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November 1, 2019

Superior Resumes: What You Need to Know to Present the Best Version of You to Employers and Graduate Schools


The resume is a brief summary of your education, experiences, activities and accomplishments. Your main goal must be to highlight your strongest assets and skills in order to distinguish yourself from other highly qualified applicants. Best to tailor the resume to the type of position you seek. Not to be underscored is the opportunity to market yourself to prospective employers, graduate school and professional school programs. Since the average recruiter spends six seconds scanning a resume, you need to be succinct, relevant and most importantly target the audience. The resume is not a biography, but a marketing tool. And you are the product!


  1. Resume Types
  2. Expected & Optional Sections
  3. Resume Writing Tips
    1. Dos
    2. Don’ts
    3. Common Mistakes


  • Chronological
      • This is the most commonly used format, highlighting growth and progression from one job to another, one position to another (not recommended when there are gaps in employment or changing careers).
  • Streamlined Chronological
      • This format shows progression from one job to the next, but doesn’t include extra sections like Core Competencies or Areas of Expertise
  • Chronological/Functional Hybrid
      • This particular style highlights not just the chronological job history, but lists several accomplishments early on to emphasize a theme.

Expected Sections

  • Contact Details
    • Obviously, this section provides information on how to contact you. Included are your name, mailing address, phone number email address.
  • Pre-professional/Professional History
  • Education
      • Spell out the degree to stand out. It is not necessary to include GPA. Do not list relevant courses. It is a good idea to list leadership positions and study abroad if applicable.

Optional Sections

  • Summary
    • Opportunity to convey exactly what you want the reader to know. Keep brief!
    • Communicate your core branding. Convey your unique and relevant assets to your target position (limit to four bullet points)
  • Social Responsibility & Service to the Common Good
  • Core Competencies
    • Here you can briefly demonstrate your relevant skill set
    • Listing two or three bullet points in each of three or four columns
  • Licenses and Professional Certifications
    • As applicable
  • Interests
    • Only include if it helps tell your story
  • References Available Upon Request
    • No longer in style. Do not use.

Resume Writing Tips

  • Creating an Aesthetically Attractive Resume
    • Should not appear dense and congested with text
    • Appreciate the value of white space
  • Common Mistakes
    • Spelling and grammar errors
    • Missing email and phone information
    • Using passive language instead of “action” verbs
    • Poorly organized
    • Poor demonstration of results
    • Too Long
  • Use Parallel Construction
    • Be consistent in order of information, format and spacing
  • Resume Language
    • Specific rather than general
    • Active verbs preferred over Passive
    • Write to express, not impress
    • Articulate, don’t embellish
    • Quantify and qualify, Stick with the facts
    • Write so that readers can quickly scan
  • Dos:
    • Be consistent in format and content
    • Keep it easy to read
    • Use consistent spacing, underlining, italics, bold and capitalization
    • Place headings in order of importance
    • List in reverse chronological order
    • Quantify your performance if possible
    • Avoid information gaps, such as a missing summer
    • Send as a .pdf to ensure proper formatting
    • If sending international, learn the norms of that country
    • Bold either your title or your company/institution whichever is more impactful
    • Use easy to read fonts like Calibri or Arial
    • When using bullets, place the most compelling point first
  • Don’ts :
    • Use personal pronouns (such as I)
    • Abbreviate
    • Use narrative style
    • Use slang or colloquialisms
    • Include pictures
    • Include age or gender
    • List references
    • Start each line with a date

Source: Harvard Business School Resumes & Cover Letters; Harvard University Undergraduate Resource Series: Resumes & Cover Letters