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UMM Home > Career Services > Job Application Tools > Resumés > Guide to Effective Resumé Development

Guide to Effective Resumé Development

  1. Resumé Utilization
  2. Effective Resumé Development Guidelines
  3. What Should I Include In My Resumé
    1. Name, Address, Etc.
    2. Employment Objective
    3. Education
    4. Work Experience
    5. Promotions
    6. Student Activities
    7. Military
    8. Publications
    9. Professional Memberships
    10. Hobbies
    11. Availability
    12. References
    13. Other Categories
    14. Photographs
    15. Cover Letter
  4. Action Words Describing Skills
Today, a well prepared resume is a necessary tool for any individual seeking employment. In fact, resume preparation is generally one of the first steps taken by successful employment seekers while organizing an effective employment search. The time and effort you devote to resume preparation may be a worthwhile investment in your future and could prove to be of tremendous monetary value.

Another advantage to working diligently on your resume, over and above its obvious usefulness in seeking employment, is evident. By the very discipline required to collect, analyze and prepare your data for writing, you have the opportunity for personal self-evaluation. In addition, you will be better prepared to interview effectively once you have your past educational and employment history at your fingertips.

Effective Resume Utilization
Resumes are used by job-seekers at almost all job levels regardless of the amount or type of work experiences obtained by the individual. Consider for a moment what a resume is and what it is designed to do. A resume is a selling document and marketing communication piece. Its sole purpose is to persuade the employer to grant you an interview or to request your formal application. An effective resume tells just enough about you to make the employer think they might need your skills or experience. It should leave the employer with a good "first impression" of you.

A resume is a printed synopsis of your educational and work experiences and accomplishments. It is a capsule biography devoted to highlighting those qualities that might be valuable to a prospective employer. It communicates a maximum amount of relevant information through a minimum number of words. A resume is not a novel, rather a conglomerate of short, concise, factual statements about you.

Most employers, out of necessity, become involved in the "numbers game" during the initial applicant screening process. They are required to select a few qualified individual from a large number of applicants. Therefore, a large percentage (95-99%) of all resumes are placed in an inactive file or discarded. For your resume (you) to be considered, the resume must hit home immediately. It has been estimated that the average resume has about 45 seconds to make an impression on the employer, either positive or negative, during this initial screening.

A resume may be utilized effectively throughout your employment search. Generally, it will enable you to introduce yourself to prospective employers by:

  1. Answering newspaper ads-include resume and cover letter.
  2. Mailing to employer along with a letter of inquiry about present or future vacancies.
  3. Mailing to employer when applying for an existing position include resume and cover letter.
  4. Presenting to an employer when making a direct person-to-person contact
  5. Leaving a copy of your resume with the employer after making a direct employment contact or after an informational interview.
  6. Presenting to business and personal contacts for direct referral to their employer associates.
  7. Serving as an outline for discussion during interviews.

Effective Resume Development Guidelines

  1. Your resume should be 100% honest. Employment-seekers often embellish the facts in their resumes and experienced recruiters expect and tolerate the exaggeration; however, most employers instinctively discount it. Therefore, embellishing the facts will be of little or no value to you. Falsification of facts is certain to be harmful.
  2. Avoid putting information in a resume that would cause your resume (you) to be screened out. Stress your assets rather than your liabilities.
  3. Length-Most employers prefer a short, concise resume of one page. One page is usually sufficient for most college graduates with limited work experience. Employers expect longer resumes if the information is pertinent to their needs. You be the judge.
  4. Resume Focus-The most common error made by employment-seekers is that they are not definite as to the type of employment they seek, i.e., their employment objective is not specific. This is particularly true for those people who have not given their employment objective(s) careful consideration.

Employment-seekers often have the misconception that they will be "more employable" (open more doors) if they remain non-specific about their employment goal(s). Actually, the opposite is true. An effective resume is designed with a specific employment objective or position in mind. Once your objective is established, check to make sure that information included on your resume is congruent with and supports your employment objective. In other words, if your employment objective is to become a personnel manager, include and highlight all data, skills, knowledge, experience which would relate to that position.

If you are qualified and are seeking several positions you should develop a resume for each. Each resume would have a specific focus and emphasize different aspects of you background. Each, of course, would be sent only the appropriate employers.

