Resumes and CVs - Basic Resumes

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How to begin

What if I don't have enough experience?

What should my resume look like?

What to include

What not to include

How to describe experiences

Including activities or leadership experiences

How to get more resume assistance

 

 

How to begin

A resume is a targeted summary of your accomplishments. Its main purpose is to convince a potential employer to interview and hire you for a position. Resumes are used to screen applicants for interviews and determine which candidates have the background that most closely matches what the employer is looking for.

Before you start writing, take time to reflect and be clear about your intentions. The assessment page contains worksheets that will help outline your experience and answer some important questions. Think about your experience, past and present, including internships, summer jobs, volunteer work, extracurricular activities, course projects and research, to identify what you have to offer employers. Assess what you accomplished in each position and what skills you developed. Prioritize the information in order to highlight
what is most significant and relevant in relation to your career objectives.

What if I don't have enough experience?

This is often a concern when starting out but you probably have more experience than you think. Remember that you can list both experiences that were paid and those that were not. Employers are interested in skills and experiences you may have gained from academic, community, and volunteer projects. A leadership position in a club or volunteer organization can build a number of skills relevant to a variety of careers, as can class projects or research papers/projects.

What should my resume look like?

A one-page resume is preferable for most fields. Two page resumes are typically appropriate only for those with extensive work experience.

  1. Format - Design the resume so that it is clearly organized and easy to quickly scan. Use bold, underlining, and italics to draw attention, but use them sparingly and consistently so that the resume doesn't appear cluttered.
  2. Layout - A resume can be structured several ways:
    • Chronological resumes list experiences in reverse chronological order, from most recent going backward in time. This is the most common resume format and is appropriate for individuals whose education and experience match their career objective. The chronological resume is also usually the preferred format of employers and recruiters.
    • Functional resumes focus on skills, functions, or activity-related categories relevant to the objective. This resume format is appropriate for those who do not have much experience in their chosen field, those who may have time gaps in between jobs, or those who are changing careers. However, employers usually prefer a chronological or hybrid resume as they are often considered easier to read.
    • Hybrid resumes combine elements of chronological and functional resumes. This format may split the experience section into specific types of experience sections.
  3. Email - If you are sending your resume electronically, try saving your document as a PDF. This will keep your formatting consistent when it is viewed by the employer.
  4. Paper - Remember that a resume is a first impression. If you are sending a hard copy, use high-quality resume paper and matching paper for your cover letters and envelopes.

What to include

Resumes should always include:

  • Contact Information: name, address, email, phone number.
  • Education: school, location, degree, date of graduation, major, minor, and GPA (if over 3.0).
  • Experience: paid and unpaid work (internships, volunteer jobs, military service); list organizations, locations, dates, your title, and a brief description of your accomplishments and duties. This can be divided into two sections, e.g., Related Experience and Additional Experience.
  • Skills: foreign languages, technical skills, lab skills, and research skills.

The following optional sections can also be included:

  • Profile statement: a summary of a person's qualifications.
  • Honors: list honors or scholarships you have received (limit to 3 - 6 recent or prestigious ones).
  • Relevant Coursework: list 3 - 6 courses that are directly related to the job you are seeking.
  • Activities: clubs, athletics, and community organizations; list leadership positions held.
  • Interests: if you want to add this personal element to your resume, make sure to be specific.
  • Additional information: sections that can be included when appropriate are Projects, Accreditations or Licensure, Professional Affiliations and Publications.
  • Personal website: may include resume, information on publications, projects, and other pertinent information that an employer would find helpful in evaluating a candidate.
  • LinkedIn Profile link

What not to include

  • Personal information such as age, marital status, or number of children.
  • Repetition of words such as "responsibilities" and "duties included" or "assisted with" before each description.
  • Use of the first person "I" or extensive narrative.
  • List of References or "References Available Upon Request".

How to describe experiences

  • Use action verbs to begin each description, emphasize the positive, and sell your strengths.
  • Create short, concrete, and results-oriented phrases to describe your past experiences.
  • Quantify and qualify as much as possible.

For example, instead of saying ‘I was responsible for fundraising' you can say ‘Coordinated a team of 20 fundraising volunteers to raise money for a local charity. Developed innovative fundraising activities including Facebook advertising and motivated team to achieve a 50% increase in funds raised.'

Including activities or leadership experiences

One of the key aspects that employers look for in Columbia students is evidence of leadership. Therefore it is important in your resume to list any involvement you have had that demonstrates leadership qualities. Below are a few examples of what you might include from your Columbia experience in a "Leadership" or "Activities" section (you can also fit them in the "Experience" category if you worked extensively with the organization and can describe your role in depth):

  • Participant in Gateway Program
  • Involvement with Community Impact or other volunteer group
  • Member of Economics Society
  • Treasurer of Graduate Student Engineering Council
  • Editor for the Columbia Spectator

How to get more resume assistance

We encourage you to utilize our services to make your resume stand out. Here are the steps you should take to receive assistance:

  • Attend a Power Half-Hour on resume writing or the Resumes That Stand Out Workshop. Check our online calendar for specific dates. Alternatively, check out this Resumes and CVs Webshop.
  • Visit our office during walk-in hours, week days from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. You can meet with a counselor for 10 minutes to have your resume reviewed.
  • If you need more guidance, schedule an appointment with a counselor by calling 212-854-5609. Note that during the early fall semester, there can be a long wait time to meet with a counselor. If you have a quick question or want someone to review your revised resume, you can return during walk-in hours.