Resume Basics


A résumé is a summary of your education, experience and skills that relate to your career goals or job/internship objective(s). The primary purpose of a résumé is to obtain interviews with potential employers.


Before you begin your résumé, do some brainstorming and self-reflection. These are crucial steps in preparing your résumé. Think about the following:

  • Tasks performed
  • Skills and abilities used
  • Accomplishments
  • Interests and activities


DO NOT use templates when creating your résumé.
Start from scratch and craft your own!
Hiring managers can spot a template from a mile away!



  • Be honest, stay positive and stick to your facts. Don’t be afraid to brag.
  • Avoid using pronouns such as “I” and “me” and unnecessary words such as “a,” “an,” and “the.”
  • Avoid using abbreviations; spell out club or organization names.
  • Don’t include personal information such as marital status, age, height, weight, social security number, etc. (Note: This information may be acceptable if applying internationally.)
  • Make sure your email address is appropriate (e.g. or Lawrence email, not
  • Avoid references to specific religious or political organizations, unless it is relevant to the position.
  • Create a master résumé that includes everything you have ever done. Use this for record-keeping purposes, NOT for applying to positions.
  • Do not clutter your page—a résumé should be clear cut.
  • Use 0.75” to 1” margins.
  • Use bold print and capital letters to emphasize important items.
  • Font size should be between 10 and 12.
  • Font should be easy to read and professional. Some choices may include Helvetica, Arial and Garamond. Avoid Comic Sans and other non-professional fonts, as well as default fonts such as Calibri and Times New Roman.
  • Keep it brief and concise. Résumés should typically not be longer than one page, however the length varies depending on your field.
  • Make sure to proofread! Look for spelling and grammatical errors and ask someone else to check it as well.
  • Customize your résumé for each position.


Include the following sections on all résumés, including those for education, music and art:

Contact Information


  • Full name (middle initial is optional)
  • Temporary school and/or permanent address
  • Cell phone number
  • Email address and LinkedIn page URL




  • School name and Location (Lawrence University, Appleton, WI)
  • Date of graduation (e.g., June 2016)
  • Degree (e.g., Bachelor of Arts)
  • Majors, Minors, interdisciplinary areas, independent studies, etc.
  • GPA (if 3.0 or higher)
  • Do not include high school
  • Y don’t need to include other schools unless you received a degree or certification or studied abroad. You may choose to include specific courses if they relate to the position to which you are applying.




  • Paid jobs, unpaid and paid internships and volunteer experience
  • Can be separated into different headings to bring the most relevant information to the top of the page (i.e., Related Experience, Additional Experience, etc.)
  • Under each heading, list in reverse chronological order with most recent first
  • Include job title, organization, city, state, dates of employment
  • Describe experience with bullet points that begin with action verbs (present tense for current experience(s), past tense for completed experiences)
    • Action/Skill + How/Why you did + Why/Result
    • Do not use the same verb more than once within a listing. (The Action Verbs for Résumés (PDF) can help you identify alternative verb options.)
    • Use simple bullet points that are dark and filled in, rather than check marks, pencils or other images



The following sections are optional, but it’s a good idea to use them if you have applicable information. Education, music and art students may also include these in their résumés.



  • A 1-3 sentence summary of your most pertinent experience and qualifications.
  • Customized for the position you are targeting, conveying attributes that otherwise would not be appropriate under “Work Experience.”
  • Helpful to use when posting your résumé to a job board or if you are not sending a cover letter with your résumé.
  • This section is becoming outdated and could be replaced with a “Qualifications” section instead, which should highlight key achievements, strongest skills and important experiences in about six bullet points or sentences.




  • Scholarships received
  • Dean’s List
  • Honor societies


Study Abroad



Related Courses


  • Include this section if you have taken upper-level courses directly related to the field you are applying to or courses that are unique.
  • Do not include basic courses for your major.
  • Be selective regarding number of courses.
  • Do not include course numbers or dates.
  • If your academic transcript has been requested, you do not need to include this section.




  • Emphasize skills you feel will contribute to attaining your career goal.
  • List your level of knowledge (i.e., Proficient).
  • Language (e.g., Intermediate or Fluent, do not include Beginner).
  • Technical (e.g., MS Office, HTML, etc.).




  • Sports, clubs, fraternity/sorority
  • Regular volunteer experience




  • Officer or executive role in a fraternity/sorority or other club
  • Captain of a sports team




This format is best to use when moving from one position to another in a similar field. Education and experience are listed in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent. Information is typically divided into sections and listed under headings such as education, experience, skills, activities and interests. Titles, organizations and dates are emphasized and duties and accomplishments are briefly described. This is probably the most common résumé format.

Sample Chronological Résumé (PDF)


This format emphasizes major areas of accomplishment and skills and allows you to organize them in a way that supports your career objective. It is recommended when looking to move from one career field to another or when entering a field for the first time. Students applying for their first internship often find this format useful.

Sample Combination Résumé (PDF)


When saving your résumé, make sure to give it a meaningful file name. For example: FirstLastname.doc. You can save the file as a .pdf to ensure that the formatting stays the way you want.

If printing your résumé, use résumé paper (available for purchase in Career Services and most stores). When choosing the paper color, be as conservative as the position for which you are applying. White, tan and off-white colors are appropriate for most positions and pastel shades are sometimes acceptable for positions involving creativity.


Your résumé needs to be concise and appealing.
The average time spent on a résumé by a future employer is eight seconds!