Career Development Center

Rules for Effective Résumés


There are very few rules in résumé writing. They are:

  • Include only relevant information
  • Do not have any spelling errors or other typos
  • Be 100% truthful

The rest is personal preference, though it’s recommended you get help from career advisors, professors, mentors, and other people who know a lot about résumés or your particular field of study. Ultimately, it comes down to what you want. All we can give you are suggestions based on our experience. Here are some important points to remember:

  • Use active verbs to begin your descriptive lines (See Action Word List)
  • Do not use personal pronouns (I, me, my)
  • Do not use unnecessary punctuation (i.e. periods at the end of descriptive lines, colons at the end of headings, parentheses around dates, or underlining of text)
  • Use bullet points (instead of a paragraph) for your descriptive lines to make them easier to read (See Writing Descriptive Skill Statements)
  • Make sure your format (the way your résumé is organized) is consistent and flawless to make it easy to read
  • Do not include high school jobs or experiences unless you are a recent high school graduate, or the experience was extremely relevant to a job you are applying for
  • If you choose to include a “Relevant Coursework” section, only list courses that will show breadth (not obvious from the name of your major) or depth (specialized study in one area)
  • Make it one page, unless you have extensive work experience, you have a post-bachelor’s degree (Masters, Ph.D.), or can otherwise “prove” that you need the extra page. If you do have a second page, make sure it is at least a half-page and includes your name and the page number at the top right or in a footer at the bottom (not all of your contact info needs to be repeated again)
  • Take care when including experience in areas that may be controversial to some people, such as religion, politics, sexual orientation, etc. You can include it, disguise it, or omit it. Just think about it first. Please visit with a career counselor if you are concerned about how to describe this kind of experience
  • Use caution with templates. We actually recommend that you don’t use them at all. Templates tend to be inflexible, and can cause problems when you want to make changes later. Additionally employers get sick of looking at the limited number of templates over and over. You want your résumé to stand out, not look like all the rest!
  • Do not use “References Upon Request.” References should go on a separate page, using the same heading and formatting as used on your résumé
  • Note that these are all suggestions relevant to résumé formats for jobs in the United States! For information on résumé standards in other countries, see a career advisor with international experience.

What to never include

These are some categories that shouldn’t be included on a résumé (in the United States for most job fields)

  • Height, weight, age, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, sex, race, health, and social security number (can be included on some international résumés – check standards by country first!)
  • Reasons for leaving previous job(s), salaries at previous jobs
  • Picture of yourself – or a picture of any kind, for that matter!
  • Salary Information (This can go in a cover letter if, and only if, the employer asks for this information)
  • References (these go on a separate page)
  • The title “Résumé”

A word about appearance

Appearance is critical. Use at least one-inch margins to give your information some “air” and improve readability. Do not use stylistic fonts. Choose easily readable fonts such as Times Roman, Palatino, or an MS Word default font such as Cambria or Calibri. Limit the use of bold and italics to section headings and job titles. Bolding your completed degree(s) is also okay, as it can make them stand out within your education section. When using a printed résumé (as opposed to electronic) for a job application, use high quality white or off-white paper and only print on one side of the paper. Never print pages back-to-back. If your résumé is two pages or more, be sure to include your name on each page. Use single line headers or footers with your name and page number in 12-14 point type (a footer is not necessary on your first page, as your contact information is in your header).

Targeting your résumé

Make sure you carefully review your résumé each time you give it out. Update your objective (if you’ve used one), add information the employer specifically asked for, take out irrelevant information, and organize your sections so the most important information for that particular job is at the top in your summary. This should not take long and can have a huge influence on how you are perceived by a prospective employer.

For additional information and assistance, we recommend that you call The Career Development Center at 360-867-6193 to make an appointment with one of our Career Advisors.