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Resumes and Curriculum Vitae (CV)

The purpose of your resume is to get an interview. In thirty seconds or less, most employers decide whether or not to consider applicants for employment, so your resume's content must be clear, concise, and compelling. Tailor your resume to the specific position for which you are applying and present your most relevant skills, experience, and achievements. To stand a chance, make sure that your resume is free of misspellings and grammatical errors.

Resume Formats

The most common format, a chronological resume, lists your education and experience in reverse date order, with your most recent information first. It is best used when your employment history shows growth and development, you are seeking to stay in the same field, the name of your most recent employer is an asset, and prior job titles are particularly impressive.

A functional or transferable skills resume allows the candidate the opportunity to highlight skills and experience that are relevant to the employer, rather than chronologically listing their work history. This style is typically used by those who are changing careers or who have gaps in their employment history.

A curriculum vitae (CV) is more extensive than a resume and is primarily used when applying for teaching or research opportunities. To differentiate between the two, consider your target careers. 

In the world of academia and scientific research, a CV is the standard job search document. The CV differs from a traditional resume in that it lists publications, professional presentations, classes taught, and other relevant academic information. While resume length is limited to one or two pages, the CV can grow with your career. Undergraduate students just beginning their academic or research careers may choose to build upon their traditional resume by adding undergraduate research, significant academic papers, publications, or presentations.

The term curriculum vitae (CV) can also be used when applying for positions abroad. Research your target country and its employment terminology to determine CV expectations. If possible, speak to a recruiter to better understand the country's culture and employment expectations. 

Unless an employer specifically requests your publication and/or presentation history, then the employer is likely looking for a traditional resume.

This format includes the same content as a resume, as well as information required for Federal applications, such as your social security number, country of citizenship, position details, high school credentials, salary history, and references. Your employment history, education, and related training and skills should be listed in reverse chronological order and your content should emphasize specific results. To create one uniform resume that includes all of the information required by government agencies, use the USAJOBS Resume Builder. Note: you need an account with USAJOBS to access the resume builder.

An infographic resume is a visual timeline that details your work history and professional skills and illustrates who you are as a candidate. Infographic resumes often contain images, data/charts, text, and color that describe your experience and expertise in a visual way. Infographic resumes are appealing in certain industries and to many employers because they are a representation of your creative skills. Some of these industries include public relations, marketing and graphic design. It's important to note that most non-profits, government agencies, and positions on Capitol Hill will not accept this style of resume.  

You can create an infographic resume entirely on your own or use online tools that assist you in building one. Several applications including Visualize.me or Kinzaa offer free tools that allow you to create dynamic infographic resumes. 

While many employers find infographic resumes appealing, it is important that you create a traditional resume as well.

Sections and Headers

General guidelines exist so that employers can quickly and easily find key information on your resume; however, you may include personal touches through your layout and content so that your unique qualifications stand out.

Required details include your full name; current address; primary phone number, which is most likely your cell; and e-mail address. If you have a professional Web site that features work samples, you may include the URL. If you are abroad and use Skype, you may include your Skype number so that employers can easily communicate with you.

This section is optional and is most effective when you know the specific industry or type of work that interests you, or when you are transitioning from one career to another. If you include it, clearly and concisely state your career goal or summarize your professional experience so that employers immediately know what you seek.

Begin with the most recent degree you are pursuing or have earned and list additional degrees in reverse chronological order.  

Include your institution and its location by city and state; degree level; major, minor, or concentration; and the month and year of graduation, or anticipated completion. If you have studied abroad, include the institution and its location, academic term, and concentration.  

Scholarships, academic awards and other honors can be included in this section or listed separately. Relevant courses, class projects, and independent studies can also be included and often help bolster credentials if you have less relevant work experience.

Emphasize relevant experience that you have gained through part- and full-time employment, paid and unpaid internships, volunteer positions, and leadership positions with student organizations. If your experience naturally breaks into two distinct categories – related and other – create separate headers and list your experiences accordingly. For each entry, list the organization and its location by city and state, position title, and employment dates (month / year). Craft concise statements – not full sentences – and use strong verbs and specific details to describe your actions and results. Demonstrate to employers how you applied select knowledge, skills, and abilities to achieve desired outcomes. If possible, quantify your results to convey the scope and significance of the project.

Most employers spend less than a minute when reviewing resumes so it is essential to make your skills as clear as possible to employers. Skills can be separated into sub-headings that include:  

  • Language Skills: If you are fluent or proficient, you should indicate so in parenthesis next to the name of the language listed (eg. Spanish (Fluent)). 
  • Computer Skills: Include any software and/or programs you've worked with and highlight your ability to run analytics with various social media platforms and/or content management systems. 
  • Special Skills: Include specialized skills you've honed professionally and/or academically such as policy analysis, training and facilitation, conflict mediation, or public speaking skills.  
  • Leadership and/or Community Activities: List your degree of involvement with college and community activities. Your activities can provide evidence that you have key skills that will benefit you on the job. Holding an office in a sorority, participating in student organizations, taking part in a theater production, or playing on a sports team all offer you the chance to show an employer that you have leadership, teamwork, communication, and other important skills.

If you have successfully completed trainings or earned certifications or licenses that relate to your career goal, name the section accordingly and include key details.
Through a description or a list of your accomplishments, extracurricular activities, or professional associations, employers begin to learn about your interests, motivations, and skills. For all leadership positions held, list the organization’s full name, your position title, membership dates, and a brief description of your key accomplishments. For involvement as a member, list the organization’s full name, membership dates, and activities in which you have participated that relate to your career objective.

Common Resume Questions

The length of your resume depends on how much relevant experience you have. Generally, undergraduate students, and occasionally grad students, have just enough information to fill one page. If you have a significant amount of experience that is of interest to an employer, then two pages are appropriate. Keep in mind that employers will only read your second page if your first page captures their attention.

It depends on your year in college and the amount of experience you have. If you are a freshman or sophomore, you may include your high school information, but as you progress through college and gain additional experience and skills, your high school achievements become less relevant to employers.

The importance of GPAs varies according to industry and occupation. If your GPA is 3.5 or higher, you should include it. If your GPA in your major is higher than your overall GPA, you may indicate both, listing your major's GPA first. If you choose to include your GPA, be sure that it is accurate because you may be asked to verify it later in the hiring process.

In most cases, yes. Through every experience, you develop "transferable skills" that you can use in future positions. Think about the skills required for the position that you seek and then describe how you demonstrated those skills in previous positions. Examples of transferable skills include written and verbal communication, research, planning, organization, problem solving, and customer service.

If you are confident that you can fulfill the duties of the position with your existing skills, include them on your resume. Do not inflate your abilities, but rather describe them as basic, intermediate, or advanced.

Generally, no. Employers expect you to have references and typically request a list once you advance to the interview stage. Discover more answers to frequently asked questions about references.

No. The most effective resumes are tailored to specific employers or positions and highlight knowledge, skills and experiences that directly relate to the qualifications and duties of the position you seek. Do your research and include keywords that employers will recognize as they quickly scan your resume.

The quickest and easiest way to create a resume is to use the Career Center's templates which you can tailor for your degree program or career objective. Find our templates on the right side of this page.