What Should I Include In My Resume
The first rule of resume writing is that there are no hard and fast rules. An effective resume will reflect your "uniqueness"" as an individual. The factual information to be included in your resume(s) will be dependent upon your background and experiences as well the position(s) you seek. The resume must be uniquely yours and yet contain several of the following basic categories of data, dictated not by theory or fad, but by common sense and employment ethics. The categories generally appear in the following order; however, another order may be best for your resume. The categories presented are to serve as guidelines only.

Name, Address, Etc.
Present yourself by the name you typically use in your personal life. First names spelled out are better than initials only. Avoid nicknames except in unusual cases. Your name generally appears in CAPITAL LETTERS at the top center of each page.

Directly below your name (you may select some other prominent location) should appear the address where you can most likely be contacted by mail, telephone, or e-mail. For most persons this would be their home address; however, personal circumstances may influence your decision. You may wish to include a temporary address and telephone number. If you include two addresses, indicate on the temporary address during what period of time it will be functional. The addresses selected should be illustrated in full: street number and name selected with Street, Road, Drive, Avenue or Lane included. Do not abbreviate city and state, and include zip code. (See example at back).

Telephone numbers and area codes for both addresses should be included. If you feel safe in doing so, include your current work telephone number; however, remember that your resume will be outdated when you leave your present position. Since it is becoming more common to use e-mail, include you e-mail address if you have one.

Employment Objective (Position Desired, Objective, or Employment Goal)
State the position you desire in concise terms in as few words as possible. Do not include too many objectives (more than two), or widely diversified objectives, in the same resume.

Diligent employment-seekers will tailor a separate resume to each job for which they apply. Therefore, the career objective statement should mention something fairly specific; something approximating a job title using the employers vocabulary, such as "assistant buyer," "research associate," etc. It may also be beneficial to say something like, "An entry level position in _________ leading to _________," indicating one's ambition for increasing responsibility and knowledge of the field.

Developing the Employment Objective
The format for the career objective can be arranged to a person's unique background wishes, and is of great help in organizing this difficult portion of the resume.

At the simplest level the career objective may be stated as a
professional designation, followed by a specialty area in that field, e.g.

Chemist - Product Research
Public Accountant - Auditing and Taxes
Sales Representative - Industrial Hard goods and Equipment.

The next level of sophistication in a career objective statement may simply state that an entry-level position is desired, followed by a comment on the functional area of work, e.g.:
Entry-level Bank Management Trainee-Loans
Entry-level Store Management Trainee- Merchandising
Social Service Trainee- Child Welfare.

After these simple formats, the matter becomes more difficult. There are a number of ways to organize career objectives.

The Short-Term/Long-Term Format
Immediate Objective: Entry-level Accounting Trainee with an Industrial Firm.
Long-Term Objective: Progression to Comptroller function, with responsibilities for a number of accounting systems and policy responsibility for fiscal affairs of a corporation.

The Functional Format
Functional Work Objective: Position which includes responsibilities for systems analysis and creating data systems for maintenance of records, evaluation of programs, and projecting future sales trends.

The Skills Format
Skills Objective: Position which requires knowledge of decision-making models to marketing and production planning. Functional/Industrial Format
Functional/Industrial Objective: General Sales Representative with company that produces soap, toiletry, or food products.

Skills/Industrial Format
Skill/Industrial Objective: Position which requires knowledge of COBOL, RPG II, and BASIC, and which requires sales/customer service abilities in the software industry.

When functional or skills types of objectives are used, the work experience section or the education section of the resume should reflect the abilities and wishes set forth in the objective statement.

Career objective statements should avoid terms such as: Opportunity for advancement; a challenging position; position dealing with people; a progressive company; position which requires creativity; a company that recognizes..; a chance to..

While these terms may sound nice to the job applicant, they have little meaning to the person who will make a decision for an interview invitation, and in fact may indicate that the candidate has no idea about objectives. The candidate who applies vagueness will get a vague response in return. A clear objective will indicate to the employer that you have given considerable thought to your career goals.

Your Employment Objective should appear near the beginning of the first page of your resume. This allows the employer to evaluate you in terms of your career goals and employer's needs as one continues reading your resume.

