How to Write a Resume: The Basics

Whether you’re searching for an internship or an entry-level position, the first step to finding a great job is having a strong resume. How can you ensure that your resume is both effective and professional? By highlighting relevant skills and experience while also showing that you’re a well-rounded individual who can bring something unique to the role.

We recently sat down with an expert on the recruiting team at a major accounting firm to get their advice on resume best practices.

Here are three quick tips to help you create the perfect resume.

1. Map it out. It should always be just a single page. 

Before you start writing your resume, map out key points such as your work experience, skills and academic background. This is a great exercise for two reasons: 1) It will help you take stock of the information that’s most relevant to the roles you’re applying for and 2) It will give you a sense of how to structure your resume without going over a single page (the commonsense limit for any resume).

The best way to map out your resume is by creating separate sections for education, skills and experience and then noting down 3-5 bullet points under each one. Once you have your bullet points, take a few minutes to assess which ones are most impactful and be sure to include these in the final version.

2. Create a structure for your resume and fill in the categories.

Next, it’s time to create a structure for your resume and to flesh out each section. For most college students and recent grads, a chronological resume is the best way to go since this is the most common type of resume used by professionals.

Here’s what it looks like:

Contact information

This should be the first section of your resume and it should feature your name, address, email and phone number, as well as links to a personal website or an online portfolio if you have them.

Education

This section should have the name and location of your college or university, as well as your major and the anticipated date of your graduation. You may also choose to include your GPA (if it’s above 3.0) and to highlight relevant classes or extracurricular activities.

Experience

The third section of your resume should be dedicated to your previous work experience including part-time jobs, internships and volunteer work. Although you should include work experience that relates to the role you’re applying for, don’t feel compelled to write down every single job you’ve had in the past. Instead, focus on the ones where you developed your core set of skills and highlight your experience by adding 3-5 bullet points detailing your responsibilities in each position.

This order isn’t the only way to do it. Here’s another example of a great resume with a slightly different ordering of sections. can also see another example of a great resume with a slightly different order.

Pro Tip: Whenever possible, use action verbs and numbers to illustrate the impact you had in each role. For example, if you helped a company grow its social media presence during a marketing internship, be sure to mention this and to note the growth rate as a percentage.

Skills and Interests

Since employers are interested in hiring well-rounded candidates, one of the other key areas they look for is a section on skills and interests. This should include a range of skills such as proficiency with computer programs like Microsoft Word and Excel and language skills (if relevant to the position you’re applying for). When outlining your interests, be sure to focus on those that relate to your chosen career path such as an interest in travel if you’re applying for a role where travel is required.

3. Highlight your accomplishments.

If you don’t have a lot of professional experience, that’s okay too. You can still demonstrate the value you’ll bring to a position by highlighting your academic and personal accomplishments. A few key areas to focus on are class projects you’ve worked on, volunteer work you’ve done and any awards you’ve won (such as making the Dean’s List or receiving a scholarship). Pepper these accomplishments throughout your resume and use them to fill any gaps in your experience or education.

By following these tips and crafting a resume designed to show off your personal and professional accomplishments, you’ll be sure to impress potential employers and to get one step closer to landing your dream job.

Advanced Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out

One of the first steps to landing a great job is writing a strong resume. If you haven’t done this before, the idea might sound a bit intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be. The key to writing a great resume is understanding the best ways to highlight your skills and experience and condensing that down to a brief, effective format.

Here are some advanced tips to follow if you want your resume to really stand out.

1. Do some research on what resumes in your industry or discipline look like.

Believe it or not, not all resumes are the same. Industries have different standards, ranging from the details employers want to see to overall resume organization. The best way to figure out which format is right for your industry is to find someone who works in your desired field and ask them for tips. You can also ask if you can use their resume as a guide. Good people to ask include professors, your parents and older friends who have internships or full-time jobs in your field.

