Do sweat the small stuff when it comes to how your resume is organized and how it looks. Key things to keep in mind:
- Maintain one-page length (for first couple years of college only)
- Use a simple font, such as Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman
- Separate sections with white space for clear delineation of content categories
- Use bullets and bold to focus the reader’s attention
- Maintain uniformity of length and construction of bullets
- List items in reverse chronological order (starting with most recent)
- Remain consistent with formatting throughout
- Try not to go smaller than 11 pt. font
- Keep left and right margins no smaller than one-half inch, and ideally one full inch.
No matter what, keep in mind that a visually appealing resume with a balance of text and open space draws a reader in, while a cluttered, crowded resume with too many styling elements does nothing to invite a careful read. See sample resumes written by Georgia Tech freshmen.
The rules of resume language are not the same as the ones you learned in middle school. Resumes are written with brief, concise points and way more nouns and verbs than adjectives and adverbs. Some tips:
- Use verb phrases; avoid complete sentences
- Police for errors, either grammatical or spelling
- Remove pronouns
- Spell out acronyms unless they are widely known
- Review all the above every time before sending
Now let’s look at how all these “rules” shake out when you work on your resume section by section.
Typical First-year Student Resume Sections
Your resume will have a header for personal contact information, plus five or six sections. The information and details you include in these sections will provide a recruiter with the details of your work, and show exposure to the technical aspects of your area of concentration. Your goal with your resume is simple: show a recruiter what you’ve been exposed so that he or she can see how you can contribute to the overall success of a company. You won’t necessarily have work experience yet in your field, so showing exposure to core concepts and theory, equipment, software, lab work, data, and communication/leadership will give some idea of your potential as a new hire.
The order of your sections matters because it’s a ranking of your acquired knowledge and experience. Once you’ve gotten a job in your field—usually an internship or co-op—the Experience section will always follow Education. But most first-year students have not worked in their chosen field, so you will want to show your academic and intellectual pursuits first, which will mean your Skills and Academic Projects section will follow Education for the time being. The posted examples further along in this unit provide illustration of this. Section content (and order) are provided below:
Header (Personal Information)
- Use larger font for your name (typically 16-18 pt works well)
- Provide city and state where you live at the time you are applying for work (either school or permanent home)
- List one email address, and make sure it isn’t a goofy-sounding one
- Include one phone number – almost always your cell
- Give your LinkedIn profile URL, if you have one
Section 1: Education
Keep this section simple and streamlined. It should not be more than a few lines.
- Begin with this section until after graduation
- Use reverse chronology, starting with your current status as a Georgia Tech student and working backwards through any other colleges you’ve attended (if you transferred here) and then high school.
- Remove high school listing after first year of college
- Provide anticipated university graduation date, such as Spring 2021
- List GPA, if above 3.2
- Include certifications and awards
- Show study abroad
Section 2: Skills
Here is the heart of most undergrads’ resumes. It’s a posting of everything marketable you know, took time to master, or have been exposed to. If you used a particular software or application in class, equipment or instrumentation in lab, worked with data, communication, report-writing, and aspects of leadership, you’ll want to include it. Many of these skills will be the concepts you learned in class. You may use those concepts from your courses as early as the first week of the semester. Note: these concepts are what you learn in class, often theories and procedures, not the course titles. Look through the syllabus and text book to find them. Skills—often technical nouns—translate as key words, which are vital on a resume.
All companies will scan your application materials for key words to gauge your exposure; often, some of these words will be in the job posting. Key Word Search edits out resumes that don’t have enough information about the candidate, so be aware. Include any word/term/concept you think will be useful/relevant to a hiring manager. Some possible Skills section subcategories are Concepts (learned in classes of your major/minor/concentration); Software/Applications; Instrumentation (equipment); Lab Protocols; Computer Languages; Spoken Languages; Communication; Music; Athletics; Artistic or Design Skills. You may have even more than these, so use them. They can possibly be key words, but also show that you’re a package of skills and abilities, not just one defined area. Employers always seek new hires who are well rounded and multi-faceted.
