How to Create a Job-Winning Resume

The resume is your most important job search tool. Your resume should effectively summarize your education, experiences, and accomplishments in a way that demonstrates your qualifications for the position you are seeking. Your resume may have a variety of information, but should at least include the following sections: Objective or Summary of Qualifications, Education, Experience and Activities.

In developing a resume, you are encouraged to:

  • Pay careful attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and writing style
  • Organize information in a logical fashion
  • Keep descriptions clear and to the point
  • Limit document size to one page if possible
  • Use a simple, easy-to-read font

Building an Effective Resume

Step 1: Getting Started

You should begin your resume with a heading that includes your name, address (optional), phone number with area code, and email address. You may not want to include a physical address for privacy concerns.

Step 2: Gather Information

What have you learned? The Education section highlights the knowledge you have acquired, and can include training, certifications, or licensure. List all degrees earned (or date to be earned), majors, concentrations, and institutions. List the degree title before the institution name. You may also want to include your GPA (especially if cumulative or major GPA is 3.0 or higher), relevant coursework, academic honors, and study abroad experience. The Honors section highlights Dean’s List, honor societies, and academic awards you have received.

What have you done? The Experience section highlights your (paid or unpaid) work-related accomplishments. Employers want to know what you have done and what experience you have that is worthy of consideration. Experience includes full-time jobs, academic research projects, internships or co-op positions, part-time jobs, or volunteer work. When describing each experience, give the position, title of organization, city, state, and dates employed. Use action verbs to begin each statement describing your accomplishments and duties in the job. Quantify people, products, and profits if possible.

Step 3: Identify Your Skills

Skills and competencies can be included in your Summary of Qualifications or a dedicated Skills section. These should be supported by the Education and Work Experience sections. There are three different types of skills you can include.

  • Technical/Laboratory/Professional Skills: Skills performed in a job, task, project, or class, acquired by reading, training, or education. Examples include: 
    • Programming Languages – C++, Java, Python…
    • Operating Systems and Databases – Windows, Linux, Oracle, MySQL…
    • Laboratory Techniques – Distillation, Gel electrophoresis, Western Blotting, ELISA
    • Software – AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access) 
  • Functional Skills: Skills related to people, information, or things transferable from one field or occupation to another. Be able to identify several strengths in the categories of data (organizing, problem-solving, creating), people (communicating, supervising, teaching), and things (maintaining, operating, coordinating).
  • Personal/Adaptive Skills: Skills that represent your style of working coordinated with your personal traits. For example: "Patient, creative, persistent, and energetic employee."

Step 4: Match Your Experience and Skills with an Employer's Needs

The content of your resume will change with applications to different jobs. The skills, qualifications and experiences you highlight should be closely related to the specific job description you are applying for. Include keywords from the job description to emphasize how well your skills and experiences match what the employer is seeking. 

Step 5: Organize Your Resume Effectively

When laying out your resume content, name and contact information should always be first. From there, you should include what is the most important to your targeted employer at the top and least important information will fall toward the bottom of the page. Keep in mind that additional categories can be created to represent your various strengths. Some additional sections include Leadership Activities, Relevant Skills and Experience, Interests, and Accomplishments.

References should always be presented on a separate page and not included with the resume. Prepare the reference page with the name, title, name of organization where the reference works, work address, telephone number and email address of each reference. Make sure that your references are aware that you have included them on your list. 

Step 6: Creating Your Draft

Length: Your resume should be easy to read. If it is too lengthy
or unorganized, your potential employer may disregard it. Most undergraduates should keep their resume length to one page, but a two-page resume is an option for job seekers with more experience

Format: Balance the layout by making all four margins equal. Your resume should be visually pleasing at first glance. White space as well as bold, underlined, and italicized text helps important information stand out to the reader. Use a simple, easy to read font style and an overall font size between 10pt and 12pt. Your name at the top of the page should use a larger font size (14-18pt) so it stands out. 

Verbs: Describe your skills, abilities and accomplishments using action verbs. Use present tense for current duties and past tense for prior tasks. Do not include first person pronouns like “I” or “my.”

Useful action verbs to describe various job skills:

Management Skills

  • administered
  • assigned
  • attained
  • delegated
  • developed
  • established
  • executed
  • improved
  • increased
  • oversaw
  • produced
  • supervised

Communication Skills

  • addressed
  • composed
  • directed
  • explained
  • formulated
  • mediated
  • negotiated
  • promoted
  • reconciled
  • resolved
  • translated
  • wrote

Research Skills

  • analyzed
  • clarified
  • conducted
  • diagnosed
  • examined
  • identified
  • investigated
  • organized
  • researched
  • reviewed
  • solved
  • surveyed

Technical Skills

  • adapted
  • applied
  • calculated
  • designed
  • devised
  • fabricated
  • maintained
  • operated
  • repaired
  • solved
  • upgraded
  • utilized

Teaching Skills

  • advised
  • coordinated
  • enabled
  • encouraged
  • evaluated
  • explained
  • facilitated
  • guided
  • informed
  • instructed
  • stimulated
  • tutored

Financial Skills

  • administered
  • allocated
  • appraised
  • balanced
  • computed
  • estimated
  • managed
  • marketed
  • planned
  • projected
  • reconciled
  • reduced

Creative Skills

  • created
  • composed
  • founded
  • initiated
  • integrated
  • introduced
  • originated
  • performed
  • revitalized
  • shaped

Helping Skills

  • advocated
  • aided
  • assisted
  • demonstrate
  • educated
  • expedited
  • familiarized
  • motivated
  • referred
  • represented
  • resolved
  • supported

Administrative/Clerical or Detail Skills

  • approved
  • arranged
  • compiled
  • distributed
  • executed
  • generated
  • implemented
  • prepared
  • processed
  • retrieved
  • tabulated
  • validated

Step 7: Ask for Feedback on Your Resume

Always get a second opinion on your resume. You know your intentions, but your wording might not be clear. In addition, a second opinion can help you correct mistakes and errors in format. Second opinions can come from an online critique through Career Services or from a one-on-one appointment with a Career Educator or Career Counselor. A friend, advisor, employer, or professor can also offer comments on your resume.

Step 8: Final Review

How does it look? Here is a checklist to help you evaluate:


  • Content is directly related to the position you are applying for
  • Name is at the top of the page and highlighted by large font
  • Descriptions are action verbs with a consistent verb tense; current job is in present tense while past jobs are in past tense
  • Work experience shows results of task performed
  • Measurement: Do your best to quantify your work experience with results from your tasks
  • Repetition of words or phrases is kept to a minimum
  • Capitalization, punctuation, and date formats are consistent
  • There are no typos, spelling, or grammar errors
  • There is a rationale for each piece of information included


  • The best assets - whether education, experience, or skills - are listed first
  • The document is easily reviewed; categories are clear and text is indented when needed
  • The dates of employment are easy to find and are in a consistent format
  • Listings in different sections run from most recent to least recent


  • Bold text and capitalization are used minimally and consistently
  • Margins and line spacing keep the page from looking too jumbled or crowded
  • Spacing and font size are consistent
  • Font is easy to read and no smaller than 10 point size