Writing a Resume
An in-depth look at the essential elements of an effective Resume, tips on formatting, action words to use as well as things to avoid while putting your resume together.
What is a Resume?
- A brief summary of your skills, accomplishments, and history as it relates to a potential job;
- A selling tool used to get an interview; and
- A way to highlight your strengths while leaving off negative or damaging details.
- There are negative details and other damaging points are left off;
- There are no hard and fast “rules” for constructing resumes, but there are general guidelines that should be followed.
Why Include a Resume?
Sometimes a resume is optional: Include it anyway because it
- demonstrates how seriously you take the position;
- is something you can keep on hand to summarize your strengths & accomplishments;
- will better prepare you for questions during interviews and boost your overall confidence.
The Information Needed for Creating a Great Resume
- Job Opportunity for Which You Are Applying
- Personal Profile
Who are you? How do you fit that job?
- Personal Information
Name of each school
City and state
GPA (if excellent)
Certification or degree
- Recent Places of Employment*
Name of company or institute
Dates of employment
Duties and accomplishments
- Key skills
- Presentations and/or publications
- Awards and honors
- Professional and/or service organizations
*In order to apply online, you might need your supervisor’s name, title, company address, email and/or phone number.
Types of Resumes
- Most common resume type.
- Work history is given priority.
- Listed in reverse chronological order, starting with current or most recent.
- Education and other experience is typically placed underneath.
- Skills, achievements, and other important highlights are given priority.
- Education typically placed at top, work history placed toward the bottom.
- Best suited for:
- New graduates with little relevant work experience, -OR-
- Those with much experience & who have accomplished much in their field.
Formatting the Chronological Resume
- Less is more!
- Avoid overusing different font sizes, font types, bold, italics, underlining, and other stylistic options.
- Use 10 – 12 point font throughout. (You can go a bit bigger for contact information.)
- Stick to a formal font type: Times New Roman or Arial are great choices.
- White space is good!
- White space keeps things organized and easy to read.
- Leave blank lines between different sections.
- Set page margins to 1” – 0.5”.
Should It Be Only One Page?
- The number of pages may depend on your work experience in relation to the job opening.
- A second page is okay:
- General rule – if your next page is LESS THAN HALF full, pare down to the fewest amount of pages possible.
- Example: If the second page has only four lines, find a way to reformat so that the resume is only 1 page.
- Tight and focused is better than wordy and irrelevant.
- List jobs in reverse chronological order, present or most recent job first.
- Going back 1-15 years is okay, especially if you feel an older job is particularly relevant to the job you are applying for.
- If you held many similar jobs during that time, avoid listing all of them. Stick to the most recent 5 years.
- List your duties & accomplishments for each job title. 3-5 bullet points is perfect.
- Be sure to use action verbs at the beginning of each sentence and avoid using “I”.
Formatting a Resume Using Google Docs
Your Resume: Things to Avoid
- Personal information (marital status, religion, race, etc.).
- Letters of recommendation, unless directed otherwise. These typically come after an interview.
- References, unless directed otherwise. This practice is outdated. Have a list of references ready in case you’re asked for them after an interview.
- Salary Requirements. If salary requirements are necessary, employers will ask for them, and they will typically be part of the cover letter, not the resume. If included, be sure to indicate a salary range (e.g., $40,000 – $50,000), not a single salary.
- Negative details. These can work against you.
- Clichés. Try to avoid phrases like “team player” and “strong communication skills” as these are overused.
- When describing your experience, start each sentence with an action verb. Do not use “I” when describing your experience.
Your Resume: Key Points
- A resume is your way of highlighting your skills and accomplishments.
- Don’t include negative details; save these for the interview (only if asked!).
- Always send a resume if given the option.
- In a chronological resume, employment experience is given priority. List jobs starting with most recent.
- When formatting, remember: less is more!
- Be consistent with stylistic choices (bullets, font size, font type, etc.) and don’t overuse them (bold, underline, italics, etc.).
First & Last Name
123 Main Street
Anywhere, NJ 11111
Seasoned inventory control manager with 3+ years of experience supporting store operations, managing employees, and improving store performance. Looking to contribute these strengths to the overall success of your organization.
Big Superstore, Anywhere, NJ, January 2017 – present
Inventory Control Manager
- Oversee daily tasks, including inventory management, monitoring orders, and developing reports.
- Coordinate with external inventory agency the semiannual storewide inventory for company stockholders.
- Enhanced inventory control practices by using forecasting techniques. Led to a decrease in overordering.
- Collaborate with other store managers to maintain consistent store merchandising and product availability.
