Who to Contact
- SCDC Main Office
Writing Your Resume
This section contains:
- The Purpose of a Resume
- Resume Formats
- Before You Get Started
- Sections in a Resume
- Additional Resume Guidelines
- How to Write an Experience Description
- How to Write a Career Objective
- Introduction to Curriculum Vitae
Your resume is one of the most important documents you will ever prepare. It is a statement of your abilities, skills, achievements, and aspirations. Essentially, it is an advertisement where you are the product - your own personal marketing tool.
While you are developing your resume, it is important to keep a few things in mind:
- The average amount of time employers spend reviewing your resume is 30 seconds. That is not a lot of time to communicate your strengths, skills, and goals. It is, therefore, important to clearly and concisely capture their attention.
- Resumes are fluid, that is, they are never "done." You will be adding, editing, and reformatting throughout your working life. Sometimes you will need to tailor your resume to a specific field or even a particular job in a specific company. Resumes are also individualized. What works for your roommate will not necessarily work for you, and that's a good thing. You want your resume to reflect your unique abilities, skills, achievements, and aspirations.
- A resume alone will never get you a job. The primary function of your resume is to convince an employer to interview you. It is the interview that will, hopefully, lead you to the job offer.
There are three basic resume formats that are standard. How you choose the appropriate one among them can depend on the amount of relevant experience you have and the sections of the resume that you wish to emphasize.
This is traditionally the most frequently used resume format. It provides a description of each job you have held, starting with the most recent and moving back in time. For co-op it can include relevant classes you have taken, your interests, academic honors, and special skills.
This type of resume focuses on transferable skills, aptitudes, and qualities that were learned in one setting, but are useful in a variety of situations. This kind of resume is useful for someone whose background may not directly match the job for which they are applying. One drawback of this resume is that it can be difficult to follow the sequence of your work history.
This resume format is used to emphasize skills acquired through past work experience. The primary difference between a chronological resume and the combination resume is the order in which that work experience appears. Instead of going in reverse chronological order, combination resumes group work experience according to the most important function of the job. On this resume format, the employer’s name, location, and position title are listed together with the job description. Alongside or just above the employment listing is a header that may say something like “communication,” “administrative,” or “technical.”
Your resume should demonstrate your value to a potential employer. Therefore, before you begin it is essential that you do some research. What kinds of skills, experience, and background are important to potential employers in your field? What attributes do you have that would be of interest to a potential employer? To find out, use the internet to research jobs that interest you. Look at the job requirements that occur most frequently. Hunt for key words and phrases that are common to the industry. Visit professional organization websites. Get to know what skills and attributes employers are looking for in a candidate. Then do some self-evaluation. What do you have to offer an employer? Highlight your skills, strengths, and accomplishments that fit the expectations and needs of jobs in your field. Remember to examine all facets of your life: work, volunteer, and activities. After all, managing the basketball team for four years might be more relevant than your paid job at the convenience store.
There are 11 basic sections of a resume. You may or may not use all of them, and the SCDC encourages you to tailor your resume as much as possible to highlight your talents, strengths, and experiences.
1. Contact Information
Your full name, address, telephone number, and email address should appear at the top of the resume. You must decide if you want to include your local address, your home address, or both. It really depends on where you plan to send your resume and where you want to be contacted.
2. Job Objective
A job objective is not necessary when applying for co-op jobs, and, in fact, it may be limiting to co-op students who are trying to explore different career fields. For a student seeking a co-op job outside the SCDConline interviewing process, a goal can be stated in a cover letter. Job objectives are most appropriate for graduating students and post graduates who have become more focused in their career goals.
3. Educational Background
List your education in reverse chronological order. Include the degree you earned or are currently pursuing, your major(s), your date of graduation or anticipated graduation date, and the name and city of your school. Listing your high school is optional for co-op, but not recommended unless it is very prestigious or well-known high school or a field-related charter school. If you took college courses while in high school, that information can be included. Since in most cases you were not pursuing a specific degree you can just put "Major: General Studies." Transfer students should list previous schools. See the example below.
While there are no definitive rules, a 3.0 GPA and above is notable and should be mentioned in this section.
Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
Bachelor of Science in English, Anticipated Graduation: June 20XX
Cumulative GPA: 3.3
My Previous University, Scranton, PA
Major: English, September, 20XX - June 20XX
Cumulative GPA: 3.8
List any honors (Dean’s List, honor societies, scholarships awarded, etc.) and the year in which you received them. It is acceptable to list honors and awards that you received both in high school and college. If the source of the award is not clear, spell it out (Community Service Corps versus CSC.) As you gain more honors at the college level, you can begin to eliminate your high school achievements, keeping those that are particularly unique.
5. Computer Skills
For majors where computer skills are a key component of a co-op job, you should create a separate section. For other majors, computer skills can be one of several items under a general Skills Section. (See item #8.)
If you do have a Computer Section, be sure to list hardware, software, languages, and operating systems.
Hardware: IBM, Macintosh
Software: Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Adobe Photoshop
Operating Systems: Windows NT, Mac OS X, DOS, UNIX
6. Relevant Coursework
List six to ten courses by name that relate specifically to your major or career goals. The purpose is to convince potential employers that you possess the fundamental skills for the position. When listing courses, write out the name of the course so that it is descriptive. For example, Economics I and II should be listed as Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Do not refer to courses as 101, 201, etc. Rather, use Roman numerals (Ex., Civil Engineering I, II, III) if necessary.
For the majority of graduating seniors and professionals, it will not be necessary to include a listing of coursework. Instead, if you have acquired skills from coursework that you would like to emphasize consider adding to the resume a “Special Skills” or “Qualifications Statement” and then add in statements that highlight the specific skill or ability.
List all of those experiences which demonstrate your knowledge, accomplishments, skills, and strengths. It is important not to limit your experience to just "paid" jobs. Often your unpaid accomplishments (chaired the local cookie drive, developed a website for a recreational baseball league) are as important as your time spent working at the mall. Some examples of relevant experience are the Freshman Engineering Design Project, Interior Design projects, film/photo projects, volunteer experiences, and significant high school activities.
It is important that you organize your experiences in the best possible order to highlight the skills and strengths relevant to a potential employer. For example, you are applying for engineering jobs. Currently you are delivering pizzas but last summer you worked for an engineering firm. You would want to highlight your engineering experience so you might have two separate sections: Related Experience and Other Experience. Your engineering design project could be a third section. This applies to all majors: I am currently delivering pizzas but last summer I (fill in relevant experience here.)
See “How to Write an Experience Description” at the end of this section for more detailed information.
8. Special Skills
This category can be used to note relevant skills that may be important to a potential employer. For example, experience with tax forms, computer languages, familiarity with laboratory equipment, technical knowledge of cameras/editing equipment, CPR and other certifications, and travel experience can be essential to some positions.
Computer: Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Photoshop
Certifications: CPR, First Aid
Languages: Spanish (fluent), Mandarin Chinese (conversational)
9. Activities or Professional Associations
Your activities and volunteer experiences are a good way to highlight those skills that are difficult to quantify but still very important to potential employers, e.g. leadership, ability to work in a team, and time management. Organizational memberships and elected offices can also demonstrate those qualities. List the activity, your participation if significant, (e.g. president, group leader), and the dates that you participated. Start with your most recent activities and moving in reverse chronological order.
- Drexel University Yearbook, Activities Editor, September 20XX–Present
- Drexel University Intramural Lacrosse, September 20XX–May 20XX
- Walk for the Cure Volunteer Day, April 20XX
10. Volunteer Experience
Volunteer experience is important to list on a resume because employers are interested in learning about your contributions to your community. Depending upon the duration of your service, level of commitment, and relevance to your career field you may choose to list such experiences in different ways. You may choose to briefly mention an experience in the Activities Section (see Walk for the Cure example above.) If there are skills which are important to a potential employer you may choose instead to expand the description of what you did into an Experience Section.
Junior Achievement Program
West Philadelphia Elementary School, Philadelphia, PA
Teaching Assistant, January 20XX– June 20XX
- Supervised class of 20 eight-year-olds
- Assisted in preparation of lesson plans; implemented plans
- Individually tutored children ages 8 - 12 after school hours in Math and Writing
Many first time co-op student resumes state, “References available upon request.” This statement is not necessary as it is usually understood that you will supply references if an employer requests them. Prepare a separate sheet that includes your contact information along with the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of your professional and/or personal references. Generally, three references are sufficient. Make sure you gain permission from these people before supplying their names and determine where they would like to be contacted (home, work, school.).
