Your resume is a marketing tool created to market you. It may be your first contact with an employer, whether applying for an internship, co-op or job opportunity. Resumes may also be requested for leadership opportunities, graduate school, scholarship, and fellowship applications.
Employers often review resumes and cover letters in 10 seconds or less. Therefore, your resume must be well-written, concise, extremely organized, and easy to read in order to be effective. Customize your resume for the reader, looking for opportunities to match your accomplishments and interests to their needs. Tailoring your resume and cover letter to the specific employer is a key component of a successful resume and cover letter!
There is not one correct way to organize a resume. It depends on your unique education, experiences, and skills. It is a good idea to have different versions of your resume depending on the job type/industry that you'd like to target. Drop by the Stuckert Career Center for a quick resume review, Tuesday - Thursday from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
View a brief video on Youtube with some quick tips on resume writing.
Where to begin? Typical sections on a resume
An objective tells the employer what you want to do, either by stating a job title or the type of job you currently seek. You might have more than one version of your resume, with different objectives.
List the college/university name, city, state, your degree, major, concentration, and graduation date by month and year. List your most recent college first. Under the education section, you may include information about:
- Courses relevant to the type of job you are seeking
- Class projects (including senior projects, presentations, reports, & research)
- GPA if over 3.0 (major GPA and/or overall GPA)
- Academic honors, Dean's List, and scholarships
- Professional training, overseas study programs, certificates and licenses
- Computer skills (give specific names of systems and programs)
- Languages (indicate skill level: conversational, intermediate, advanced, fluent)
- Percent self-supporting; hours worked per week (ex. Work 20 hours a week while full time student; 50% self supporting)
List your career-related experience, including full-time or part-time jobs, summer jobs, volunteer experience, cooperative education, and internships. Even course projects could go under this section! You may include experiences unrelated to your career area if you focus your job description on transferable skills, such as customer service, communication, problem solving, project management, teamwork, and leadership skills. You do not need to list every job you have held. The descriptions for your relevant experiences should be longer than those not directly related to the work you are seeking. Highlight your skills and accomplishments.
Identify your accomplishments and successes from past experiences, and the skills that you used in each situation. In your resume, emphasize what your role was, focus on the skills you used, and describe how you benefited the organization or state the results of your work. Highlight what you achieved and the difference you made.
Accomplishments might include situations in which you created or built something, initiated a project, achieved a goal you set, saved time, saved money, demonstrated leadership, solved a problem or created a solution. Use numbers whenever you can!
Use KEY WORD nouns to indicate your skills and experience, such as strategic planning, customer service, quality assurance, reconciliation, diversity training, CPA, BA, MBA, GIS, JIT, TQM, EIT, MS-DOS, SPSS, Java, HTML, web page design, taxation, statistical regression analysis, asset valuation, systems analyst, manager, Japanese fluency, cryogenics, robotics, calculus, biosytems, accountant, promotions, counsel, teach, cellular manufacturing, project management, autocad release 13, research, problem solving, team leader, etc. Use action verbs like advise, analyze, appraise, audit, consolidate, coordinate, decrease, direct, evaluate, facilitate, forecast, implement, initiate, manage, negotiate, persuade, etc. List your job title, the employer's name, city, state, and dates of employment by month and year. Avoid writing in full sentences and leave out pronouns (I, me, my).
You may include a variety of activities and additional types of information on your resume, such as those listed here. This section may be called Professional Activities, Leadership Roles, Extracurricular Activities - Be creative and title it what makes sense for you. Focus on positions you held, your level of involvement, accomplishments, projects, demonstrated leadership roles, committee work, communication skills, organizational skills, and any skills related to your stated career objective.
- Campus/student organizations
- Community service
- Volunteer experience
- Team and group projects
- Computer skills
- Foreign languages
- Leadership roles
- Professional membership
20 Tips for improving your resume
- CONTENT! CONTENT! CONTENT!
Employers glance over resumes and decide in less than 20 seconds. Note specifics that demonstrate your abilities, your accomplishments, and your past experiences -- these are crucial to making your resume get their attention.
- VISUAL APPEAL
The appearance of a non-electronic resume cannot be overemphasized! It should catch the eye. Watch for spacing and margins. Allow for lots of WHITE SPACE and BORDERS. Make use of italicizing, CAPITALS, underlining, bolding, indentations, and bullets to emphasize your important points.
- USE A ONE PAGE RESUME
Be brief & concise! One page, to the point works best in this competitive marketplace. Be a skillful editor, deleting the portions which are not relevant or least helpful to your securing that particular position. Emphasize your more recent experience in the last 5 - 7 years.
- BE TARGETED
Focus every resume to the job type being applied for. It's actually better to create a different resume for each job type (i.e., one resume for business, another for human resources). This will eliminate the tendency to crowd your resume with too much non-related information.
- SHOW ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Be sure to demonstrate results of your work and how your former employers benefited. Use numbers and percentages that show money or time saved. List anything you did that helped the bottom line.
- BE CLEAR
No vague generalities. Say exactly what you mean, using the smallest number of words to make the point.
- BE ACCURATE
State your skills, qualifications, and experience as positively as possible without exaggerating or misstating the truth. If your job responsibilities are not adequately described by your job title, indicate your abilities with appropriate terms (i.e. Events Coordinator, instead of Staff Coordinator).
