Resume Content & Sections
No... all of the items below will not be on your resume! But consider those applicable to you, be aware what doesn't go on your resume (so you don't waste precious space), and strive to concisely tell your story! You can ask us to review your resume through advising.
The order and content of everyone's resume does not have to be the same. However, formats are somewhat standardized so that employers can easily find the information they seek. After your heading, sequence the information on your resume from most important to least important with regard to supporting your objective.
A typical sequence is: Objective, Education, Skills, Experience, Activities/leadership. But again, the order depends on many things, and except for education, not every college student will need to use the exact same headings and categories.
Your full name.
- Use the form of your name as it appears on academic records and other documents an employer may require you to provide, so there will be no confusion that documents belong to the same person.
- If you go by a middle name or nickname, you can emphasize or insert this, as in George Bradley (Brad) Martinez, or Kathryn (Kate) E. Winthrop.
- If you only use a cell number, you can place that under/beside your name, or list with mailing addresses.
- You can place this under your name, or with mailing addresses.
- It's wise to set up an alias using your full name, as in Matthew.Broderick@vt.edu.
- The .vt.edu extension lets an email recipient know that you have an affiliation with a university.
- "Sexy@something" or "drunkenmonkey@whatever" is going to get you attention, but for the wrong reasons, and not an interview.
- Mailing addresses were once traditional to include on a resume (with undergraduate students including both a college and permanent/home address).
- Now that most communication is by email and phone, full mailing addresses are not always necessary in the job search process.
- Some individuals may not wish to include a complete mailing address due to privacy concerns.
- If you don't wish to include your street address, you could include your city/town and state. If you are certain that you are relocating to a specific place, and you want employers to know this, you could indicate "relocating to Richmond, Virginia, in June 20YY."
- More about whether to include a mailing address on your resume (Indeed.com).
Website URL, social networking site, or blog?
- Don't include a URL for a personal website unless the contents are strictly professional / academic. Listing websites that contain inappropriate material tells employers you don't have the judgment or maturity to be hired.
- If you have work samples online to show employers, make them easy to find; and don't assume employers have time to view them. Don't place the word "resume" at the top of your resume. It's simply not done. If the employer can't tell it's a resume, you've got bigger problems.
Your objective tells a prospective employer the type of work you are currently pursuing. The rest of your resume should be designed to most effectively support your objective.
Do you need an objective? Some people say to leave it off. Review these questions to decide:
- Are you sending your resume to one person with a cover letter that explains the purpose of sending your resume?
- Will the person who sees your resume know without question what you want to do?
- Is your resume for a job, an internship, a grad school application, scholarship, or other?
- Will the person who reads your resume guess its purpose? Will s/he guess correctly?
- If you're unsure, having an objective statement might be wise.
The real issue is what use you're making of any particular version of your resume, the means by which you are conveying it to a prospective employer (email, mail, online, in person) and whether your objective statement communicates anything meaningful to the employer.
You might need an objective on some versions of your resume, but not others.
If you are using your resume to support an application for a scholarship, admission to graduate school, or the like, you can state this in your objective.
State your objective simply and concisely; it is never necessary to have a long-winded statement.
For a job search, don't make an employer guess what you want to do:
- Make sure the employer knows either the industry you want to work in, or the type of work you want to do, or the skills you want to apply, or some combination. Example: Marketing position in sports or sports promotion, interest in using writing and public speaking skills.
- Avoid objectives like, "position which utilizes my skills and abilities" without specifying your skills and abilities.
- Avoid objectives like, "position related to (name of your major)," when your major does not describe a job or career field or is too vague to be meaningful. For example, "position in business" is far too vague to give an employer an idea of what you want to do.
It is not the employer's job to be your career counselor, so the employer should not have to hunt through your resume to guess what you are interested in doing. Employers won't take time to do that anyway. If you are not sure what jobs interest you, do career exploration and seek career advising first.
When seeking an internship or summer employment, a co-op position or other non-permanent position, remember to state this in your objective, so the employer will not misconstrue and assume you are graduating and seeking permanent work.
