Resume Writing Guide

The Resume Writing Guide is available as a PDF to print in its entirety. Below is the online version for easy navigation to the topic of your choice. Sample resumes are also available below for individual print.

What is a Resume?

Writing Objectives

Accomplishment-oriented Statements


Sample Resumes

What is a Resume?

A resume is your selling tool outlining your experience and skills so an employer can see at a glance how you can contribute to the employer's work environment.

Your Resume should REACH! In other words, it must:

  • Be R eadable
  • E mphasize strengths
  • Include Applicable experience
  • Be Consistent
  • Say Hire me

Types of Resumes

One style does not fit all people. Choose the resume style that suits your job history and target position. There are two types of resumes, Chronological and Functional/Hybrid.


This is the most popular format. It arranges information in reverse chronological order. Employers tend to prefer this format as it demonstrates a candidate's consistent and upward career growth. Hence, the focus is on time, job continuity, growth, and achievements.

General Template for a Chronological Resume


This particular type of resume focuses on skills, credentials, and accomplishments over the course of all jobs held. Emphasis is on what you did, not when or where you did it. Accomplishments, qualifications and experience are grouped together, to stress your experience in specialty areas. It lists employment history including organization, position title, dates of employment, and location in reverse chronological order.

General Template for a Functional/Hybrid Resume

Top 10 Resume DOs and DON'Ts


  1. Make sure your resume is easy to read.
  2. Keep the overall length of your resume short (1-2 pages).
  3. Use professional language and proper grammar.
  4. Focus on the employer's needs, not your own.
  5. Call attention to your resume by highlighting what sets you apart from the next applicant.
  6. Use consistent font and formatting (bold, italics, etc.) throughout your resume.
  7. Emphasize transferable skills, especially if you don't have a lot of relative experience.
  8. Use bulleted action statements to describe your past job responsibilities.
  9. Highlight your activities, honors, awards and other value-added experiences.
  10. Proofread, proofread, proofread!


  1. Lie on your resume.
  2. Use personal pronouns (I, my, me) in a resume.
  3. Leave out the locations (city and state) or dates (months and years) of your past jobs.
  4. List high school diploma information or activities.
  5. Include non-work related hobbies or irrelevant information.
  6. List references on your resume.
  7. Include a photograph or unnecessary graphic, gender, age date of birth or social security number on your resume.
  8. Confuse your resume with your autobiography.
  9. Repeat the same action words throughout your resume.
  10. Make a list of your job duties. Instead, make a list of your accomplishments.

Objective Statement

An objective statement expresses a career goal in one or two short phrases and tells the employer what your target job is or what you want to do as well as what you can contribute to the company.

Some people believe that this category should be omitted from the resume and the extra space can be used to include more information on experience and accomplishments.

Reasons for Having an Objective Statement:

  • Emphasizes your main qualifications and summarizes them for readers
  • Informs your readers of the position(s) you are seeking and your career goals
  • Establishes your professional identity

Do not include an objective statement when:

  • There are multiple positions you are qualifying for in one organization
  • You cannot be specific about your targeted job
  • You are using it at a job fair
  • You are uploading it into Lightning JobSource (LJS) as the primary/main resume

Writing an Objective Statement for Today's Job Market

Remember the old style objective statement? It usually starts with "To obtain a position"; and ends with "where I can utilize my skills and experience.";

In today's job market, resumes are automatically scanned with computer software and may not even reach the human eye unless they contain key words that identify specific skills. Employers are becoming more skilled at browsing resumes online and never even printing them on paper. If your resume does not have something to quickly catch the browsing eye, then it will never be truly read.

The ultimate goal is to have your resume not only read, but also to entice the reader to invite you to interview. On average, employers spend approximately 30 seconds viewing a resume before moving to the next candidate. One way to improve your chances of being read is to entice the reader with your objective statement. This can be achieved by following the four step process below:

  1. Identify your primary job objective. Be specific and ask yourself the following question: What industry or environment do I want to work in the most? If you have more than one, brainstorm and list all the environments you might possibly want to work in. This will allow you to narrow your focus and see which categories are similar.

  2. List your top three job strengths and any attributes which may accompany them.

  3. List your degree or skills. If you do not have a degree, what skills do you have which are unique from the majority population? These should be included in your objective statement. E.g. Language skills or unique software skills

  4. List your dream job. If you have a clear position in mind that you are seeking, you will want to include this information in your objective statement.

Next, using the format below and the items listed above, write your objective statement.

[Degree or skill area] candidate with experience in [job strength], [job strength], and [job strength], seeks career in [industry/job environment].

