So You Want A Stinking Job?
Part II: Effective Résumés

By The Writing Guy

Welcome back to Part II of "So You Want a Stinking Job?" Last time, we talked about writing a compelling cover letter for a job application. (If you missed that segment and are an active member of Phi Kappa Phi, you can go to and log in to the secure members site to read it.) In this second part, we will discuss how to create an effective, readable résumé.

If the cover letter is an essay about you, the résumé is a fact sheet, a quick list of your basic qualifications and experiences. Here I will cover the main parts of the résumé, with a little advice on each. If you have questions that are not covered here, feel free to write me at

First Things First

  • Never "pad" (that is, lie on) your résumé in any way. Eventually it will come back to haunt you.
  • Some say that coming out of college, your résumé should be no longer than one page. I say, humbug. If you have enough solid material for more than one page, include it. If the résumé only goes over one page by a few lines, try reformatting to fit it on one page, or add some white space so that the material fills up a larger part of the second page.
  • Use about a 12-point serif type face for body text (Times New Roman is an example). It is okay to use a san serif type face (Arial, Helvetica) for headings, but not for body text (harder to read).
  • Format the résumé so that it is a fast and easy read. Here and here are two typical résumé formats as examples.

Contact Information

Include your full name (centered and in a larger font), current address, and all phone numbers. If you are near graduation and might be living with your parents for a time, list both your current address and their address. Include an e-mail at which you can be reliably reached for several months.

Career Objective

A career objective should be detailed and should be modified for the specific job for which you are applying. If all you can come up with is a fairly generic objective, leave it off so you won't sound unfocused.


For recent or soon-to-be graduates, your college degree is often your strongest selling point. Under this heading, include your degree and major, university and its location, and actual or expected date of graduation. Optionally, consider the following:

  • If your GPA is high enough to be a positive selling point, list it. If not, don't.
  • Possibly include a brief list of courses most relevant to the position, especially if you had a good concentration in the area for which they are hiring.
  • Include pertinent awards and scholarships, if you choose not to do a separate Awards section later on.
  • If you are listing more than one school in this section, always list your degree-granting institution first, followed in reverse chronology (most recent to least recent) by any others. Unless you went to some extraordinary institution that an employer would instantly recognize and appreciate, do not list your high school.


As you accumulate job experience, this section will become the first one on your résumé. At this point, you may have some experience in your field (co-op or internship), but probably not enough to have this replace education as your strongest selling point.

  • First, any work experience is good, even if it is not in your field (and is legal, of course). Holding down a job for an extended period shows a lot about you as an individual.
  • This section also should be in reverse chronology (most recent job first, followed by next most recent, and so on). But, you say, right now I am a working at Burger Hell to make some spending money, while this past summer I had a wonderful internship with a well-known company! Why should the Burger Hell experience come first?? The answer is, it does not have to. Instead, create two sections, one being "Relevant Experience," under which you will list your wonderful internship. Then include another called "Other Experience" and begin it with your current Burger Hell gig.
  • List the company for which you worked, position, and duration of job, and provide bullets listing actual duties that you performed. Use action verbs in these bullets (for example, "Supervised second shift of seven people," "Closed out registers and balanced cash receipts," and so on). Do not be "creative": If you bused tables, say you bused tables. Do not say you "Performed table maintenance logistics."
  • If the job is ongoing, use present tense verbs; if it is over, use past tense.

Optional Sections

The sections above are absolute necessities. The ones below are more often than not included, but still are optional.

  • If you have excelled academically, for example, you might include an "Honors and Awards" section and brag your fool head off.
  • A "Skills" section gives you the opportunity to list job-related skills such as software that you work with and any additional skills that might catch an employer's eye.
  • An "Interests" section lists such things as hobbies, sports that you play, volunteer activities, and so on. Such a section can help show that you are a well-rounded individual.


If you have a list of references, put them on a separate sheet.
Really Big and Important Point!: Never, ever list someone as a reference until you ask that person if it is okay to do so. It is a good idea to give your references a copy of your résumé and talk with them about what you hope they can address about you if they are contacted. In particular if you had that professor a couple of years ago, you will want to refresh his or her memory about you.

That's it from me. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note at, and I will try to provide coherent and helpful answers.


The Writing Guy has taught business and technical writing for more than twenty years.

Do you have other questions about writing? Grammar? Punctuation? Word usage? Send an e-mail to All queries will be answered, possibly even correctly, with minimal personal abuse. The best questions/answers we will post in future issues of the e-zine.