If you have several different objectives, create more than one version of your resume. Each version of your resume can be slightly different to support its objective.
If you are sending the resume just to one employer for one job, you don't need to name the employing organization in your objective. Just make sure the objective is a match.
If you are taking a resume to a job fair with lots of employers, or posting a resume online, use a broader objective or state two or three related interests. But remember, broad doesn't mean vague. If you have very divergent interests, you might have two or three versions of your resume for a job fair, but it's not necessary to make a different resume for each employer. The key is researching the employers before the fair, so you'll know what they are seeking and you can make sure your resume fits.
Your education section should almost always immediately follow the objective statement. This is because your education is your current pursuit or most recent significant accomplishment and is usually related to your objective. Even if your major is not specifically tied to your objective, you want the employer to know that you are completing a college degree.
Include your degree or degrees, major or program, option, minor, and your graduation month and year.
Either your degree, major, and graduation month and year, or the university name can be first. Either can be bold, depending upon whether you want to call attention to your institution or your degree. In most cases there is a good argument for emphasizing your degree as it's more specific information.
If you have more than one degree, list most recent first.
(That's called reverse chronological order; commonly mentioned with regard to how to list content in a resume.)
Degree may be abbreviated or spelled out.
Degree refers to bachelor's, master's, etc., not your major. Don't abbreviate your major.
Consider space on your page.
After degree, major/program of study.
B.S. Biochemistry, expected May 20XX
Bachelor of Science, Biochemistry, expected May 20XX
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Bachelor of Arts in English, Major - Literature & Language, May 20YY
B.A., English: Literature & Language, May 20YY
Bachelor of Science in Business, Major – Management, expected Dec. 20ZZ
B.S. in Business, Management Major, expected Dec. 20ZZ
Questions about degrees, terminology, etc.:
Virginia Tech > University Relations > Style Guide
- About the university name
- Abbreviating, capitalizing academic degrees, etc.
- Capitalization of academic degrees, etc.
Not sure what your VT degree or major/program is called?
E.g. bachelor of science, bachelor of arts....!!?
See correct names and abbreviations of Virginia Tech degrees
Institution, city/town, state
Common mistake: giving inaccurate name of your institution (yikes!)
- If major and option/concentration/minor names are short, you can fit them on the same line with major.
- If not, experiment with putting them on a second line, and see how that fits.
- The goal is to have a neat, easy-to-read document, and exercise your own judgment about how to create one.
Bachelor of Science in Business, Major – Hospitality and Tourism Management, expected May 20YY
Minor: (Something with a really long name, so works better on a separate line)
B.S. Biochemistry | Physics Minor, expected May 20YY
(major and minor names are short; they fit on one line)
See how easy that is to work out?!
When listing your institution, include the location (city/town and state, or country if not in U.S.) You can use the university's full name, or the official nickname — consult the University Style Guide for formatting. Think about the types of employers to whom you will be providing your resume and whether or not they will be familiar with the university names. Using both covers more bases.
Listing an incorrect university name is an unfortunate common mistake.
If you have done it or have been accepted to do it, include it in your education section. Indicate the month/year or term/year you did or will study abroad. You may include a brief description of your study, travels, projects, site visits.
Should you include GPA? Here are some things to consider:
- Many students have a higher in-major GPA than overall GPA; if so, that might be helpful to show — it lets the employer know your area of strength.
- If you want to work in a career field related to your major, and your in-major GPA is lower than your overall, and is not great, the lower in-major GPA is probably not something you want to advertise.
- If your overall GPA is very low and your major GPA is very strong, you could leave off your overall GPA and just include your major GPA. If your overall is moderate and your in-major is high, you might choose to list both.
- There is not a magic formula; this is a judgment call. You need to know the standards and expectations in the career field or graduate programs you are pursuing.
- If you want it: more information about whether or not to include your GPA.
- Again, if you're unsure about what to include, you're welcome to seek advising from us in Career and Professional Development for recommendations based on your circumstances.
