Writing a Resume

How to write an effective resume

Where to start?

“To apply: send resume and cover letter to...”, “Send copy of current resume by January 15 to...”, “Fax or e-mail resume to...” Have you seen these statements before? These are the famous last words near the end of almost every job description, internship listing, or corporate recruiting web page.

Most employers, big and small, expect candidates (intern, full-time, part-time, sometimes even volunteer) to produce a clear, concise, information packed document that represents experience and skills appropriate for successfully carrying out the responsibilities and tasks of an available position. Have you prepared such a document?


In addition to the sample resume on the next page, the following tips will assist you in developing and maintaining a quality resume.

  1. First draft does not equal final draft. Don't expect your first draft to be perfect. Plan to revise many times...in fact, plan to revise for the rest of your professional life! A resume is a work in progress, constantly changing as your experience and skills change.
  2. Start with too much. Don't assume that the job behind the counter at your parent's hardware store is irrelevant. Work experience is important no matter where it occurred. Skills from one job can be transferred to another very different kind of job. Shouldn't employers know you possess those skills? Begin developing your resume by making a list of all your work experience, paid and unpaid. Jot down the job title, employer name, city, state, dates of employment, your responsibilities, and specific skills you used or developed.
  3. Leadership experience counts too. Employers often cite leadership skills as high on their list of desired attributes and qualifications. Be sure to document your involvement in school, community, or professional organizations. You didn't have to be student government president to include this information. Perhaps you served on a committee, or planned a special event—don't leave it off your resume!
  4. Use active-verbs/skill-words to describe your experience. Be careful about using terms like “duties included” or “responsibilities included...” Each sentence that describes your experience should begin with an active verb or skill word. For example, “Completed data entry projects in a timely manner while paying attention to detail and accuracy,” “Assisted library patrons with new computerized library database,” or “Wrote and edited a training manual for future trainers and employees.”
  5. Computer and technical skills are relevant everywhere. Make sure to document your computer and technical skills somewhere on your resume. Include your experience with operating systems, programming languages, application software, etc. Even if your experience with computers is minimal, document what you do know. Including technical skills on a resume says, “I know this is important and I want you to know that I'm comfortable with technology and am willing to learn.”
  6. Miscellaneous but important: Proofread, proofread, proofread! Make sure there are no errors on your resume. It’s never too early (nor too late) to develop a resume. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Show your resume to a friend, professor, a career counselor or the cognitive science undergraduate advisor.