Education (Educational Background, Training)

The sequence in which the categories EDUCATION and WORK EXPERIENCE are included in a resume will depend on the individual. The Education category of a recent college graduate with little work experience will be more important than that of a 40-year-old whose work experience will make up the bulk of the resume. In fact, for the employment-seeker with extensive work experience, the Education category may include only those institutions you attended, their locations and inclusive dates of attendance . Also include degrees received (or to be received), academic major(s), minor(s), and/or areas of concentration. You may also elect to include a brief statement of any academic honors or scholarships, e.g., Dean's List, etc. Students who have a high GPA (over 3.0), may wish to include it at this point.

It may be beneficial (particularly if your work experience is limited), to include in this category such items as research studies, special projects, internships, study abroad, cooperative education programs, teaching and laboratory assistantships in which you have participated, especially if they are related to the position you seek. Brief, concise statements about activities are preferred, e.g., "Researched current hiring trends for disabled veterans with the fifty largest manufacturing firms in St. Cloud area," or "Currently participating in an internship program within local commercial bank. Responsibilities include designing, _________ , and _________." Keep in mind your employment objective.

Work Experience (Experience, Professional Experience, Recent Positions)
This category is by far the most important category of your resume. Prospective employers will read this portion very closely and will have one central thought in mind: "How does this person's experience, abilities, and achievements relate to my employment needs?" Employers hire with specific needs in mind. Once again, take the employer's point of view. Your work experience should highlight what you have done and what you can offer the employer.

In preparing this category, your first step might be to evaluate the extent and relevancy of your work experiences. A careful evaluation will enable you to make decisions about the manner in which you organize this category as well as the content you will include.

If you are a typical recent college graduate (or near graduate), your employment record may be quite limited. Even worse, you may have held only one or two "paying position," maybe even none. On the other hand, you may have had extensive, relevant part- time or full-time positions over a period of several years. What to do? What alternatives do you have? If you have never held a paying position, you have alternative methods of informing the employer of your abilities, Skills, knowledge and achievements. One alternative is to completely eliminate the Work Experience category. If you select this method, it may be beneficial for you to add a separate category entitled EDUCATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS (or something similar) immediately after the Education category. You may expand upon specific college course work which is directly related to the position you seek. You may also include in this category the previously discussed information on research, internships, cooperative education programs, assistantships, directed studies, tutorials, special projects, study abroad, minority mentorships, Morris Academic Partners, Morris Administrative Internships, etc., instead of placing it under the Education category. If yo u were active in campus activities, another alternative is to include a category entitled STUDENT ACTIVITIES at this point. (See STUDENT ACTIVITIES category.)

If you exclude the Work Experience category, another alternative is to include a category entitled SKILLS AND ABILITIES (Personal Qualities, Personal Skills). This is a place where you can inform the employer of the skills, abilities or personal strengths you feel you could bring to the company. They are usually listed in short, concise statements which are relevant to the needs of the employer. Consider these examples: high energy level, creative, a self-starter, leadership ability, ability to relate to a diverse range of people, writing skills, grant proposal development, staff training skills, bilingual. If you include such a category, be prepared to offer examples in an interview situation.

Many employment-seekers who have never held a paying position have extensive work experience in a variety of settings. Consider the individual who has taught Sunday School, coached a youth softball/baseball team, was a den mother, was a volunteer in a community action program, served as chairperson for the United Way or political campaigns, served in the Peace Corps or Americorps, has been a housewife, worked as a hospital volunteer, acted as executive officer in an organization. How about the person who has developed extensive knowledge and skill through a hobby or avocation or who has "kept books" for the family business?

If you have been active in similar activities, surely you have developed employable knowledge, skills and expertise which are transferable to a variety of paying positions, e.g., managerial, analytical, problem solving, public relations, artistic, leadership, supervisory, planning, marketing, finance, information management, and other skills.

It may be beneficial for you to include a category entitled EXPERIENCE and list several illustrative examples. Be sure to include those activities which will inform the employer of your skills, responsibilities, knowledge, achievements, etc.

Some recent graduates have employment records consisting of a variety of part-time, full-time, academic year, holiday and summer vacation jobs which may or may not be related to the position(s) they seek in a career track. Generally, it will be advantageous for you to list part-time and full-time work experiences regardless of their relevancy.

