Résumés

A strong résumé provides a clear and concise summary of your experience and education as it applies to your job search goals. Consider it an advertisement for you, highlighting your relevant strengths and abilities for the position you’re applying for it.

It should be easy to read, well organized, and error free, so that an employer can scan it and gather key information about your qualifications. Use it to apply for positions and internships or to network at job fairs or informational interviews.

Make sure your résumé is not:

  • An autobiography
  • A list of previous employers’ names, addresses, and phone numbers
  • An exaggeration of your accomplishments
  • Boring

Organization

Chronological résumés are the most common format, and include your accomplishments listed in reverse chronological order (the most recent first).

Each entry includes a brief description of your accomplishments and responsibilities. This format works well for most people, especially those who have some recent relevant experience. Most employers say chronological résumés are the easiest to decipher.

Section Headers

Using field-related section headers can often be very helpful when tailoring your résumé for specific types of positions. Relevant experiences are listed in categories, with specific positions listed within each category.

For example, someone who is changing careers from business to teaching might have a category called “Teaching Experience” and another category called “Business Experience.”

The category most relevant to your job objective is listed first, and the positions within each category are listed in reverse chronological order. The categories themselves do not have to be in chronological order, so this format is helpful for someone who has relevant experience that is not the most recent.

Components

Explore the essential components that make up a successful résumé and how to use these elements based on your unique background and experience.

  • Identifying Information

    At the top of the résumé, put your name, address, email address, and a telephone number with area code.

    Be sure your telephone number has a professional sounding outgoing message and be sure that this is the number where employers can reach you. Your email address should also sound professional and you should check it at least once a day. If you have a web address that links to a portfolio and/or a LinkedIn profile, you may include these at the top of your résumé as well.

  • Postal Addresses

    If you have a current address and a temporary address that are in very different geographic locations, you may include both by putting your name in the center, then putting one address in the right corner, and the other in the left corner. This is especially helpful if you’re applying for opportunities in both geographic locations.

  • Profile/Summary/Qualifications

    This is an optional category. If done well, a summary states your key qualifications for the position and starts the résumé with a strong statement. Often these statements are more effective for individuals who are experienced in their fields and have specific areas of expertise that they want to highlight. It’s recommended that you include 3–4 strong bullets. This section is also helpful for people who are changing careers and want to highlight their transferable skills/accomplishments.

    Example (for an Expressive Therapist):

    Summary:

    • Counseling and expressive therapy experience with adolescents and adults in inpatient and outpatient settings.
    • Adept in using all modalities of expressive therapies, including music, drama, art, and dance in individual sessions and group settings.
    • Strong background in assessment and crisis intervention.
  • Education

    Put your education first if you recently completed a degree relevant to the field you’re seeking employment in or if you’re seeking an internship. After you’ve worked in your field for a few years, experience is usually listed first. If your education is not relevant to the field, or you received your degree a long time ago and have worked in the field since then, put experience first.

    List your graduate degree first (if you have one) and undergraduate degree second. Include your field of study, school name and location, and year of degree.

    If you haven’t yet received your degree, state “Candidate for MA.” Check with the Registrar or your advisor if you’re not sure about your exact degree. Use the same format for all degrees. If you say Master of Arts, say Bachelor of Science. Alternatively, you can use MA and BS.

    You can also include any academic honors you received (Dean’s List, Latin honors, such as cum laude), and the title of your thesis (if it’s relevant to your job search). Study abroad can also be included in the education section. Short courses or noncredit courses would usually go later in the résumé in another section called “Additional Training” or “Professional Development."

  • Experience

    Your relevant experience, whether paid or unpaid, including jobs, field placements, internships, and community service, is included in this section. Using a consistent format, list the organization name and location (city, state), the position title, and dates of employment.

    Next, include a description of your responsibilities and accomplishments. Describe all your responsibilities (avoid using the term “responsibilities included”) and major tasks using action verbs. Think about what you did in each position that was original, creative, or especially significant.

    Example

    • Before: I helped work on bringing in many new clients to the agency
    • Improved: Designed and implemented comprehensive community outreach program; increased agency’s service population by 25%


    This is the place where your résumé can show how your background is distinctive from other candidates. What you did beyond the minimum requirements and routine duties is what will make your résumé interesting. Include key words which indicate your knowledge of your field.

    If you’ve had many jobs, consider omitting some. A good guideline is to go back about 10 years in a résumé. (If you’re a current traditional age undergraduate student, you’ll usually only include experiences since high school.) If there’s a gap in your employment, deleting the months may be helpful. 

  • Optional Sections
    • Skills: Can include technology skills, design software, educational software, and any other special skills
    • Professional Development
    • Professional Memberships
    • Community Service
    • College Activities: Be sure that someone away from Lesley will understand what you did; they won’t know that you sang in the college a capella group if you simply list Harmogeddon
    • Languages: If you say you’re fluent in another language, you should be able to interview in that language; only list languages where your skill is at a high enough level to use in the job
    • Honors and Awards
    • Publications
    • Travel: Should be significant travel, not just short vacations
    • Professional
    • Presentations
    • Interests: Be sure that if you include them, they’re significant and original

Design & Layout

Below, find some helpful tips and hints for how to structure your résumé content's design and flow.

  • Bullets & Paragraphs

    Either a bulleted list or paragraph format is acceptable. Keep your paragraphs brief (2–3 sentences). It’s also recommended that you use 3–7 bullets per entry. If you need to list more than that, group your bullets by theme.

  • Dates

    Your résumé should be clear, readable, and well organized. Putting the dates in the right column de-emphasizes them and therefore emphasizes your job titles and locations rather than length of service.

  • Type Size & Style

    Use a type size and style that’s easy to read, being sure to leave enough white space on your résumé to make it easy to read. Techniques such as boldfacing and capitalizing can highlight different sections or elements of your résumé . The key with any kind of highlighting is to be consistent (if category names are in bold print, be sure all names of categories are done that way) and not to overdo it.

  • Margins

    There should be a generous margin. Do not crowd 1 1/2 pages of information onto one page to get a one-page résumé . If you have decided that your résumé must be one page, delete selectively.

Common Résumé Errors

  • Leaving on too many jobs from long ago
  • Vague job descriptions
  • Listing jobs in an inconsistent style
  • Being unclear about the exact name of the degree and major
  • Overusing boldface print
  • Using current tense to describe previous experiences
  • Incorrect use of apostrophe for plural possessive nouns:  if you worked with a group of students, write, “Reviewed students’ final projects
  • Using acronyms that others don’t understand; for example, people away from Lesley may not know that L.A.T.A. is the Lesley Art Therapy Association
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