Résumé Do's & Don'ts

The Basics 

What is a résumé?

A carefully written concise summary of relevant information about your education, experience, skills, qualifications and knowledge as it relates to the position for which you are applying.

What is the reason for having a résumé?

It's a marketing tool whose primary purpose is to get you an interview! It summarizes your related background and helps to structure the interview. In addition, it provides a sample of your organizational and communication skills.

What components are essential?

  • Identifying Information
  • Objective
  • Education
  • Experience

Are there optional elements?

If they apply: 

  • Research
  • Publications
  • Certifications
  • Leadership
  • Conference Presentations
  • Honors
  • Community Services
  • Computer Skills
  • Language Skills
  • Professional Memberships

How is the identifying information written? 

  • Name in 14-16 point font
  • Address, phone, email address in 10 point font
  • Avoid funky outgoing voice messages and email addresses - this is business!

How is the objective statement written?

Ideally, it has 3 parts:

  • Position 
  • Field/Environment
  • Skills or Characteristics

Example: To obtain a position as a Case Manager working with a minority population requiring experience in counseling, assessment, detailed documentation and outstanding interpersonal skills

How is the education section written? 

  • Put degrees in reverse chronological order
  • Type the degree with the major, i.e. Master of Public Health with a concentration in ...
  • Type the full name of the university, i.e., University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
  • Include the date the degree is expected to be received, not the years attended, i.e, May 2009

How is the employment experience section written?

  • Format the headline in this way: Position Title, Employer, City, ST mm/yy - mm/yy
  • Each bullet should begin with an action word that summarizes the accomplishment/result/benefit from your experience
  • Quantify when possible
  • Use present tense verbs for current positions, use past tense for previous positions
  • List your bullets from the most to least significant accomplishment/result/benefit to show the range of skills
  • Use the strongest verbs possible and aim for 3 – 5 phrases
  • Keep to one liners if possible so language must be concise but not so short that you fail to convey to the reader what you did
  • No end punctuation is necessary

Formatting Tips


  • Keep your résumé to 1 page unless otherwise directed by a career counselor
  • Be sure your name and page number is on the second page if there is a second page
  • Remember ease of reading and logical flow is important
  • Use white space to make text stand out, one inch margins are preferable when space allows
  • Use ONE font throughout that is easy to read and professional such as Times New Roman or Ariel
  • Consider putting headings in 12 point font, all CAPS, perhaps BOLD as well
  • Keep information in chronological order within each heading
  • Use keywords relevant to the position/field
  • Quantify accomplishments/results if possible
  • Use underlining with discretion
  • Be consistent in formatting i.e. the abbreviation for Florida as FL not Fl, fla
  • Tailor the objective statement for each position and modify info to better fit the objective if necessary
  • Use integers for dates (mm/yy) w/o leading zeros
  • Check and recheck spelling and grammar
  • Maintain punctuation and capitalization standards
  • Use good quality, neutral color paper and matching envelopes
  • Use a laser printer


  • Unusual email addresses and funky outgoing messages on your phone
  • Crowding the page
  • Italics unless it is customary i.e. scientific flora & fauna
  • Abbreviations
  • Parenthesis
  • Colors and different style fonts unless this is a marketing position
  • Excessive use of horizontal lines
  • "I" statements when writing phrases
  • Information that is not necessary or in some way applicable to the position being applied for
  • Characters that are busy 
  • Exaggerating job titles, accomplishments or anything else - everything should be verifiable or you lose credibility!


  • Deciding the order of headings
  • Listing affiliations/memberships that identify religious, ethnic or political groups
  • Justifying text may or may not be helpful
  • Deciding to list your GPA


  • These go on a separate page set up with your identifying info at the top
  • Put in descending order of strength

Resumes for Federal Government Positions:

  • Special considerations abound
  • We suggest the book The Student's Federal Career Guide: 10 Steps to Find and Win Top Government Jobs and Internships by Kathryn Troutman & Emily K Troutman, which includes a CD
  • You may also want to refer to the Go Government website