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Job Search: Resume Writing Basics

Resume and job search tips, recommended reading, online resources, and community trainings for job seekers

Resume Tips & Templates

Although they can look tempting, we recommend avoiding resume builders or fancy templates because they are difficult to edit or change (or they might charge you!). It is generally best to create your resume from scratch in Microsoft Word, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive. If you're not sure how to create a formatted resume on your own, we have free templates below. 

If you haven't made a resume before (or if it's been a long time), use our resume worksheet to get organized first.

Most jobs in the US will ask for a 1-2 page resume, with a few notable exceptions: most academic positions and some industry-specific jobs will ask for a CV (curriculum vitae) and federal resumes have their own specialized requirements.

Struggling to find just the right words? These power verbs and power adjectives lists can help you create bullet points with real impact. You can also do a search online for "(career) + sample resume" and explore the results.

 

Resume Templates

We've put together some simple, streamlined resume templates that anyone with Microsoft Word can download. These templates are free from funky formatting, wacky fonts, and crazy colors and show you how to organize your information so that any potential employer can find what they're looking for.

Resume Tips

These are resume tips curated by the resume and career help librarians for helping you craft a document that will hopefully be noticed by the hiring manager.

  • A Word document is a better choice for creating  a resume than templates. Making changes to a resume created with a template can mess up the formatting of the entire document, and some online resume-builder sites will charge you money to save the resume you created with their template. (A resume converted from Word to a PDF may also work in situations where the employer doesn’t specify a format.)

  • Put your name in large letters at the top (16 – 18 pt.), this conveys confidence. Contact info includes your name, address, phone number and email address.

  • One phone number is sufficient. Make sure your email address and the outgoing message on your voicemail are professional!

  • Instead of an objective, have a Summary (also known as a "Profile") right after contact info, customized each time to the specific job you're applying for. The summary should be about 5 - 6 lines and include the skills, experience and strengths you have that are related to the job description.

  • Use keywords in your resume that the reader or applicant-tracking software are likely to be looking/scanning for.

  • Do not use the word "I" on the resume (so your resume will not have full sentences).

  • The Experience section comes after the Summary (unless you are about to graduate very soon or are a very recent graduate, then the Education section can come before Experience).

  • The Experience section should be in reverse-chronological order: most recent job first. It should cover roughly the last 10 or 12 years.

  • Bullet points of duties usually start with a verb, and verbs should be in the past tense unless you are writing about a job where you currently work.

  • Emphasize achievements whenever possible, rather than just listing your duties.

  • Education section should also be in reverse-chronological order (newest first). If you are working on a degree or certificate or diploma but do not yet have it, write "degree expected [month, year]".

  • "References provided upon request" is not necessary.

  • Do not have any information on your resume that is false or misleading. Employers do not want dishonest employees, and they will do background and reference checks.

  • The length of the resume should be one or two pages.

  • Make sure the formatting is consistent, font size no smaller than 11 or 12 pt., and margins that are about an inch all around. Do not use multiple fonts and keep bold, italics and underlining to a minimum (they make the resume difficult to read).

  • Check and double- and triple-check spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalization. Employers can be unforgiving of any mistakes.