KB Supermarket, Anywhere, NJ, March 2010 – January 2017
Shift Supervisor (June 2013 – January 2017)
- Supervised grocery department, 15+ employees. Trained new hires, delegated daily tasks, and performed quarterly employee evaluations.
- Oversaw ordering and fulfillment of 1,000+ products.
- Led merchandising programs to improve product visibility and increase sales.
- Increased annual department revenue by 30% between 2013 and 2017.
Clerk (March 2010 – June 2013)
- Promoted to shift supervisor. Recommended by department manager and store manager.
- Maintained fully stocked shelves to meet high customer demand.
- Demonstrated quality work both independently and as a part of a team.
NJ State College, August 2014 – May 2018
BS in Business Administration, May 2018
Retail Management Certificate, County College, May 2019
CPR Certification, Red Cross, July 2017
Skilled in Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint
Fluent in Spanish
Writing a Cover Letter
All the ins and outs of a cover letter, including a step-by-step breakdown and a sample that you can use to recreate your own!
Why Include a Cover Letter?
- Like the resume, it’s a great selling tool.
- Informs the reader (employer) why you are interested in this specific position for this specific company.
- While the resume is usually generic (can be sent to multiple employers), the cover letter is tailored to a specific job opening and specific company.
- Makes the employer want to read your resume.
- A summary of your best qualities and skills in relation to the specific job you are applying for.
Cover Letter Basics
- Your name and contact information:
- Formatted the same way it is in your resume.
- Who you are and what you do (or hope to do):
- Introduce yourself and inform the reader of your reason for writing.
- Include the job title and job code, if applicable.
- Why you are writing:
- State that you hope to gain an interview.
- Example: “I am confident that my skills and experience will grant me an interview.”
- Indicate where the resume is located:
- Attached to an email? Uploaded separately? Enclosed (hard copy)? Indicate this.
- If supplying a hard copy, make sure to sign it. It looks professional!
Elements of the Cover Letter
- Your contact information (header)
- Company contact information under header
- Re: line:
- Great place to put job name and code.
- Address line–“Dear [name]”:
- If the name of the reader is known, use it!
- If not, “Dear Hiring Manager.”
- A concise paragraph summarizing your interest in the position and your qualifications.
- 1-2 short paragraphs highlighting your qualifications and accomplishments.
- Choose these based on the job posting.
- Do company research! Based on your experience, what specifically would benefit the company’s mission?
- Can do this in a bulleted list, but DO NOT copy/paste from the resume.
- 1 paragraph
- Indicate where your resume is located.
- Why you are writing (usually to get an interview).
- Close the letter.
- “Respectfully”; “Sincerely”
Formatting the Cover Letter
- 1 page
- 1” margins
- If necessary, 0.5” margins are okay, but on left and right ONLY)
- 10-12 point font size
- Formal font type (Times New Roman; Arial)
- Paragraph style
- Single spaced lines with a space between paragraphs
- Keep sentences short but informative
- If bullets are used, these should only be for part of the body. Be sure to conclude with a paragraph.
- Header (your contact information) should match the resume header.
Formatting a Cover Letter Using Google Docs
Your Cover Letter: Key Points
- A brief letter (3-4 paragraphs) highlighting your qualifications and accomplishments.
- Tailor the cover letter toward the specific position and specific company.
- Don’t regurgitate the resume. Be sure to select those qualifications and accomplishments that best match the specific position.
- Do company research. Describe how your unique experience would benefit their unique company mission.
- Be sure to indicate the specific job title (and job code, if applicable), the reason you are writing (to get an interview), and the location of the resume.
Sample Cover Letter
First & Last Name
123 Main Street
Anywhere, NJ 11111
March 30, 2020
Great Foods Supermarkets
105 Food Drive
Somewhere, NJ 22222
Re: Merchandiser (33-4545)
Dear Hiring Manager:
It was with great interest that I read this career opportunity with Great Foods Supermarkets on your company website. With over ten years serving a variety of roles in the supermarket industry, it is now my goal to offer my wealth of knowledge and experience toward the continued success of Great Foods Supermarkets as a merchandiser.
When I began with Great Foods Supermarkets in 2017, I immediately took a b interest in the chain and its daily operations, and with this enthusiasm I have earned the reputation as a hardworking, self-motivated, and knowledgeable employee who delivers favorable results. During my time as inventory control assistant, I have developed a working knowledge of the company’s expansive product base. My expertise allows me to perform important duties with high proficiency, including inventory control, department merchandising, and supervision of the staff. On the sales floor I maintain a proven track record of b customer service skills with both vendors and patrons.
