Resume Guide

A resume is your primary marketing tool when applying for a job or internship and when networking as part of a job search. It has to grab the attention of a potential employer in 7 seconds or less. Follow these guidelines to create a resume that help you land the job you want:

  • Highlight your most relevant experience and skills by putting them in the top half of your resume.
  • Make your resume as scan-able as possible. Use formatting—boldface, italics, ALL CAPS, type scale, and strategic use of white space—to make key information easy to find. For resumes evaluated by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), see the ATS section below.
  • Don’t try to provide every detail about yourself. Just provide enough information so a hiring manager requests an interview to learn more.
  • Recommended: Reverse chronological format
    • Most common resume format, and most applicable to undergraduates
    • Employment and education listed from most recent to earliest
    • Ideal when your most recent experience/education is in the same field to which you are applying
  • Alternative: Functional format
    • Emphasizes skills vs. work history
    • Ideal for people changing career fields or with gaps on their resume
  • Alternative: Hybrid format
    • Combines elements of reverse chronological and functional formats
    • Positions listed in reverse chronological format, but major skill sets emphasized
  • Avoid using a resume template. Templates limit your ability to manipulate and format resume content. If you would like help picking a fresh and professional design, make an appointment for resume assistance with the Compass Center.
  • Choose one professional, easy-to-read font to use throughout the document. Examples include Calibri, Corbel, Candara, Garamond, and
  • Use at least 11 point font.
  • Set left and right margins at between 0.5 inches to 1 inch; set top margin at no less than 5 inches, and your bottom at no less than 0.3 inches.
  • Use bullet points to break up large blocks of text.
  • Save your resume in a Word document, send electronically as a PDF file, and include your full name in the file name (i.e. Mary_Smith – Resume.doc).
  • Limit your resume to one to two
    • General rule: 1 page for every 5 to 7 years of experience
    • Always put the most important information on the first page

Contact information

  • Your full name
  • City and Depending on the location of the position to which you are applying, you may consider using your full address. However, do not include your street address if posting to a job board.
  • Phone Number (Make sure your voicemail greeting is professional.)
  • Only list one professional email address (If you have a personal email address that you monitor frequently, consider using this email address, since your @nwciowa.edu email address will expire after graduation.)
  • Optional: Links to your LinkedIn profile, academic portfolio, and writing samples/publications

Education

If your college education is more closely related to the position you are applying for than your previous work experience, list it as the first section on your resume.

  • Write out Bachelor of Arts in Political Science [or whatever your major is].
  • List the college, location, and expected graduation.
  • Include study abroad or off-campus study experiences.
  • There’s no need to include high school after you have enrolled in college.
  • Consider including relevant courses to further demonstrate how your degree has prepared you for your desired position.
  • GPA is optional, but only list if 3.0 or higher.
  • Include Dean’s List and academic honors (with dates or semesters awarded).
  • Add your thesis title, if applicable, or any other key achievements, publications or

Experience (jobs, internships, volunteer roles, or other experiences relevant to the position you are seeking)

If your experience is more relevant than your education to the position you are seeking, then put your Experience section first.

  • List positions in reverse chronological order.
  • Include the following: position title, employer/organization, location, and dates (month and year) employed.
  • List key responsibilities and professional accomplishments for each position, and quantify where applicable. Examples:
    • “Oversaw team of 11 peers to prepare for service project.”
    • “Received $250,000 from Northwestern College Board of Trustees for investment in stocks and bonds.”
  • Start your bullet point with an action verb in past tense if the position has an end date; put the verb in present tense if the position is current.

Other resume sections (only include if applicable and you have ample experience to share)

  • Credentials, licenses, advanced practice specialties, and certifications
  • Research experience
  • Cross-cultural experience or international experience
  • Leadership experience
  • Technical/computer/design skills (list specific programs, i.e. Java, Python, C++, Adobe programs)
  • Language skills (indicate level of proficiency), i.e. French (Advanced), Spanish (Conversational)
  • Volunteer experience, service or community engagement
  • Activities
  • Honors and awards
  • Presentations, publications and professional affiliations

Do NOT include

  • Personal information:
    • Age
    • Date of birth
    • Marital status
    • Religious affiliation
    • Political affiliation
  • Social security number
  • A picture of yourself (unless you are applying for an acting/theatre role)
  • Excessive use of graphics
  • References to high school after your sophomore year of college
  • The phrase “References Available Upon Request”

OBJECTIVE: Only include an objective if it is specific. Avoid generic cliché statements that do not add value.

