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Resume Writing Tips

Simple Steps to Write Your Resume

Step 1: Gather Information and Conduct a Self-Inventory

Review your personal information and experience. Start with a blank piece of paper, not a template, and list each item that has relevance. Go for volume here and focus on details and specifics. You will condense this information later.

Contact Information
Your name, current and temporary addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail address. Be careful with your email address — e-mail addresses such as and may have personal meaning to you, but to employers, they represent someone that lacks professionalism. 

Objective Statement
Objective statements are a mixed bag: sometimes they help, sometimes they don’t. There are various opinions out there. An objective statement is most effective in the following circumstances if: 1) you have a broad major such as management, psychology, or sociology that applies to many different industries/disciplines, 2) you are seeking an internship or 3) you are seeking a position that is not closely related to your major. A good objective statement contains the following elements: 1) what you are seeking (internship or entry-level position), 2) what type of company/industry/job (human resources, operational management, or sales management) and 3) what qualities you bring to the job (your strengths).

Begin with current school (University of South Carolina) and list your degree(s), major(s) and minor(s). State the date you will graduate. For each school you've attended list the city and state in which they are located. Include academic honors, awards, scholarships, projects and publications. Students who are juniors and up, do not use high school information. Generally, list your GPA if it's 3.0 or above. You can also list your GPA in your major if it is better than your cumulative. Military training can be listed here as well. Make sure to write your degree correctly (Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications).

Work Experience

Not all jobs will be related to the one you are seeking. The key is to look for a connection between the skill sets/qualities desired (as indicated in the job description) and your previous jobs. Make sure to provide the reader with enough content to understand what you did. 

Describe paid and non-paid experiences. Include your title, employer name, location and dates of employment. Focus on the work you performed, your contributions and achievements, and the skills you used or gained. Use numbers, figures, and descriptions of the environment. You need to give the reader a mental picture of the experience. Descriptors such as “Reconciled Books”, “Handled Cash Flows”, and the ubiquitous “Performed Office Functions” just do not provide enough context.

College, Community and Personal Involvement
State name of organization and the role you played. Describe the organization for readers who may not be familiar with the University of South Carolina. Don't just list organizations, instead state contributions, offices held and demonstrated skills. Include dates of membership.

Special Skills
Can you speak a foreign language? Do you have computer, laboratory, design and other skills or licenses? Include it here.

Interests, Activities and Honors
Again, no lists. Instead, detail any hobbies and other endeavors which support your career objective.

All too often, students undersell themselves . Remember you want to present an image to the reader that highlights your qualities and matches the company’s job description. Present related activities and honors first. While being a member of a social fraternity is very important in college, you may want to list membership in a professional organization first. 

These do not belong on your on your resume. List name, title, business address, phone number, fax and e-mail address of reference on a separate sheet, with the same header as your resume. 

Carefully choose job references that compliment your resume. A good reference candidate should be someone who bolsters and confirms the details of your resume and offers positive feedback regarding your work or educational skills and experience. A good reference candidate is someone who has known you at least one year - preferably three. Your list of references should include three to five of the following: former and/or current supervisors, colleagues and/or subordinates, former customers and/or clients, former professors, or contacts from work-related associations or volunteer work. One bad, lukewarm or incomplete reference could be the deciding factor between you and another qualified candidate.

Step 2: Choose a Resume Format

The format you choose should reflect your own personal situation. Consider your qualifications, career objective, experience and the kind of employer you are seeking before you select a style. The most common formats are:

Jobs and education are listed in reverse chronological order-the most recent experience first. This format is best for those who have some experience directly related to their objective.

Functional Skills
Highlights qualifications, skills and related accomplishments with little emphasis on dates. This format is not recommended as employers usually prefer past employment information.

Similar to functional resume, but with employment history listed in a separate section. This style is best for people who have little related experience but lots of transferable skills, new graduates, career changers who have gaps in their work history and those who have had many similar jobs. It allows the writer list their experience and skills in order of relevance rather than by date or functional title. 

Step 3: Write your first draft

Describe your experience in terms of the functions you performed and what you accomplished. Use action verbs to strengthen descriptions. Employers are interested in how successful you were in the past because it predicts future performance. 

Make It Clear
Do not use personal pronouns like "I" and "my." Do not use full sentences. Instead, use short bulleted phrases in past tense for past experience, present tense for present activity. Avoid "responsible for" and "duties included." Place the most relevant information first and avoid abbreviations. Your experience can be divided into "related" and "other" in order to highlight related experience first.

Resumes should be one page. Try to condense information to fit one page, especially if the second page is less than half full. Keep it clear and concise but not too brief. 

Step 4: Critique your first draft

Use the resume checklist to self-critique and ask several individuals who are familiar with the type of employment you are seeking to look it over. 

Step 5: Final draft

Check that your resume is mistake free, has consistent emphasis (bold, underline, italics) and is well laid out on the page. Print your resume on 24 lb. cotton bond paper. Use pure white, cream, ecru or beige paper. Avoid pastels, grays or showy designs. These colors will not reproduce well if the employer decides to make copies or forward your resume via fax.  Never photocopy your resume, always print your resume using a laser or high-quality inkjet printer.

The average resume requires 4-5 drafts before reaching a satisfied completion. Edit each draft to improve word choice and reduce redundancy. Update your resume each semester with new information. Chances are that you will need to make constant modifications to your resume (changing objectives, arranging sections, highlighting different information).