What is a résumé?

A résumé is a document that briefly summarizes your education, employment history, and other experiences that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Your resume should be neat, concise, and persuasive. Your employer will only glance at your résumé (an average of 30 seconds), which is why it is important to make a fantastic first impression in the way you organize and write your résumé. It is almost always wise to keep your résumé to one page.

A good résumé should include:

1. A heading

In this heading should be your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.  Make sure that your e-mail address is a professional one, not something like "crazyeyedsuzan." You may include your own website address if it contains professional information and images.

2. An objective

The objective will be the focus of your résumé. You should write an objective that tells the employer the sort of work you are hoping to do, rather than something philosophical. The more specific your objective is the better because then your potential employer will know exactly where you should be. Tailor your objective to the job you are seeking.

3. Your education and related coursework

Your education section will tell your employers what you have learned. You may also decide to include related coursework in this category or a separate category if it helps show your employer your skill set. Don't list every class, but the ones that are particularly relevant to the position you are applying for. At the very minimum, the education section should include your degree and when it was earned (or is expected to be earned), and the name of your university. You may also include your GPA, but you might decide not to if your GPA is below a 3.0. You should also list if you are on the Dean's List or have received any other academic honors in this section, especially if they are your only awards.

4. Your experience

It's important to show your employers what you have done outside of school for your job.  Don't be afraid to put items such as fast-food experience, if you have any applicable experience in such areas. Customer service is an important skill set to have. Just make sure that you describe your accomplishments. If you handled money, consider including the amount that you were trusted to handle. Be sure to mention if you got an award such as "Employee of the Month" or the equivalent, or a raise/promotion. Also include your summer and part-time work experience that doesn't relate to the position you're seeking. If you haven't worked in a job or completed an internship, you can use a project that you completed in an upper-level class, but be sure that you're honest about what it is.  The project will show your knowledge in a particular area, but you don't want the employer to think that it was a full-time job that you've had for years. 

5. Key skills, and/or an honors and awards sections

Not every resume needs a key skills or an awards section, but some people may want to include it in order to highlight additional experience.  Things like a foreign language or website building may be something you'd include here. Just make sure they are relevant to the job you're applying for. Leadership experience, however, is usually welcome.

6. A list of activities 

A list of activities goes hand-in-hand with the above section. Sports, a fraternity or sorority or other activities may show you as being a well-rounded individual. Listing your activities may show your employers a little bit more about you.

Sample Résumé

Jane A. Smith

Campus Address
Whitman #34, 1234 Waldron Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53219
(555) 555-9876

Permanent Address
123 E. Main St.
Chicago, IL 12345
(555) 555-1234

A sales and marketing internship allowing me to utilize my communication skills and apply my knowledge of the health care industry.

Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
B.S. in Business, Marketing Emphasis
Spanish Minor
Anticipated Graduation May 2003
Major GPA: 3.6/4.0
Overall GPA: 3.2/4.0

Work Experience

Intern, Memorial Hospital Pharmacy, Edgewood, WI                                 Summer 2001 and 2002

  • Prepared prescriptions to meet diverse needs of patients and customers
  • Ordered pharmaceutical products from different suppliers and handled billing
  • Interacted with customers, patients, doctors, and pharmacists

Sales Manager, The Gap, Chicago, IL                                                       1998-present

  • Managed three departments
  • Hired, trained and supervised a culturally diverse workforce of 8 full-time and 11 part-time employees
  • Reorganized displays, developed new marketing approaches and improved customer service that resulted in 15 percent increase in annual sales
  • Received 'Manager of the Year' award

Cashier, Alvin’s Supermarket, Chicago, IL                                                 1995-1998

  • Trained new employees
  • Balanced cash registers and remained high level of accuracy
  • Assisted with inventory and special sales promotions

Computer Skills

  • Microsoft Word, Publisher, PowerPoint, and Excel
  • Internet literate
  • Familiar with PCs and Macs


  • Dean’s List
  • Alpha Lambda Beta
  • National Merit Society

Leadership Activities

  • Central Committee Co-Chair, Management Ambassadors
  • News Editor, Marquette Student Newspaper
  • Hostess, Delta Gamma Sorority
  • Volunteer, March of Dimes Walk America