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Writing a Resume

Here are 16 sample resumes and 1 sustainability resume to illustrate the concepts presented in this article. There are many more possibilities than examples. We encourage you to use these samples as general guidelines to develop a resume that best fits your individual needs.

(Please note that in order to view and download some of the files linked to this site, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader. You may click here to download Acrobat Reader.)

What is a Resume?

A resume is a summary of your qualifications, education, and experience. It is a marketing tool to present your relevant strengths and skills to a potential employer. It must be concise, clearly written, and well organized. We recommend that you tailor your resume to the specific jobs for which you are applying. This means you must select and include the experience that you feel is most relevant.

When sending a paper version of your resume, always send it with a cover letter tailored to the specific job for which you are applying unless that job posting states that the employer does not wish to receive cover letters.

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What is a Curriculum Vitae (CV)?

A CV is a document used when applying for teaching, research, or administrative jobs in higher education. Like a resume, a CV describes your experience, but there are key differences. Click here to get information on writing a curriculum vitae.

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Getting Started

Begin by writing out everything from your current and previous experience that you feel may be relevant. This includes education, honors/awards, computer skills, language skills, current and previous employment (also include volunteer experience), and special projects. We have provided a Personal History Worksheet and a list of action verbs that may be useful for you to use when writing down your paid and unpaid work experience and activities. When you list your responsibilities from previous jobs, include both the everyday routine work and the work that required special training and skills.

As you write your resume, remember that employers are looking for people with transferable skills. Transferable skills are skills that can be 'transferred' or used in various settings. Examples of transferable skills include: analysis, critical thinking, research, investigation, problem-solving, interpersonal, oral and written communication, decision making, and the ability to work on a team. You may have developed these skills not only from paid work experience but also from volunteer experience, academic courses, and class projects.

For additional information on transferable skills:

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Required Resume Categories

At a minimum, your resume will include the following categories: name and contact information, education, and experience.

Name and Contact Information: At the top of your resume, include your name, home phone, work phone (if appropriate), and e-mail address (if you check it regularly).

Education: List your degree and major, name of institution granting the degree, city, and state. Do not list dates attended, but indicate year of graduation. You may also include GPA, academic honors/awards, and projects in the Education section of your resume. Click to view Education Section Samples.

If you have more than one degree or certificate, list your most recent degree/certificate first. If you have received an Oregon Transfer Degree from a community college, you do not need to list it on your resume. In general, list an associate's degree if it relates to your job objective and it is different from your PSU major. For example, if you are pursuing a B.S. in Business - General Management from PSU and you have an Associate of Applied Science degree in Management from Portland Community College, you need not include your AAS degree from PCC. You do not need to list all the universities and colleges you have attended.

There are some cases where it is appropriate to include an associate's degree. For example, if you are majoring in psychology, have an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Alcohol and Drug Counseling, and plan on working as an alcohol and drug counselor, then you would want to include the associate's degree on your resume.

Experience: List all the experience (paid and unpaid) that you feel is relevant to your career objective. You do not need to list all the jobs you've held - select only the ones that are most relevant. You may wish to highlight the most important experiences by using two categories such as Relevant Experience (or Related Experience) and Additional Experience. (See resumes with Related Experience/Additional Experience sections.) Usually, you will list your job title first, then the organization's name, city, and state (do not include street address or zip code). Provide an accurate description of your responsibilities using action verbs and prioritizing your descriptions by discussing those job duties which most directly relate to the employer's needs. Finally, show employment dates. List jobs in reverse chronological order, most recent job first.

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Optional Resume Categories

You need to decide which, if any, additional categories you will include on your resume. Some suggestions for optional additional categories include: Objective, Honors/Awards, Projects, Computer Skills, Language Skills, Activities, Interests, and References.

Objective: The job objective tells the employer the specific job for which you are applying. Listing an objective on your resume shows that you are directed. You do not have to list a job objective, but if you do, make it specific. Pharmaceutical Sales Representative, Computer Programmer, Staff Accountant are examples of specific job objectives. Do not use general objectives such as "Challenging and rewarding position in a growing firm where I can utilize my abilities".

Honors/Awards: List academic honors and other awards under education or as a separate category. Information in this category could include affiliation with national academic honoraries and academic scholarships.

Projects: If you have class projects that directly relate to your career objective, include a discussion of these projects as part of the education category or as a separate category. Use action verbs to describe your projects.

Computer Skills: List your computer skills either in a separate category or discuss them in the Experience section. If you are seeking a position which requires extensive computer knowledge, categorize within this section and list your programming languages, systems, and software knowledge separately.

Language Skills: If you are fluent, proficient, or have a basic understanding of languages other than English, it may be appropriate to include this information on your resume. You may list level of ability if you choose to.

Activities/Organizations: Community or school involvement may be relevant to your job search. You could list these activities or describe these activities with the same amount of detail that you'd describe paid work experience.

Interests: Interests can show a potential employer that you are well rounded or can serve as an ice breaker in an interview. If you include interests, be specific. For example, it is better to specifically list the sports you are interested in (squash, soccer, tennis) than to generically list that you have an interest in sports.

References: You may choose to include a line on your resume that says "References available upon request." However, this is not required as employers will assume that you will provide references. If the application guidelines request that you include contact information for professional references, include this information on a separate sheet. In general, you will need three to five references. Be sure that your references are aware that they may be called to provide a reference for you. Never list anyone as a reference without first obtaining their permission.

