Your resume is a marketing tool that paints a picture of your skills, abilities and experiences in a way that shows potential employers, internship supervisors, colleges or training programs, and scholarship selection committees that you are a match for the position/program they have to offer. We all have had unique experiences, and so each person’s resume will be different in both structure and content; there is not one right resume. However, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to make sure your resume has the essential information needed to paint a complete picture of your qualifications.
In many instances, your resume is the first thing an employer, admissions counselor or selection committee will see – it’s your opportunity to make a positive first impression! Your resume should be a clear summary of your skills and relevant experiences. Your resume should capture the attention of your target audience, motivating them to invite you for an interview. Remember, the person reviewing your resume may take as little as 30 seconds to do so. Make sure your half a minute counts!
Create your Resume
- Define your audience (job, internship, college or training program, volunteer program, scholarship, etc.) and jot down the qualifications and skills important to the position/program for which you are applying.
- Use the Resume Worksheet to start putting your experiences on paper. This will help you brainstorm.
- Next, think about the following areas of your background: education, work and volunteer experience, community and school activities, awards, honors, special skills and competencies. List the experiences as well as the skills you used in the experience.
- Organize your resume into categories that will showcase your background in a way that clearly demonstrates your “fit” for the position or program.
- Complete the first draft of your resume. Get feedback from parents, teachers, mentors, or other adults you trust.
- Save your final resume as a PDF document. Then, deliver your resume properly. Make sure you know the right delivery method for your situation whether it is by uploading to a website, sending as an email attachment, or other method.
There are no absolute requirements in the preparation of your resume, but there are generally accepted guidelines to follow. Here are some tips:
- Resume templates or wizards appear to be handy tools, but in the long run can prove challenging when adding content or editing later on. They may also include sample resume headings that may not be appropriate or necessary. It is recommended to create your own document instead of using a template or wizard.
- A one page resume is considered ideal for high school students and recent graduates.
- Be consistent in your choice of font and layout. Times, Garamond, and Helvetica are compact fonts and allow for more information to be presented on one page. Don’t use smaller than 10 point font.
- Don’t crowd your resume; aim to include white space. Your resume should appear uncluttered and be visually attractive.
- Use bold, bullets, or italics to highlight different headings.
- Be factual and 100% honest.
- Do NOT use personal pronouns (I, we, my) in your resume. Start statements with action verbs.
- Proofread your resume. Your resume should be free of spelling errors and have consistent punctuation. Keep in mind that the resume is an example of your written communication skills!
- Be e-friendly if submitting electronically. Save your resume as a PDF file.
- If printing your resume, do so on a laser printer. Use 20# bond resume paper in basic colors (white, off-white, cream, beige, or gray). If sending a cover letter and reference page, make sure they are printed on the same paper as your resume.
Example #1 (before and after editing)
Example #2 (before and after editing)
Some employers ask you to submit a cover letter along with your resume when applying for a job or related opportunity. A cover letter is designed to introduce you and your background to a potential employer. It should make the reader want to 1) read your resume and 2) grant you an interview.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your cover letter is your first chance to make a good impression. It also serves as an example of your written communication skills. A poorly written letter may be rejected before the resume is even considered! Take your time and be sure to ask for assistance from a teacher or counselor.
Start your Cover Letter
- Write several (4–5) opening sentences that will catch the reader’s eye and then select your favorite.
- List three skills required by the job/internship position or program for which you are applying. Then list examples of accomplishments that demonstrate your ability to use each skill. Turn this list of examples into a sentence format.
- Outline why this organization would want to hire or select you. What do you have to offer the organization that would make you a top candidate?
- Describe what you know about the organization; background, size, products & services, community involvement, growth and so on. Use bits and pieces of this information to personalize your cover letter. It shows interest in each organization to which you apply.
- Get feedback from a trusted adult (teacher, parent, counselor) and make revisions. Create a final draft and save it as a PDF document.
- Deliver your cover letter properly (as an email attachment, uploaded to an online application, etc.).
Cover Letter Format & Layout
The format and content of your cover letter should conform to all the rules of a good business letter!
Cover Letter Guidelines
- Your cover letter should be only one page in length, contain three to four paragraphs, and be single spaced.
- Double space between paragraphs.
- Content should be blocked to the left margin.
- Print your cover letter on the same quality 20# bond paper as your resume.
- Don’t forget to sign your cover letter.
- Keep a copy for your personal files.
When you apply for an opportunity, you may not hear back right away. It is important to follow up with a phone call to inquire about the status of your application. This will let that contact person know you are serious about the position/program.
When following up on an application:
- If an application deadline is stated in the job/internship description, choose a follow-up date 5–7 business days following the deadline.
- If NO application deadline is mentioned in the job/internship description, choose a follow up date 7–10 business days after mailing your materials.
- Indicate a specific follow up date in the closing paragraph of your cover letter and be sure to follow through with the phone call on that date, unless you have heard from the program/employer in the mean time.
Some ways of approaching the follow up phone call:
- “My name is ________________ and I am calling in regards to the ____________ position. I submitted my application materials on (date). I am following up to see if there is any additional information I may provide or to answer any questions you may have about my application.”
- “Good morning/afternoon/evening, this is _____________ and I am calling to follow up on the position of ____________. I recently sent my letter of application, resume and references and am wondering when the search committee will begin reviewing the applications. How will the applicants be contacted for an interview?”
- No matter how you approach the conversation, use this as an opportunity to express your interest in/excitement for the opportunity!