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sumé Writing

The Professional Résumé

Résumés are what people use to get jobs, right?

Wrong! In most cases, a résumé is a one-page summary of your education, work experience, skills, and accomplishments. The main purpose of a résumé is to get your foot in the door of a potential employer by uniquely marketing yourself. The best way to do so is to outline your experience and promote your qualities geared towards the employer’s needs. A résumé does its job successfully if it does not exclude you from consideration for the desired position, internship, or cooperative education.

However, a résumé is not just for employment, but for the entire career development process! Students need a résumé for scholarship applications, admittance into a degree-seeking program, graduate school applications, etc. Also, many alumni and career mentors ask to view a résumé if they are offering informational interviewing or job shadowing opportunities. Employers use résumés to quickly evaluate all potential new hires. Hiring managers or even computer programs briefly scan the page for key words and requirements in order to evaluate and possibly score your skills. To prepare a successful résumé, you need to know how to review, summarize, and present your experiences, skills, and achievements on preferably one page.

The Essentials

Before you start typing your résumé, take some time to do a self-assessment on paper. Outline your skills and abilities as well as your work experience and extracurricular activities (this will make it much easier to prepare a thorough resume). In addition, the more you know about the organization and position, the better you will be able to promote yourself by tailoring your resume to that specific position. Research the organization’s website or other employment websites and obtain detailed information about the position.

Your résumé must include the following:

  • Your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address
  • Your educational information
  • Your previous and/or current work experience
  • Your skills and additional qualifications

In addition, your résumé may include the following as well:

  • A profile section (or an objective) following your personal information, but preceding any other information.
  • Your work-related accomplishments, such as professional affiliations  or licenses, certifications, publications, honors, awards, and military  services.
  • The statement “References available upon request.”

Your résumé should never include the following:

  • Any personal data (i.e. birth date, marital status, religion, health information, height, weight, photograph, addresses of your references, salary information, reason for leaving previous employment, hobby
    information, etc.)

Résumé Formats

In general there are 3 basic formats for résumés: Chronological, Functional, and a Combination of both. There is not one format that is the best way to set up a resume. Your résumé represents you and it serves as a reflection of yourself. Therefore, choose the format that presents you in the most favorable light. (Just one short note: the most widely used résumé format is the Combination résumé, because it encompasses the best of the other two formats.

Chronological Format

The résumé content is listed in reverse chronological order with the most recent information recorded first. This traditional format is preferred among some conservative employers and is best suited for entry-level jobseekers or those who have stayed in the same field and progressed in their career.

Functional Format

The résumé content is categorized by functions, or areas of expertise and skills, rather than chronological employment order. This format de-emphasizes dates and concentrates on skills, experience and accomplishments. This works well for individuals with limited education, significant employment gaps, lack of work experience, or who are applying for a position in a field that does not match their career experience. Therefore, this format can be used by recent graduates and career changers.

Combination Format

The combination résumé is a contemporary résumé style. It is a hybrid of the two other formats and information is listed in sections or groupings that highlight your skills and abilities and then listed in a chronological order. The two formats may be combined in various ways that allow you to tailor the style to specific employers and positions.


Résumé Layout

The outward appearance of your résumé is as important as the content. The length depends upon your experience. Most students and recent graduates should be able to incorporate this information on one full page. Your use of underlining, “white space,” bold type, italics, and capitalization will enhance the appearance of your résumé. Use these organizational and layout tips to make the information on your résumé easy and interesting to read.

The Heading: Your Contact Information

The heading information on a résumé is used by an employer to contact you. List your name at the top of the page (either centered or pulled out to the margin) and make it stand out through bold text and capitalization. The heading should be slightly larger than the text of your résumé. After your name, include a permanent address or the address you plan to use after graduation.Also list a permanent telephone number and include the area code as well. Finally, include your e-mail address, because most employers will find it useful (note: choose an e-mail address that sounds professional.) When sending out your résumé, be sure to record a neutral greeting on your answering machine and/or voicemail on your cell phone.

Heading Example:

Susan Sample
1234 Resume Boulevard
Louisville, KY 40292


Developing Your Objective

An objective conveys a sense of direction: it is a “theme” statement that will help you organize the supporting information in your résumé. The objective should be written from the perspective of what you have to offer rather than what you want from an employer or a position/job. To develop a strong, targeted objective, think about the following questions:

  • What is the job title/position you are applying for?
  • Where (type of organization or work environment)?
  • What level of responsibility (entry, intern, management, etc.)?
  • What skill(s) do you possess that is directly related to this position?
  • What special conditions/contributions?

Objective Example:
An entry-level sales position in the Travel and Tourism field with opportunity to contribute effective customer service skills and increase profits.


The Profile Section

A profile section can replace the “Objective” section. Your profile should introduce the reader to your résumé by listing your strengths, competencies, and technical skills (i.e. computer skills) related to the desired position. Avoid sentences starting with “I” and limit the section to 3-4 sentences. You may also start off your profile with an objective leading into your strengths and skills (Example: “Motivated and organized business student seeking entry level management position that allows me to demonstrate my excellent communication and presentation skills, proven leadership skills and ability to work with a diverse population in a team environment”).

Education & Related Coursework

Include the complete title of your Bachelor degree followed by the program name; do not abbreviate. After this, include the month and year of your anticipated graduation date. Place the name of the college that you received your degree from directly below your degree information; include the city and state of the college (avoid including street address). If you hold more than one degree, list the most current related degree first and the remainder in chronological order from most current to least current.
Include your cumulative GPA if it is 3.0 or above.