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Organizing and Formatting Your Resume

The information you include in your resume and the layout of your resume will depend on your skills and experience in relation to your career objective. Be consistent in your organizational layout so that your resume is easy to visually scan. The reader should be able to scan your resume in no more than 30 seconds and find the relevant information.

For most new college graduates, a one-page resume is sufficient. By tailoring your resume toward your job objective, you can usually limit it to one page. If you are considering jobs in diverse fields, you may want to have more than one resume. If you have a graduate degree and/or a great deal of relevant experience, a two-page resume may be appropriate.

A chronological resume presents the most relevant information first within each section. A functional resume organizes information from many experiences around a functional or skill area. You should choose a format that best fits your individual needs. In general, we recommends using a chronological resume. Many employers comment that functional resumes are difficult to follow because experience is described apart from where it was obtained.

General formatting and style conventions:

  • Place name and contact information at the top.
  • Use one-inch margins, although somewhat smaller margins (.75) may be used.
  • Leave an adequate amount of white space between sections.
  • Use UPPERCASE BOLD letters to indicate section headings; use Uppercase/Lowercase Bold letters to highlight subcategories or important key information such as job titles.
  • Be consistent with formatting.
  • Use present tense to describe current and ongoing experience, i.e.,
    • Assist physical therapists with direct patient care.
  • Use past tense to describe past experience, i.e.,
    • Interpreted results of laboratory tests.
  • Place the most important information in the top half of your resume.
  • Place education before work experience unless you have a great deal of relevant work experience.

Your resume must be free from grammatical and spelling mistakes. It is very important to carefully edit and proof your resume so that it is error-free. Before you prepare the final version of your resume have several people review it to proofread and suggest possible improvements. Remember that each person will critique your resume from their viewpoint. Incorporate those suggestions with which you feel most comfortable. We encourage you to make an appointment to have your resume critiqued by a career counselor.

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Suggestions for Preparing Documents to be Uploaded in PSU CareerConnect

  • Use Microsoft Word Version 5.0 or higher for best results.
  • Use only original Microsoft Word files, even if your document has been cut and pasted into MS Word from Claris or WordPerfect.
  • Use a common font, not one with an unusual type face.
  • A minimum of 12 point font is preferred. Anything below that is difficult to read.
  • The upload process will process bullets, bold face, underscore, and italics.
  • Indents should be preset. Do not use the spacebar or multiple tabs for spacing.
  • Do no use password protected files, macros, frames, or tables.
  • Do not use headers or footers.
  • Do not set excessive page breaks. Use your "enter" key to create a more natural break for formatting and to avoid a page break leaving a hanging word or sentence on the next page.
  • Do not force your margins. A minimum margin of .5 or .75 of an inch is recommended.

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Reproducing Your Resume

Prepare a final version of your resume on a computer with a high-quality printer. Do not use a dot matrix printer or typewriter. Have your resume printed on high-quality paper (appropriate paper can be purchased at a copy shop or stationery store). Acceptable colors are white, off-white, ivory, or light grey. Use the same paper for your cover letter.

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Preparing a Scannable Resume

Some employers are now using optical character recognition (OCR) technology (scanners) to sort and process applicant resumes. An employer may utilize this technology to transfer information on a paper resume into a database that can be searched by keywords to identify potential employees. Not all systems have the same requirements. Many employers will include information on their home pages on how to format your resume for maximum readability for their systems; you should follow the employer's specific guidelines. Here are some common formatting guidelines to help ensure electronic readability:

  • Use 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper.
  • Use white or off-white paper with black ink to provide high contrast.
  • Print resume on one side of the paper only; if your resume is more than one page, put your name and address on each page.
  • Do not staple your resume; use a paper clip to attach a cover letter.
  • Do not fold your resume; send your resume in a 9 by 12 inch envelope.
  • Use standard fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica, Courier, CG Times, etc.
  • Use font sizes between 10 and 14 points. (Avoid 10 point Times.)
  • Do not use italics or underlining. If you use horizontal lines be sure that there is at least a quarter inch between the horizontal line and the text. Avoid graphics and shading. Use bold sparingly.
  • Boldface is accepted by most, but not all, systems.
  • Some systems may not accept bullets; follow the employer's guidelines. If you use bullets, leave a space after the bullet and before the text.
  • Avoid compressing space between letters.
  • Your name and contact information should be the first text on the resume.
  • Do not use columns (since most scanners read from left to right).
  • Use terms, jargon, and acronyms that are specific to your industry; minimize the use of abbreviations where possible.
  • Be sure to include key words and phrases such as job titles (manager, accountant, etc.), specific computer skills (Word, Excel WordPerfect, Lotus 123, etc.), foreign languages, and other relevant skills.
  • Send a laser-quality print or high-quality photocopy.
  • Faxing your resume may affect its readability; for best results, set your fax machine to high resolution.

We suggest that you research the potential employers you are applying to in order to determine if they have specific guidelines for creating a scannable resume.

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Related Career Services

Advising & Career Services regularly offers resume writing workshops that focus on writing effective resumes and cover letters. Career counselors also provide resume critiques. To obtain individual feedback on your resume, contact ACS at 725-4005 to schedule an appointment.

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