Resume content and sections
Not all of the items below will be on every resume! And you can customize your headings somewhat to work for you. Consider the topics applicable to you. Be thorough and strive to concisely tell your story! We are happy to talk with you and 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.
Leadership and Activities
Activities and Honors
Your full name.
- Generally, use the form of your name as it appears on academic records and other documents an employer might require you to provide, so there will be no confusion that documents belong to the same person.
- However, for students who prefer a name different than your current legal name, the following article gives advice and links to state legal resources for name change:
4 Job Search Tips for Transgender and Non-Binary People (indeed.com). Short story: your resume and cover letter are not legal documents, so use the name you prefer on those documents.
- If you go by a middle name or nickname, and you strongly wish to convey this, you can emphasize or insert this, as in Ellery Camden (Cam) Martins, or Robert Duy (R.D.) Nguyen.
- Include your mobile number under or beside your name. Use separators to make the number easy to read, as in 540-7XY-9M45, and not 5407XY9M45.
- Include your email address under or beside your name.
- It can be helpful to create an alias using your full name, as in firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The .vt.edu extension lets an email recipient know that you have an affiliation with a university.
- Don't use an alias that's inappropriate; most people won't, but it's worth a mention in case someone doesn't know this. No "cooldude@something" or "drunkeymonkey@whatever." That will get attention for the wrong reasons, and is a negative for the job search.
e.g. Blacksburg, VA; Red Bank, New Jersey
- Do include your general location as city/town and state. This can include your college location, your permanent home location, or both.
- 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."
- The state can be abbreviated or spelled out.
- It is no longer advised to include your street address on your resume. This is primarily for privacy protection for you, the job seeker; and the employer doesn't need that level of detail on your resume. See: Should students put their addresses on resumes? from National Association of Colleges and Employers. This succiently explains that you don't need your street address on your resume.
- Most communication is by email and phone. If and when employers need your full mailing address (for HR and payroll purposes), they will ask for this in their Applicant Tracking System (ATS). A street address is not needed on your resume document.
- More about whether to include a mailing address on your resume (Indeed.com).
LinkedIn URL, website URL, or blog?
- Many job seekers choose to include their LinkedIn URL with their email and phone. That's fine to do. (Just make sure your profile is up-to-date.)
- Don't include a URL for a personal website unless the contents are strictly professional / academic.
- If you have work samples online to show employers, make them easy to find; at the same time, don't assume employers have time to view them.
The word "resume" in the heading?
- No. 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, that's the problem to fix.
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 main 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.
Again: list most recent first.
- For each degree, include your degree type, major or program, option, minor, and your graduation month and year (expected, if in future), institution, town/city, and state.
B.A. Sociology. Minor: Human Development. Expected May 20YY
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
- You could bold-font your degree/major so it stands out. It's your main job or accomplishment. want to call attention to your institution or your degree.
Associate's degree prior to pursuing a bachelor's at VT
- Definitely include this.
Dual enrollment, completed associate's degree during high school
- Definitely include that you completed this while you were a high school student.
High school degree?
- In most cases, don't list your high school degree. If you're in college the employer knows you have one.
- Exceptions might be if you are a first year student or sophomore and attended a special or well-known high school for outstanding students, or you completed your associate's degree through dual enrollment while in high school, or something similar.
- By your junior year in college, employers will have less interest in your high school and your performance there.
- 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.
Other education or certification?
- Technical or continuing education or certifications can be listed, especially if related to your career goals.
- You could also show a certification in your skills section, particularly if it gives evidence you've learned certain job-related skills.
Degree may be abbreviated or spelled out.
Degree refers to bachelor's, master's, etc., not your major.
Don't abbreviate your major. (It's not up to an employer to know all the majors at every university, much less the abbreviations.)
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.:
- If major and option/concentration/minor names are short, you can fit them on the same line. If they're long names, split them onto two lines.
- The goal is to have a clean, easy-to-read document, and to exercise your own judgment about how to create one.
B.S. 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)
Easy; use your judgment to create a clean layout.
- For your Virginia Tech degree(s):
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia (or VA)
- You can use the university's full name, or the official nickname as explained in the University Style Guide.
- Listing an incorrect university name is an unfortunate common mistake.
- For each institution, Include the location as city/town and state, or country if not in U.S.
- 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.
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 obviously take 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 known 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. There is no need to liist lower level courses or basic prerequisites to upper level courses.
- If you are responsible for financing or earning the cost of your education and/or living expenses, you can indicate this, as in "earning and financing 50% of tuition and living expenses."
- This could be a one-liner in your education section.
- Why: this shows responsibility.
- If you are working to earn/save money for college, you are likely busy, and you might have good characteristics like time management and self-discipline.
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 can 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 stayed 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.
Technical writing intern. Summer 20YY
Thenameoftheorg, City, State
Assistant producer. Aug. 20YY - present, part-time
Companywhereyouwork, Town, State
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, community service organization.
- 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 could briefly list or describe your accomplishments, as you do with work experience. Emphasize activities or skills that support your career objective.
- For extensive work and/or leadership, you might wish to include an activity under "Related Experience" if applicable.
- Indicate dates (month/year or academic years) of memberships and leadership roles held.
- It's common for resumes to have a skills section.
- Your heading might simply be "Skills," and include a list; or you could have a different heading, or subheadings, depending on what you have.
- Examples of types of skills:
- computer skills
- laboratory skills
- language skills
- media and writing skills
- sales skills
- Sequence of info: If your skills are more related to your career objective than other parts of your background, place this section higher on your resume than other less-related sections.
Other possible content and cautions
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 certification or licensure:
- In your education section, if you attended training to secure it.
- In a heading such as "related experience and qualifications."
- In a heading such as "other activities and certifications," if your certification is not related to your objective, and not significant enough to need its own section, but is generally useful information; for example: CPR, first aid, where the job does not require this, but it's useful.
- 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.
- 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, all international students should consult the Cranwell International Center.
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."
- Some employers are willing to consider persons who are not authorized to work in the U.S. on a permanent basis.
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 want to make sure a prospective employer can see this on your resume.
- 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 are not interested in when you "walk," so if you're walking in the May graduation ceremony, 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.
Research and teaching interests
- 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.
Activities and hobbies
- It is not necessary to include an interests section listing hobbies and everything that personally interests you.
Artistic or athletic pursuits reflecting discipline
- However, if you have interests, activities or hobbies that are very important to you and 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 have musical or artistic talents that are not related to your career goals, still do include these in your activities or skills sections as appropriate. Again, these could reflect discipline and other positive mental and personal qualities.
Independent projects not part of your academics
- If you've done independent projects, such as rebuilding a vehicle, this could be listed among skills or projects. This could be included in 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 reflect initiative, discipline, hard work and skills, which are valuable characteristics.
Travel / language skills
- 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.
- 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 your resume or an application form.
- According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):
Can employers request an applicant's Social Security number on an employment application?
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.
- Also see: Can Employers Ask for Your Social Security Number? on thebalancecareers.com.
- Depending on the scope of these, class projects or independent studies could be:
- Its own heading section, or
- An entry under your experience section, or
- An entry in your education secton.
- You can detail these to show subject, with whom you worked, research, accomplishments, presentations, etc.
- Publications could 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.