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Resume – Get Started

Your resume is a marketing tool that paints a picture of your skills, abilities and experiences in a way that shows potential employers, internship supervisors, and graduate schools you are a match for the position/program they have to offer. Because we all have had unique experiences, each person’s resume will be different in both structure and content; there is not one right resume. However, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to make sure your resume has the essential information needed to paint a complete picture of your qualifications.

Your resume is the first impression a potential employer/graduate school will have of you. Therefore, your resume should be a clear, concise summary of your skills, relevant experiences, and transferable skills. Your resume should capture the attention of your target audience, motivating them to invite you for an interview. Remember, the person reviewing your resume typically takes no longer than 30 seconds to do so. Make sure your half a minute counts!

Create Your Resume
Take Your Resume From First Draft to Final Draft
Difference Between Resume and Curriculum Vitae
Making Sure Your Resume Bullets Have Impact
Delivering Your Resume -Uploaded, Emailed, and Online


Create your Resume

  1. Define your target audience (job, internship, graduate school, volunteer program, etc.) and jot down the qualifications and skills important to the position/program for which you are applying.
  2. Use the Resume Worksheet – A worksheet you can use to start putting your experiences on paper. Use this to help you brainstorm.
  3. Next, think about the following areas of your background: education, off-campus study programs, work and internship experience, volunteer and community activities, awards, honors, distinctions, special skills and competencies, professional affiliations and activities in which you’ve been involved (see our list of resume headings for more). List the experiences as well as the skills you used in the experience. Write down everything that comes to mind! There may be pieces to your background that seem insignificant to the position/program for which you are applying, but these opportunities can show transferable skills.
  4. As you are thinking about your skills, you may wish to brush up on a few more “technical” skills (i.e.: Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative, etc.) using the St. Olaf IIT Lynda Learning resources.
  5. Organize your resume into categories (resume headings) that will showcase your background in a way that clearly demonstrates your “fit” for the position or program.
  6. Complete the first draft of your resume. Make sure that you:
    a) Pay especially close attention to  content and formatting. Everything should be clear and concise.
    b) Take a look at our tips and hints.
    c) Don’t forget to use a wide vocabulary of action verbs, transferable skills, and resume headings.
    d) View example resumes for reference.
  7. Get feedback from Piper Center Peer Advisors, academic advisors, supervisors, faculty and other students. Revise your resume each time you get feedback. Get a final check from a Piper Center
    Coach. If you need more help, schedule an appointment with a Piper Center coach on Handshake.
  8. Finally, deliver your resume properly. Make sure you know the right delivery method for your situation whether it is by uploading, email, or by other means.

Take Your Resume from First Draft to Final Draft

Developing a good resume takes time and often involves many revisions. It is important to get feedback from Piper Center Peer Advisors and Coaches, faculty, advisors, alumni mentors, or other professionals. This feedback can help guide you to ensure you are presenting yourself in the best light.

View an example that shows the revisions one individual took to get from first draft to final draft.

First Draft — Final Draft


Tips & Hints

There are no absolute requirements in the preparation of your resume, but there are generally accepted guidelines to follow. Here are some tips and hints to help you with your creation:

  • Do not rely on templates: Resume templates or wizards appear to be handy tools, but in the long run can prove challenging when adding content or editing later on. They may also include sample resume headings that may not be appropriate or necessary. It is recommended to create your own document instead of using a template or wizard.
  • Keep it to one page: A one page resume is considered ideal for college students and recent graduates. There are a few cases where a two-page resume is necessary – check with a Piper Center staff member to find out if a two page resume is right for you.
  • Consistent formatting: Be consistent in your choice of font and layout. Times, Garamond, and Helvetica are compact fonts and allow for more information to be presented on one page. Don’t use smaller than 10 point font.
  • Visual is important: Don’t crowd your resume; aim to include white space. Your resume should appear uncluttered and be visually attractive.
  • Beware of cluttering: Use bold, bullets, italics, and underlines to highlight but, beware of looking cluttered. Highlights should be used consistently and sparingly.
  • Honesty: Be factual and 100% honest.
  • Personal pronouns: Do NOT use personal pronouns (I, we, my) in your resume. Start statements with action verbs.
  • Proofread your resume. Your resume should be free of spelling errors and have perfect grammar and punctuation. Keep in mind that the resume is an example of your written communication skills!
  • Electronic version: Be e-friendly if submitting electronically. Whenever possible, save your resume in a PDF file type. If a PDF file type is not an accepted format, test your attachments by sending “practice” emails to friends and asking them how the document appears on their screens.
  • Paper version: If printing your resume, do so on a laser printer. Use 20# bond resume paper in basic colors (white, off-white, cream, beige, or gray). If sending a cover letter and reference page, make sure they are printed on the same paper as your resume.

