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How to Create Your Perfect Résumé

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Resume header
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Spring Break is rapidly approaching, and while for some of you that seems like the ideal time to begin applying for summer jobs and internships, wouldn’t you rather be able to simply enjoy your time off? Maybe you’ll have already secured your job for the summer – think about how great that will feel! (Or maybe you’re waiting to write for us – here at CF, we start accepting applications April 1st...)

So, let’s have some forethought and get down to business now. We’re already into the thick of the semester, so it might not be easy to carve out time for job applications, but in the long-run, your job experience will likely be far more interesting to your employer than that 10-page paper you’re working on.

First things first: We need to work on your résumé. So delve into the depths of your saved documents and dust off that résumé you put together at the last second for your previous job. Here are some tips to start fresh or refine what you already have:

Update your design.

Hiring managers and recruiters will likely only glance at your résumé for a couple seconds, which means it’s crucial to make an impression on them immediately. The first thing they’ll see – before even reading it – is what it looks like. Consequently, you want your résumé to look clean and professional, while still representing who you are.

Here are some résumé design tips I follow:

  • I tend to gravitate toward fonts such as Garamond and Perpetua. It’s easier for the human eye to read a serif font (fonts with the little feet on the letters, like the title of this post) so I recommend choosing one for the body text of your résumé. From there, some people choose to offset their headings with a sans serif font (without the little feet, like the body of this post).
  • Streamline the text. Don’t make the reader do a lot of work to find the important things in your résumé. I recommend listing your position titles on the far left, and using a hanging indent to separate it from the rest of the text. This way, your reader can scan down the left side of your résumé and easily pick out the positions you’ve held. I’ve heard a strong argument for using hanging indents instead of bullet points, as bullet points can quickly clutter the page. Of course, this is up to you, but a great rule of thumb when it comes to résumés is to only include things which are absolutely essential and purposeful. If you think your bullet points (or anything else on your résumé) are accomplishing something that nothing else can, then go for it.
  • Use bold and italics wisely. Using bolded fonts and italics is a great way to break up the monotony of your résumé’s body text. Similar to making sure everything you include is essential, also make sure your design choices not only look good, but also serve a purpose. If you make something bold, don’t do it arbitrarily. If you make something italic, make all similar items italic, also.
  • Add your personal touch. This part should be of your choosing, hence “personal touch.” I chose to elaborate the design of my name at the top, which you can do with your font choice, adding color, or maybe designing a small symbol to represent you as a brand. There are plenty of ways to differentiate your résumé from the others, just remember to keep it professional.

Resume template
A sample resume template.

Organize your content.

Remembering that we only have a short time to catch the attention of your reader, you’ll want to organize your résumé in a way that presents the most crucial information at the top. Then, you want to organize your information as follows:

  • Header. This includes your name, your phone number, permanent physical address, and email address. A note about email addresses: Choose a professional email (not PrincessDani23@hotmail.com, for example), that also isn’t your work email, if you have one. It’s a good idea to have a professional, personal email account, anyway.
  • Education. Include the name of your university, what your degree is/will be, graduation/expected graduation date, and GPA. The absence of your GPA will invite employers to assume it’s really low. (If this is you, though, that’s fine! GPA is not everything and you don’t have to include a super low one.)
  • Skills and additional coursework. Here is where you can list any programs you have experience in, such as Microsoft Office, the Adobe Creative Suite, or something else tailored to your major. Also, this is a good place to include courses you’ve taken outside of your major that may be relevant to the job you’re applying for. You don’t need to list all the classes you’ve taken for your major (maybe include a select few from your major) or general university requirements – your employer has already seen what your major is, and assumes you have or will take those classes.
  • Work and relevant experience. This is where you list the past and current positions you hold. I love titling this section “work and relevant experience” because you can list anything you’ve done that applies to whatever you’re applying for, whether it’s a job, volunteer work, or something you did on your own. Describe what you did using active verbs; write a little bit about what you learned. The general rule is to use present tense for current jobs and past tense for past jobs. One to three points for each position is fine.
  • Other experience. Your other experience section acts as the catch-all; whatever you didn’t list above, you can put here. For example, if you’re applying for a journalism internship, but you’ve worked at Starbucks for the past couple years, here is where you list Starbucks. It’s good to list jobs you’ve had for awhile, because even if they don’t relate to the position you’re applying for, it shows the employer that you can hold a stable job and be a solid, dependable employee.
  • References. This section is optional, depending on how good your references are and if you have space on your résumé. Make sure to always ask before you use someone as a reference! Another option is to write, “References available upon request” or something similar at the bottom of your résumé instead of typing out all the names and contact information.

