Résumé Writing Guide
• The Purpose of the Résumé: A Key Sales Tool
• First Things First: The Self-Assessment Process
• The Parts of Your Résumé
• Contact Information
• Other Data
• How to Develop the Experience Section of Your Résumé
• Sample Experience Worksheets
• Help With Words
• Power Writing
• Résumé Writing Do’s and Don’ts
• Recommended Resources Available in the Career Resources Library
The Weston Career Resources Center
The Purpose of the Résumé: A Key Sales Tool
The job market today requires that you market yourself effectively to prospective employers. As
you navigate through the maze of career opportunities, an effective résumé works as a key sales
tool in your armament.
While the résumé alone can never replace the other critical aspects of the job search process—
such as identifying your skills and abilities, learning about career fields, researching prospective
employers, networking, etc.—a well-prepared résumé serves several vital functions.
An effective résumé:
• Focuses your effort to assess your own skills and abilities
• Raises your self-confidence about your value in the job market
• Acts as a “sales brochure” to stimulate the interest of a prospective employer
• Reminds a prospective employer of your interest
• Helps you get job interviews
• Directs the flow of a job interview
• Aids an employer in the process of matching you, the job applicant, with a specific
In this guide, we will show you how to construct a concise statement of your skills, abilities, and
accomplishments—in a way that is most likely to motivate employers to discuss employment
opportunities with you.
First Things First: The Self-Assessment Process
In order to write an effective résumé, you must first conduct a self-assessment process. If you are
entering the workforce for the first time, this is your opportunity to be the architect of your
dreams—to quietly start designing the bridge that takes you from where you are now to where
you want to be. What are your career assets? What skills, abilities, contacts, and experiences do
you have now to offer the job market? What is your mission? What are your values? What do
you love to do? What do you do well? What career direction inspires you? What are your career
goals? Where would you like to be in a year? In five years, or ten years? How much would you
like to earn?
While we encourage you to undertake this process, that, of course, does not mean that you must
know the answers to all these questions with absolute certainty—or that you can never again
explore a different career path. Your career trajectory will be a gradually unfolding process of
self-discovery that may take you in unexpected directions. It just means that, before you market
yourself to prospective emp loyers, you must give some thought to what you are marketing and to
whom, where you would like to be, and why.
In some ways, this aspect of the job hunting process is even more critical than the preparation of
your résumé, because it lays the foundation for what you will present in your résumé, to whom
you will send it, and what career direction you will pursue.
Full- time MBA and BSBA students will complete the CareerLeaderTM on-line self- assessment,
This tool will help you to identify your business interests, skills, and reward values. In addition,
if you are a full-time MBA, you will complete the course, “Managing Your Career Strategy”
during your first semester of study to gain knowledge that will enhance your understanding of
industries and career paths. Similarly, if you are a BSBA, you will complete the Career
Preparation Series during the fall of your junior year.
Before you start working on your résumé, you should:
• Identify what skills, abilities, and experience you have to offer to a
• Gather information about industries and career fields that interest you
• Determine what kind of work environment appeals to you, what kind of
salary you require, what your geographical preferences are, what kind of
people you would most enjoy working with, as well as any special needs
you may have
• Set career goals: Where would you like to be working in the immediate
future? In the long term?
Once you have answered these questions to the best of your ability, you are ready to begin
preparing yo ur résumé.
The Parts of Your Résumé
Books and articles offer many résumé-writing tips and styles. Various résumé formats are
recommended, including those referred to as “functional,” “chronological,” “creative,” and
“targeted.” The majority of career centers at top business schools recommend the chronological
format, because it is widely accepted by hiring managers, and because the format works well for
most job hunters. The chronological format emphasizes continuity and career growth, and is easy
to follow. This is the format that the Weston Career Resources Center recommends, and the style
that we will discuss here. It is also the one we require for our résumé database.
If you are conducting an independent job search, and you prefer a different style of résumé, you
may wish to refer to one of the books available at the Career Resources Library (CRL). You can
also find excellent books on how to prepare different kinds of résumés at your local library or
If possible, prepare your résumé so tha t it fits onto one page. Less is more: A shorter, simpler,
clearer document communicates best—and conveys your message with confidence. This may
require that you eliminate repetitions and pare down phrases to their clearest essence. If,
however, you have more significant information than can comfortably fit onto one page, then,
instead of trying to cram everything onto one page, use two. Please note that, in order to include
your résumé in the WCRC résumé database, your résumé must comply with the required one-
page length and formatting guidelines.
First, let us look at the parts of a résumé. The standard résumé is constructed with four or five
subheadings—contact information, education, experience, other data, and objective. The first
four should always be included in a résumé; the objective is optional.
