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Résumé Writing Guide

Recruiters read résumés for an average of six-10 seconds. This may be devastating news given how many hours you spend working on your résumé, but it is useful information because it should impact how you write your résumé. Make sure your résumé is easy to scan. Here are some basic tips to help you make sure your résumé is getting the attention it deserves from recruiters:

  • Do not use centered text. Readability is improved with left-aligned text because people read left to right, so the eye naturally goes to the left of the page. 

  • Do not use a resume template. You can make a perfectly formatted resume using only the tab, enter, space, and backspace keys. 

  • Align date ranges to the right. This makes it easy for a reader to skim to see all your dates at once, getting a clear picture of your work and experiential history.

  • Keep font size consistent throughout your résumé. The only exception is your name, which should be slightly larger. Using too many sizes is distracting and can inhibit readability. To add emphasis, use bold, italics, and all-caps.

  • Use half-inch margins. This is standard for résumés and allows you maximum space on one page to show your skills and experience.

  • Use bullet points to describe your experiences at past jobs, in projects, or in activities, and other involvements. Bullet points allow for easy skimming. 

  • Enhance the first couple of words of each of your bullet points. Use strong verbs at the beginning of your bullets to draw the reader in. Instead of saying “responsible for managing the store” say “managed the store,” since starting with the strong verb really drives home the action that you performed.

  • Use what, how, and why to guide your bullet writing. A good résumé bullet point will include an action verb, the subject, and then state “how” and/or "why" the action was completed. For example, “Develop and post content to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (what) using Hootsuite (how) to maximize client engagement (why)."

  • Be concise. You should strive to be descriptive in your writing, but also eliminate any words that do not add value to your sentence. If the sentence means exactly the same thing with and without the word, get rid of it.

  • Keep your bullets to a maximum of 2 lines. 

  • Proofread for spelling, spacing errors, and typos. 

  • Maintain some white space around your text so it does not appear cluttered. 

  • Keep it to one page.  For those who are heavily involved, this is especially tricky. You should therefore focus only on relevant experiences to the job.

  • Tailor your résumé. Based on the job description, choose to highlight a few jobs and skills that march the desired qualifications. Save your less relevant involvements on a separate document because they may be related to a different job you apply for in the future. 

  • Eliminate the “extras.” You do not have to include a statement saying that references are available upon request on your resume. You should submit your references and their contact information on a separate sheet of paper once they are requested. Remember to alert your references each time you list them.

To Submit Your Resume

When submitting your résumé to a prospective employer, make sure you:

  • Convert your résumé to a PDF to ensure that your careful formatting work is preserved.

  • Follow instructions. It is always important to follow the employer's directions as to how to apply for a position.

  • When submitting your résumé via email:

    • Include the name of the position in the subject line of the e-mail (or reference number if the employer included that).
    • Type the cover letter as your e-mail and attach a copy of your resume to the e-mail.