I also hold a bachelor’s degree in business administration through which I demonstrate a wideranging knowledge of retail operations, best practices, and effective communication and analytical skills.
I now seek to offer these assets as a merchandiser, and to advance my knowledge and skills under the guidance of Great Foods Supermarkets. I am confident that my experience will grant me an interview, and I look forward to meeting with you. I have uploaded my resume for your review. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions. Thank you for your time and consideration.
First & Last Name
Help with preparing for an interview and tips for before, during, and after the interview.
Preparing for the Interview
- Review your resume. Don’t memorize your strengths and accomplishments—KNOW them.
- Practice, practice, practice!
- Consider the job requirements and come up with a series of possible questions you expect will be asked during the interview.
- Do a web search for common interview questions.
- Research the company. Interviewers often ask why you want to work for their specific organization.
- Write down questions you have for the interviewer.
- Interviewing is a two-way street!
- Come up with some specific questions about the company and about the job itself.
- Don’t leave the interview open-ended. Be sure to ask when you can expect to hear back about the job offer.
Making a Good Impression
- Remember: The interview starts with the first phone call/email.
- When responding to the initial call or email about coming in for an interview, be polite and clear. Go to a quiet place to reduce background noise.
- Voicemail greeting should state your phone number clearly. First and last name—even better.
- Use a plain email address (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Dress appropriately.
- Overdressing is better than underdressing!
- Err on the conservative side. Don’t draw too much attention to yourself (excessive jewelry, tattoos, etc.)
- Leave early. Plan for unexpected delays on the way to the interview.
- Walk in and introduce yourself with confidence.
- Stand tall, head up, look forward.
- Shake hands with each interviewer. Introduce yourself with first and last name.
- Don’t just sit anywhere. Wait for direction.
- Eye contact is key.
- Maintain good posture. No resting elbows!
- Use your voice.
- Don’t talk in monotone. Convey different emotions with your voice. If something about the job excites you, sound excited when you talk about it!
During the Interview
- Bring copies of your resume—one for yourself.
- You can refer to it for quick inspiration.
- It allows you to follow along with the interviewer.
- Bring a notepad.
- Questions & answers ready for quick reference.
- Jot things down to circle back to them later.
- Gives you a focal point if you are thinking. (Instead of looking around.)
- Consider what they are really asking.
- Some questions are designed to get a sense of your attitudes and behaviors.
- Example: “What would you identify as a weakness in your job performance?”
- Avoid being overly negative or apathetic. Address the issue, but show that you are aware and taking steps to improve.
- “In the past I have had issues with multitasking, but recently I’ve been working to improve in this area by planning better ahead of time and by asking for help when necessary.”
- Ask for a few moments while you think about the question.
- Ask if you can come back to that question later.
- No matter what, don’t sound nervous. Remain calm and conversational (maybe add a little humor?).
- Even if you don’t give the “best” answer, the interviewer may remember that you don’t cave under pressure.
- End of the interview— the interviewer usually asks, “do you have any questions?”
- Always answer, “YES.”
- Have a list of questions ready and/or circle back to questions that you jotted down during the interview.
- Shows that you’re interested, confident, and really looking to be part of the organization (not just to collect a paycheck).
- Always ask about next steps and/or when you should expect to hear back.
After the Interview
- Send a “thank you” note when you get home.
- Email the interviewer(s) individually, thanking them for their time and consideration.
- If you only know one email address, be sure to include something like, “Please thank Ms. ____ and Mr. ____, as well.”
- Send a follow-up call or email, if you don’t hear back within the timeframe given.
- Use the opportunity to reiterate your interest in the position.
- Offered the job? Great! Now’s the time to discuss salary and benefits.
- Offered a second interview? Back to practicing! Use your notes from the interview to come up with new strengths/accomplishments to discuss, address any weaknesses in your first interview performance, and emphasize any points that were not made.
- Want to decline? Be sure to leave the door open. Emphasize your interest in the company, but that a different position might be a better fit. Interviewers will remember you!
- Not offered the job? It happens. Not everyone is the perfect fit.
- Don’t be afraid to ask what you are lacking in relation to the chosen candidate. They may not respond, but if they do, such feedback is invaluable.
Job Interview Practice by Appointment
Prepare for your upcoming job interview by meeting with an MCLS staff member to sharpen your interview skills. Using GoToMeeting (video conferencing software), you will get the chance to practice interviewing, as well as get feedback to help make your interview stronger. Appointments are normally scheduled for the second Thursday of the month, 10am to 12pm, or the last Tuesday of the month, 2pm to 4pm.
List of Action Verbs