Education Example:
Bachelor of Science, Computer Science, May 2010
University of Louisville, KY

Associate in Applied Science, Computer Technology, May 2008
Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville, KY
Overall GPA: 3.59

If you lack experience when applying for your first professional job, consider a “Related Coursework” section listing those courses that relate to your career objective.

Related Coursework Example:
Digital Computers & Information Processing
Introduction to Networks
Operating Systems & Peripherals
Communications & Networking
AC/DC Circuit Analysis
Intro to UNIX
Web Site Design

Honors & Accomplishments

Your accomplishments and extracurricular activities tell an employer about your interests, motivations, and skills. Always include the year. You may include special recognitions and any of the following:
Dean’s List 
Honorary Societies
Athletic Team
Community Awards 
Club/Campus Activity 
Committee Member 

Honors Example:
Member, Dean’s List, 2007-Present
Recipient, Computer Technology Award, University of Louisville, 2006


Almost every résumé should include a skills section. The heading might simply read “Skills,” and include a list of various skills, including computer skills, laboratory skills, foreign language skills, etc. Use “action verbs” to describe your skills in a more compelling way and to show your strength in a specific skill area. Additional skill areas may include: management, computer, communication, interpersonal, customer service, creative, leadership, helping, professionalism, mechanical, analytical, organizational, instruction/training, language/cultural, finance/business, etc.

Customer Service Skills Example:
Demonstrate consistently high levels of professionalism and courtesy with customers
Welcome customers/guests with a smile, make them feel at home
Remain aware of customer/guests needs and travel related issues
Effectively responds to customer/guests requests by placing special orders
Consistently provides quick, well-timed and professional service
Interfaces with appropriate departments for prompt and accurate service

Related Work Experience

When describing any experience or job, always give concrete examples of your duties, accomplishments, or achievements and back them up with numbers or percentages if possible. You may include:

Full Time and Part Time Jobs  
Internships and Co-ops  
Work Study/On-campus Jobs
Seasonal Employment
Volunteer Positions
Military Service

Briefly but precisely give the employer an overview of your work experience in reverse chronological order. That is, put your most recent job first and work backward to your first, relevant job. Each employment entry should include: your position title; the dates of employment including the months and years; the name of your employer, the city, and the state. Include a brief description of your duties and responsibilities, but not your given job description! (Log on to O*NET Online to research tasks and typical work activities for over 1,200 job titles:

Use action words to describe your accomplishments and job experience. Include measurable achievements and information, because they translate for a prospective employer how you will be able to benefit their organization. Use present tense to describe your current job and past tense to describe all previous positions. The dates for your current position should be your start date to “Present”.

If you have held multiple positions with a single employer choose a format that lists the employer’s name first and then your positions also in reverse chronological order. Also list the location and separate dates of employment for each position with a single employer. This format has an immediate visual impact and demonstrates your history of promotions.

Do not use company-specific jargon and spell out abbreviations or acronyms. Remember: the best way to convince a prospective employer of your potential is to demonstrate your abilities through your past accomplishments.

Experience Example:
Front Desk Clerk, ABC Hotel, Louisville, KY, May 2008-Present
Check-in/ out hotel guests, answer questions and provide local area attraction information
Responsible for booking reservations, operating switchboard, cash/credit card handling, reconciling receipts, record keeping and computer data entry
Assist with planning and running of events, conferences and meetings
Provide consistent excellent customer service to all guests and visitors

Work History Example:

Weekend Manager, Burger King, Louisville, KY, February 2004-May 2005
Waiter, Applebee’s Restaurant, Louisville, KY, January 2002-January 2004
Cashier, Kroger’s, Louisville, KY, March 2001-January 2002
Cook/Counselor, Camp Lake Louise, Louisville, KY, Summer(s) 1999-2001

Résumé Checklist

Use this checklist to review your résumé.

  • The content of my résumé matches my career objective.
  • I emphasize/highlight my abilities, skills and accomplishments.
  • I use active power verbs to describe my work experiences and skills.
  • I use proper text tense (current work/present tense, previous work/past tense).
  • An employer can quickly scan my résumé and find information easily.
  • I have added a skill or related courses section to further support my objective.
  • I have listed awards, honors, certificates, licenses, accomplishments, etc.
  • Personal data is not included (ex: age, marital status, etc.).
  • The title of my degree is spelled out and in bold (ex: Bachelor of Science).
  • The organization of my résumé emphasizes the key points I want to stress.
  • Dates of work and job titles are clearly highlighted/emphasized.
  • Categories are clear with text bulleted or indented to create eye appeal.
  • Type style and font size is consistent throughout (no smaller than 11 pt. font).
  • Margins, spacing, bolding, bullets, punctuation, date formats, and state abbreviations are consistent.
  • I have avoided using personal pronouns (“I” or “me”).
  • There is a nice balance of information (it doesn’t look crowded or empty).
  • I have proofread my résumé for typos, spelling and grammatical errors.
  • List of references are on a separate page, to accompany my résumé if required.


You may include on your résumé a statement: “Available upon request” or “Furnished upon request.” Only include a reference page if requested by an employer (usually 3 professional references are sufficient). Use a supervisor, manager, boss, instructor/professor, or advisor/counselor as professional references. As a rule, always check with the person before using them as a reference and ask them how and where they would prefer to be contacted.
On a separate page, include your heading information at the top. Include the name, title, employer, address and telephone number for three professional references.

Reference Example:
Ms. Lisa Reference
President, AEIOU Company
1234 Referential Boulevard
Louisville, KY 40292

Sample Résumés

Arts and Sciences Sample Résumé

Business Sample Résumé

Education Sample Résumé

Technical Sample Résumé

List of Action Words

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