FAQs for Resume Writing

Please read this essential information before writing your resume. It will save you lots of time!

Resumes are subjective and fluid documents. One size does not fit all. The whole idea is to provide the reader with a clear and easy to read document that highlights why you fit with that company or position and, therefore, deserve a personal interview. You will want to separate yourself from the hundreds of other applicants, so think about what makes you different from everyone else! With that in mind, here are the answers to some of the most common questions about resume preparation.

1. Can I use the same resume for all of the jobs I apply to?
No, you will need to tailor your resume and cover letter each time to the position you are applying for. This usually doesn’t take too long but it is DEFINITELY going to be noticed by the employer if you don’t tailor it.

2. Does my resume have to be one page?
No. If you have a lot of experience, accomplishments, and activities, your resume can go to a second page. Just be sure that every item counts and helps demonstrate why you are worth a personal interview.

We do not recommend any resume be longer than two pages. Each page is printed separately, not on the front and back of the same sheet of paper. Be sure your name appears at the top of the second page in case the two pages get separated.

If you are writing a Federal-style resume, it can sometimes be over two pages. However, you do NOT need to include absolutely everything you have ever done. Going back 10 years is a general rule of thumb. More information about how to build a federal resume can be found on our website.

3. Does my resume have to be printed on “resume paper?”
Yes, if you want to make the best possible impression – and you do. Unless you are in a very creative industry, it is best to stick with white or ivory resume paper. Use the same paper for your cover letter and references sheet so, that when the employer puts all of your documents together, you have a professional looking package.

4. Should I use complete sentences on my resume?
No. Start each phrase with an action verb (managed, analyzed, developed, etc.) to add impact to your resume. Do not use “I,” “my,” or “me” on your resume.

5. What typestyle and type size font should I use?
Choose a typestyle that is easy to read, such as; Calibri, Ariel, Cambria, and Times New Roman. Font size for the body of the resume should be no larger than 12 point and no smaller than 10 point. The exception to this is your name, the most important information on the resume. Make it a 14-20 point font, depending on your style.

6. Do I need an “Objective” on my resume?
It depends. If you are applying for a very specific position, it may be helpful to show the employer, with a highly targeted objective, that you know exactly what you want and are passionate about this position.

On the other hand, if you do not necessarily have ONE position of interest, you may omit the objective in favor of a Summary which allows you to pique the readers’ interest by highlighting a few of your most important experiences or accomplishments in a more general way.

Good Objective example: To apply the knowledge acquired through a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Communications and two summer internships at a public relations agency to an entry-level position on the marketing or PR team of a major financial institution.

7. Do I write down my job duties or accomplishments?
In some cases you can have both! Having a combination of some of your major responsibilities is important but you will also want to show what you accomplished while you were in particular positions and how you affected the bottom line of the company.

It’s easy to slip into a mode where you simply start listing job duties on your resume. Example:

  • Worked at a daycare, played with kids, talked to parents
  • Filing

*Employers, however, don’t care so much about what your duties were as what you’ve accomplished in your various duties. Example:

  • Developed three daily activities for preschool-age children and prepared them for a 10-minute holiday program performance
  • Reorganized 10 years worth of files, making them easily accessible to department members

Note: Use the position description to write your resume. Use the same words in your resume that were used in the position description. These are called buzz or key words. Example: The hiring manager needs someone who knows how to knit a black cable knit sweater. Make sure you say in your resume (if you have this experience) that you know how to knit a “black cable knit sweater”, not “can knit sweaters.”

Most employers will use an Applicant Tracking System or ATS to screen your resume. This means that using the words that they are using in the position description is critical! You may want to cut and paste the position description into word clouds like Wordle or Tagcrowd to help you to identify the key words you should be using. You also want to use verbiage that is typical for your industry.

8. What are transferable skills and how do I use them in my resume?
Transferable skills are skills that are used across many occupations and aspects of our lives. We don’t have to learn them at a job, but could have learned them from life experiences. Some examples would be leadership, teamwork, strategic thinking, project management, communication, attention for detail, organizational skills, etc. Show the employer how you used these skills in the context of your experiences. Example:

  • See #7- Developed three daily activities for preschool-age children and prepared them for a 10-minute holiday program performance. (This shows patience, organization, communication, ability to work with different types of people, etc.)

9. How do I write my Summary?
The easiest way to write your summary is to first write the entire resume which is, essentially, a fact sheet. Once you have the “facts” on the paper, review them and choose the three or four key pieces of information you want to convey. Reword that information and use each item as a separate bullet within the summary section or as a separate sentence if you choose a paragraph style summary.

Good Summary example: A detail-oriented, strategic thinker with the ability to analyze and solve problems in a creative manner. Possess project management and budget management experience, knowledge of surveying using AutoCAD, and preparing bid sheets, and environmental reports. Consistently maintain a strong work ethic, positive attitude and a high level of professionalism. Fluent in Spanish and learning Mandarin Chinese

10. What broad categories of information should I include?
The categories depend upon your experience. There are many to choose from, as evidenced by the list below. The key to remember is that you are trying to make a match between you and the job/employer. In general, the more important the information, the closer it is to the top of the document. Here are those category ideas:

  • Security Clearance – put that information in bold near the very top of your resume
  • Objective – discussed in number 5, above.
  • Summary – discussed in numbers 5 and 6, above.
  • Education – include University name(s) (in case you transferred universities), location, degree(s), minor(s), GPA above 3.0, scholarships, academic awards, academic research, study abroad, relevant courses, academic conferences or seminars you attended or presented at, senior projects, etc.
  • Skills – particularly good for technical majors; such as, lab techniques, specialized equipment, software programs, computer skills, language fluency, etc.
  • Activities – extracurricular involvement, such as, sports, clubs, volunteer work, etc.
  • Internship Experience
  • Professional Experience
  • Military Experience
  • Leadership Experience
  • Volunteer Experience
  • Licenses and Certifications
  • Professional Affiliations
  • Publications
  • Additional Training

11. What is “reverse chronological order?”
Reverse chronological order is writing about your current work experience first, followed by the next most recent experience, working your way backward to your first job, or your most recent three to four positions. The logic in this method is that the most relevant experience is likely the most recent.

12. Can I “exaggerate” a little bit?
No. During the interview, you will have to be able to back up every claim you have made with concrete examples. Further, if you get the job, and the employer later finds out that your resume or interview contained false or misleading information, you can be dismissed.

13. How can I be sure there are no errors in my resume?
Reviewing one document over and over makes it hard to actually “read” it for errors. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Always use spell check.
  • Have someone else read it, circling any errors.
  • Print it on colored paper, forcing your eyes to look at the document differently.
  • Read the document backwards, from the bottom up, sentence by sentence or word by word, right to left.

14. How often should I update my resume?
Keep track of your work and academic experiences, as well as accomplishments and awards throughout your life. Update your resume as often as you like, but at least annually. The more often you update, the easier the process will be and the more prepared you will be. Be sure to update your resume and other job search documents before you apply for any new positions within your current company or with a new employer.

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