Elements of a successful resume
Your resume is a key marketing tool, and a major piece in your toolkit. Your resume puts a spotlight on your personal brand and promotes you as an ideal candidate to potential employers. The goal in writing a resume is to make yourself attractive to potential employers, securing you the opportunity to interview with the organization.
The most effective format for your resume depends on what you have done and what you are trying to accomplish.
- Chronological - This type of format very clearly displays your work history and is the
most commonly used. In a chronological format, your most recent work
experience is listed first. Job titles and employers are emphasized in
order to show a progressive job history. In addition, your
responsibilities, skills and accomplishments are described in detail.
- Functional - This format allows you to focus on relevant skills rather than recent
positions. In a functional format, the skills and accomplishments you've
learned from previous employment and experiences (i.e., classroom
and/or volunteer) are highlighted and divided into three or more
categories based on a common, skill-based theme.
Resume Design Tips
The design of your resume is a big factor in the reader's experience and comprehension. You can labor over word choice and accomplishments to include, but unless you have considered the design of your resume, you risk the reader skipping over the most important content.
Scan-Ability - Your goal for the resume is to make it easy for the reader to scan VERY quickly for the most relevant and important experience and skills. Use formatting—boldface, type scale, strategic use of white space—to make key information easy to find
Formatting and Visual “Chunking” - Use ALL CAPS, bold, italics or underline to create emphasis and access points for the reader. Create visual chunking with white space between blocks of information—keep those blocks short! Two short blocks are better—more inviting to read—than one long one.
- Information Architecture - Information architecture refers to a hierarchy of information or text achieved by a combination of sequence, scale and boldness of your information. By selecting what text appears first, horizontally or vertically, you're telling the reader what information is more important.
Tips for Standing Out
- Know your brand.
Your brand is the sum total of what you have to offer an employer—a mix of experience, skills and personal interests/enthusiasm/passion. What makes you a great candidate? It’s useful to write out a personal brand statement and let it guide how you write your resume.
- Provide evidence.
The bullets below your job title are called accomplishment statements. They describe your achievements. Sometimes students struggle with elegant self-promotion, but there is a handy formula you can use to articulate your accomplishments: Action + Problem/Project + Result
- Here is a sample: "Coordinated three fundraising events for local shelters [action/project], which raised more than $8,000 (20% over goal) [result] and greatly improved community awareness [result]."
- Match your resume to the role.
Every resume should match the role you are applying to. You might have three or more different resumes for the kinds of roles or opportunities you are interested in. For example, if you're a communications major, you might have one resume focused on social media roles, one focused events and programming roles, and one focused on public relations roles.
For specific positions, you’ll want to integrate key words from the job description into your resume to help you make the first cut. We’ve provided a how-to guide to do this in a separate “Tailoring Your Resume and Cover Letter” handout.