A good resume succinctly conveys specific aspects of your education, experience, and skills to the reader as it relates to the particular opportunity or field in which you’re applying.
Employers have limited time to evaluate candidates and so it’s important for the key pieces of information to jump off of the page. What are the main ideas you want to communicate and is the currently layout & content conveying that message effectively?
Resume Templates, Samples, and Variations
- 4 Undergraduate Resume Templates.
- Strong resume action verbs.
- For jobs in the Federal Government, use USAJobs and their Federal resume builder.
- Guide to Faculty Job Applications for interested PhD and graduate students.
- Sample Resumes:
- Undergraduates | Master’s Students | PhD/postdocs
- For Nursing undergraduate & masters students, review sample BSN or MSN resumes.
- For Weitzman graduate students in design, use this Effective Resumes for Design Students guide.
- For GSE students, review sample resumes for Teaching, Higher Ed, Counseling and Policy, Research, Program Administration.
- For SP2 students, review sample resumes for Clinical Social Work and Macro Careers.
- Once you have created a resume, you can speak with a Peer Career Advisor, make an appointment, or request a Resume & Cover Letter Review.
- For tailoring your resume to match specific skills/qualifications, use Targeted Resume to emulate an Applicant Tracking System & compare your resume to a specific job description.
- Use a standard size font (10 to 12 point)
- Use standard margins (1 to .65)
- Keep the design simple & consistent. Use white space. Use line breaks or spacing in between sections.
- Avoid stock templates, graphics, text boxes, Comic Sans or other unprofessional fonts
- Note: Not all applicant tracking systems can read decorative formatting like tables, shapes, graphics, images, etc.
- Always convert your resume to a PDF first and label the PDF file with your name (e.g. Jane Doe Resume).
- Note: In some employer’s job systems you may need to copy & paste your resume into an online application form.
Undergraduates & recent graduates should use a one-page resume.
PhD/postdocs can consider expanding onto two+ pages. If you do, put the most important information on the first page and add your name & page number to the second page (in a header or footer).
Header: Include your name, email address, and phone number. You don’t need to list your full street address, but can include City, State/Country. If you have a LinkedIn, consider adding the URL. For some industries you may want to add your GitHub or personal website to show relevant projects or a portfolio.
Education: List your most recent degree first and move backwards in reverse chronological order. Include your degree, program, and expected grad date (e.g. June 20xx). Can also include relevant courses, awards, thesis project, dissertation, GPA, etc. in this section. Once you’ve graduated from your current program it’s standard to move this below your Experience section.
Work Experience & Leadership: Using either general sections like “Experience” or “Leadership & Extracurriculars”, or tailor your sections depending on what you’re applying for (e.g. “Research Experience”, “Marketing Experience”, etc.) Emphasize experiences where you can show relevant or transferable skills. Include everything that’s relevant, whether you were an employee, intern, volunteer, researcher, or member of a team.
Skills & Interests: Only include objective, measurable skills like languages, computer programs, laboratory procedures, programming languages, etc. Softer skills like communication, teamwork, etc. should be illustrated, rather than stated, through your experience descriptions. Adding interests is optional, but can be a place to add other details or show some of your personality.
Writing Impactful Descriptions
Describe each experience to give an overview of what you did, with an emphasis on what you were able to accomplish in the position. Use verb phrases and make every word count.
Avoid helping verbs (assisted, worked with, helped, responsible for, etc.). Instead, use a strong action verb that reflects the part of the project that you worked on.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What skills did I use?
- Are there any quantifiable details that could provide context, scope, or demonstrate impact?
- What was I proud of or what were my accomplishments?
- Did I use specific programs/software?
- What positive things would my coworker say?
- What were the outcomes related to what I did?
- Did I improve something? Create something new? Present information? Lead or manage a team? Take initiative? Problem solve? Analyze data?
Actions + Accomplishments
Try to place your experiences in the context of what you did, with what results. Ideally when possible you want to show not only that you did XX, but that you did XX well or with YY results.
Include how your actions or work ties into the larger results, projects, or accomplishments.