Earning and/or financing all or a portion of the costs of your college education: If applicable, you could include something like, "Earned and financed 50% of tuition and living expenses." Why? It shows an employer you are taking responsibility for this.
Technical or continuing education experience can be listed, as long as it is related to your career goals, or shows a track record of initiative, or how you have used your time.
Academic awards, scholarships, scholastic achievement are generally included in an "Honors" or "Activities and Honors" section. However, if you have one significant academic honor and/or a particularly outstanding academic honor, you might choose to list it in your education section. This can be helpful if your GPA is not truly reflective of your achievements.
Do not list every course, and do not list basic courses taken by everyone in your major.
Class projects or independent studies could also be a main heading section. Or a class project could be an entry under related experience. You can detail these to show subject, with whom you worked, research, accomplishments, presentations, etc.
Publications could also be a main heading section. Undergraduates do not typically publish, so if you do, include this; it's worthy of note. Many graduate students do participate in writing for publications.
Whether or not to include a "coursework" or "relevant courses" section is a judgment call and depends on several things.
Consider these guidelines:
Don't include courses that you would have obviously taken based on your major, minor, etc. That doesn't add value to your resume or help you stand out from other candidates. Your space would be better spent on other relevant information.
Do include courses that are relevant to your objective that the employer wouldn't otherwise know you've taken. For example, if you're an English major, and have taken four computer science classes (but don't have a CS minor that you can mention), it probably can't hurt to list those courses.
Include courses important to your career objective if it would not be assumed from your major (or minor, etc.) that you have completed those courses.
Include courses important to your career objective if you have a major that is not well-known or understood by employers. The working world is not labelled in the same way as academia, and employers often do not know or care how universities labels majors and departments.
Include relevant courses if job descriptions (or other information from employers) ask for this.
You can list upper level electives in your major (or related to your career goal). DON'T list lower level courses or basic prerequisites to upper level courses.
In most cases, don't list your high school degree. If you're in college the employer knows you have one.
- Exception might be if you are a freshman or sophomore and attended a special or well-known high school for outstanding students, or something similar. By junior year, you need to be showcasing your college accomplishments. By graduate school, list college and graduate level work only.
- Another exception might be if you were applying for a teaching position and attended high school in the same school district, and you wanted to convey your familiarity with the community.
If at all possible, use relevant experience to support your objective. This experience can be paid or unpaid, an internship, field study, a substantial class project, volunteer positions, or positions held in clubs, etc.
Your experience does not have to be paid to be relevant. This allows you to include any experience in which you learned or demonstrated skills, knowledge or abilities that are related to the type of job you are seeking.
If your experience seems to break into two distinct categories of "related" and "other," you can use these two headings and divide your experience this way. Related experience might include a mixture of paid employment, volunteer work, student organization work, etc. You can give more detail in your "related experience" section, and leave out details in the "other experience" section.
If you do not have related experience, you should still list your employment background. This shows an employer that you have learned basic work ethics and skills such as taking responsibility, working cooperatively with co-workers, customer service, time management, or other characteristics that are important to any work environment. Think about skills you used that are transferable to a different work setting.
Listing non-glamorous jobs has value: you show that you are not too precious to work. If you stuck with an employer for a long time, and/or were promoted, include that; employers value longevity and advancement.
Generally, within each category, list your experiences in reverse chronological order. That mean most recent is first.
For each experience entry:
Bold the job title and/or organization, whichever seems most useful and informative.
Don't bold the where and when. If everything is bold, nothing stands out.
- Your job title (what)
- Organization name (who)
- Location (where) as city and state (no zip codes or street addresses please)
- Term/dates (when) as month-month and year, or semester/season and year.
Underneath that heading give a concise description of your accomplishments. Use phrases; not complete sentences.
Academic awards, scholarships, scholastic achievement are generally included in an "Honors" or "Activities and Honors" section. However, if you have one significant academic honor and/or a particularly outstanding academic honor, you may wish to list it in your education section. This can be helpful if your GPA is not truly reflective of your achievements.