Click here for reference and resume samples.
- In general, limit your resume to one full page as a co-op student and even as a recent graduate. Experienced professionals or graduate level students may extend to two full pages.
- Proofread your resume for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Then have another person proofread your resume for additional errors. Do not rely solely on a spell check program.
- Be proud of your accomplishments but never exaggerate or falsify information (e.g., inflated GPA, fabricated work experience.) Employers will check your references and background information.
- Do not list a desired salary or previous salary history.
- Do not write the word “Resume” at the top or the date you wrote your resume.
- Avoid abbreviations (State abbreviations are acceptable).
- Never include personal information such as height, weight, eye/hair color, marital status, religious affiliation, social security number, or visa status/nationality.
One of the most difficult parts in writing a resume is composing the descriptions of your jobs, volunteer, projects, and other relevant experiences. Each description should be clear and concise, yet descriptive. After reading your description, a prospective employer should know exactly what your responsibilities were, what skills you have developed, where your strengths lie, and what you have achieved.
Here are some tips to help you write a concise and informative description:
Begin each item by stating the name of the place, location, dates, and title (e.g. manager, volunteer.) List experiences in reverse chronological order.
Describe your responsibilities in concise, abbreviated statements led by strong action verbs. Focus on those skills and strengths that you possess and that you have identified as being important to your field. Try to incorporate industry specific key words. Show potential employers exactly how you will fit their position and their company. Click here for Sample Action Words.
Be sure to vary your action verbs. You do not want all your descriptions to sound the same. Use present tense for those activities which are ongoing and past tense for those with which you are no longer involved.
Avoid using "I," "and," "the," and the use of any pronouns and prepositions.
Whenever possible, quantify. That is, use numbers, amounts, dollar values, and percentages, (e.g., “Increased monthly sales by forty percent . . .”, “Supervised and trained five new employees . . .”, “Handled daily receipts totaling $3000 . . .”, "Designed 14 costumes for local production of ...")
Limit your description to the three or four most important points.
The Swim Club, Anywhere, PA
Assistant Manager/Head Lifeguard
- Ensured safety of patrons and guests; resolved patron concerns
- Supervised and trained six lifeguards
- Developed and maintained schedules for lifeguards, private swim lessons, and pool functions using Excel
- Assisted manager in overall swim club operations
Click here for resume samples.
Writing a good career objective is important for graduating students because employers expect those candidates to be more focused then candidates in college. Evidence of this focus can be seen in a clear, explicit objective.
A career objective statement, for a graduating student, can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your resume. Remember, you are not locked into one career objective forever. You are simply stating what you would like to do for your next career step. Some individuals even have duplicate resumes showing different objectives. If you are applying for jobs through the career services’ on-campus recruiting system, make sure your objective is appropriate for the recruiting employer.
To write a meaningful objective, take note of these tips:
Use specific job titles to describe what you want to do, e.g.: Software Engineer, Actuary, Chemist, Accountant, Administrator. If you can’t think of an exact title, you can write something a bit more general, such as, “A position in systems analysis with a major telecommunications company.”
Think about the kind of place you want to work. A public accounting firm? An advertising agency with a large non-profit clientele? A biomedical research lab? A large health care provider? Describe your ideal work situation.
Use the fewest words possible. Avoid any phrases indicating job expectations (“with opportunity for advancement . . .”). You can cover your expectations in an interview. What the employer wants to see is whether the job offered matches the kind of job you want. If that seems to be the case, it can increase your chances of getting an interview.
Students considering co-op or study abroad may be asked to submit a curriculum vitae (CV) instead of a resume. After graduation, if you are interested in pursuing an academic position, fellowship, or research grant you will need a CV as well.
There are several differences between a CV and a resume. The CV will usually be longer (two or more pages.) It will contain more detailed information about your experience and skills and some details not usually found on a resume. You may have different versions of your curriculum vitae for different types of jobs.
Some of the sections typically found on a curriculum vitae are: contact information (for an international CV you may be asked to include your date of birth, place of birth, citizenship, visa status, and gender), work experience, education (including high school), certifications, skills, awards and honors, presentations, publications, memberships, conferences attended, interests, languages with proficiency, and any foreign travel.
For assistance converting your resume to a CV, contact your co-op coordinator, career services advisor, or a faculty member.