Place your work and other experience(s) in reverse chronological order. Let your summer or part-time experience follow the full-time positions and activities. In listing part-time or summer jobs unrelated to your objective, a brief description of several of t he jobs will suffice. Include the name of the employer, location, inclusive dates of employment, job title, responsibilities and/or duties. Keep in mind the principle of not "overplaying" your responsibilities or accomplishments; however, do highlight those specific job functions which relate to your employment objective.

Some Examples:
First National Bank: Willmar, MN (June 1998-September 1998)
Proofing Clerk: Summer employment, engaged in proof department duties, with exposure to transit areas of check clearing operations.
Twin City Bottling Company: Minneapolis, MN (July 1997-May 1998)
Routeperson: Part-time employment, delivered soft drinks, serviced coin-operated machines and maintained customer accounts.

Examples such as these indicate to the employer that you are a self-starter and are motivated enough to secure and maintain a position in a work setting. Employers are concerned about these qualities in their employees. Employers will also notice whether or not you have had the same job over a long period of time or have returned for several summers. They also notice "gaps" or periods of unemployment (6 months or more), especially when you were not attending school, enlisted in the military or engaged in some other activity. Be prepared to account for such gaps in an interview.

Job-seekers with part-time and/or full-time work and other experience(s) directly related to their career objectives often have difficulty deciding which to include. The principle of highlighting those experiences which are most relevant to your career objective will be appropriate. Highlighting can be applied to both part-time and full-time experience(s), and you may want to include a balance of both in your resume. Too much highlighting can "turnoff" employers. Therefore, most job-seekers highlight one or two of their most recent, relevant positions, even though they may list several.

One effective method of highlighting is to emphasize job functions rather than job titles. Employers are interested in people who can accomplish various job functions or tasks. Therefore, they are generally interested in what you have done, or can do, and not your position titles. You can best communicate what you can do by including job functions for which you were responsible or job tasks you accomplished in your position. Titles can be meaningless to an employer since actual job functions and tasks of a position will vary from employer to employer. In contrast, job functions and tasks are transferable from position to position and/or employer to employer. If you emphasize past positions only, the employer may not have a vacancy in that specific position. They are likely to have a need for someone (you) to perform job functions or tasks, however.

You can effectively highlight job functions and tasks by using "action words" (verbs) or skill phrases. Through the utilization of action works, you can change meaningless job titles into relevant statements about your skills, abilities, responsibilities and accomplishments.

Questions: "How do I use action words in highlighting a position?"
Answer: Use the "Action Word List" (past tense verb forms).

For the position(s) you decide to highlight, take each word and ask yourself this simple question, "Did I (action word) anyone or anything?" For example, take the action word "supervise" and ask the question, "Did I supervise anyone or anything?" Another example, "Did I research anything?" Complete this process for each word and you will emphasize the important job functions of the position(s).

List all those job functions or tasks you performed in job function statements. Then, select those statements which are most relevant to your employment objective and include them in your resume. (See Action Word list in back).

You may want to include your outstanding or principal accomplishments for each position. Your accomplishments are what you actually did, e.g., increased profit, reduced costs, achieved outstanding sales awards, etc., Include those job accomplishment statements you feel are most relevant.

One means of representing information in the Work Experience category is to include the company name (employer, if no company name), location, inclusive dates of employment job title or position, brief (one sentence) description of responsibilities, selected job function and job accomplishment statements.

Another way to effectively highlight job functions and tasks is to identify and use skill phrases (including results). The purpose of a skill phrase is to convince the employer that you possess and have used those key skills which match the employer's need. To practice writing a skill phrase, read through the example below to learn the process.

Example (This example allows you to see the thinking process as a series of questions which, when answered in writing, will result in a complete skill phrase.)

Q. What did I do?
A "Created and implemented...
(Note that the skill phrase begins with a past tense, active verb.)

Q. What information will specifically illustrates this skill?
A. ....a volunteer recruitment campaign..
(Note that there is enough specific detail to make the statement credible.)

Q. What was a specific result of my efforts? (Including results adds strength to your phrase, but is not always possible.)
A. ...which resulted in a 30% increase in new volunteers over a one year period."
(Note that the phrase illustrates what was produced by your effort.)

