GUIDELINES FOR WRITING A RESUME
A resume is a brief, written summary of your qualifications, skills, knowledge and education. The goal of your
resume is to motivate an employer to interview you. Primarily, a “good resume” must meet the employer’s needs
and must also meet your needs.
Cite numbers and specifics whenever possible.
Write the way you speak - short sentences in the cover letter and short, descriptive phrases in the resume.
Be honest and accurate.
Avoid personal pronouns (“I”).
Make it visually pleasing - use margins, bullets, italics and boldface type.
Use good quality 8” X 11” resume, bonded paper.
Review final draft with a friend or counselor to assure there are no typographical or grammatical errors.
Keeping all the above in mind, remember too, there is no one right way to write a resume. There are no hard,
fast rules for specific styles, format and content.
WHAT YOUR RESUME SHOULD COVER
The type of position you are seeking
Positions held, when and where
Scope of responsibilities for each position held
What you can offer an employer (may include in the cover letter)
Your knowledge, skills, qualifications and talents
Background training (as relevant and keep brief)
There are several basic resume formats. Know your needs and objectives before selecting a format. The format
that you choose should be one which best highlights your work strengths, unique qualifications
1. Chronological - Emphasized previous experience, which is described in chronological order. This format
is most advantageous if you have gained extensive experience that is directly related to your career
objective. Chronological is not an advantage if your work history is spotty or you are changing career
fields. (This is the traditional format for resumes, generally accepted everywhere and easily understood.
Since the practice of social work includes the “use of self” and draws on the professional’s own life
experiences, even positions held in non-social services may be relevant and may be included on a resume.)
2. Functional - Experience and abilities are arranged and described in major skill and knowledge areas with
or without dates. Accomplishments and transferable skills should be highlighted. The advantage will
allow you to organize your resume in a way that supports your objective and focuses on capabilities you
may have for a specific job.
3. Targeted - This resume is highly focused and lists abilities and accomplishments directed to specific job
4. Creative - A format which is most effective for people interested in a career in art, theatre, media or
writing. It should be used only when creativity and individuality is related to the job target and must be
extremely well done.
Preparing a good resume will require considerable time and effort. Research your career fields of interest. Review
KEY ELEMENTS OF A GOOD RESUME
Identity - Name, address, phone number (and email address)
Career Objective - The key to what follows. Why are you seeking this job? Use a minimum of words and try to
be focused. Examples of good job objectives:
*Licensed clinical social worker, specializing in relationship problems and substance abuse, working with
individuals, couples and families
*Program development position working with elderly population
*Social work position with University of California Medical Center
*Professional psychotherapy position with public or private agency
Education - List degrees earned (in reverse chronological order), colleges and graduation date (year only). If
cumulative grade point average is above 3.0, you may include it and be sure to put the top of the scale after a slash
Qualifications Summary - Briefly describe three to five unique qualifications for skills which support your career
objective. (This is optional on the resume. May be included in the cover letter.)
Previous Experience - List employers in reverse chronological order, beginning with your most recent job. Briefly
describe the major responsibilities and significant accomplishments for each job. (Include previous internships and
identify as such.) Highlight your work strengths and problem solving abilities. (As appropriate, include the age
group of the population of customers/clientele served in each position.)
Related Experience - Briefly describe pertinent experience gained through cooperative education (and/or volunteer
service) which is related to your career objective. (Again, the “use of self” concept applies here. These other
experiences may be integrated into the chronological resume as long as each experience is appropriately labeled,
i.e. volunteer, etc.)
Professional Associations, Memberships or Activities (optional) - Again, list in reverse chronological order.
References - Furnished upon request (optional). May list references on a separate sheet entitled “References for
Mary Smith”, your address and phone number (and email address), list 3 to 5 references, including their titles,
addresses and telephone numbers.
Cover letters are extremely important. Whenever your resume is sent by mail, a cover letter should go along with
it. Here’s what a Damn Good Cover Letter needs to accomplish:
1) Address someone in authority (by name and title) that could hire you. When it’s impossible to get that
information, use a functional title (“Dear Manager”) even if you have to guess (“Dear Selection
2) Tell how you became attached to this particular company.
3) Demonstrate that you’ve done some “homework” on the company/organization and can see their point
of view (their current problems, their interests and their priorities).
4) Convey your enthusiasm and commitment (even passion?) for this line of work.
5) Balance professionalism with personal warmth and friendliness. Avoid using generic, alienating
phrases like “enclosed please find” or “Dear Sir”. This is a personal letter.
6) Identify at least one thing about you that is unique - say, a special gift for getting along with all kinds of
people - something that goes beyond the basic requirements of the position that distinguishes you and is
relevant to the position. (Then if several others are equally qualified, there is a reason to pick you.)
7) Be appropriate to the field you’re exploring - stand out, but in a non-gimmicky way.
8) Outline specifically what you are asking and offering.
9) Point directly to the next step, telling just what you will do to follow through.
10) Remain as brief and focused as possible.
THE DAMN GOOD RESUME GUIDE
These materials were distributed at the Resume Writing Workshop, Kent School of Social Work, Job Fair - March
27, 1993. Recent modifications to this document are noted by italicized words inside parentheses, June 1998.