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Upcoming Workshops & Events

Wednesday, January 28
Focus Indiana Information Session

Wednesday, February 4
Workshop Wednesday: Advanced Resume and Cover Letter Writing

Wednesday, February 4
Workshop Wednesday: Advanced Resume and Cover Letter Writing

Monday, February 9
Dress to Impress Fashion Show

Resume Tips

A resume is a promotional piece. It is a calling card to introduce you, with your unique combination of skills and experience, to a potential employer. Accompanied by a cover letter, its purpose is to get you an interview. Resume writing is not an exact science. There is no "right way" to create a resume. Suggestions that appear in our resume guides are general guidelines, not a blueprint. Since the resume is a marketing device, it should SELL YOU. Examples have been selected to emphasize basic resume structures.

On this page you will find information about:

The Format: Distinguishing Yourself Top Link

Although there is no correct way to write a resume, there are strategies to promote your abilities and to grab the reader’s attention. Formatting your resume can be the most creative aspect of resume writing. Although there are popular standard formats, your format will depend upon your target audience and the manner in which you want to present yourself.

Effective resumes have these qualities:

  • Typically one page
  • Easy to scan
  • Clear and forceful wording
  • Stress placed on achievements
  • Laser-quality printing

The most popular formats are Reverse Chronological and a combination of a Functional and Chronological.

Reverse Chronological

This format lists work experience in a reverse chronology (begin with most recent and significant). Experiences should be listed by importance rather than time sequence. Keep information clutter-free, allowing the reader to scan the resume easily.

Use bold or underline print judiciously. Using varied print too often defeats the purpose of highlighting items and becomes worthless.


Functional formats concentrate on the functional or transferable skills you have acquired through academics, activities, and work experiences. These are often grouped under headings such as Communication Skills, Leadership Abilities, Research, Writing Skills, etc.

Resume ContentTop Link

Writing your resume involves thinking aloud. Start with the categories listed below, and write everything you think of that relates to the heading. Don't edit things out at this point. Whatever comes to mind, let it spill out on paper.

The Resume Heading

Every resume should highlight your name and address. Typically, a college student will include both home and college addresses and phone numbers. Be sure that the phone number you use will be answered. It doesn't help you to list your college resident phone that seldom gets answered or where messages won't be taken. Listing one address and phone number can save resume space and is aesthetically more pleasing. Do what's right for you.

The Job Objective (optional)

The problem with most job objectives is that they are broad in nature and say very little; or, they are so specific that they narrow the effective range of the resume. For most students, the cover letter will serve as the vehicle to get across "why you are writing and what you want." Nevertheless, if you include an objective, describe what you want to do and what you are able to do which adds to your marketability.

Here are some examples of job objectives:

  • To serve as an Assistant Curator within an art museum. Prior internship experience in museum work has equipped me to assist in art exhibit installation, publicity, cataloging and research.
  • An internship which allows for use of my strong research and problem-solving skills within a biochemical research lab. Familiar with various laboratory procedures and possess strong attention to detail.
  • Past involvement in campus activities and new student advising leads me to seek a position as an admissions officer in a liberal arts college. Capable of promoting the college to prospective students and their parents, organizing orientation programs, and assessing prospective student applications.


Since you have spent the last 12-16 years or more in formal education, this usually appears as the first section of an undergraduate resume. However, if you have had significant experience (work, volunteer, college activities, etc.) you may want to list EXPERIENCE as your first section.

Keep in mind the following points when formatting this section:

  • Start with your most recent educational experience: Indiana State University. List your major and graduation date. Bold the Indiana State University name or the name of your major (whichever you want to emphasize).
  • Whether to include your GPA or not depends on how you feel about it. If it is above a 3.0, include it. The GPA can be represented through your MAJOR GPA or your JR/SR GPA. The point is, if your cumulative GPA is on the low side, you don't want to give employers a reason to discount your job candidacy based on this one factor. Employers may never get beyond the GPA to see the rest of your story.
  • Foreign Study and Exchange Programs: List these experiences and mention a fluency, proficiency, or familiarity with a foreign language.
  • Coursework: Don't laundry-list every course you've had. Rather, be judicious and highlight those courses that will catch an employer's attention. You may want to highlight courses that complement your major or that add somehow to your "marketability." List course names, not numbers, as course numbers have no meaning to a recruiter.
  • Honors and Awards: These can be either placed under the Education section or highlighted by themselves in a separate category. Remember a resume is not an autobiography. Select only those awards or honors that represent a composite picture of your strengths.

Be sure to check out the visual examples of resumes and other documents.


Students use different titles - Work Experience, Employment, etc. - to highlight this section of their resume. As stated throughout this handout, there is no one way to format a resume. However, we suggest you use the heading Experience or Career-Related Experience to caption this section. Experience is a better title than Work Experience or Employment since it can encompass a wider range of activities. Journalism-Related Experience or any other specified type of experience can also be used if targeting specific work.

Since most employers "skim" resumes rather than "read" resumes, you want to control the eye of the reader. This is done by good use of space and by highlighting information relevant to your candidacy.