Examples of Objectives

  • To enter the publishing industry as a writer with the long range goal of becoming an editor
  • To obtain a position in the actuarial field where analytical and quantitative skills will be utilized
  • Seek a position as a sales representative with a consumer products organization which will lead to sales management
  • A position as a technical writer with emphasis on computer technology
  • To obtain a position in the advertising industry with emphasis on graphic design
  • To obtain a position as a tax accountant for a public accounting firm
  • A position in an investment banking firm which will lead to financial management
  • To enter the field of computer applications with emphasis in designing and developing computer programs
  • Seek a position as a design engineer with advancement to planning and project administration
  • To obtain a position in software development for designing and implementing operating systems
  • A position in electrical engineering concentrating on the design and development of electronic systems implementing integrated circuits and microprocessor control
  • A position in marketing research with potential to enter marketing management

How to Make Your Resume Accomplishment Oriented

The experience, employment, internship, and activities (if explained) sections should be described in the following way:

  • Well written Action Skill statements
  • Action verbs (developed, implemented, coordinated… see list below)
  • Present tense if currently doing it; past tense otherwise
  • Quantify as well as qualify
  • Write specifically, not generally
  • Use language similar to the field targeted
  • Bullets are preferred over writing in paragraph format

Focus on the Three Types of Skills

Skills are competencies or developed abilities used to perform a wide variety of tasks and activities.

Work Content Skills have to do with mastering a particular body of information related to a particular type of work, profession, occupation, or leisure activity. They are learned and developed through formal education, on-the-job training, reading or experiencing. Nouns - people, data and things.


  • knowledge of a foreign language or computer language
  • how to conduct an experiment in a chemical lab
  • how to administer an injection
  • how to develop lesson plans
  • how to write a press release

Self Management Skills are personality attributes. Allow people to adapt to their environment and surroundings. Are related to your personality and temperament and how you perform tasks. They are learned early in life from significant individuals, groups, and social situations. They are further developed as you gain more educational and work experience. Adjectives and adverbs (ask "how";).


  • relating to authority figures
  • managing time
  • controlling impulses
  • working and relating to peers

Transferable Skills (functional skills) are skills which can be applied to a variety of work settings. They are skills no matter where they are acquired - skills developed in one setting can be used in another. They are learned or developed through education or experience or inherited at birth or in formative years (work-content or self-management). They can be directly or indirectly transferable (see examples). Verbs - ask "what"; or "who"; after; answer will be a noun or work content skill


  • oral and written communication skills
  • interpersonal skills
  • time management
  • supervisory skills
  • planning and organizing
  • consulting/advising

Action and Result: Writing Effective Resume Bullet Points

Many resume bullets list only brief skills and do not fully capture the audience by showing results. A good resume will not only show technical skills, but will also show how they achieved success for a company. To achieve this on your resume, brainstorm the following areas listed below.

  1. List your job duties. Be specific and ask yourself the following questions: What tasks do I do on a routine basis that may be related to the industry I want to work in? Brainstorm and list tasks that may be helpful in your job search. Use the most impressive and/or relevant tasks to form bulleted action skills statements below.

  2. List any awards you have received in your past employment history. What did you do to achieve these awards?

  3. List measurable performance outcomes which are a result of your job duties. Did you help to do the task, was a unique skill required to do the task?

  4. Write your bullet. Using the information listed above, write 2 or more bullets which shows an action and result. Begin each bullet with an action verb (see list below).

Example Bullets:

  • Developed a promotional fund raising campaign which resulted in pledges of over 30K
  • Suggested alternative driving routes to management to improve product delivery timeframe
  • Promoted new menu items to customers to improve visibility and increase sales

Action Words for Resume Writing

Effective Use of Keywords

Work Content Skills are critical to the concept of Keywords in a resume. Employers are inundated with resumes from job seekers. They have to rely on technology to help them store and then locate resumes. They use software that stores resumes in databases that use key word searches to locate potential candidates. Most Fortune 1000 companies use this technology.

  • Vast majority of keywords are nouns.
  • Action Skill statements begin with an action verb and should answer the question, "What?";
  • Nouns should be the skills and experience the employer is looking for in a candidate.
  • More specifically, keywords can be precise "hard" skills or work-content skills.

In the following examples, the underlined nouns are the keywords that relate to the action indicated by the verbs:

  • Conducted cross-functional management for initial and follow-up contact.
  • Coordinated marketing campaigns and special events.
  • Managed customer database, product updates, and upgrades.
  • Functioned in project-management role.
  • Oversaw procurement, allocation, distribution control, stock levels, and cost compilation/analysis.

