rule, do not use members of the clergy.
Discuss your qualifications with your references, provide them with a copy of your resume and asked them how they would like to be contacted.
List at least three and no more than five references. In most cases, references will be telephoned about your ability to serve in the new position.
List names, titles, place of employment, business telephone numbers and email addresses of professionals who have agreed to serve as references.
For education graduates who are certified and are seeking teaching positions: List names, titles, schools, addresses, and telephone numbers (school and home) of professionals who have agreed to serve as references.
Inform your references how this information will appear on your resume.