SAMPLE SKILL PHRASE: "Created and implemented a volunteer recruitment campaign which resulted in a 30% increase in new volunteers over a one year period."

Here are some examples of skill phrases which include results:

Strength, cited by supervisory evaluations.

Designed all of the forms used; composed, transcribed, typed daily correspondence for staff of five school administrators. Evaluations consistently cite clarity, simplicity and thoroughness of record-keeping systems.

Meeting or surpassing goals/standards.

Provided administrative support to management team. Praised and financially rewarded for ability to establish effective priorities and maintain them among competing requirements.

Learned all aspects associated with firm's sales office, including functions of cashier, wire operator, order desk and research library assistant.

Co-wrote and edited a training manual for a social service agency. Three years later, the manual is still in use.

Wrote cue sheets for over 40 lighting designs, involving short, clear directions to accurately perform each cue.

Promotions or increased responsibility.
Created new position of Public Relations Director to fill corporate need. Set up department, determined priorities and shaped procedures for dealing with other departments, board of directors and clients.

Selection for special programs or training.

Selected as sole participant from six-member team to attend advanced marketing management training. Six weeks, Kansas City, MO.

Positive feedback from customers.

Received oral and written comments from customers praising friendliness and effective problem solving.

Increasing income (e.g. sales, customer service).

Contacted customers to explain delays or special problems. Answered customer questions and resolved customer problems. 30% increase in repeat orders.

Increasing efficiency, cutting time spent on task.

Organized computer system to log approximately 200 grant proposals per month, resulting in a 20% reduction in the time spent on this task.

Initiating a change / new idea that was utilized.

Designed and implemented new office procedures used in over 10 branch offices.

Took initiative to develop a thorough understanding of the ATEX computer system in addition to handling my regular duties in the clerical pool.

Organized recreational, social and education programs for housing project. Increased program from 2 classes to 24.

Conducted national survey to analyze benefits provided to hospital volunteers. Survey resulted in upgrading volunteer benefits.

In summary, keep in mind that your work experiences have been unique to you; therefore the Work Experience category should reflect that uniqueness for the employer.

Student Activities (Honors and Activities, Outside Activities) (optional)
Employers are interested in hiring people who have been, or presently are, active in a variety of academic, extracurricular or social activities either on campus or in the community. It generally indicates to them that you are motivated and get involved; obviously, good work traits. Therefore, it can be beneficial to include several (4 to 5) items, especially if the activities are relevant to your employment objective. If they add to the word picture of you, include such items as leadership positions, clubs and organizations, campus-wide activities, academic awards, comm unity programs, etc. Be very selective, do not overdo this category, and avoid duplication of information in other categories.

Those persons who have been out of college for several years may include a similar category (Activities, Community Activities) which would reflect their community or company activities, e.g., social, civic, church, community organizations. These categories are usually placed directly after the Education or Work Experience categories.

Military (optional)
This category is generally included for only those individuals who have successfully completed active duty in any branch of the military or currently in a reserve unit. It may include the branch of the military, inclusive dates of active duty, discharge rank, and brief description of duties.

Depending upon your objective, it may be helpful to include secret or military clearances and dates since they are usually perceived as good character references. Reserve status is often included by those who feel their reserve duty is pertinent.

Many job-seekers overlook relevant work experience they acquired during military duty. Others refer to their military experience as "Just military. I'm glad it's over. I didn't do anything but put in my time." This may or may not be true. Think about your experience and the positions you held; then, use the "Action Word List". You may discover some experience to include. If so, place the Military category directly under the Experience category and utilize the same listing format you selected for Experience.

Publications (Professional Writing, Journal Publications, Research)(optional)
Job-seekers who have published articles, books, etc., within their professional discipline generally include a listing which includes name of article or book, publisher or journal, and complete date of publication, e.g., "Wilderness Graduate Programs" College Student Personnel Journal, Fall 1997, co-authored. Any standard reference form for publications will suffice. This category is usually included near the end of the resume.

Professional Memberships (optional)
In this category, list memberships and offices held in professional organizations, etc. It could benefit you to also include occupational or professional certificates and/or licenses. Generally, it is acceptable to abbreviate titles and degrees in this category since most employers will be familiar with their meaning, e.g., Ph.D., M.D., C.P.A., C.L.U., COTA, LSW.