Commonly asked questions regarding this section of the resume include:

  • Can I include paid and unpaid experiences together?
    Certainly. The responsibilities you held and the skills demonstrated through campus activities, volunteer experiences, etc., are all transferable and worth highlighting.
  • Do my experiences need to be listed with the most recent experience first?
    No. It's better to list experiences by order of importance. If an employer is skimming a resume, you want him/her to see the most relevant experiences first.
  • How far back should I go in listing jobs?
    You need to be judicious in what you put in the resume and what you leave out. Since this is not an autobiography, focus on only those experiences and jobs which are relevant to your objective. If you are a freshman or sophomore, high school jobs and activities will dominate this section. As you progress through college, more recent jobs and experiences will take their place.
  • What about all the odd jobs I had (workstudy, jobs during breaks, etc.)?
    You don't want to discount experiences but neither do you want to elaborate on wait staff jobs, etc. You can summarize these experiences in a statement or two to get across the idea that you have an ingrained work ethic, helped finance your education, etc.

Activities and Interests

Many employers look at three key areas of your resume: academic performance, work-related experiences, and involvement in activities. Membership in college organizations is fine. Leadership positions or in-depth involvement within these organizations is even better. The activities you list give the reader a look into who you are and how you spend your time. Employers often "latch on" to items in this section as ice-breakers in interviews and to find common interests. Include information that complements the other parts of your resume and which adds personal dimension.

Do not include:

  • A personal section giving birth date, marital status, height, weight, health, etc. By law, employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, race, or marital status.
  • Tag line "References available upon request": If employers are seriously interested in hiring you and want references, they will let you know. However, be sure to have people in mind who can serve as references should you be asked. It has been our experience that few employers request references for entry-level positions. It is not necessary to maintain a reference file with our office for the purpose of a job search.

    You may want to include:

  • Tag lines such as Portfolio Available Upon Request or Writing Samples Available Upon Request if you seek positions that require unique skills or experiences.

Resume Writing TipsTop Link

  • Use bold or underline separately, not together
  • Notice spelling of commonly misspelled words i.e., liaison
  • Avoid using more than two fonts in your document
  • Use simple, everyday language
  • Keep sentences short; begin with varied action verbs
  • Be honest; don't exaggerate
  • Don't list references on resume (if needed, use additional page for names)
  • Use high-quality bond paper
  • Keep margins and spacing clean and inviting to the eye
  • Proofread and have other people read it as well: read backwards to catch mistakes.

The Lingo of Employers - Skills and Results

Employers assess your resume (and cover letter) to determine if you have "the right stuff" and to judge whether you can deliver results. Sell yourself to employers by showing demonstrated skills and by adding details which show your achievements. Begin sentences with "action verbs," and be specific when showing the extent to which you added value to an endeavor.

Look at the following samples:

  1. Skill used =
    My Problem Solving or Strategist Ability

    Simple Statement =
    Organized rush activities for fraternity.

    Powerhouse Entry =
    Developed new rush strategies; doubled number of prospective members
  2. Characteristic =
    I am Community Service Oriented

    Simple Statement =
    Worked for Terre Haute's Lighthouse Mission.

    Powerhouse Entry =
    Devoted over 100 hours to providing food for low-income individuals within Terre Haute community.

Preparing the Scannable Resume

Some employers are now using computer programs to sort through large numbers of applicants to find desirable employees. These resumes are scanned into a database; key word searches are then conducted to identify applicants who have the desired traits.

These electronic tracking systems can extract skills from many styles of resumes. The most difficult resumes to read are those with poor copy quality, blue or gray paper, or unusual formats such as a newspaper layout, complex fonts, graphics, or lines.

When possible, you can ask the contact person for the position whether or not a scannable resume is recommended. When this is not possible, you can either include a scannable resume along with your regular resume, or make sure that your resume is scannable.

Tips for Scannability

  • Use white paper and do not fold or staple
  • Use laser printed original; avoid photocopies
  • Use standard typefaces such as Helvetica, Futura, Times, Palatino
  • Use font sizes of 10 to 12
  • Use boldface and/or all capital letters for section headings as long as letters don't touch
  • Avoid fancy styles such as italics, underline, shadows and reverses
  • Fax only when necessary. When faxing, fax in "fine" mode if possible

Action VerbsTop Link

Your resume should be action-oriented in order to catch the reader’s attention. Listed below are a few ideas to help you begin writing action-oriented statements to further describe work, leadership, or volunteer experience.

Communication Skills

Creative Skills

  • Advertised
  • Arbitrated
  • Authored
  • Clarified
  • Composed
  • Contacted
  • Corresponded
  • Demonstrated
  • Drafted
  • Edited
  • Facilitated
  • Informed
  • Interpreted
  • Mediated
  • Moderated
  • Negotiated
  • Notified
  • Presented
  • Promoted
  • Proofread
  • Publicized
  • Published
  • Translated
  • Built
  • Composed
  • Conceived
  • Conceptualized
  • Constructed
  • Created
  • Designed
  • Developed
  • Directed
  • Established
  • Formulated
  • Generated
  • Initiated
  • Invented
  • Launched
  • Performed
  • Piloted
  • Planned
  • Produced
  • Revised

Helping and Counseling Skills

Leadership Skills

  • Advised
  • Advocated
  • Aided
  • Assessed
  • Assisted
  • Coached
  • Collaborated
  • Counseled
  • Diagnosed
  • Directed
  • Encouraged
  • Guided
  • Inspired
  • Led
  • Mentored
  • Represented
  • Served
  • Supported
  • Achieved
  • Clarified
  • Decided
  • Delegated
  • Effected
  • Enhanced
  • Exceeded
  • Excelled
  • Headed
  • Improved
  • Inspired
  • Instigated
  • Led
  • Marketed
  • Motivated
  • Participated
  • Presided
  • Recommended
  • Succeeded

ExamplesTop Link

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