Below are some sample questions you should ask as you do your research:

Question Most resumes should have… But not always
How many pages should my resume be? Most resumes should be one page only. In academia (if you’re trying to be a professor), multi-page resumes are common.
Should I include leadership experience from high school on my resume? Most resumes should not include anything from high school, including where you went to high school. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, you can still include just the highlights of the most impactful things you did in high school.
Do I need to include any grades or scores besides my GPA? Most resumes should include your GPA (unless it’s below 3.0) and don’t require any other scores. Finance and consulting recruiters often ask for your SAT scores, broken out by section.
What sections should I include on my resume? Most resumes should have an education section, followed by work experience. Leadership/volunteer experience, hobbies and skills may follow. Engineering recruiters often want to see the projects you’ve worked on, and it can be helpful to have a section on your resume listing out completed projects.
How should my resume look? What color should it be? Most resumes should be simple black and white, with the most common format. Design recruiters may appreciate visually distinctive and creative resumes, due to the inherent creativity involved in design jobs.

While you’re meeting with these people to do your research, bring your list of achievements with you, and ask them which ones they find to be the most impressive. Remember, your resume isn’t about what you think is great — it’s about the recruiter that you’re trying to impress and people with industry knowledge are more likely have a sense of what accomplishments will have the most impact.

2. Decide on your “story” — what are you trying to get across?

Think of your resume as a story. It’s a (usually) one-page opportunity for you to tell a story about yourself to recruiters. As much as it might be painful, think back to when you were applying to college. When writing your college essays, you had to decide what slice of yourself you wanted to share with admissions officers, and what qualities you wanted to highlight. This is very much the same thing, but your story is written in bullet points rather than paragraphs.

You should come up with a list of 5-7 attributes and skills that you want to get across to a particular employer. These attributes will almost definitely change for each industry, and sometimes for each employer. However, customizing your resume slightly for every company is one of the best ways to get noticed and it’s definitely worth the time investment.

Here are some examples you can use:

  • Consulting: leadership, achievement, impact, data analysis, social skills, hustle
  • Engineering: independence, attention to detail, technical skills, quick learner, follows tasks through to completion, empathy
  • Marketing: creativity, empathy, design skills, social skills, data analysis, impact

3. Find a resume template you like and fill it out.

You’ve done your research and you have a story to tell — you now know what you’re saying, who you’re saying it to, and how to say it. Now all you have to do is fill out your resume. Using sample resumes you’ve collected from people in your desired industry, determine the structure you’ll need in your resume and then fill it out accordingly.

Compile a list of the impressive things you’ve done, choosing the top items for each section and filling them out. For sections that require bullet points like work experience, leadership experience, volunteering experience or projects, add 1–3 bullet points for each item explaining what you’ve done. As you’re choosing what experiences to include and what bullet points to write, think back to the story you’re trying to tell, and ensure that each line of your resume shows off at least one of those attributes. Think about how you can make it sound impressive; anything can sound great when you word it correctly.

* Be specific — include details.

Don’t just say, as an example, “Completed three projects and various tasks as part of my job.” Explain exactly what you did and how you did it.

Example: “Designed new classification system for the entire office’s customer management system according to NAICS.” (Shows: attention to detail, organization and following tasks through to completion)

* Be concise.


You have very limited room on your resume, so every word is precious. Make sure every line is showing off the best you have to offer and demonstrating at least one of the attributes related to your story.

Improving the above example: “Independently restructured office’s customer management system according to NAICS.”

* Explain. Don’t assume they know what you’re talking about.

It’s easy to forget that employers won’t know the acronyms at your school, clubs or internship experiences. If you’re going to use an acronym, make sure you say what it is in parentheses the first time. Not everyone will be familiar with the systems, tools, programs or organizations you might be referring to.

Improving the above example: “Independently restructured office’s customer management system using NAICS federal industry classifications.”

* Show impact. Use numbers when possible.

It’s not enough just to say what you did, you really shine when you show off the impact that you made. Don’t just say you led a fundraiser, say how much you raised. Don’t just say you were a division head at camp, talk about how many campers and staff you were responsible for. Don’t just say that you found a way to save your company money — say how much money you saved, and why it was important.

Improving the above example: “Restructured office’s customer management system using NAICS industry classification, reducing customer service response times by 20% through improved request routing.”

4. Get someone else to review.

Have others review your resume including friends, Career Services and especially those in your industry. Take their feedback to heart and make edits accordingly. Again, your resume isn’t about what you think, it’s about what others take away from the story you’re telling. Pay particular attention to whether the people you’re showing your resume to understand everything you’ve written, can see the impact that you’ve made everywhere you’ve worked, and are picking up on all 5-7 attributes you intended to include.

