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Career Action Center

Creating Your Resume

Getting Started


Your resume is a marketing tool. It describes what you have to offer the employer. To start the resume development process, begin by listing your skills and strengths. Take out a notepad or go to your computer, and write answers to these questions:

  • What am I really good at?
  • What are my talents and strengths?
  • How can I contribute to an organization?

Next, list each of your jobs, giving the starting and ending dates.
Describe what you did on the job.

  • What were your responsibilities and duties?
  • What projects were you involved in?
  • What did you do especially well?
  • What did you contribute to the organization?
  • If you feel you did a good job, how do you know?
  • How can you prove you did your work well?
  • If this is your first job or you are returning to work after raising a family, consider these additional ideas:
  • What have I done that I feel proud of? (make a long list)
  • What skills have I used in raising a family and managing a household?
  • What volunteer activities have I participated in? How did I contribute?
  • Your lists show what you have to sell to an employer.

The First Draft

Following these guidelines, prepare a first draft. Don’t worry too much about wording at this point, just get the ideas down on paper in resume format. Revising and re-writing come later.

Revise and Rewrite

Let your first draft sit for a few hours or preferably overnight before returning to edit. Make changes to improve the content. Ask several people to review the draft and suggest improvements. Consider making an appointment with Career Action Staff for a resume critique.

Sections of the Résumé

Name, Address, Phone and Email

Select an attractive format for your name, address, phone number and email. Bold and capitalize your name, using a slightly larger point size than the address.

Objective (optional)

An objective statement tells the reader what job you seek. It provides focus for the information that follows. Don’t expect employers to figure out what position you want; they don’t have the time. Here are two common formats:

Objective: Office Assistant Position

Objective: Position utilizing Office Management, Access Database, and Customer Service Skills

Qualifications or Highlights

List your skills and personal attributes (i.e. organized, accurate). Use a box format or bullets to draw attention to this section.



  • MS Office 2000 (Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint, Publisher, Outlook)
  • Internet research
  • Ten key by touch
  • Enjoy multitasking and a fast pace
  • Well organized and good at follow through
  • Extensive experience in customer service
  • Skilled in handling customer complaints

If you are in CIS or CEN use this section to list all your technical skills (Hardware, Software, Networking, Programming)


Show certificates and degrees you have received. Include the graduation date if it’s within the past five years. When your graduation date is in the future, list the degree and college, followed by parenthesis showing the date, i.e. (expected June 2002). Include your grade point when it’s 3.5 or above. If you have no related job experience, list class projects as a way to show your skills and knowledge.


Associate of Technical Arts, Paralegal (GPA 3.6)                        2002
Edmonds College, Lynnwood, WA

  • Trained in drafting documents such as summons, complaints, and wills
  • Assisted students in Westlaw research class. Gained reputation for clear explanations.
  • Assignments in Intellectual Properties and Civil Procedure recognized as “best in class”
  • Researched and prepared legal memorandum for Legal Research class
  • Analyzed court rules; drafted pleadings and motions for Civil Procedure class
  • Courses included: Litigation Practice, Real Estate and Property Law, Commercial Transactions, Evidence, Law Office Management, Interviewing and Investigation Techniques, Advanced Legal Writing and Research.

Work Experience (including Internships)

List your job history, including internships. Include the position title, name of organization and dates of employment. As a general guideline, provide a maximum of seven to ten years of experience, unless earlier work is highly relevant to your current search. Your work history can be arranged in chronological order or by skills and functions. Refer to the section on Chronological vs. Functional Format for a description of each.

Awards, Licenses, Associations, Community Involvement (optional)

These are optional sections. Awards can be included in the Accomplishments section, but if you have an extensive list, a separate section will draw more attention to them. Show your community service if it demonstrates skills related to the job you want.


There are two common formats for a résumé. Choose the one that presents your background to the best advantage.


  • Job duties and accomplishments arranged by skill categories
  • Work history, including dates of employment, appears as last item
  • when you are changing career direction and have little related work experience.


