Resume Help

What is a résumé and why do I need one?

A résumé is a form of written communication that highlights your education, experience, and qualifications to perform a certain job for a particular employer. Since no two jobs are exactly alike, résumés and cover letters should be tailored to that particular employer and position.

The sole purpose of a résumé is to help you obtain an interview. By highlighting your relevant experiences and unique qualifications for a job, you increase your chances of getting that interview. Using key terms or phrases common in your targeted field will help you get noticed, as will highlighting information that is most relevant to your career objective.

Keep your purpose in mind. Your résumé is a sales tool that introduces you to the employer in your absence. The pieces of paper you submit to the employer create the first impression, so this is your opportunity to shine. Make sure you use high quality stationery (100% cotton bond with a watermark), a laser printer, and perfect grammar and punctuation. Allow a career advisor to critique your résumé for layout tips, conent, misspelled words, and grammatical errors.

Helpful Tips:

  • Use bulleted statements that start with "power words" and demonstrate action.
  • Be sure to include accomplishments that tell the reader how well you did your job (quantify whenever possible).
  • Avoid including personal information (marital status, hobbies, interests) unless directly related to the position.
  • ALWAYS send a cover letter with your résumé.

Each component on your résumé should support your career objective. These components are explained in further detail later in this guide and examples are provided. One way to begin your résumé is to list everything you have ever done from your first day of college. You will find that you have more relevant experience than you think.

Virtually all student and new graduate résumés include the following sections:

Components of a résumé

Contact Information:

At the top of the résumé identify yourself by name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address (IF you check your e-mail regularly). If you will be moving from your current address (i.e. after graduation) include a permanent address and telephone number as well as dates when you can be reached at this location.


The objective statement should state precisely what you are looking for in a position. It has two purposes:

  1. It is the focal point of your résumé.
  2. It tells the employer what you want to do.

If you do not have a clear objective in mind or if you cannot make it specific, do not include one. Instead, address this information in your cover letter and tailor it to the specific job for which you apply


It is important to include the following:

  • All institutions of higher education attended where degrees or certificates were received
  • Degree(s) earned, including major(s) and minor(s)
  • Date the degree(s) was awarded
  • Grade Point Average, if above 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Major GPA can be included if it is better than your cumulative - just be certain to label it as MAJOR GPA
  • Academic honors and relevant courses may be listed here or under separate headings. It is not necessary to list your high school education.


Prospective employers read this section with the thought "How do this person's experiences and abilities relate to this position and my organization's needs?" Therefore, this section should highlight these areas for the employers. Experience includes internships, co-op positions, clinical rotations, practicums, volunteer work, senior projects, job shadowing, and student teaching. It includes both paid and unpaid experience. The following information should be included:

  1. Employer
  2. Position held/Title
  3. Name, City, and State of the organization (zip code is unnecessary)
  4. Dates of employment (month and year suffice; exact dates are not needed)
  5. Responsibilities, achievements, significant contributions, and demonstrated abilities (Avoid the use of pronouns, especially the first person "I").

These items can be listed in any order, as long as it is consistent throughout your résumé. The way in which you describe your experience varies depending on the résumé format.

Additional Headings:


Relevant Courses

  • Publications
  • Technical Skills
  • Leadership
  • Professional Associations
  • Language Skills
  • Research
  • Computer Skills

Additional headings should be used if they offer supporting evidence of your qualifications for the job. Choose headings that are descriptive of the material that they lead. References:

It is highly recommended that you list references on a separate sheet of résumé paper. Be sure to have them available when they are asked for, but it is not necessary to provide them initially when making contact with a potential employer.

When selecting references, be sure that these people will give you a high quality recommendation. A "luke warm" reference can screen you out of a job. Before you list someone as a reference, check with the person making the recommendation and ask their permission to list their name. In addition, always provide your references with a current resume, so they are familiar with all of your achievements and experience.

You will need 3-6 professional references. Ask professors, advisors, and supervisors, not Aunt Vicki or your next-door neighbor. Your references should be able to describe your high potential, your achievements, and your performance while you were in class or at work. Be sure to list your reference's name, title, work address and phone number.

Hint: Having your list of references available when an employer asks for it will show that you are motivated, well organized, and very interested in the position.

From the St. Mary's University Career Services "Résumé Writing Guide"
developed in partnership with Georgia Southern University.

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