- Think of your Skills section as a list of nouns, with no qualifiers (other than qualifying spoken language by level of proficiency, e.g., “Mandarin (fluent)” or German (basic proficiency)”
- Break down into categories
- Add to your list every semester
- Include concepts/theories/protocol learned in lecture, lab, on a job
- Avoid using “coursework” as a category, instead show what you specifically learned in class
Section 3: Research
If you have conducted formal research (in high school, or on a job), you may use this section. Many students implement this section later in their college career, but some first-year students have this area already in their background. Research is a great section to incorporate because it shows that you can formally analyze and possibly solve a problem by using quantitative and qualitative methods, plus utilize lab equipment and/or data.
- List the topic, plus date and location
- Create short bulleted list of duties
- Show what, how, why, and findings (where applicable)
Section 4: Academic Projects
Even first-year students will be able to use this section because of the nature of your hard work in high school. A ‘project’ can be a group or individual assignment; can come directly from a class or be self-assigned; has a defining goal and evaluation component; shows you using equipment, theory, concepts, and/or data in a focused area of study or problem solution. Academic projects do not have to originate in your major at this point in time. Detailing one to three projects can show your attention to detail and ability to sustain study. Often, this particular section is a favorite with recruiters and may be where you’re asked the most questions at a career event or interview. Update this section each semester, and use it to showcase your hard work and intelligence.
- Provide title/topic, date
- Implement 3-4 bullets that include duties, steps
- Show what, how, why, and sometimes findings, just like in the Research section
Section 5: Experience
The Experience section is devoted to work for compensation. If you were paid, you will place the entry here. If you were not paid/were a volunteer, you will use that information in Leadership, the following section. The exception is if you have worked as an unpaid intern. Because of the value of the word ‘intern,’ you’ll want to showcase it in Experience, even if you didn’t receive monetary compensation. While Experience will probably later be solely devoted to work in your field or major, at this point, it does not matter. Translation: don’t worry about relevance of the job. All work counts in the mind of a recruiter. This section can be important for you because it shows that you’re reliable, dependable, can show up on time, multi-task, and follow through. Hiring managers are always attracted to candidates who have previously worked, no matter the job.
- Provide name of company, position title, plus dates
- Include 2-4 bullets of duties
- Avoid long “laundry lists” of job duties. Just hit the highlights, and where possible, state something you accomplished beyond basic duties.
- Use action verbs to begin each bullet
- Avoid complete sentences
- Use chronological order, unless you seek to highlight a previous job
Section 6: Leadership
This section can also be of great value to you because it shows you have a life outside the lab or classroom and that you are aware of your community and the world. It also showcases your ability to take part as well as lead. You can include involvement on campus, or in your community, and a detailed leadership section will also show your communication skills, which will interest a recruiter. This section should be easy for you to complete because active community involvement—henceforth known as ‘Leadership’—was one of the requirements to gain admission to Georgia Tech. Employers want more than coders or logistics specialists; they also want someone who gets along well with others and shows empathy and trustworthiness. A well-crafted Leadership section goes a long way to proving these aspects of you. Remember that all companies seek well-rounded individuals.
- List organization, dates
- Include 2-4 bullets of duties
- Might also include list of memberships, activities
Utilizing these five or six sections means that you can deliver information hiring managers need in a quick and thoughtful way. You’re giving them what they want, which is the key to successful communication in the workplace. The details you provide within these sections provide a glimpse into your history and commitment. You are showing that the work you’ve done can work for the company, and you’re being efficient with delivery of that information. You’ve displayed all the components of your academic and professional background, and now the hiring manager can pose good questions to you, so he or she can gauge your fit. You will find two examples on the following pages that give you a good idea of what your completed resume will look like.
And, once you’ve finished your first resume, be sure to revisit it every semester. This creates continuity and means you won’t forget an academic project or skill picked up in a certain class that might have some relevance in your job search.
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