Difference Between Curriculum Vitae and a Resume

A resume generally has a free-form organizational style and is used for seeking employment in the private sector, whereas a curriculum vitae (or CV) usually has a more standardized look and format for the purpose of seeking positions in academic or educational institutions. A curriculum vitae often includes complete and unembellished lists of data such as educational institutions attended, degrees received, positions held, professional affiliations, publications authored, etc. A resume may or may not include a complete history of your background experience, whereas a curriculum vitae usually implies that there are no omissions, and in particular, no temporal gaps.

Curriculum Vitae Sample


Making Sure Your Resume Bullets Have Impact

This is what employers, grad schools, and fellowship programs want to know!

For each experience, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What is the measurable outcome?
    • a. What did I achieve?
    • b. What did the company/organization achieve?
    • c. What problem did I solve?
    • d. How can I show measurement?
  1. Whom did I work with?
    • a. Internal stakeholders (teammates, staff, managers, faculty)
    • b. External stakeholders (customers, clients, audience, partners)
    • c. What leadership role did I play?
  1. Have I managed or trained?
    • a. Which projects or processes have I managed?
    • b. What was the outcome?
    • c. Whom have I trained (formally or informally)?
    • d. What training have I received?
  1. Why did I do all of this?
    • a. How did my work impact the company/organization as a whole?
    • b. Have I explained the reasons for doing what I did?

Delivering Your Resume

The application process can be confusing, especially when different organizations and different schools have different processes for submitting a resume or curriculum vitae. Knowing how to navigate these differences can help you make sure that your resume or CV is submitted as part of the application process.

Uploaded Resumes

Many organizations and graduate/professional schools utilize automated application systems. These systems are intended to simplify for the organization or school the process for reviewing applicants. For example, when an employer needs to fill a position, the system may be programmed with key words that describe the qualifications sought in a candidate. The system searches the applicant pool for resumes that include those key words. The resumes with the most matches are forwarded to the employer as prospective candidates.

The following steps will increase an automated system’s ability to read your resume:

  • Upload a PDF file of your resume whenever possible. Always follow the instructions in the application system.
  • Choose a well-known font such as Times, Arial, or Helvetica.
  • Pick a font size of 10 – 14 points, and do not condense spacing between letters.
  • Avoid boxes, graphics, or vertical lines.
  • If your resume is longer than one page, include your name and phone number at the top of the second page

Emailed Resumes

Employers and graduate schools may also accept application materials via email. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) offers the following suggestions should you choose to email your resume:

  • Proofread everything. A typo in an email can eliminate you from consideration just as quickly as it can on paper.
  • Introduce yourself with a brief (1–2 paragraph) cover letter stating your interest in the job and why you’d be a good fit for the company. Do this in the text of the email, not as an attachment unless a cover letter is specifically requested.
  • Be e-friendly. Whenever possible, attach a PDF file of your resume. If a PDF is not an accepted attachment format, test your attachments by sending “practice” emails to friends and asking them how the document appears on their screens.
  • Make information clear and accessible. Include the position and your name in the email subject line. Label your attachment with your name (e.g., Beth Gardner — resume).

Online Resumes

Unique to the job and internship search process, utilizing online resume services is a great way to get your resume to potential employers. Some sites allow you to upload your resume, some have you scan your resume onto their site, and others create categories for you to enter your information. No matter the format of an online resume service, there are a few important safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Posting your resume online makes your information very public. You may want to limit the contact information you provide to your email address and/or phone number.
  • Always ask callers to identify how they got your resume.
  • There is no easy way to control the type of employers who will search online databases for potential employees. You may get calls from companies/organizations that are not of interest to you. Be assertive in letting these callers know you are not interested.
  • If you are unsure of the legitimacy of a recruiter/company/organization, ask the caller to send you a position description and literature about the place of employment. Let that person know that you will call once you’ve had a chance to review the material if you are interested.
  • Be aware of third-party recruiters (these are typically recruiters who represent positions for a variety of companies either on a temporary basis or as a placement agency). This particular group of recruiters are always interested in expanding their candidate pool. If you are contacted by a third-party recruiter, ask for specifics on the service provided. Do not enter into any agreement in which you must pay a fee for placement services. Do not feel obligated to use a placement service or to provide any information to a third-party recruiter.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about how to handle phone calls from recruiters, please contact the Piper Center for advice and assistance!

For answers to additional questions, stop by the Piper Center to speak with a Piper Center Peer Advisor or Coach.