Return to Career Services home page
 

Content and sections of your resume

You are here: Career Services > Job & internship search guide > Resume guide > Content, sections

 

On this page:

Sequence | Heading | Objective

Education | degree|major | option, concentration, minor| institution | study abroad | optional items | coursework | class projects | publications | things not to include

Experience | related experience | other experience

Activities | Honors | Leadership

Skills

Certifications / Licensure

Security clearance

Work authorization

Availability

References

Interests | other items


Sequence of resume information

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.

Heading

Include:

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.

Phone number(s).
If you only use a cell number, you can place that under/beside your name, or list with mailing addresses.

E-mail address(es).
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 e-mail 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.

Undergraduate students: give both college AND permanent addresses.
Employers may wish to contact you during school breaks or even months after you submit your resume. Make it possible, and easy, for them to find you.
If someone tells you not to list your college address while you're in college, but instead to only list an out-of-town permanent address, ask why. If the answer is "it's not professional," then ask, "what's unprofessional about having a residence at college, and why wouldn't I want an employer to know that I'm residing at/near my college/university?"

DO NOT 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.)

Website URL? Social networking site? Do you blog, post comments online?
DON'T include a URL for a personal web site unless the contents are strictly professional / academic. Listing web sites 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. See more about your online presence | portfolios.

Objective

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.

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. Therefore:

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.

See Words to strike from your resume. Forbes. No boring objectives, and more.

Seeking an internship or summer employment, a co-op position or other non-permanent position: 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.

Sending the resume just to one employer for one job?
That makes it simple to customize the resume for the job. You don't need to name the employing organization in your objective. Just make sure the objective is a match. (Remember the college application advice? Don't apply to XYZ university and say you really like ABC university.... Ditto for job search.)

Taking a resume to a job fair with lots of employers, or posting a resume online?
That's an occasion to use a broader objective or state two or three related interests. 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.

Education

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 (or working on) a college degree.

Include:

Degree(s), major/program, option, minor, grad month/year
Examples

("expected grad month/year" if not in near future)

Institution, city/town, state: Examples
Common mistake: giving inaccurate name of your institution (yikes!)

Either your degree + major + grad month/year, or the university name can be first, and 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; it's more specific information.

Degree | major / program of study

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. Examples
Consider space on your page.
After degree, major/program of study. The word "major" is not necessary.

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, master of ....!!?

VIRGINIA TECH DEGREES:

Undergraduates: degrees & accurate major names by college:
University Registrar > Degree Titles.

Graduate students: Academic programs & degrees offered:
Graduate Catalog: Academic programs & degrees.

Institution, city/town, state: Examples
Common mistake: giving inaccurate name of your institution (yikes!)

Option or concentration with a long name? Minor?

If major and option/concentration/minor names are short, you can fit them on the same line with major.
If major, option, minor, etc., names are long, try putting option, concentration, and/or minor on second line.
Experiment with how this looks and fits on your resume.
Goal is to have a neat, easy-to-read document, and exercise your own judgment about how to create one.

Examples

Institution name | city/town & state

Institution, location by city/town and state (or county, if not U.S.):

You can use the university's full name, or the official nickname of Virginia Tech, or both — see examples. 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.

Study abroad

Study abroad, if you have done it or have been accepted to do it, should be included 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. See resume samples.

 

Examples:
Degree abbreviated or spelled out
B.A. Economics, expected, May 20XX
Bachelor of Arts, Economics, expected May 20XX

B.S. Economics, expected August 20XX
Bachelor of Science, Economics
, expected August 20XX

(Yes, Virginia Tech offers both B.A. and B.S. in economics. Ditto for chemistry.
Know your degree
.)

B.A. English; Spanish minor, expected December 20XX
Bachelor of Arts, English; Spanish minor, expected December 20XX

M.A.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction, May YYYY
OR
Master of Arts in Education, Curriculum and Instruction, May YYYY

B.S. Mathematics, expected May YYYY
OR
Bachelor of Science, Mathematics, expected May YYYY
Correct / incorrect abbreviations, punctuation, possessive: University Relations Style Guide

Examples:
ONE degree, ONE major, ONE minor AND/OR option
B.S. Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise; Psychology Minor, expected May 2012
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA

OR adding option (too long to fit one one line with major):
B.S. Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, expected May 2012
Exercise and Health Promotion Option
Psychology Minor

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA

B.A. English, Math Minor, Expected May YYYY
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, Virginia
OR
Bachelor of Arts, English; Math Minor, Expected May YYYY
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, Virginia
OR
B.S. Biochemistry, Biotechnology Option, May YYYY
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA

 
Example:
ONE degree, TWO majors
B.S. Psychology and English, expected May 2012
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA

(Note that an undergraduate degree in English is a B.A.; your first/primary major, as declared with the Office of the University Registrar, determines your degree)
 
Example:
TWO UNDERGRADUATE DEGREES
Earning 30 extra credit hours required to receive two diplomas; not just earning one degree with a second major.
For clarification, see University Registrar > FAQs for graduating students > What is the difference between a double major and a second degree?