Do not duplicate information included in another category of your resume. List only those affiliations relevant to your objective or employer.

Hobbies (optional)(Personal Interests)
Employers usually react positively to information included in this category since it allows them to learn more about you as a "total person." However, you might ask yourself these questions: "Will this information improve my candidacy, and if so, how?" Use discretion when selecting the number and type of times to be included. Placement of this category is best near the end of your resume.

If you are presently unemployed or you can begin work within a two-week period after notification, state "Immediately." If you are employed or still in school, it is usually preferred to indicate the notification time period you wish to give your present employer, e.g., AVAILABILITY:...days' notification required. If you will be available for employment after a certain date, simply indicate the date, e.g., Available June 1, 1998. Information regarding your availability may also be included in the Personal Data category.

There are at least two schools of thought regarding references. One school states that all references (names, titles, complete addresses and telephone numbers) should be included. The other holds that the inclusion of references is unnecessary. They believe all that is needed is the brief statement "references available upon request" (or something similar) since it allows greater flexibility for you to select those references most appropriate for each position you seek.

Both schools agree, however, that you should carefully select in advance those persons you intend to utilize as references. They should be willing and able to speak intelligently and positively about your character, work traits, abilities, skills, knowledge and accomplishments. It is generally agreed that the Reference category should appear as the last item on the resume.

An option many UMM graduates choose is to set up a placement file with The Career Center and state on the resume "References are included in placement file and available upon request from The Career Center, UM-Morris, 600 East 4th St., Morris, MN 56267, 320-589-6065."

Other Categories
You may elect to include your own categories or include different information in the categories outlined in this guide. Please do so if you feel the information is relevant. Be creative and use your imagination.

Finishing Touches DO Make a Difference:

Drafting Your Resume. Once you have compiled and assembled your data into the appropriate categories and arranged them in logical order, you are ready for your resume layout and first draft. After you complete the draft(s), start removing all extraneous words, i.e., remove everything that will not specifically help you get an interview. You should expect to make several drafts. Your final copy should be grammatically perfect.

Graphic Considerations. Remember, your resume has approximately 45 seconds to make a favorable impression; therefore, it must have "graphic appeal" to entice the reader.

Effective utilization of "white space" is important in developing a resume with visual appeal. Your resume (you) should not appear cluttered or disorganized. Remember to keep the format simple and to use margins (indentations), underlining, free-standing headings, and capital letters, to emphasize sections and guide the reader. Most important-be consistent in format.

Reproducing Your Resume. Job-seekers often have difficulty selecting a method of resume reproduction appropriate for their needs and financial limitations. Consider the following remarks as suggestions.

It is not necessary for each resume to be individually typed; however, never send an outdated or carbon copy resume. Any method of reproduction may be used; however, avoid using a method which gives your resume a "mass produced" appearance. You can avoid this by buying the best reproduction method you can afford, using 8 1 /2" by 11," single color (off white or "egg shell" preferred),good quality rag bond or 25% to 50% cotton content paper stock. Such a method will cost a bit more but will give your resume good tactile communication qualities and assure you of clear, neat and bold copies.

Several reasonably inexpensive methods of graphic reproduction are available at most commercial or "instant" printers. You may want to investigate the methods and prices available in your community. Most UMM students use Campus Duplicating, located on the north end of the Community Services Building on campus.

Since the Equal Employment legislation, employers refrain from requesting that job applicants furnish a photograph; therefore, the decision to include a photograph should be based upon whether or not it will improve your employment chances. Obviously, a photograph will provide employers with additional information which may assist them in reaching a decision regarding your candidacy. However, this visual information may improve or lessen your chances. Also, a photograph may be flattering or outdated; in either case, if the employer interviews you, he or she may feel you misrepresented yourself.

Cover Letter
Never send a resume to an employer without a cover letter. A resume without a cover letter, like a resume that is too long or confusing, usually ends up in the wastebasket. A cover letter should complement and highlight resume information and add to your employment focus. It should be an original, 1-page letter sent directly to the person (name and title) who will make employment decision. (See example in back).


Marketing Research & Finance Development
deal with ambiguity
program oriented
tolerance for ambiguity

Information Systems
Planning Administration/
General Management
team leader
talent scout