Your accomplishments and extracurricular activities tell an employer about your interests, motivations, and skills (e.g. organizational, leadership, interpersonal, etc.).
You may include scholarships, awards, recognition of academic achievement, etc.
Activities and honors can be one combined section or two separate sections, depending on how many you have, the types you have, and how you want to sequence them in your resume.
For example, if you have several activities that are related to your career objective, you might list activities nearer to the top of your resume, while listing honors nearer to the end.
If you have items that could fall in either category, use a combined section.
If you have one item under the category of honors, combine it or list it elsewhere: it would look silly to list one item under a plural heading.
When listing organizations:
- Use a complete name instead of just the abbreviation.
Example: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
- If the nature or purpose of the organization is not clear from the name, provide a brief explanation.
Example: XYZ, co-ed service fraternity.
- Don't precede each of your organizations with "member of...," "member of...," member of...." If you list an organization, the employer knows you are a member; the organization name is sufficient.
- Indicate positions held (with month/year or academic years) and/or activities in which you have participated (and about which you can articulate your accomplishments in an interview).
- If you held offices or leadership positions, you may wish to briefly list or describe your accomplishments (as you do with work experience). Emphasize the activities or skills that support your career objective. See the section on Experience above; you may wish to include an activity under "Related Experience" if applicable.
- Indicate dates (month/year or academic years) of memberships and leadership roles held.
Many resumes can benefit from having a skills section. The heading might simply read "Skills," and include a list of various skills, including computer skills, laboratory skills, foreign language skills, writing skills, etc.
If all the skills you list are of one type, i.e., computer skills, or lab skills, or foreign language skills, etc., head the section "Computer skills," "Design skills," or "Foreign language skills," etc.
If you have skills in several categories, you can head the section "Skills," and you can include subheadings to organize your categories, such as "computer skills," "laboratory skills," "foreign language skills," "organizational skills," etc.
In ordering your resume, if your skills are more closely related to your career objective than other parts of your background, place this section higher on your resume page than other less-related sections.
If you have a certification or licensure (i.e., teaching certification, Engineer-in-Training, fitness certification, CPR, first aid, scuba diving, etc.) related to your career objective, include a "certifications" or "licensure" heading and give this information. Place this section higher on your resume page than other less related information.
Other options for listing a certification or licensure relevant to your objective might be to list it within education, especially if you attended training to secure it; or to include it within a "related experience and qualifications" heading.
If your certification is not related to your objective, and is not significant enough to need its own section, but is generally useful information (example: CPR, first aid, but job does not require this), you could list this in another category with an appropriate heading such as "other activities," "activities and certifications," etc.
If you possess a security clearance from current or previous employment, include this heading and list it. If you are concerned about permission to list, consult the employer that obtained your clearance.
Work authorization refers to your legal authorization to work in the United States.
Employers may specify hiring restrictions:
- Some employers can only hire U.S. citizens.
- Some employers may also hire persons who are "authorized to work in the U.S. on a permanent basis" (a.k.a. green card holder, resident alien, immigrant).
- Some employers are willing to consider persons who are not authorized to work in the U.S. on a permanent basis.
Foreign nationals who are in the U.S. on a visa are typically not authorized to work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, and must consult the regulations related to their visa status to determine what, if any, temporary work they are authorized to have and under what conditions.
For complete information:
International graduate students must consult the Graduate School:
Iinternational graduate student services
International undergraduate students must consult the Cranwell Center:
Employment for international undergraduate students
You may wish to include a statement of your work authorization on your resume if:
- You are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and you believe your name or some other aspect of your background may lead an employer to assume you might not be a U.S. citizen or might not be authorized to work in the U.S. on a permanent basis.
- You want employers to know that you have an H-1B visa.
- You expect a change in your work authorization to be effective by a specific time in the near future.
If you are not authorized to work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, do not make any statement or indication that you are. Employers view this as dishonesty. Focus your job search on employers who are able to hire you based on your work authorization.