Once you’re done, save your resume as “Resume – <First Name> <Last Name>.pdf” and send it out, knowing that you’ve done a great job.

Just as you’re always changing and doing new things, your resume is a living story. Make sure you always update it as you accomplish new things. You should also customize your resume for every industry you apply to, following the above process (for the companies you really care about, you may want to customize it for the specific company.)

By following these advanced tips, you’ll be sure to write a great resume and set yourself apart during the job hunt. And don’t forget to create a digital version of your resume with an easy and effective WayUp profile.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Write a Thank You Note After An Interview and find answers to common interview questions such as Tell Me About an Accomplishment That You’re Most Proud Of.

How Do Employers Evaluate Resumes?

There are few things as important to a job search as writing a resume. You’re tasked with creating a concise document that captures your entire essence in order to grab an awesome opportunity. As you squeeze years of achievements and memories into a few bullet points, it’s not only important that you’re happy with how it reads, but that your audience likes it. And for the best odds of your audience—your future manager—enjoying your resume, it helps to know how they will read through it.

Here are some of the most common things they look for.

They look at your education

Even though your major and GPA don’t define who you are, these are likely the first stop on an employer’s journey through your resume. It’s a good jumping-off point for them to understand the topics you find interesting and gain a sense of how committed you are to your education and your future success. An employer will walk away from this section wanting to know:

  •      That you meet their GPA expectation
  •      That you’re studying something interesting and relevant to the job
  •      What school you go to (possibly several if you studied abroad)

They scan your experience for brand names and key stats

When looking at your previous work or internship experience, there are generally 2 key trends an employer will seek out: relevance and impact. A great way to show that you have relevant experience is through brand names. If an employer is looking to hire you for a media job, for example, and sees that you worked for a major TV network, that’s a great start to your application.

If your past companies aren’t famous or recognizable, don’t worry — the work you did can still be relevant, and the impact is key no matter the role. This is where statistics come in: always use numbers to describe what you did and quantify the impact. If you’re scanning a resume with roughly 400 words and suddenly the number 80% pops up, chances are you’ll notice it right away, and so will your employer.

They look for unique skills and hobbies

Hobbies and skills are treated very differently across industries, but no matter the volume, each fun fact adds a lot of personality to your resume. An employer may read 100 resumes in a day, and even if they gave yours a good score and positive feedback, they are likely to remember you more for citing your mastery of guacamole making than for simply being a good fit. Keep these items detailed and unique to you—many can say they like “travel” but not everyone lists “spontaneous trans-Pacific travel.”

For skills, each entry not only completes your profile but is also a new search keyword. On WayUp, employers are most commonly using search tools to find specific experience or skills. So if there’s a programming language you know, show it! The same goes for other things like being proficient in Photoshop or having an in-depth knowledge of social media platforms.

They’ll walk away with highlights and a few notes

Resume-readers love to take a pen or pencil and mark up your resume, circling those juicy numbers described above or writing down questions for follow-ups. Realistically, the final notes they produce will be 1-3 bullets. This should lead you to ask: Did each piece of my resume tell the reader something new? For example, say you worked in 3 restaurants, so you try to be thorough and give each its own header, dates and bullet points showing your responsibilities and impact. This could take up half of your resume and all an employer will walk away with is “has server experience.” Push yourself to condense items that tell the same story, and to expound upon experience that shares something new.

Even with all these best resume practices, each employer is a different person. The same exact resume in different hands might get reviewed differently. A common system for reliable decision making is for a company to have each reader give notes on a five-point scale (from “definitely hire” to “definitely don’t”). You can’t pick your resume reader but never forget that the journey begins with submitting your application.

At the end of the day, you’re the one telling your story. So be proud of your resume and tell it like it is, but know that targeting it to your audience will dramatically improve your odds of matching with a great opportunity. Ready to create your own? WayUp’s user profiles act as digital resumes, making it easy to put your best foot forward with employers.

 

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Set Internship or Job Goals and find answers to common interview questions such as How Have You Displayed Leadership?.