Writing the one-page story of your life

A vital tool in looking for a job is preparing a resume, a brief presentation of your experience and qualifications that makes an employer want to interview you.

Student often have lots of questions about how to assemble a resume. Here are some answers.

Above all, remember that the resume is not a life history. It is a presentation in outline form of your education, work and other experiences which highlights and describes those aspects which you think best portray your qualifications for employment. It is directed to a specific audience for a specific purpose.

The particular mix of qualifications that an employer prefers will depend on the job being filled. The more you know about what the employer is looking for, the better you can tailor your presentation.

If you are an undergraduate, graduating senior, or graduate student seeking summer or part-time employment, your resume will be a presentation that documents your general qualifications, such as your ability to learn quickly, to adapt to new environments, to research, analyze, and solve problems, to work with and lead a team, to follow instructions, to deal with ambiguity, to make decisions, and to communicate effectively.


Preparing to write your resume. Start by writing a comprehensive outline of all the experiences and facts you might want to include in your resume. Keep this outline as a reference while you experiment with a variety of formats and styles and selections of the information.

Understand what employers are looking for. Identify several prospective employers and gather information--ideally from visiting people at the place of work, or at least from company and vocational literature--about what qualifications that kind of job requires.

Friends can tell you whether they think you have succeeded in communicating your strengths. Advisors can comment on the impression your resume makes and what they learn about you from it. When you interview career advisors to learn about occupations and gather job hunting advice, ask them to criticize your resume. You can make an appointment to meet with a counselor to review your resume or drop in to talk with the counselor at the front desk at OCS.

Choose the format that best communicates your qualifications. Design your resume for two types of readers: the reviewer who scans your resume to learn your academic degrees, job titles, special experience, or skills; the reviewer who reads your resume for valued information about you and to receive an impression of your competencies and your personal qualities.

Most employers--especially in business--prefer a one-page resume. These employers want an effectively organized and concise presentation of the most pertinent information about you. Employers in education, public service, and human services do not seem to have a strong preference, but a concise presentation shows that you recognize the value of their time.

Remember that a resume is an example of your work. If you claim skill in organization and ability to communicate clearly and concisely, your resume should demonstrate your proficiency in those skills. If in doubt about resume length, ask counselors and career advisors.

You must make judgements about what is most important and allot space accordingly. Descriptions of jobs performed and accomplishments must be brief and listing of activities selective. If you can't fit your resume on one page, put all of the most important information on the first page. Certain information that is often included in longer resumes, such as a list of publications or a list of references, may be presented separately as attachments if you decide that they are important to your application. Other attachments may include an annotated transcript, clippings, writing samples, portfolio, and letters of recommendation.

Make purposeful use of capitals, underlining, positioning and spacing. If you use a typed resume, have it reproduced by photo-offset. Beware of using too small type or reducing a typed resume, as you may also reduce your readership. Use white or ecru paper with matching envelopes and paper for your cover letters. Don't use bright-colored paper--it will overshadow your message and is more likely to land in the trash can.

Style: Style also communicates a message. Staccato phrases or incomplete sentences such as "Designed data collection system. Analyzed data and prepared 60-page report" give an efficient, action-oriented impression. For some people, the flow of complete sentences is more suitable. Whichever

Appearance: It should be neat, uncrowded, attractive, and easy to read. Accuracy in use of language, information, and spelling is key. If your typing is not professional in appearance, hire someone who will produce a perfect copy. Whether it is typed or typeset, check and double check it to make sure that there are absolutely no errors.