What do you think?

Do you have other recommendations and suggestions for us and your fellow college students? How did you design your résumé? Do you know other tips about building a résumé? Share them! 

Posted on on March 2, 2013 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , , , , ,

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14 Responses to “How to Create Your Perfect Résumé”

  1. 1
    March 2nd, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Good Post! I would also suggest that you bring your resume and or cover letters to the Career Center at your school. Almost all schools do and they can give you free feedback and try to make it as good as it can be!

  2. 2
    March 2nd, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    I’m going to use those tips!!

  3. 3
    March 3rd, 2013 at 12:15 am

    I’ve reformatted my resume with these tips and it already looks SO much better! Thanks CF!!

  4. 4
    March 3rd, 2013 at 8:24 am

    That is not the correct way to format a resume.

    First, you do not put your GPA on your resume. Secondly, never put your references on your resume.

  5. 5
    March 3rd, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    These are great tips, but I agree with Amanda Ashley that you don’t have to put your GPA on your resume, and your references should be separate (and you should only include both if you’re specifically asked for them). Employers have told me that they care significantly less about your GPA than your willingness and ability to do the tasks given to you, so you should focus on that, especially in a cover letter — make sure you read the job description carefully so you can tailor your cover letter AND your resume to the responsibilities of the job.

    Also, be careful when getting fancy with fonts and colors — if an employer doesn’t have that particular font on their computer, you risk your resume coming out looking like you typed it in Wingdings. I stick with good ol’ Times New Roman and play around with the formatting more to make it look more interesting. Be careful with automatic bullet points, too, because the same thing can happen.

    If you haven’t already, I suggest making a LinkedIn and putting the link for that on your resume. My resume is super long, so I usually edit out the jobs/internships that are less relevant to the job I’m applying for from my full, super-long master resume, then write in my cover letter that my full resume can be found at my LinkedIn if the hiring manager is curious.

  6. 6
    March 3rd, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I would like to say this. As someone in the creative field (photography) my department head told us to go bold and make a statement on ours. Show your design skills and make them stop at yours. A resume with different shades of grey will make them stop because it is completely different than the rest. Also if using different type sets that are not normal save as a pdf.

  7. 7
    March 3rd, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Definitely don’t make your CV too cluttered – you should only really list your work experience that is directly relevant to the job you’re applying for, and maybe mention anything else you did in your cover letter if you feel the need to mention it.

    Another tip that I was taught in uni is: Make your name much bigger than the rest of the text, so that it stands out to whoever’s reading it when they flick through a pile of CVs.

    Also, if (like me) you don’t have an awful lot of work experience, you can make your CV more skills-based, listing qualities that you possess that are relevant for the role and then citing examples from both your work and education that demonstrate this skill.

  8. 8
    March 4th, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Hey everyone! As a graphic design major I would just like to point out that although serifed fonts ( with the little feet, like Times New Roman) are more professional looking, I would make sure you give it enough space in-between lines of text. Serifed fonts are actually harder to read, especially if you aren’t careful with your spacing! Those extra little feet add more “bulk” to the letter and takes up more space.

    My suggestion would be to use a nice professional font for your Name and Subheads and then use a sans-serif (no feet) font for the body text. Except Comic Sans… don’t use Comic Sans unless it’s for children! haha

    This way it still looks professional and pleasing to the eye, yet won’t affect the readability. Hope this helps a little since this is my first time posting something here!

  9. 9
    March 4th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks for this post! I think it is a great, simple start for building a resume–of course you should tweak it to your personal needs based on what you’re applying for and what your field is, but I think this is a solid foundation. I’ve had the same old resume for a while now, and this totally inspired me to give it a nice makeover! Thanks again, CF :)

  10. 10
    March 4th, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    if you have room, you can also add a section at the bottom called “interests.” i’ve had good responses from interviewers from it because it gives some insight to who you are as a person & may help form a connection in an interview.

    & for those who don’t think they have a lot of work or internship experience, it’s all a matter of how you spin things. i know someone who had to take a year off from school to take care of her mom & when it came time to discuss why there was a gap in her education she explained her situation, but also included in her list of “duties” during that time as “time management,” “maintaining a budget,” “health care management,” etc.

    so baby-sitting counts as supervisory experience!

  11. 11
    March 5th, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    wow! this is great! I love the format, and a high GPA will never hurt, right!?!

  12. 12
    March 6th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Good tips but the “References Available Upon Request” section is outdated and unnecessary. Its assumed that you have references and should send them when requested. Don’t waste the valuable resume real estate with this section.

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