B.S. Sociology
, expected May 2013
B.A. Political Science, expected May 2013
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA

OR

Bachelor of Science, Sociology, expected May 2013
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, expected August 2013
 

Example:
Degrees from different institutions

M.S. Biochemistry, May 2012
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA

B.S. Biology, May 2010
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

A.S. General Studies, May 2008
New River Community College, Dublin, VA

 

Example:
Undergraduate AND graduate degrees from same institution
Master of Business Administration, expected May 2012
Bachelor of Science, Computer Engineering, May 2010
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA

You could repeat the institution name under each degree, as in the example above where degrees are from different institutions, but listing the institution once saves space if you have other good contect filling your resume.

Optional items you may include:

Overall and/or in-major GPA.
See "Should I include my GPA?" and other Frequently Asked Questions on this topic.

Percentage of money you are contributing toward your education, as in "Earned and financed 50% of college tuition and living expenses."

Technical or continuing education experience can be listed if it is related to your career goal.

The following could be included in the Education section, or in other sections of the resume:

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. (It would be silly to list one honor under a plural heading of "honors.") This can be helpful if your GPA is not truly reflective of your achievements.

Career-related course work. However, do not list every course, and do not list basic courses taken by everyone in your major.

Class projects or independent studies.

This 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.

This 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.

Coursework

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.

DO 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.

DO 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 academia labels majors and departments.

DO include relevant courses if you find that job descriptions or other information from employers specifies that they want to know if you have taken particular courses.

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.

Don't include:

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.

Experience | "Related experience" | "Other experience"

If at all possible, use relevant experience to support your objective. This experience can be paid or unpaid, an internship or 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.

See resume samples with "related" and "other" experience categories.

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; employers value longevity and advancement.

Generally, within each category, list your experiences in reverse chronological order. (That means most recent first.)

For each experience entry:
In the heading include these four basic elements:
(Bold the job title and/or organization, whichever seems most useful/informative. Don't bold the where and when. If everything is bold, nothing stands out.)
1. Your job title (what)
2. Organization name (who)
3. Location (where) as city and state (no zip codes or street address please)
4. Term/dates (when) as month-month & year, or semester/season & year.
Underneath that heading give a concise description of your accomplishments. Use phrases; not complete sentences.

Examples:
Community Crisis Center Volunteer, RAFT, Blacksburg, VA
Worked 10-15 hours per week; September 20XX - May 20YY
— Learned about community resources for various citizen needs.
— Made referrals for mental health and social services issues.
— Scheduled other volunteers for telephone hotline shifts.

Editing & Reporting Intern, Summer 20XX, Roanoke Times, Roanoke, VA
- Reviewed copy and suggested edits under supervision of events editor.
- Covered local events and wrote articles that were published.
- Etc.

Activities | Honors | Leadership

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" it would look silly to list one item under a plural heading.

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.

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 preceed 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.

DO 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.

Example:
Comedy Club, 20XX-present
President, 20YY-20ZZ year
Events Chair, 20XX-20YY
Scheduled venue and coordinated publicity and acts for twice-yearly performances.
Served as liaison with university officials for compliance with policies and facility rules.

Skills

Most 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.

Certifications / Licensure

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," "Activites and certifications," etc.

Security clearance

If you possess a security clearance from current/previous employment, include this heading and list this. If you are concerned about permission to list, consult the employer that obtained your clearance.

Work Authorization

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
Virginia Tech Graduate School, International Graduate Student Services > employment for international graduate students

International undergraduate students must consult
Cranwell International Center > legal employment

Dealing with work authorization on your resume

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. See job search for international students.

Availability

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 implied by your objective. However, if you are applying for a position for which an employer asks you to state specific available work dates, certainly do provide this to that employer, either on your resume or in your cover letter.

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 2012" as your degree completion month, but you will not be available to begin work until September 2012, then do state your availability.

(By the way, 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 2012, but could actually begin employment in January 2012, then do include a statement of availability. You might indicate that your availability is flexible between January to March 2012, for example.

References

On a resume, NO.

On a resume, it is completely unnecessary to state "references available upon request." Most employers assume this.

DO, however, prepare a reference list, ON A SEPARATE PAGE FROM YOUR RESUME.

See guidelines for employment references in your job search.

On curriculum vitae, references ARE typically listed.

For some graduate students and in some career fields (positions in academia, for example), employers ask for your reference list at the time of application. If you are developing a curriculum vita, also commonly used for positions in academia, it is common to include references on that document.

See guidelines for employment references in your job search.

Interests and other items (you don't know where/how to list!)

For graduate students pursuing positions in academia, and for some other career fields, your curriculum vita would include teaching and research interests. See Vitae (curriculum vitae) for more on this topic.

DON'T include an interests section listing hobbies and everything that personally interests you. This is usually unnecessary and irrelevant.

If you have interests, activities or hobbies that are very important to you and that make a statement about who you are, DO 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 don't independent projects, such as rebuilding a car, 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 may put this information in your Skills section, or you may 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. (This is generally not of interest to employers.)

 

Related:

FAQs

Resume guide menu

Common mistakes

Need help after reading? We can help you through a resume review.

Other things NOT to include on your resume:

SSN [FAQs > SSN]