A balanced heading at the top of your résumé includes your formal name, address, phone
number(s), and email address if you have one. Your name always comes first—centered at the
top of your résumé. Be sure to include a phone number where you can be reached or where a
message can be left. Make it easy for prospective employers to contact you. Undergraduate
students may include both their campus address (left margin) and permanent address (right
An optional, succinct, one-sentence statement that describes a functional specialty or specific job
interest. Avoid any temptation to make it long-winded. If you are extremely targeted in your
career objectives, you may include an objective; we, however, recommend that you omit it in the
résumé and instead articulate your objective in a well-written cover letter. The résumé format we
recommend at the WCRC does not include an objective; omitting it gives you the greatest
flexibility when your résumé is referred to prospective employers.
Indicate your degree(s), major(s), and—if the subject area relates to your career objective—your
areas of concentration. Identify specific courses that pertain to your job objective. State any
marketable skills (i.e., computer expertise, foreign language fluency, etc.) Use three to five lines
for each educational experience, more if the information is notable; no paragraph, however,
should exceed four to six lines.
Unless you already have had significant full- time work experience in an area related to your job
objective, the education section will probably be the most important part of your résumé. This
often holds true for undergraduates, for whom activities during your education ma y constitute the
most significant part of your experience. If so, use this section to beef up your résumé with any
Restrict narrative comments to achievement-oriented phrases beginning with action words.
Include activities that highlight your initiative, leadership qualities, competitive drive, or work
with a team. Mention significant honors, awards, selections, scholarships, or offices held.
If you are a graduating BSBA, you will probably want to include a brief statement about your
high school achievements. This reinforces the pattern of accomplishment in your Washington
University experience. If space is limited, omit high school achievements and emphasize your
most recent activities and accomplishments.
Each entry in the experience section should flow from the general to the specific: company,
location, dates of employment, job title, responsibilities, and specific accomplishments. Don’t
include employers’ addresses; city and state is sufficient. If a position you held had no specific
title, make up one that best describes your activities. A responsibility statement—a two- line job
description—should follow each job. (If, for example, four people had your job, the job
description would be the same for all four people.)
But don’t stop with just a description of your duties; all jobholders have duties. The
responsibility statement should be followed by a more specific description of activities, skills,
and—better yet—accomplishments. Demonstrate that you are a producer. List accomplishments
that answer the question, “So what?” An accomplishment is a measurable result, a product that
prospective employers can relate to. Whenever possible, quantify your accomplishments. Use
numbers, dollar values or percentages: “Increased reve nues by $50,000 in one year period.”
“Sold 300 widgets in five months.” “Recruited 50 new members.” “Completed six major
research projects.” “Cut costs by 25%.”
Use a direct, active writing style: Begin statements with action verbs—implemented, produced,
planned, supervised, managed, directed—that compel the reader to find out what you
accomplished. Keep sentences or paragraphs short. Indented bullet points with fragment
sentences list information effectively in a crisp and concise format. Avoid using “I”—it is
implied throughout your résumé. Use the present tense to describe your current job.
Do not leave gaps between employment dates; list jobs by year rather than by month and year. If
a gap occurred, list the time with a brief explanation (e.g., “During that time, was studying, doing
volunteer work, etc.”) Do not exaggerate or misrepresent your experience.
The best way to create the experience section of your résumé is to begin by listing all your work
experience in chronological order. Later, you can refine your list, emphasizing experiences that
relate to your specific career goals. In “How to Develop the Experience Section of Your
Résumé,” we will walk you through this exercise, and include a sample worksheet to help you
with the process.
In this section of your résumé, display information that doesn’t fit into any other category. This
section, however, should include no more than a few lines. The key word here is relevancy: Do
not include extraneous information that does not clearly contribute to your work ability for your
current career goals. Language fluency, interests, computer knowledge, and social and civic
activities, if pertinent, can be grouped in this section. Under interests and activities, for example,
you might mention apt social or civic activities, volunteerism, or sports activities that
demonstrate qualities such as leadership, teamwork, responsibility and initiative. Under
computer skills—if using computers is a necessary skill for the job you are seeking—highlight
the software programs you know. If you have a particularly strong background in any category,
you may wish to put that information under a separate category with its own heading (e.g.,
computer skills, interests, activities, language fluency, etc.) Employers don’t need to know your
weight, height, marital status, health, or any other personal information.
How to Develop the Experience Section of Your Résumé
Here we are going to walk you through an exercise designed to help you prepare the experience
section of your résumé. We’ve included a sample experience worksheet below as an example. As
we mentioned, the best way to build this section of your résumé is to start by creating an outline
of all your work experience in chronological order. Entitle this, “Outline of Work,” and make
three columns: “Dates,” “Organization,” and “Job Title.”
