Résumés--Getting Started

Step One: Review Your College Experience

A good place to begin is to think about the experiences and accomplishments you have had thus far in your college career. Make a list of the jobs and internships you held, conferences you attended, research projects you conducted, public speaking presentations, organizations you are a part of, leadership roles you have held across campus, volunteer activities, honors or awards, computer skills, special training, languages you know, or any recreational activities in which you have engaged. Once you make this list, it may be easier to organize and write the rest of your résumé.


Step Two: Identify Résumé Headings

Select headings to be used on your résumé that best highlight your achievements and experiences that are relevant to the position for which you are applying. Begin with the basic sections: Identification, Objective/ Qualifications Summary, Skills, Experience and Work History, and Education. Add additional sections to customize your résumé.


Step Three: Provide Complete and Accurate Information Identification Section

Be sure to list your full name (no nickname) or the name by which you are referred. Some job-seekers prefer to use their middle initial, but it is not usually required. At a minimum, you should provide the basics including your current mailing address, city, state, zip and telephone number. Most students use only their cell phones and do not have another telephone number. Cell phone numbers are completely acceptable; just make sure that you have a professional sounding voicemail recording in case the employer must leave a message. Although not required, e-mail addresses are becoming increasingly popular and expected from college graduates. When using your e-mail address, make sure it is as professional sounding as possible. If you have one, web addresses can act as an additional “plug” for your qualifications. Web sites should only be used if they are professional and promote you as a job seeker. Do not display personal information such as marital status, family photographs, religious activities, etc. from any of the links on your web site. This will make you look very unprofessional. The rule is that if it is not appropriate for your résumé, why should it be on your web site?

Step Four: Develop the “Guts” of Your Résumé

Objective/Qualifications Summary

Although most job seekers see this section as optional, it is important to use an objective and/or qualification summary in your résumé because it can be one of the defining elements. The employer will typically scan your résumé for fifteen seconds and look for key words and this section allows you place those key words in a clearly marked location. Some job seekers choose to give their résumé focus by starting with a career objective. This is helpful when your experiences do not indicate a particular career direction and you are targeting a particular field. If your career direction is obviously based on your education and experiences, such as teaching, an objective may not be needed. If you choose to use an objective, avoid flowery phrases, clichés and vague general language. An objective can focus on a function, an industry or the skills you wish to use.


  • An entry-level position in arts administration
  • Writing, Research and Copy Editing Professional
  • An internship in a biochemical research lab

Some people choose to use a qualifications summary instead of a career objective. This is a list of the strongest qualifications you can bring to the job and should be tailored to each position to which you apply.


  • Exceptional interpersonal communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Strong ability to effectively multi-task in a fast-paced office environment
  • Motivated towards achieving set goals and deadlines in a timely manner
  • Experienced in customer service and warranty claims
  • Professional and energetic work attitude

Education, Training and Certification

List your primary academic institutions. Include the institution's name, city, state, years of attendance, degree/diploma, field(s) of study, grade point average (if 3.0 or higher), and academic honors and awards. If you have limited experience in the field for which you are applying, consider listing relevant coursework related to your job objective and career-related research and projects.

Skills, Experience and Work History

For most job seekers, this is the most difficult section of the résumé to develop. It requires taking a look at current and previous experiences in full-time, part-time, paid, unpaid, volunteer, and internship positions and being able to put these experiences on their résumé in a way that will get the employer’s attention.

Choose action verbs to start each statement describing your work experience (see Appendix 2) The following are some techniques and questions to help you “dig” out information about your past experiences.

Twelve Questions to Shape and Control Your Image

It is best to answer these questions about every experience you plan to use on your résumé.

  1. Whom did you work for or with? Will mentioning them strengthen your image?
  2. Will describing the size of the department you worked for strengthen your image?
  3. Will using numbers to describe your responsibilities strengthen your image?
  4. Did you create, reorganize, conceive, or establish any procedures or systems?
  5. Have you increased productivity, saved money, or reduced labor?
  6. Did you have responsibility for special projects? If so, how large were they?
  7. Have you been complimented for special talents?
  8. Do you have technical or special skills relevant to your objective?
  9. Do you have experience training or supervising staff? If so, how many?
  10. Have you received promotions that demonstrate achievement?
  11. Have you received any awards or certificates that relate to your job objective?
  12. Have you identified the top five skill requirements for the position you want?
Source: Proven Résumés, Regina Pontow


Step Five: Format Your Résumé

Individualizing Your Résumé

Although all résumés have the same purpose, your résumé should be unique to you and not a “cookie cutter” template. Employers receive hundreds of résumés for jobs every day and it is to your advantage to design a résumé that will set you apart from all the other candidates. Consider using text box quotes, lines, graphics, colorful paper, or a unique layout to enhance your résumé (see sample résumés). 


Step Six: Put Your Résumé to the Test

Résumé Review

Have those who know you best (i.e., friends and family) review your résumé and give you an honest opinion about its effectiveness. The staff at the Career Crossings Office can also review your résumé and answer any questions you may have about preparing and presenting your résumé. We offer individual appointments and workshops to help you with any job search related needs. Stop by to see us in the Spes Unica Building, Room 114, or contact us at (574) 284-4775 or cco@saintmarys.edu.

The Winning Résumé!

The ultimate test of your résumé will be adapting it to fit multiple positions for which you apply. Being able to format and reformat your résumé based upon individual employers’ needs will be the ultimate challenge. This is why it is crucial to review each job that you apply for and spend quality time on developing a résumé that will target each job. This will show the employers that you have taken the time to think about their needs and how your experiences and skills relate to their qualifications. One method for doing this is to highlight the key qualifications in the job description and use them as the base of your résumé. By doing so, you can clearly communicate in the employer’s language that you have what it takes to get the job done!