Source: - Resume and CV Resources for Job-Seekers:


According to a literature review of national resume resources performed by the Career Development Center, references DO NOT go on the resume. They should be a separate document much like a cover letter is separate from a resume. It is still questionable whether or not the statement "References Available upon Request"; should be included at the bottom of the resume.

The Basics:

  • List references on a separate page, not on the same page as your resume.
  • Head your reference page just like your resume
  • The page should include 3-5 references
  • The following information should listed:
    • Name of reference
    • Title (if appropriate)
    • Name of Company (if appropriate)
    • Address
    • Phone number
    • Relationship to you, e.g., supervisor, colleague, professor, etc.

Employers want to ensure that the individuals they hire actually have the necessary skills to perform the job and have the experience stated on the resume. As a result, employers are placing greater emphasis on checking references provided by the prospective employee. They may also outsource their reference checking, using another company to do a background check.

The term "reference"; refers to a person who knows you and may be asked to discuss your experience, skills, background, and work ethic. In general, employers seek professional references (faculty/advisors, former supervisors, staff involved in your leadership activities).

References should not be confused with letters of recommendation, which are letters written by your references, recommending you for graduate or professional school.

Why References Are Important

According to the 2004 Reference and Background Checking Survey Report released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), ninety-six percent of organizations conduct some kind of reference check. Seventy-three percent surveyed stated that checking references is very or somewhat effective in identifying potential poor performers, and thirty-eight percent report that over the last three years they have increased the amount of time spent on checking references for potential employees.

Employers do not have much independent information to use when they hire people and are fearful of making hiring mistakes. References can help identify poor performers before they are hired. Two or three references can have a profound effect in impressing an employer.

How are references used? References are an integral part of the hiring process, and reference checks often take place through a phone conversation between the employer and the reference. References may be requested as part of completing the employment application or as a separate list as part of the interviewing process. Most employers will eventually request your references before extending a job offer.

Employers typically ask for references after an interview, so be sure to take a copy of your reference page with you to your interviews.

Employers ask references questions to find out more about the applicant in the areas of:

  • Skills and abilities
  • Drive
  • Knowledge
  • Teamwork
  • Academic performance
  • Ethics and integrity
  • Leadership
  • Commitment and work ethic

Finding References

Your reference list should include three to five individuals who have agreed to be a reference for you. In choosing your references,

  • Choose people whom you have asked in advance to serve as references. Be sure to ask individuals who will provide honest and candid recommendations.

  • Request references only of those people who will provide positive recommendations. If you know that your current or previous boss won't give you a decent recommendation, provide the name of someone else in the chain-of-command who will.

  • Select professional references. Your best bet is to get a reference from an immediate supervisor, manager, or co-worker. The higher the title, the better. Your reference should know who you are and what you did.

  • Faculty references are more meaningful when based upon their personal knowledge of your abilities and performance, as generated through a mutual interest or shared academic or learning activity.

  • Other potential references may include leaders of organizations or clubs, customers, or others familiar with your work. They should all be professional contacts.

  • Don't use family members or friends unless they can truly speak to your work-related skills and qualifications. Unless requested, do not select friends to serve as "character"; references.

How to Utilize References

You want to be certain that your references are aware of your accomplishments so that they can better discuss the work you've done in the context of your career goals.

You should provide each reference with:

  • A current resume
  • A job description (if available)
  • Information regarding your expectations for this particular reference (focus on work/project performance, skills, communication abilities, leadership)
  • Your career goals: the types of jobs you are pursuing, the industries and fields of interest, and the type of companies you are seeking
  • Other background information, like transcripts, autobiographies, personal statements, or research papers

After providing this information, prepare your references before their first phone call from an employer.Be tactful, but basically, you want your references to confirm with enthusiasm and completely accurate detail the important achievements that you use on your resume and in your interviews.Be sure that you both agree on the facts.

It is also critical that you communicate with your references regarding progress during your job search and that you call or email your references if you know they may be contacted. Tell them when you have given out the reference page, give them a copy of the job description, and explain how you are a good candidate for the job.

Always follow up with your references when you have accepted the position. Send them a thank you letter telling them about your new job.

Reference Page Format

Since this is a separate page apart from your resume, give this page the heading "References";. You should list three to five references under that heading. Be sure to include your name and contact information at the top of the page, just as it appears on your resume. For each reference, list the name, title, company or organization, company address, email address, and work phone number. Make sure you ask the reference what contact information they want listed.

Use the same paper as your resume, and as with any other job search correspondence, take the time to make sure your reference page is of the highest quality.

Sample Reference Page