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Guide to Creating the Most Efficient Résumé

‘Tis the season of applications! Whether you’re approaching graduation and need a job, or you’re an underclassman in search of an internship, the companion to any application is your résumé. This won’t land you the job, but it will land you the interview. Think of your résumé as the culmination of your professional and academic accomplishments thus far. That could be everything from last summer’s internship, to being on the Dean’s list, to any campus clubs you are most active in. Résumé means summary, and that is exactly what employers are looking for on this perfectly organized, bullet-pointed piece of paper. Here is advice on building your best résumé, including formatting tricks and action verb resources. 

First, do not use a résumé template—make this on your own. Use a standard font (i.e. Times New Roman) between 10 and 12-point. Start with one-inch margins; but if you spill into the second page, the easiest way to gain more space is by shortening the margins. At the top of the page include your name and contact information (current address, phone number, and e-mail) in a slightly larger and bolded font. Another easy way for extra space is to simply paste this information into the header. As a useful aside, an unlikely way to maximize one page is by making the line breaks six-point font. This gives you less white space without losing your formatting. 

Since you’re either a recent graduate or a current collegiate, your education should go directly after your contact. Include the university you attend, the school within that university, your degree in process (i.e. Bachelor of Arts), major(s)/minor(s)/certificate(s), anticipated graduation, and GPA if it is above a 3.0. If you have a good GPA within your major but not overall, elide the cumulative and enter your major GPA. 

Format the rest of your résumé in reverse-chronological order by start date, which means the most recent experiences should be at the top of each section. The most important sections on any collegiate résumé are your education, work experience, activities/community service/volunteerism, and technology proficiencies (i.e. InDesign, Microsoft Office, etc). Work experience should include the location and name of each organization, your responsibilities, and anything you did to improve the company. Try to quantify the work you’ve done! For instance, if you marketed a product that had record buyers, include those numbers.

As for volunteerism, this is your opportunity to show how well rounded you are! Include the organization, any leadership roles, or projects/events the organization has held. You can also include sections for relevant coursework or key competencies/skills. There you would include experiences or classes that are directly applicable to tasks you would complete for your prospective employer. For underclassmen, a rule of thumb is to stop using high school experience at the end of your sophomore year.

Use bullet points to highlight the responsibilities in each position you’ve held, and exclude indefinite articles as to not write full sentences (i.e. “Learned to problem solve, motivate, and inform diverse types of people”). Speaking of which, whether or not to include punctuation varies. Pitt’s Assistant Director of Career Services said she doesn’t like to see bullet points punctuated. Having said that, it’s crucial to be consistent with your decisions. I’ve been told countless times, “Consistency is key!” If you bold the header for your Education section, you must bold the rest of your headers. If you italicize the date for anticipated graduation, italicize the rest of the dates you include, etc. One thing that should not be consistent though, are your action verbs. For each description, use a different verb. This not only shows your extensive vocabulary, it betters your chances of being matched when companies scan for key words. 

Here are 3 resources for choosing action verbs:

1.      100 Great Résumé Words

2.      The Honking Big List of Action Verbs

3.      50 Buzzwords You Shouldn’t Use on Your Résumé

After making your first résumé, update it every time you begin a new job or accomplish something. That makes it easier when you’re a graduating senior trying to remember everything you’ve done these past four years. If you have two fields of interest, build them both separately as you go along. When you have to submit your résumé electronically or send it via e-mail make sure to send it as a PDF. That way, if you formatted it down to the space, the hiring manager won’t mess it up with one wrong click.

Use this Sample Résumé Booklet containing 13 student résumés of various backgrounds to use as points of reference.


Photo Credit

Julia Campana is a senior English Major with certificates in Children's Literature and Women's Studies. She loves Italy, Ice cream and editing. Upon graduation she anticipates editing/writing for a magazine and/or working in International Education. Follow Julia on twitter! @the_family_JULS Find Julia on twitter! @the_family_JULS
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