Resume Instructions

Resumes often serve as your initial contact with employers and are the most critical item in determining whether or not you will obtain an interview. It is a brief advertisement of your skills, knowledge, and relevant experience. If you are seeking positions across industries, you may need to have several versions of your resume specific to each type of job you are seeking. 

Ideally, your resume should emphasize your strong points while expressing your uniqueness and individuality. Therefore, you should present yourself clearly, succinctly, and confidently. Use the suggestions here to develop your resume and consult the samples provided to gather ideas.

Resume Content


  • One or two concise, easy-to read statements focusing on the type of position you are seeking, the skills you want to utilize, and/or the tasks in which you want to become involved.
  • Avoid cliches or jargon, such as, “To contribute to the profitability of an employer” or “A challenging position offering opportunity for growth and advancement.”


  • List degrees in reverse chronological order with the most recent first. Keep the information easy to scan.
  • You may want to include details relevant to the job you are seeking, such as courses, special projects, a minor or area of emphasis, etc.
  • Education Abroad experiences should also be listed here as well. Use the same format as your Penn State entry.
  • Most employers expect to see your GPA (either overall, major, or both).


  • If your cumulative GPA is a 3.0 or above, it is beneficial to list it.
  • Be sure that your GPA matches what an employer would find on your official University transcript. That means no rounding up!
  • If your cumulative GPA is below a 3.0, consider listing both your major GPA and your cumulative GPA, or you may prefer to list your major GPA alone. It is recommended that you visit with your academic advisor to discuss the best method for calculating this GPA if it is not listed on your degree audit.
  • If you work a substantial amount of hours per week to pay college expenses while attending college full-time, you may include a statement highlighting this within your Education section. This kind of statement can serve as justification for a GPA that may not be an accurate representation of your true potential.


  • Give details of your accomplishments and responsibilities rather than a general list of duties. Numbers make strong statements and can enhance credibility; these numbers can show volume, percentages, and dollar amounts.
  • Do not be discouraged if you have never had employment in your field. Instead, focus on your strengths, skills, and accomplishments.
  • Summer and/or part-time work experiences can demonstrate skill sets that you have developed, even if not directly related to your career goals.
  • If you have not yet gained paid work experience, community involvement, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities are all experiences that may be included in detail on a resume.


  • Technology-based or computer skills, foreign language knowledge, and other field-specific skill sets and certifications are appropriate to include.
  • Indicate your level of knowledge or aptitude in the skill sets you choose to highlight using qualifiers such as “Proficient in...” or “Fluent in...”
  • List skills and languages with which you are familiar or have basic knowledge. Be sure to describe that level accurately. Remember: you could be tested on that knowledge in an interview!
  • Special certifications relevant to your field could also be included here.


  • List the most relevant activities and offices held first. Include college, community, professional, and, occasionally, outstanding high school activities.
  • Consider adding brief explanatory details of the position and your accomplishments.
  • Include hobbies and interests only if they are relevant to the job objective or if they reveal characteristics important to the job.
  • This section can add individuality and flavor to your resume, so you may want to include unusual or interesting items.


  • This section is optional.
  • Include only if you have several honors.
  • If you have only one or two honors, you can include them in a combined section along with your activities.


  • Most organizations will not expect references on your resume.
  • You may want to prepare a list of references on a separate page formatted to match your resume for use when employers request references.
  • Usually, three to five references are appropriate. Consider individuals familiar with your academic achievements, leadership and teamwork skills, and/or your work habits.
  • Include each referee’s name, title, organization, mailing address, phone number, and email address.
  • You should always seek prior approval from individuals you plan to list as references.

Appearance of Your Resume


  • One page is the most common length because most students lack sufficient experience for two pages. Individuals with added experience and/or degrees may need a two-page resume to present relevant details adequately.
  • Resume length may also vary by career field. Consult with professionals in your field and/or Career Services Counselors to discuss the beat resume length for your situation.


  • One inch margins all around are recommended to keep your resume from looking cluttered with text.
  • Half inch margins may be acceptable if necessary, but no smaller. 


  • Use a plain typeface, such as Arial or Times New Roman.
  • Font size should be between 10 and 12 points.
  • Headings and/or your name may be emphasized by using a larger font size.
  • Asterisks, bullets, underlining, boldface type, and italics should be used only to make the document easier to read.


  • Use consistent spacing throughout your resume for a pleasing presentation.
  • Bullet points should be single-spaced.
  • Allow enough space between headings to show that a new section has begun.


  • Pre-formatted templates are easy to spot and allow little room for uniqueness.
  • Starting with a blank document offers greater flexibility and more effective space usage on the page.
  • Use a table or tab stops to help organize information in a visually pleasing manner.

Bullet Points

  • Each bullet should start with an action verb and be no more than 1-2 lines long.
  • Use up to 5-6 bullets to describe each listed experience.
  • Describe duties involved in various positions or highlight skills and qualities that you developed that are related to the position you would like to obtain.

Type of paper

  • A resume prepared carefully with a quality laser printer can be very effective.
  • Use quality paper; a white or off-white shade is generally preferred.


  • Proofread your resume several times, and then have a friend or Career Counselor proofread it again.
  • A mistake on your resume will leave a poor first impression with an employer

Resume Formats

Chronological Format

Present education and work experience in reverse chronological order, describing responsibilities and achievements under each entry. This is the most appropriate format if you have experience directly related to your career goal.

Functional Format

Your experience is explained under major skill headings, while job titles, employers, and dates are listed separately. This type of resume is especially useful when your degree or work experiences are not directly related to your career objective.

Combination Format

In many instances, the combination of both the chronological and the functional formats may be the most effective. This is especially the case when some past experiences are more directly related to future goals than others. This format allows for experiences to be separated into different categories—related and unrelated—making the strongest impact by placing the most related experiences first, regardless of the dates during which the experiences took place.