What is a Resume?

A resume is perhaps the most important tool an applicant has to sell himself or herself to future employers. It outlines your skills and experiences so an employer can see, at a glance, what you could bring to that organisation.

An effective resume focuses on a specific job and, when possible, meets the employer’s stated requirements for the position. Your resume needs to describe more than your education level and jobs you’ve held in the past. You must also recognize what skills, interests, and experiences are needed to succeed in the occupation—and then highlight those on your resume. The more you know about the responsibilities and skills required for the job—and organize your resume around these points—the more effective your resume will be.

How to start writing

First, you need to think about what you want to do, what image you wish to project, and how your past experiences related to your current aspirations.

Most employers like to see an objective statement on your resume. Make sure that it is precise. For example, “A marketing management position with an innovative corporation” is much better than “A position which utilizes my education and experience.”

Try to answer these questions under each heading. Talking out loud about your overall career and job skills and experiences can sometimes be helpful. Ask yourself for each job and experience, “What did I do?”


List the schools, colleges and universities you have attended, major studies, exchange programs, off-campus study, and major areas of study.

List your educational qualifications.

List any of the relevant education or training you’ve received that relates to the job.

Always look at your resume from a potential employer’s perspective. Don’t waste space by citing training that’s not directly related to your target job.

Work Experience

List all your job experiences—-paid or unpaid—with a list of all the things you did while working at each one.

Think about details. Under each job, list your job responsibilities and skills that were needed. If available, incorporate sentences from the actual job description. Don’t worry yet about writing descriptions or narrowing your list.

Make an inventory of your successes. Go back to each job you have held and think about what you accomplished for which you received special recognition, or that you felt proud of, or was above and beyond the call of duty. Did you save the organization money and time by developing a new procedure? Did you generate awareness in the community about your organization? Write down any achievement that shows potential employers what you could do for them. Whenever possible, quantify your results—numbers are always impressive. Describe each job and any of your accomplishments in a simple and powerful action statement that emphasizes beneficial results.

Honors and awards

List scholarships, class standing, special recognition, and academic achievements


List things that interest you, including hobbies, travel experiences, and special talents

Skills and abilities

List everything you haven’t covered under the other headings—even if it seems trivial.

For each section above, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are there things on my list I feel a sense of pride or accomplishment about?
  • Can I make things relate to what a prospect employer might be looking for?
  • Which things on my list show different aspects of my personality or strengths?
  • Which activities have been superseded by a more recent experience?

Start focusing

Now that you have everything down on paper, go back to each list and think about which items are relevant to your target job. Cross out anything that doesn’t relate, even if this means entire jobs. Remember, if you have enough jobs listed, a particular job you held in high school may not be relevant. The purpose of a resume is to get your foot in the door. It is not meant to be an all-inclusive recollection of your life. If you have a long history of work experience, you may want to list only recent jobs that are related to your present objective.

Create clear and concise sentences

Take all your lists and make full sentences out of the remaining items listed for each job and experience. Combine any items that are related to prevent your phrases from being short and choppy. Each sentence should be structured so it is interesting and compelling. Use action verbs at the beginning of each sentence to make the sentence powerful. Make sure that each word in every sentence means something and contributes to the quality of the phrase.

Insert targeted keywords

Your resume must contain specific keywords to get noticed. These include descriptive nouns or short phrases that may be used to find your qualifications in a keyword search of a resume database. These include talents, skills, and relevant knowledge required to do your job.

The job description will be one of the best keywords. Nearly every noun in job postings and advertisements will be a keyword that employers use when searching through resumes. Make sure to use those words somewhere in your resume, including synonyms wherever you can. For example, if you are seeking a public relations position, you should describe your “communication skills” and “writing experience”. Never include a keyword on your resume that is not true or doesn’t represent your experience.

You’re now finished with the hardest part of creating a resume. The only thing left is to format your information in a style that reflects your personality. Your finished product should be a finely tuned marketing instrument that reflects who you are and motivates the employers to contact you for an interview.

Specific Components of a Resume

Every resume needs to include certain categories of information, as identified in the other sections of this toolkit. Your resume should provide answers to these questions:

Contact information:

What is your name and how can you be reached? The header of your resume should include your name, address, phone number and email address, if you regularly use it. When submitting a paper version of your resume, it is visually appealing to use a large font for your name. Include both a local and permanent address and a phone number so that an employer can easily reach you. This is especially important for graduating students.

Objective: What do you want to do?

Although optional, a job objective statement shows employers the direction you want to go, your work preferences, and serves as a focal point for employers to review and analyze your resume. It allows employers to immediately identify the kind of position you want. If you are looking for jobs in a number of different fields, you need to have a different job objective for each position. To address this, prepare some resume without objective statements. Or tailor each resume to the specific job you seek.

Do not write an objective that is vague and meaningless—if it isn’t specific, don’t include one. It may contain up to four parts:

Education: What have you learned?

Identify all institutions which you have attended and the qualifications gained.

Employment & Experience:

What have you done? What can you do? The way you structure the “experience” section will depend on what you are looking for and what you have done. This section lists in chronological order the positions you have held, names and locations of employers, and dates employed. You should also list responsibilities, achievements, significant contributions, and demonstrated skills.

Try to describe your experience in the most interesting and brief way possible. However, don’t sacrifice clarifying details about important accomplishments for the sake of brevity. Remember to use active verbs to describe your work experience. Be hard on yourself, and, if necessary, discard “good” material that will have no meaning for an employer. To assist you in writing this section, refer to the list of action works in this toolkit.

Descriptions such as “responsibilities included developing course material” can be phrased more persuasively as “developed course materials.” Descriptions do not need to be phrased in full sentences. The questions in an employer’s mind are “Why should I speak with this person? How are they different from all the other applicants?” Try to answer these questions in each of your descriptions.

You should also include independent study or volunteer work if it is relevant to the job you want and provided you with significant skills and experiences. If you do include your volunteer work, do not describe it under a heading which implies you were paid.

In some instance, you may want to divide your experience into sub-sections. For example, if you are seeking a teaching job, and have both a teaching and business background, two separate headings—one “Teaching Experience” and “Additional Experience” may have more impact than a single heading.

Skills and Abilities;

Skills you hope to bring to the position This is the place to put important and/or interesting information that does not fit anywhere else. With the advance of technology, it is increasingly important to include a section on computer skill. This should include any of your knowledge of computer programs, hardware, software, database knowledge, and/or Internet functions. If you have any other notable skills, such as foreign languages, musical talents, or writing skills, include these here.


Simply indicate that references are “available upon request” in a paper version of your resume. You should know at least three people who can serve as your references. Ask in advance for permission to use them as references. Use faculty and employers as references, not personal acquaintances.

Do not include their names, addresses, or phone numbers on the resume. You may send a separate sheet with this information along with your resume, or wait until the employer requests references.