All the jobs you’ve ever held—no matter how insignificant in your eyes—should be included in
your list. Later, you will assess the importance of each experience relative to your current career
goals. But for now, include everything. Include the jobs that will provide the most significant
data, such as summer jobs, internships with industry, banks, accounting firms, etc. But don’t
exclude work you may have done as a waiter, a babysitter, a newspaper boy—each job
demonstrates a degree of initiative, responsibility, and enterprise that holds merit.
If you participated in a Center for Experiential Learning practicum, consulting project, or global
management study course during your studies at Olin, you may wish to include this experience in
your résumé as well. Because experiential learning projects are university-sponsored activities,
they should be listed in the Education section. The name of the company should not be listed as
the employer but can be mentioned in the description. Identify the experience by the name of the
project (e.g., Taylor Community Consulting Project, Hatchery Entrepreneurship Project,
Practicum Consulting project, Global Management Studies course). If you would like to include
activities you were involved in during your project, but are concerned about whether or not your
activities are considered confidential, please discuss this with the Center for Experiential
Learning Director before including those activities in your résumé.
Once you’ve created your outline, you can proceed to the next step—an analysis of your
responsibilities, activities and accomplishments for each job. On a separate sheet of paper—one
sheet for each job—write a job description that includes all the responsibilities and activities you
can think of that you were involved in while you held that position. Entitle each sheet, “Job
Analysis.” Again, make three columns: “Responsibilities,” “Skills Used,” and
“Accomplishments.” Over a period of days or weeks, write down all the activities and
responsibilities that occur to you.
To describe your skills, use active verbs and concise phrases (see examples in the worksheet
below). If you’ve ever done volunteer work, you might structure active phrases such as:
• Determined organization objectives
• Established plan of action
• Coordinated diverse groups of people
• Presented ideas and action plan to board members
• Motivated workforce of 18
Accomplishments, as we’ve discussed above, should be stated in quantifiable terms wherever
possible. Cite numerical figures, such as funds saved, efficiency improved, lines of code written,
programs debugged, numbers of machines repaired, dollars raised. Not all college students have
had the opportunity to do work that can be so quantified. You may, however, be able to describe
accomplishments where you added value to an organization, such as your sorority, fraternity,
club or volunteer organization.
Finally, begin to condense your outline and job analyses, formulating the expressions you will
use in your résumé. Concentrate on those jobs and experiences that relate to your specific job
objective. In the résumé, list your work experiences in reverse chronological order, with your
present or most recent experiences first. Do not leave gaps in your work history, but highlight
your work history selectively, specifically drawing attention to what the market is “buying.”
Edit out unnecessary material; break up lengthy descriptions. Ideally, paragraphs should be
between four and six lines. Bullets draw attention to their following points and may be used to
highlight specific accomplishments. Write and rewrite. There will always be ways to improve the
language, content, or formatting of your résumé. Don’t be afraid to keep revising it even up to
the day of submission.
Keep your target in mind while developing your résumé. You may have a general one, but when
you are preparing to submit your résumé to a specific company, update and focus your résumé
based on the specific job objective and the research you’ve done on that company.
As you work on putting the final draft of your résumé together, we encourage you to make
appointments as often as necessary with the Career Resources staff. We’re happy to help you
with any difficulties you may be having. We require, however, that you make some attempt to
get started. When you come in for an appointment, bring with you at least your first résumé draft.
We can be of greater assistance if you have completed the initial steps of preparing your résumé.
Sample Experience Worksheets
Outline of Work
Dates Organization Job Title
Summer 20xx Mallinckrodt, Inc. Personnel Intern
Summer 20xx Burgermeisters Store Manager
20xx-20xx Self- Employed Lawn Maintenance
For each job listed in your Outline of Work, create a separate Job Analysis sheet:
Job Title: Store Manager
Dates: Summers 20xx and 20xx
Responsibilities Skills Used Accomplishments
Hiring & Training • Interpreted hiring criteria • Decreased required “in
• Interviewed candidates training” time by 19%
• Administered/interpreted • Reduced turnover by 21% as
tests to applicants a result of better screening
• Taught in groups and
Consulting • Analyzed client’s internal • Worked on a $10 million
• Worked on six-person team • Implemented Oracle
• Traveled 60 percent of time Financials within 30 days
• Provided solutions for clients
Inventory Management • Compiled usage figures • Saved company an estimated
• Analyzed and revamped $4500 per year in reduced
ordering procedures spoilage
• Adjusted delivery schedules
of rolls, meats, and fries
Help With Words
To help you draft the most effective wording when you write your job description, we’ve
included lists of action words, as well as examples of “power writing.” When using these aids,
however, remember that your résumé should be an original reflection of your unique experience
Managed Conducted Solved
Administered Approved Optimized
Directed Implemented Scheduled
Supervised Controlled Maximized
Lead Motivated Monitored
Guided Coordinated Proved
Evaluated Maintained Trained
Revised Sold Accomplished
Modified Began Provided
Analyzed Purchased Performed
Researched Launched Expedited
Revamped Established Delivered
Composed Structured Produced
Developed Organized Designed
Founded Planned Built
Created Consolidated Generated
Invented Originated Engineered
Conceived Designed Provided
Improved Decreased Instructed
Streamlined Completed Presented
Accelerated Eliminated Negotiated
Expanded Finished Contracted
Increased Canceled Taught
Saved Reduced Demonstrated
Courtesy of The New Complete Job Search by Richard H. Beatty, p. 80.
