Resume Advice

By Eric Feldman

GETTING STARTED WITH ERIC’S RESUME GUIDE

  • This page does not tell you how to organize your resume. It explains choices that you have to think deeply about to make for yourself in order to have a document that best represents you. There are no rules for resumes. They are subjective and following any guide, template, or someone’s advice without thinking for yourself is a bad idea.
  • Some disciplines, fields, and industries have their own quirks and customs for resumes. The advice on this page is generalized. You may want to do Internet research on your area (“journalism resume tips,” “engineering resume tips,” etc.), in addition to considering the advice here.

Let’s start at the top of the page:

NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION

  • Feel free to make sure your name stands out by using large enough font. Your name is the one part of the resume where it is usually safe to use subtle color or a font that is different from the rest of your document, if you feel that it works for you, and as long as it still looks professional.
  • Almost everyone puts their address on their resume. However, should you? First, consider that it is not required. You will be asked for your address on a job application, but it is unnecessary here. There are two potential unintended consequences: A resume reviewer may intentionally or unintentionally prejudice their decision based on the area in which you live, or your ability to commute to their office (if you live far away).
  • Your email address should be a professional variation on your real name.

SHOULD I HAVE A SUMMARY OR OBJECTIVE?

Not necessarily. As a general rule, the actual experience you have speaks volumes above any subjective statements you choose to make about yourself. If your experience and education clearly conveys who you are and what you are looking for, it may be a waste of space when the reader could already be taking in your accomplishments on campus and in the workplace.

If you are looking for a new path in life and applying to positions not clearly relevant to your current experience and education, or otherwise feel that something about you is not getting across without being able to write about yourself for a sentence or two, this section may provide an opportunity for you to explain why you are applying for this job and what you can bring to the table.

If you go the objective or summary route:

  • Keep it to a sentence or two.
  • Use the correct heading. Summary implies that you are going to briefly state who you are. Objective implies that you are going to describe where you want to go with your career. These are not the same thing.
  • Avoid generalities like that you are a “self-starter” or that you are looking for a “new challenging opportunity” which do not convey any useful information to the reader. Be extremely specific to the position you are applying for.

DETERMINING WHAT SECTIONS TO INCLUDE AND IN WHAT ORDER

Examples of sections that provide useful information on your resume are:

  • Education
  • Professional Experience/Work History
  • Leadership Experience
  • Volunteer/Community Service
  • Skills
  • Certifications
  • Internships
  • Awards
  • Affiliations (societies, professional associations, etc.)

Even these are suggestions so to speak. You can word them differently, choose the order they appear, and certainly should not use them all.

Usually, education is first, followed by work history, and then some combination of the other “extras” follows that. However, my most important principles of resumes is that the most relevant information should always be higher up on the document than the less relevant information. If your volunteer experience or club leadership looks better for whatever it is than the jobs you have had, you could put that first.

*Internships can be listed under work history/professional experience along with all other jobs, and the job title should indicate that you were an intern. Listing them separately is one option if they are much more relevant than your other work history and you’d like them to be higher on the document than the other jobs.

Now that we are working on the sections themselves, please consider:

Education:

List your degree correctly.

  1. The name of your degree usually consists of this formula: [Level of Degree] of [Arts/Sciences/etc.] in [Major]. Consider these examples
    • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
    • Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management
    • Master of Arts in English
  2. Almost all FIU degrees are a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science, with a few exceptions such as Bachelor of Business Administration. If you are not sure of the formal name of your degree, consult your academic department’s Web site or FIU Catalog.
  3. Bachelor and Master are singular when naming the whole degree “Bachelor of Arts” but possessive when using the short form “Bachelor’s degree.” I find using the longform more classy on your resume.

List the month of anticipated graduation.

It is not required to list your GPA. You may choose to list your GPA if you feel that your GPA is a selling point that sets you apart from other graduates. Keep in mind that if you list your GPA, your resume may automatically become less competitive than other applicants with a higher GPA.

All information on high school should be removed after your freshman year of college. Focus on getting enough accomplished here!

Skills:

I usually do not include anything that could not be demonstrated on the spot. This includes language ability, specific software and computer skills, and very specialized tasks, such as travel planning. Soft skills such as time management and people skills can be incorporated into your bullet points (see next section) where they are much more valuable because you are providing an example rather than just stating them without context. While others disagree, I tend to avoid listing Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, unless you have some extreme proficiency that most people do not (pivot tables, for example), as I feel there is an assumption that these products are known on a basic level by most applicants.

If language is the only demonstrable skill, the section can just be called Language.

Leadership/Affiliations/Extracurricular:

It is rarely highly noteworthy that you are the member of anything. Always aim to include entries where you can show a position or highlight an accomplishment. Be sure to use words and phrases which most accurately and impressively get across what you learned and how you grew from being a leader. This list of student leadership competencies might help.

JOB EXPERIENCE BULLET POINTS

  • What you say about the jobs you have done are perhaps one of the most telling parts of your resume. You should put deep thought into what you want to convey. Your bullet points should convey the overall picture of what you did at work, but should represent a list of your accomplishments, not your job duties.
  • Each and every bullet point should start with an action verb (“Coordinated,” “Processed,” “Led,” “Guided,” “Resolved,” etc.). Jobs that you are currently in should have present tense verbs; previous jobs should have past tense verbs.
  • Every position should have at least one numerical proof of your effectiveness. For example, percentage increase in sales, number of customers helped per week, etc.

LISTING STUDY ABROAD/EXPERIENCES ABROAD

If you studied abroad, some options might be to list it under your Education section, or if you have multiple international experiences such as a study abroad and a service trip or an international internship, a separate “International Experience” (or similarly worded) section may be appropriate.

See this external article for more advice on listing study abroad on your resume.

Also don’t miss the AIFS Marketing Your International Experience Workbook to help you best describe what you learned and gained from your time abroad.

REFERENCES

  • References do not go on your resume, nor does the statement “References Available Upon Request.” If an employer wants references, they are going to ask you for them whether or not you state this on your resume.

NOTE: This guide is the result of much thinking about what makes the most sense when I read a resume and is not from any existing print or Internet source.