Example Bullet Points:
– Helped with book research
– Completed review of 35 journal papers on inflammatory disease mechanisms and communicated summary of findings to professor within 2 weeks
– Assisted in program planning
– Planned and implemented 4 neighborhood public outreach projects with a total attendance of 150 people, supporting program manager in all aspects of project development
– Waited tables/served food. Handled customer complaints.
– Managed the largest serving section, received positive feedback for remaining calm and friendly while finding fast resolutions to challenging customer issues
Other Potential Sections
Qualifications, Professional Summary, or Profile: Sometimes used by PhD/postdocs and those who are further along in their careers, who may need a short summary to tie together their experience across multiple pages. Be specific to your strengths and focus carefully on exactly what you have to offer.
Projects: Usually for software engineering and computer science resumes, as a way to show technical skills in use. Consider also including your Github link in your header.
Publications & Presentations: Usually only for research related positions. Use standard bibliographic format. Don’t cite publications in full for non-research settings. Summarize instead (e.g. “Five publications in professional journals”) to show that you completed research projects and successfully communicated your accomplishments to a broader audience.
Honors & Awards: Can be combined with “Education” or given separate sections, depending upon how major a qualification they are for a specific role. For unfamiliar awards, you can stress the degree to which it was competitive. (e.g. “One of three selected from among 2,000 graduating chemists nationally”) Edit down what you include as necessary.
What’s the difference between a resume and a CV?
A resume is a concise summary of your skills and qualifications, tailored for a specific position or field. Length tends to be shorter and dictated by years of experience (generally 1 page for undergrads/recent grads and 1-2 pages for professionals with more experience).
A curriculum vitae (CV) is commonly used in academia, and is a full history of your academic credentials. (In some countries CVs are more universal for job applications.) The length of the document is variable but tends to be longer than a resume.
Do I need more than one version of my resume?
A good resume is specific to the qualifications of what you’re applying for. If you’re applying for opportunities in different fields, you probably need to adjust your resume accordingly to highlight the related skills or qualifications. You may also want to have 1 long-form, multi-page resume that includes everything you’ve done – you can then edit down what you include depending on what’s relevant.
What do I write if I don’t have any experience in the job field I’m applying to?
Focus on transferable or soft skills in the job/internship description – even if they were used in a different context, what similar skills have you used? For internships, there is an expectation that you may not have real-world experience and that they will teach and train you.
This is also an instance where talking with people in the field you’re applying to can give you better insight into what skills are most important, where others look for opportunities in the field, etc. Check out our Make Connections & Network community for more resources.
Do I need experience to apply for an internship?
No – for most internships, employers know you won’t have direct, professional experience and expect that they will teach & train you. Depending on the field, some may expect some level of technical knowledge or proficiency. But you can still pay attention to the kinds of soft skills & broader qualifications they’re looking for and highlight transferable skills from academics, extracurriculars, etc. that can translate into a different context.
How do I know if I’m qualified?
Unless you’re applying for a job with the federal government, a job description is always more of an employer’s wishlist than a ‘you must check every box’. If you meet most of the qualifications for a role, don’t self-select out of applying for an opportunity you’re interested in!
What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?
Applicant Tracking Systems are software that some companies use to filter applications automatically based on specific criteria such as keywords, skills, or years of experience.
Tools like Targeted Resume and JobScan can help you emulate the process by comparing your resume to a job description you load in (though be aware you may have to adjust its keyword and skill selection).
How should I include a school I transferred from, an exchange program, or a study abroad experience?
Include the details in your education section – make sure it is formatted consistently with school name, location, and dates. Instead of including an expected grad date, include a date range (formatted the same way the rest of your dates & date ranges are formatted). For some experiences, you may want to include a brief descriptive bullet point (e.g. “Immersive language program in…”)
How can I include my preferred name (or nickname)?
Resumes aren’t legal documents, so you can always use your preferred name on your resume. (e.g. Jane “Sam” Doe; J. Sam Doe; or Sam Doe depending on what’s right for you.) The places you need to use your legal name is for background checks, social security documents, insurance forms, and legal documents.
Should I include SAT/ACT Scores?
Only when applying to jobs in financial services or consulting (or if otherwise requested by the employer).
Should my resume include references?
Nope! Save your references for when they’re requested, usually after the interview stage.