Students seeking a cooperative education position should state availability; i.e., fall semester 20XX and/or spring semester 20XY. This is because co-op positions can potentially begin during any academic term and the employer will not know when you are able to start unless you give this information.
Students seeking internships or career-related summer employment should state this in the objective. Therefore it is not necessary to state an availability date — your availability is given in your objective. However, if an employer asks you to state specific available work dates, then do follow the employer's instructions.
Graduating bachelor's level students do not need to state availability, unless your availability is not readily apparent from your degree completion date. For example, if you give "June 20YY" as your degree completion month, but you will not be available to begin work until September 20YY, then do clarify your availability.
Employers don't care when you "walk," so if you're walking in May, but don't complete your degree until June, then June is the completion month that should appear on your resume. To state otherwise appears dishonest.
Graduate students may wish to state an availability date, particularly if you have some flexibility in this. For example, if you expect to complete defense of a thesis or dissertation in February 20YY, but could actually begin employment earlier, in January 20YY, then do include a statement of availability. You might indicate that your availability is flexible between January to March 20YY, for example.
Don't include references on your resume!
On a resume, it is completely unnecessary to state "references available upon request." Most employers assume this.
However, prepare a reference list on a separate page from your resume.
On the other hand, references typically are listed on a curriculum vitae.
For some graduate students and in some career fields i.e. positions in academia, employers ask for your reference list at the time of application. If you are developing a curriculum vitae, also commonly used for positions in academia, it is common to include references on that document.
For graduate students pursuing positions in academia, and for some other career fields, your curriculum vitae would include teaching and research interests. See curriculum vitae for more.
Don't include an interests section listing hobbies and everything that personally interests you. This is usually unnecessary and irrelevant. However, if you have interests, activities or hobbies that are very important to you and that make a statement about who you are, you can include them on your resume. These could be listed in your activities section, or possibly in your skills or related experience or projects sections.
For example, if you are an avid rock climber, run in marathons or have other athletic pursuits that require an investment of time and discipline, you should at least list these in activities. If you are applying for athletic-related, coaching, outdoor recreation, or sports management jobs, those could be considered related experience.
If you've done independent projects, such as rebuilding a vehicle, this could be listed among skills or projects. This could be a related experience depending on your objective.
These are important even if you don't belong to a formal organization and even if unrelated to your objective. These types of items reflect initiative, discipline, hard work and skills, which are valuable characteristics.
If you have traveled abroad and/or have foreign language skills, you can put this information in your skills section, or you might want to include a section labelled something like "international experience." The ability to function in other cultures and the maturity gained from extensive travel indicate characteristics and skills that are relevant to employers. If you have studied abroad, as indicated above, include this in your education section.
If you have musical or artistic talents that are not related to your career goals, DO include these in your activities or skills sections as appropriate. Again, these could reflect discipline and other positive mental and personal qualities.
It is not necessary however, to include a long list of everything that interests you.
Short answer: NO!
Do not place your SSN on your resume. Identity theft is a concern, and you should carefully guard access to this number.
Scammers could ask for SSN as part of a fake job application.
Even an employer with a legitimate need for your SSN (for a background check, for example) should not collect this on an application form.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM): It is not unlawful for employers to request an SSN on an application form; however employers should request SSN only when absolutely necessary, such as in conjunction with a background check, completing a W-4, or enrolling an employee into benefits plans. Therefore the SSN should be collected separately from an application form where it will only be seen and accessed when necessary. An application form may be seen by individuals who do not need the SSN.
The SHRM website is for members only; more information on this topic on Balance Careers.com: Social Security Numbers on Job Applications.
You could consider the percentage of money you are contributing toward your education, as in "earned and financed 50% of tuition and living expenses"
Depending on the scope of these, class projects or independent studies could be a main heading section, or it could be an entry under experience.
You can detail these to show subject, with whom you worked, research, accomplishments, presentations, etc.
Publications could also be a main heading section. Undergraduates do not freqently publish, so if you do, include this; it's worthy of note.
Many graduate students do participate in writing for publications, and if you are developing a CV, publications are commonly listed in a CV.