  • Bad example: Seeking a social work position within a facility where I can utilize my experience to the benefit of my employer as well as gain knowledge and professional growth.
  • Good example: Licensed Clinical Social Worker with experience working with diverse populations in private practice, health care, outpatient, and inpatient treatment settings. Recently relocated to Minnesota.
  • Another good example: Empathic LCSW skilled in counseling and developing treatment plans. Coached two at-risk children for two years as a volunteer social worker at Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Commended for high EQ during fill-in fee-for-service counseling at BHC.

A SUMMARY, SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS, or a PROFILE is a way to provide an employer with a snapshot of your most desired professional attributes.

  • Good example: Social work student with experience serving the community, resolving conflicts, and providing guidance for those in need. Professional focus on domestic violence, adolescent development, and children’s needs. 
  1. Embed key skills in your resume. Large companies often use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to screen your resume for keywords. Make sure you tailor your resume for each job by reading the job description carefully, identifying the top skills they desire, and inserting those keywords in your resume. Simplistic resume formatting is imperative if you are applying for a position that utilizes ATS. Talk with a Compass Center staff member for resources that can help you assess whether your resume is ATS scan-ready.
  2. Use strong action verbs to describe your experience
  • When describing your experience, accomplishments and skills, use bullet statements that succinctly showcase your experience and skills, and use strong action verbs to lead these bullet statements.
  • Try to find good action verbs geared toward your specific field: https://resumegenius.com/blog/resume-help/action-verbs
  • Examples of good action verbs:
    • Accomplish
    • Anticipate
    • Commit
    • Deliver
    • Earn
    • Endeavor
    • Establish
    • Exceed
    • Execute
    • Overcome
    • Produce
    • Raise
    • Reach
    • Realize
    • Revitalize
    • Spearhead
    • Surpass
    • Transform
    • Win

  1. To make low-level jobs and activities stand out, specify and quantify
  • Weak: Worked for Northwestern College Maintenance Department
  • Better: Cleaned dormitories at Northwestern College
  • Even Better: Collaborated with a team of four to clean all dormitories at Northwestern College
  • Best: Efficiently worked with a team of four to deep-clean and sanitize four dormitories in preparation for student arrival
  1. After you create a draft of your resume, make an appointment via Handshake with a staff member in the Compass Center. We can help you think through what to include, assist with formatting, identify any typos or missing words, and help you produce a polished resume you are proud to send!
  2. If submitting your resume electronically, save as a PDF file with your name as the file name, and always send it with an accompanying cover letter.

Nora Northwestern

nora.northwestern@nwciowa.edu | 123-456-7890 | Orange City, IA

www.linkedin.com/in/noranorthwestern

 

EDUCATION

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology                                                                                                                                    May 2021

Northwestern College | Orange City, IA                                                                                                                       GPA: 3.6

  • Minor in Sports Management
  • Romania Semester | Fall 2019

 

HEADING LABEL (Ex: Relevant Experience, Work Experience, Internships, Leadership, etc.)

Position Title                                                                                                                                                 Month Year – Month Year

Organization/Employer | City, ST                                                              

  • Accomplishments and results (quantify if possible). Try to include: what task you completed, how you completed the task, the purpose of the task, and key results
  • Start each bullet with a strong action verb (lead, organize, facilitate, etc.) and aim for 2 to 5 bullets

 

Position Title                                                                                                                                                 Month Year – Month Year

Organization/Employer | City, ST

  • Accomplishments and results (quantify if possible). Try to include: what task you completed, how you completed the task, the purpose of the task, and key results
  • Start each bullet with a strong action verb (lead, organize, facilitate, etc.) and aim for 2 to 5 bullets

 

HEADING LABEL (Ex. Relevant Experience, Work Experience, Internships, Leadership, etc.)

Position Title                                                                                                                                                 Month Year – Month Year

Organization/Employer | City, ST

  • Accomplishments and results (quantify if possible). Try to include: what task you completed, how you completed the task, the purpose of the task, and key results
  • Start each bullet with a strong action verb (lead, organize, facilitate, etc.) and aim for 2 to 5 bullets

 

Position Title                                                                                                                                                 Month Year – Month Year

Organization/Employer | City, ST

  • Accomplishments and results (quantify if possible). Try to include: what task you completed, how you completed the task, the purpose of the task, and key results
  • Start each bullet with a strong action verb (lead, organize, facilitate, etc.) and aim for 2 to 5 bullets

 

CAMPUS INVOLVEMENT (Optional heading)

Rugby Team                                                                                                                                                    Month Year – Month Year

Symphonic Band                                                                                                                                           Month Year – Month Year

 

COMPUTER & LANGUAGE SKILLS (Optional heading)

Advanced in Adobe Photoshop, proficient in Microsoft Excel, familiar with Canva and Indesign

Conversational in Spanish

 

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