Basic Rules for Resume Writing

Action Words | Resume Writing Rules | Resume Tips

  1. One Page Document: As an entry-level applicant, you are not expected to present content which justifies taking more than one page at this point in your career. (Exception: Accounting majors including full information on contacting references may extend content onto a second page.)

  2. Bond Paper: The higher the cotton content, the better the paper. Use the same paper for your cover letter, with matching envelopes. You may have to ask to have this paper inserted in a printer or copier.

  3. Contrast: Printer: Do not use a dot matrix printer for producing copies to be mailed out - they are acceptable for draft copies only. Find a laser printer. If you are not using your primary printer, remember that the possibility of formatting errors resulting from the change in printer is high. Font: Use a conservative font - nothing fancy or unusual.

  4. Color of Paper: White is best. Off-white, tan, pale grey are OK. The key is conservative appearance, and ability to be duplicated by an employer for internal distribution without dark shading.

  5. To Print Professionally Or Not? Three Equally Good Answers: [1] You've got the money - so why not? [2] The more competitive your field, the more concerned you must be about the professional appearance of your resume. [3] Perfectly acceptable resumes can be produced on a laser printer, as long as the toner level is adequate and you get a clean copy. "3" is the way to go for most students.

  6. Layout: The goal here is to make your resume as easy to read as possible. Consider: [1] spacing [2] white space (horizontal/vertical) [3] use of "graphics of emphasis" (CAPS, italics, BOLD/bold,underlining) [4] fonts available on your software. Remember: If you go to a print shop to have your resume type-set, you - not the printer - are responsible for the error-free quality of your commercially printed resume. Ask to check the master copy before printing/paying. The staff there are probably not college graduates, and their attention to detail might not equal yours.

  7. Content: Q: Should I include this information, language, etc.?
    A: Can you defend it comfortably/honestly in an interview?

  8. Grammar/Spelling: Do whatever is necessary to ensure an error-free document. At this point, the resume represents to an employer your potential to perform professionally. A careless treatment of the resume (and cover letter) translates in the employer's mind as an unacceptably casual attitude about your workstyle.

  9. Ranking: The goal of the resume is to help the reader focus on the information you wish to emphasize - i.e., the content which most strongly supports your objective. For the strongest presentation, make sure that you: [1] rank by importance the order in which items within a given category are presented, as well as [2] rank by importance the order of the categories themselves. [ TIP: Eliminate punctuation when possible for uncluttered appearance. ]

  10. GPA: The rule here is: only include your GPA if it is at least 3.0 If it is not, then figure your GPA in major and/or minor, and include that figure singly or combined with an accurate designation (GPA in Major/Minor: 3.1/4.0) if either/both falls over the 3.0 range. These figures can be confirmed at the Academic & Career Center. GPA's, when used, should appear in this format: GPA: 3.2 (4.0 scale). This informs the reader that your college does not use the 4.3 +/- grading system, and that your 4.0-based grades are relatively higher than the same GPA on a 4.3 scale.

  11. Parallel Construction: Whenever you present multiple entries for similar types of information (i.e. several instances of past employment or two career-related internships), make sure that the technical style in which you present information is exactly the same for each entry. For example, there are several different way to handle dates. They are all correct. Preference or available space determines which format to use. Just be consistent in your usage: [1] June 15 - August 30, 2002 [2] 6/8/01 - 8/30/02 [3] January '01 - February '02 [4] Jan. '01 - Feb. '02 [5] Jan '01 - Feb '02

  12. Hyphen Use: Common error - please note: If you use a hyphen to separate information, if you use a space before the hyphen, be sure to use one after it as well. The impression made by a resume is created as much by its visual appearance as by the information it contains, and in this phase of job search, appearances count heavily. [ex.: 3-4 or 3 - 4, not 3- 4]

  13. Order of Information: When presenting your work history or internships, always begin the entry with your functional title, emphasized in some way (underline, lower bold), rather than leading with the name of your employer. Rationale: the resume is a functional index to what you have done, and provides employers with clues about your potential to perform for them. It is not primarily a catalogue of "places I have worked".

  14. Critique: Because your resume is the only clue an employer has to the way you approach important projects, it must be perfect. There are two ways to use the resources of the A & CC to help you produce a professional quality resume. Send your draft on-line to for review, or call 473-8440 and request an appointment to work directly with a member of our staff.