Your resume is a concise, targeted summary of your skills and experiences, both paid and unpaid. Think of it as a marketing tool that shows that your product (you) meets the needs of your potential customer (the employer). It highlights accomplishments that relate to your career objectives and next move, whether that is an internship, a new job in your field, a promotion, a transition to a different area of work or re-entry into the marketplace.
Your resume and cover letter alone will not get you hired, but they should give readers a solid understanding of your relevant academic and professional background and make them want to meet you and discuss your qualifications further in an interview.
In addition to showcasing your skills and experience, your resume is also an example of your writing skills and attention to detail. The grammar, punctuation, consistency and formatting must be flawless. Please have your resume reviewed by a career advisor or career fellow before sending it to a potential employer.
It is essential that your resume be honest and truthful. Include only those things that you have done or are currently doing. A resume is generally one page upon graduation from an undergraduate program. Experienced professionals and graduate students may have more than one page, though one page is generally preferable. We offer a checklist to assist you in developing your resume.
The Tufts Career Center offers specific resume guides for:
One Resume or Several?
If your search is focused on one type of position, a single version of your resume may be fine, along with a cover letter that is tailored to your employment target. If you’re applying to a wider range of positions, you need to tailor your resume in addition to creating a new cover letter for each position. This customization is essential to your marketing and requires research about the organization and industry.
You may wish to have multiple versions of your resume if you are applying to a variety of fields (i.e. a finance version, a media and communications version and a community service version). Be sure your online presence is professional as prospective employers will probably look you up as they review your application.
Common Elements of a Resume
A chronological resume is the recommended style for undergraduate students. The experience section of a chronological resume includes your positions listed in reverse chronological order. Begin with your most recent position and work backwards.
Essential data includes: name of organization, location, your title, and dates of employment or involvement. This is followed by several bullets, describing your skills and achievements. You can include summer and part-time jobs, as well as volunteer positions on your resume.
Font: Use an easy-to-read font (e.g.,Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Helvetica or Garamond.)
Size: Stay between 10 pt. and 12 pt. Your name can be larger than 12 pt.
Margins: Ideal margins are 1” or .75” all around, and no smaller than 0.5”.
Dates: Uniformly formatted and not on left side
Highlight: Use bold, italics, capitalization to make certain words or sections stand out
Do Not Include
- Personal pronouns (I, me, my, we) or unnecessary articles (a, the)
- Salary requirements (If the employer asks you to complete an application form that requests salary requirements, you should comply, but do not include this information on your resume)
- Inappropriate personal information (e.g. race, religion, political affiliation, marital status, citizenship, social security number, etc.) or other irrelevant information
- Reasons for leaving previous jobs
- Uncommon abbreviations or acronyms without providing the full name once
- “References Available Upon Request” – you can have a separate document for references and provide it when requested.
Contact Information in the Header
Your contact information, including your name (in bold and slightly larger font size than the rest of the text), address, phone number, and professional email address, is always located at the top of the page, often centered.
- Include the name and location of colleges that you attend or attended, dates of graduation (month/year), degree(s) earned and major/concentration/specialty in reverse chronological order. If you’re a currently-enrolled student, write "Expected" or “Anticipated” before the month and year of graduation. Juniors and seniors generally omit high school, with few exceptions.
- List other degrees or relevant education such as studies abroad or certificate programs, also in reverse chronological order.
- If you would like to include your GPA, use the correct format with either two or three digits: GPA: 3.2, or 3.24. Do not round up. We recommend listing GPA if it’s above 3.0. You can also add Dean’s List and other honors and awards.
- Optional: List your relevant courses. Only include the most relevant; this is not meant to be your entire transcript.
You may list language, computer, or laboratory skills. Include proficiency level for languages. Do not list soft skills like teamwork, communication or leadership.
- Consider grouping your work experience into sections like Related Experience, Additional Experience, Leadership Experience, Public Service, and Activities.
- Each experience entry should include your title, place of employment, location (city, state), dates of employment (listed on right side of page), and description of responsibilities. List these as bullet points in reverse chronological order.
- Use quantitative information when appropriate, for instance, "Developed and implemented leadership training for 50 high school teachers," to prove your effectiveness.
- Begin each bullet point with an action verb. Avoid phrases like, "Duties included" or "Responsible for." We offer a handout with an action verb list grouped by skill areas.
Each hiring manager is looking for something different (in terms of the specifics), based on the needs of the job and the organization as a whole. Here are three tips with examples for a targeted resume:
1. Match your skills and responsibilities to the ones listed in the job description.
Read through the full job description and pay careful attention to what the position entails. Include work experiences that most closely relates to those responsibilities on your resume.
If the job description states: Serve as a significant role model for effective and appropriate work behaviors, procedures, and practices. Act as a liaison and advocate for participants.
A tailored resume will say something like: Advocated on behalf of approximately 960 students and 23 student groups as primary representative to faculty and administration.
2. Specify accomplishments from your previous experience that relate to those responsibilities.
It’s not enough to simply say you’ve done X. Show how your efforts produced a positive result for the organization. Be sure to select results that are of relevance and interest to the hiring organization.
If the job description states: Coordinate fundraiser for students and their families, increasing organization’s reach and publicity.
A tailored resume will include an accomplishment like: Led graduate-student inclusive philanthropy campaign, garnering 73% response rate from graduating class—highest in school’s history.
3. Indicate that you understand the needs of the organization and can meet them.
This will likely require a little more research and going beyond just the job description. Research the organization to identify the problems and issues it might currently be facing. Read through the website and press releases, set up a Google alert, read about their staff members and latest news. How might your combination of skills and experience be of benefit?
If you discover: The company is growing rapidly.
A tailored resume will include: Evidence that you can handle change and manage multiple priorities. Highlight your project management skills or note in your resume if your previous organization has a culture similar to the organization where you are applying.
- Survive the human scan. Resumes get less than 30 seconds of an employer's time. Keep your resume to a single, easily skimmable page. Check with a Career Advisor about exceptions to the one-page rule.
- Survive the electronic scan. If a computer is reading your resume, you will want to use the appropriate jargon and keywords for your field. If possible, use the same words you see in the internship/job description.
- If submitting a hard copy, use good quality paper in neutral colors (white or off-white).
- Check for typos, spelling errors, and grammar usage.
- Include a customized cover letter that demonstrates how you match the employer’s requirements.
- Email your resume and cover letter as one attachment with your cover letter as page 1 and resume as page 2. We recommend converting to .pdf format so the appearance and layout won’t alter depending on what type of computer or program the employer uses to view it.
- When emailing your documents to employers, include your first initial and last name in the title of the document. For example, JBarnum_Application.
- When creating an appropriate subject line for your email, use your name and the position to which you’re applying. For example: Research Assistant application from J. Barnum.
- Include a short note in your email message to briefly introduce yourself, list the position to which you are applying, and indicate that you have attached your application to the email and look forward to connecting with the employer to discuss your skills and experiences.
If you’re a recent graduate, use the information above and samples for undergraduates.
Experienced alumni may wish to begin the resume with a “Summary of Qualifications” section. This section may consist of four to five sentences and include other information about your most relevant qualifications. Unlike an objective, which focuses on your aspirations and goals for the future, a summary informs prospective employers of your relevant skills and previous work experience.
Your summary is an eight-second chance to sell yourself, your elevator pitch. You may find the following resources helpful, especially for ideas on formatting to present your key competencies up front.
Some of the following sites offer fee-based services. We are not endorsing or recommending these fee-based services. We do recommend that you review their sample resumes.