Rebuilding Your Professional Resume

A great resume is critical in your job search. Whether you're creating your first resume - or re-writing it for the tenth time - follow the tips below for success!

Resume Formats

What resume best suits your needs?

A reverse chronological resume (the most commonly used one) lists your most recent information and experience first and goes backward from there. It is best used when you have experience (volunteer or paid) related to your career goals.

However, if you have transferable skills that have been demonstrated in positions or work experience unrelated to your career goals, then a resume that highlights your skills may be best for you. This type of resume places important emphasis on the abilities you've developed, and is best for those who have nominal or no career related experience. The work history is defined by specific examples and responsibilities held in various positions, grouping these examples under a few different skill headings (see the skills resume sample).

In either format, when describing your responsibilities, skills, and accomplishments, list them in bullet points and keep it to one page.

Page Set Up and Personal Heading

Build your resume using any word processing software. Begin with a blank page, then set your margins to no less than half an inch. Set tab stops instead of using the space bar to create blank space. Choose a font that is professional looking and has good highlighting characteristics (bold, italic). Do not use a script type font except for highlighting your name or certain words.

Always use your full name, including a middle initial, (no nicknames), address, phone number(s) and e-mail address (avoid using an unprofessional address). It is best to have your name in a larger font size than the rest of your document; the rest of the document should be no less than a 10-point font.

Objective/Profile or Professional Summary

An objective should be targeted to establish a career focus and include the type of position you're interested in, or the areas in which you are prepared to work. You can add another brief sentence to the objective indicating your willingness to accept additional responsibilities related to the position or state major strengths. All other information that goes into this document should support your objective.

Example: I am prepared to make valuable contributions in a staff accounting position.

Or, target areas where you would like to work in order to give yourself more opportunities - as well as help the employer see the ways you could fit in with their organization. 

Examples: To obtain a career-entry position in the areas of public relations, event planning, and/or marketing support. 

To obtain a career-entry position in the areas of social work, social services, community services and/or program development. Capable of assisting with grant writing and experienced in raising funds.


Include college(s) attended, (most recent first), city, state, your degree(s) as it appears or will appear on your diploma, (major/minor), academic concentration, honors, and related activities. Include your cumulative GPA or the GPA within your major, especially if it is 3.0 or higher. Career-entry candidates may opt to expand on this section for lack of career related experience. However, employers are not seeking a detailed account of the four years. As with every section of your document, an employer will review the "Education" section looking for key information that will be useful to him/her.

Underclassmen seeking an internship that is related to their career field should make each item mentioned skill oriented. Do not just list titles of completed coursework.

Career-Related Experience

Offer detailed information about your job related and transferable skills - make it easy for employers to review your skills, experience, talents and character traits so they can determine if hiring you would meet their staffing needs. List past work experiences (paid and volunteer), then record the scope of responsibilities you held (along with accomplishments as a result of your work). Describe an accurate account of your workload and responsibilities, and tie in skills and knowledge relevant to your objective. Use descriptive words to explain how you did things. Then identify your top eight skills.

Emphasize how your past experience and learned skills will contribute to your success with the potential employer. Begin with your most significant responsibilities - make your experiences come alive for the reader by expressing something positive about yourself and what you are capable of doing.

Example: Often recognized by management for consistently meeting and exceeding company objectives.

Avoid long paragraphs. Instead, use bullet point statements that demonstrate action and accomplishments. Bullet statements eliminate the need to use personal pronouns such as I, me, my, and myself. Be sure to begin each statement with an action verb, being careful not to use the same verb more than once per job experience listed. The use of bullets will help to emphasize your special skills and/or responsibilities. Use numbers, percentages and other measurable outcomes to demonstrate the scope of responsibility and quantitative results. Include key words that are used in your field.

For each position list:

  • Job title, employer, city, state, and dates of employment (month/year). Describe skills used and tasks performed. Emphasize those skills requiring the highest degree of skill and judgment. Indicate specialization and any duties beyond your regular assignment. 
  • Scope of responsibility – Describe the most important aspects of the position. Did you hold a supervisory position? How many people did you supervise? Were you promoted?
  • Accomplishments – outline any outstanding results that were achieved. When possible, provide tangible facts and figures, rather than general information.
  • Utilize words that denote action and/or responsibility when describing work performed, such as "developed," "organized," "planned," and "researched" (see list of Action Verbs).
  • Volunteer work, field experiences, internships, and practicum opportunities should be included under this heading (career related or relevant experience), especially if they are related to your objective. Be sure to emphasize any/all exceptional responsibilities; e.g., unit development, organization of a procedure manual, or development of special projects.

Honors, Activities and Special Skills

Any of these can become a separate heading if your background warrants.

  • Licenses, certificates currently held; e.g., teaching, social work, counseling, CPA
  • Honors, scholarships, awards, fellowships earned
  • Professional organization memberships and offices held
  • Publications
  • Affiliations with church, civic, community groups
  • Extracurricular activities/leadership
  • Include continuing education courses, professional seminars and/or professional development opportunities
  • Special skills such as a foreign language, computer proficiency, web site development, graphic arts, and desktop publishing, as well as any software that is related to your career field.

Reference Page

A reference page is part of the necessary package to have prepared for potential employers along with your cover letter and resume. Always ask permission of potential references first.

Consider asking for a reference: professors, employers (typically past employers with whom you had a good relationship), managers, ministers/people in your church, coaches, others of good standing in the community who have known you for at least a year.

Do not ask family members, boyfriends, girlfriends, or people who do not know you well.

References should be able to articulate to employers who you are in regard to your skills, work ethic, character and aptitude for your chosen career field. Give your references a copy of your resume and keep them updated on your job search efforts.

Document at least five references (with full contact information) on a separate sheet of paper. Make sure you include your complete contact information below your name in case your reference page is separated from your resume. Format for this page is a personal preference

Remember to send a thank you note to each reference.

Recommendation Letters

You can ask the people you have listed on your reference page to write a letter of recommendation for you. Some individuals are fine with writing a generic "To Whom It May Concern" letter, while others will agree to only write specific letters on your behalf. You can ask anyone who can credibly attest to experiences or skills included on your resume to write a letter for you, therefore documenting your experience. If you have worked in a family business you can ask a known vendor, attorney, or long-standing customer to write a letter of recommendation for you.

Be sure your document is error-free. In most cases, any resume with errors will be rejected, regardless of the qualifications and experience. Ask for several critical reviews of your resume before you make final copies. It is better to have a friend or instructor catch some errors or make corrections instead of a potential employer!

Posting Your Resume Online

Upload your resume in the Malone online job and resume posting system for alumni to connect with employers.This system and service is free to all Malone University alumni.

Printing Suggestions

It is best to have your document printed with a laser printer or high quality inkjet printer, using quality 24-32 lbs. white, cream, ivory, or light tan paper. Remember, you are likely to send a minimum of three pages per employer, (resume, cover letter, and reference page) so it is most economical to purchase a ream of 500 sheets. You will have some follow-up correspondence, such as a thank you letter following each interview.

Mailing Tips

It is recommended that you send your documents (cover letter, resume and reference page) in a large 9"x12" or 10"x13" envelope. The color does not have to match the resume paper. Depending on the career field and the job market, you may need to send up to 100 resumes.