  • Shows job history in reverse chronological order with the most recent job first
  • Gives duties and accomplishments under each position
  • Use this format when continuing the same field

Accomplishment Statements

Employers hire you because of the contributions you can make and problems you can solve. The most effective method for demonstrating your talents and capabilities is showing concrete examples of what you have already achieved. An “accomplishment” is something you did in your professional, academic or personal life that you feel you did well. Statements demonstrating your accomplishments form the core of an effective résumé and make it stand out. If you have no related work or internship experience, use class projects to demonstrate your capabilities and accomplishments


Examples of Class Projects:

  • Working in teams, planned and executed several database systems and hardware requirements from the beginning to the SDLC to the final stages
  • Setup, configured, and maintained a networked environment containing five routers and switches
  • Team leader on the basic design of LAN – designed LAN for two campus buildings
  • Team member for a Help Desk Staff of five students – provided technical support for 40+ computers and users, simulating real-world operational problems

Examples of job-related accomplishments:

  • Developed filing and record keeping system that resulted in fast and easy access to data. Received many positive comments from supervisors and department heads.
  • Streamlined administrative procedures, increasing efficiency of claims handling and reducing required staffing level.
  • Participated in a team that increased productivity 30% over one year, while reducing the reject rate from 15% to 1%.
  • Selected by management as Quality Leader of the Month based on perfect attendance and punctuality, positive attitude, and quality of work.

Here’s a step-by-step process to develop accomplishment statements for your résumé:

Step 1: Begin by making a lengthy list of things you’ve done that you’re proud of. Think about class projects, jobs, and volunteer experience.

When have you:

  • Made a positive difference?
  • Re-organized something to make it work better?
  • Identified a problem and solved it?
  • Planned or implemented an event?
  • Come up with a new idea that improved things?
  • Developed or implemented new procedures or systems?
  • Written procedures?
  • Designed new forms or report formats?
  • Worked on special projects?
  • Contributed to team accomplishments?
  • Received awards?
  • Been complimented by your supervisor or co-workers?
  • Increased profit or saved money for the organization?
  • Contributed to good customer service?

Step 2: Use the STAR process to write down the this information for each accomplishment:

ST Situation What was the situation or problem?
A Action What did you do to solve the problem or make the situation better?
R Result What was the outcome?

Including a result for your action is critical. The reader has no way of knowing you did a good job unless you provide the information. Use numbers to quantify the results. If that’s not possible, then describe how things were better after your actions.

Step 3: Write a first draft of your accomplishment statements. Begin each phrase with an action verb in the past tense (present tense for a current job), followed by a brief description of what you did and ending with the result.

Step 4: Put your draft away until the next day. Review your list of accomplishment statements, revising them with any improvements that occur to you.

Step 5: Incorporate accomplishments into your résumé.

Additional Hints for Your Résumé

  • Bold your name and make it slightly larger than your address.
  • Draw attention to your accomplishments by using a bullet format (·).
  • Use the same letterhead layout (name, address, phone number, e-mail) for your résumé, list of references, cover letter, and thank-you letter.
  • Use high quality paper in gray, white or cream. Send the letter and résumé in a large manila envelope (this keeps it flat) or a number ten-size envelope of the same paper stock.
  • Use at least 12-point type. Leave plenty of white space on the page.
  • Print résumé and letter on a laser printer.
  • When abbreviating names of states, use the two-letter abbreviation in capital letters. There is no period after the abbreviation. Example: WA
  • Avoid using personal pronouns (I, me, my)
  • Do not put the phrase References available upon request on the résumé. That is assumed. Prepare a separate list of references and take it with you on interviews.
  • The best résumé are concise, tightly written documents without extra words. They have “punch” and energy. Imagine yourself as an editor and read through your résumé looking for unnecessary words to eliminate. Ask your friends and instructors to do the same.
  • Avoid over-used language, i.e. good communication skills. Readers have seen common phrases so often, they no longer pay attention. Instead, use specific examples such as Background in negotiation or Highly skilled at public speaking.

Whenever you fax, email or regular mail a résumé, always prepare a cover letter that introduces your résumé and describes how your background and experience match the employer’s specific needs. Your role is to show the match. The reader does not have the time or interest to figure out how you can help them; that’s your job. Write a customized letter for each position.

Click Here for an example of a Functional Resume

Click Here for an example of a Chronological Resume