Wrong: I reported to the Plant Manager. I was responsible for the maintenance,
engineering and procurement departments, and managed a total of 150
hourly employees. I was also responsible for ma naging the plant’s
stockroom and being sure that we didn’t run out of spare parts.
Right: Reported directly to Plant Manager of this 2000-employee paper
manufacturing plant. Managed the maintenance, engineering and
procurement functions (150 employees, $12 million budget). Directed
$35 million capital expansion project that doubled plant production
and reduced operating costs by 10%. Installed computerized spare
parts system, reducing spare parts inventory by 25% ($1.3 million
Wrong: I reported to the Director of Administrative Personnel. I was
responsible for managing the compensation, benefits, employment and
training functions. My major accomplishments included the
installation of human resources computer system and new executive
bonus program. I also managed the organization effectiveness function
and contributed to the increased effectiveness of the corporate
distribution function through use of modern organization effectiveness
Right: Reported to Director of Administrative Personnel of this Fortune 100
personal care and cleaning products company. Managed
compensation, benefits, employment, organization effectiveness and
training functions (35 employees, $12.6 million budget). Installed
human resources computer system, reducing H.R. staff by 10%
(annual savings $320 thousand). Led O.E. effort that reduced corporate
distribution operating costs by $48 million annually.
Résumé Writing Do’s
• Invest significant time in preparing your résumé.
• Make your résumé brief, concise, and easily readable. Many employers receive hundreds of
résumés daily and rarely spend more than a minute or two reviewing each.
• Key the contents of your résumé to the specific job objective and company to which you are
applying. Update, adapt, and focus your résumé for each new position you pursue. As a
marketing tool, your résumé should be individually designed to convince a potential
employer that you are the ideal candidate for a particular job opening.
• Use headlines and initial phrases that support your main message.
• Give your résumé visual appeal. Organize the sections of your résumé into balanced, well-
blocked shapes of black ink surrounded by white border space and wide margins.
• Highlight work history selectively, specifically drawing attention to what the market is
• If you had one employer but have had a series of job titles within that organization, highlight
the years within each position and eliminate the total number of years with the company.
• If you were self-employed, give yourself an appropriate job title; titles like “owner” or “self-
employed” do not convey what you actually did.
• Begin phrases with action words. Use a direct, active writing style. Use indented bullet points
• Emphasize responsibilities, activities, and accomplishments. Whenever possible, use
quantifiable terms to describe your accomplishments.
• Use present tense to describe your current job.
Résumé Writing Don’ts
• Do not use odd-sized or colored paper or overly fancy stock. Don’t use gray paper; it does
not fax well. Don’t include pictures or put your résumé in binders or folders.
• Do not leave gaps between employment dates; if gaps occurred, list the time with a brief
• Do not provide a lifelong biographical history. Don’t include extraneous or personal
information that does not support your career goals.
• Do not exaggerate or misrepresent your experience.
• Be sure there are no misspelled words, typographical or grammatical errors. Avoid
abbreviations unless they are commonly understood.
• Avoid using “I” in your statements.
Available in the Career Resources Library
What Color Is Your Parachute?, by Richard N. Bolles
What Color Is Your Parachute: Job Hunting on Line, by Richard N. Bolles:
“What do employers really want in a résumé?” by Wendy S. Enelow, Certified Professional
Résumé Writer & President of The Advantage, Inc.
Résumés for Financial Careers, by Leslie Hamilton
Résumés for College Students and Recent Graduates, by the Staff at VGM
Electronic Résumés and Online Networking, by Rebecca Smith
Vault Reports Guide to Résumés, Cover Letters, and Interviews, by Vault Reports, Inc.
High Impact Résumés and Letters, by Ronald Krannich
Résumés that Knock’em Dead #2, by Martin Yate