- DON'T USE GIMMICKS
Employers are very suspicious of gimmicks believing they represent a person who lacks proven substance and accomplishments. Overnighting a resume won't bring you to the head of the pile so save the expense.
- APPROPRIATE TYPE SIZE
Use type size of at least 12, but up to 14, for easier reading.
- AVOID GRAPHIC DESIGNS
Designs often distract to the reader. Colors are not the key to making you stand out. Lines, boxes, shadings or fancy borders should be avoided. Lines are often read as page breaks when employers scan a resume so delete. Plain, but nicely formatted white or cream, high quality paper have all tested well with employers.
- BE COMPLETE
Spell out names of schools, cities, abbreviations, and titles completely, since employers may not recognize abbreviations or acronyms.
- USE ACTION VERBS
Start each sentence with a descriptive action verb - such as established, managed, organized, developed, planned, etc. They add power to your sentences making it easier to note your actions and the important results those actions created.
- MAKE POINTS QUICKLY
Complete sentences are not necessary in resume writing; it is better to use simple descriptive statements to make a point.
Don't trust computer spell checkers. The computer will not correct "SEA" which is a word when, unfortunately, you meant see.
- BE PERFECT
The resume you send out must be flawless. No mistakes or typos, no white-out, no crossing out information to update. Sloppy resumes don't get interviews. This is the employers #1 complaint that we hear from employers in the career center.
- MAKE IT READABLE
A crammed, cramped resume often gets left unread. Make deletions wherever necessary to achieve a readable product.
- DON'T INCLUDE PERSONAL STATISTICS
It is no longer considered professional or wise to include information about marital status, gender, height, weight, health, or a picture on your resume.
- DON'T WASTE SPACE
Employers know you'll provide references if they request them, therefore it is not necessary to put "References upon request" at the end of your resume.
- DON'T ADVERTISE NEGATIVE INFORMATION
The resume is the wrong place to advertise that you were laid off, fired, or had an extended illness. Never state why you left a job; just list the dates of employment.
- EDIT IT
Does your resume clearly and quickly communicate to employers that you can do the job? Do your strengths come across? Does everything support the job you are targeting? Should anything be removed? Final test: are employers calling? If not keep improving your resume until they do.
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
A CV is used by those with graduate degrees (i.e., M.S., Ph.D) to apply for positions in academia or for scientific or research positions. CVs are very inclusive; therefore; they tend to include all experiences not just selective experiences. CVs are longer than resumes and focus on education, publications, presentations, research, classes taught, and other professional activities. CVs are also used in European countries for all positions.
The most common job search letter is a cover letter, but it's important to be aware that there are other letters that you may use in the course of a job search. For most college students, letter writing has been reduced to short e-mail messages, quickly written and quickly sent. This is not acceptable when in the midst of a job search. Communication skills are critically important in your career and your job search letters will be one of the first samples employers will have of your competence in this area. All correspondence with a prospective employer will be carefully critiqued to screen out candidates. Be sure your job search letters have no typos, are grammatically correct, follow standard business format, and present you as the best candidate for the internship or job!
Meet with a career counselor or utilize the drop in hours at the career center to have your job search letters critiqued.
Below are some common types of Job Search Letters. Be sure to sign the original hard copy letters and to keep copies for your records.
A cover letter accompanies a resume when you send it through email, U.S. mail, or when you are completing an online application. It is not required when you hand a resume to a recruiter at a career fair, presentation, or interview. Write a persuasive letter in a conversational format to market yourself for the particular job you are seeking. Identify your experiences, education, and skills which are most directly related to that job. This is your opportunity to help an employer see how and where you fit into the organization. Make an appointment with a career counselor to have your cover letter critiqued by calling (859) 257-2746.
Watch a Youtube video with tips for preparing your cover letter
View sample cover letters (PDF)
View sample cover letters - email (PDF)
View sample cover letters - print (PDF)
View Seven cover letter don'ts (PDF)
This letters or email is sent to individuals requesting information about a career or company. It's a great way to reach out to other UK alumni to prospect for possible job openings. Be sure to focus on broader fields, industries when describing your qualifications. Normally, a resume is not attached to this type of letter because the focus is on generating information not generating job offers! It's also used to ask for an informational interview.
This is one of the most important yet least used letters in a job search. A thank-you letter is used to establish goodwill and express appreciation. It can be sent to a potential employer, a contact that's assisted you, or an interviewer. The general rule of thumb is that if someone has spent more than 10 minutes of his/her time, then a thank you would be appropriate. A thank-you letter should always be sent with 24 hours of an interview, informational interview, etc. A handwritten thank-you note is the more traditional form; however, you must take into consideration the person to whom it will be sent. Use your best judgment. If you have been communicating via email, it might be more acceptable to send an emailed note of thanks.
A letter requesting the status of your application while noting your continued interest in the position. You should also offer to provide any additional information that would assist the employer in making a decision. Due to time sensitivity, this letter is often emailed.
Congratulations if you've made it to this stage in the job search! This letter is sent to an employer when an offer has been made. Use it to accept the offer and confirm the terms of employment (start date, salary, medical examinations, etc.). It's an excellent way to positively reinforce the employer's decision to hire you.
A letter sent to formally decline an offer of employment or to remove yourself from consideration as a candidate. Rejecting an employment offer must be done thoughtfully. Indicate that you have carefully considered the offer but that it was not the best job fit for this stage in your career. Do not say that you have obtained a better job. You want to express your thanks while keeping the door open for future contact.