Resume Formatting and Common Errors
The average reader spends only 20 seconds reading a resumé. Utilize the tips below to help make sure your resume is easy to read and stands out above the rest.
Resume Formatting: Layout and Design
- Font size between 10-12 points
- Standard, easy-to-read font (e.g. Times New Roman, Helvetica, Garamond) and layout
- Margins no smaller than 0.5inch
- Resumé to fit on one page
- Resumes can be 1-2 pages for Master’s students, and 2-3 pages maximum for PhDs and postdocs. Longer resumes may be relevant if you are applying to research positions or within the performing arts. Talk with an OCS advisor if you are unsure.
- Black and white unless you are sure the prospective employer has a color printer
- Bold, italics, bullets to be used in moderation
- Be consistent with: font size, underlining, spacing, indents, emboldening, date formatting, spelling
- Check spelling and grammar; avoid contractions, abbreviations, and slang.
- Do not use pronouns.
- Use reverse chronological order where appropriate.
Resume Formatting: Adding in Relevant Sections
- Include your name, a professional email address (firstname.lastname@example.org, or another webmail system) and phone number. It is not necessary to include your street address. Once you build your LinkedIn Profile, consider listing your personal URL under your name. The font size on your name should be slightly larger than the rest of the text (12-14pt).
- If your hometown or New Haven (or both) would be relevant to your job search, feel free to include the city and state without the associated zip code as follows: New Haven, CT | Chicago, IL | email@example.com | XXX-XXX-XXXX | LinkedIn URL or website URL (optional)
- List your most recent degree first and other degrees in reverse chronological order. Include the degree, your program, and anticipated graduation date. Study abroad, related coursework, dissertation, thesis project, GPA*, academic honors and awards may also be included in this section. *While some companies will request that you include your GPA on your resume, it is otherwise up to you whether to include it; if you are unsure, talk with an OCS advisor.
- You may include a general experience headings or specific headings such as Research Experience or Industry Experience. Within each section, list your experiences and activities in reverse chronological order. Work Experience does not have to be paid experience and includes internship experiences.
- For each experience or activity, include the organization or employer name, your title or role, location, and dates. Provide concise explanations of your experiences and activities, focusing on writing impactful bullets by creating accomplishment statements and quantifying results.
- Begin these descriptive statements with strong action verbs verbs that highlight your transferrable skills; when possible, those skills should align with those listed in the job description. For experiences that happened in the past, use action verbs in the past tense (e.g. conducted or developed). For experiences that are happening in the present, use present simple tense (e.g. create) – do not use present continuous tense (e.g. creating). Each work experience should include no more than 3-4 bullets; the length of each bulleted sentence should be no more than 1-2 lines.
Leadership & Community Involvement:
- In the descriptions under each experience, highlight the skills you attained, the duties you fulfilled, and your results (quantify these when possible). Utilize the same style formatting from your work experience section.
Publications & Presentations (optional):
- This section is more commonly found in graduate student and postdoc resumes. List only the most relevant to the position or employer. There is no need to be exhaustive for non-academic positions.
- Depending on your targeted field, you may add computer, language, laboratory skills, or performances. For languages – put your level of fluency (e.g. proficient, advanced, fluent, native). For showcasing Programming Languages & Computer Skills – Include specific software you’ve used (e.g. statistical analysis software, communications/media software, video editing).
Licenses and certifications:
- If you hold a license and/or certification related to your industry, utilize this section to showcase these. List the name of the license/certification and the expiration date (if available).
How Many Resume Versions Do I Need?
If you are applying across different functions/roles or different industries, you should tailor your resume to best match the skills for that position. For example, a consulting firm will value transferable skills such as project management, leadership, and analytical skills, while a research position will emphasize your technical knowledge and research experience. Your resume should be organized to best market your background and skills to the specific position.
Avoid Common Resume Errors:
- Using passive language instead of action verbs
- Using full sentences and narrative style, instead of action-driven bullet points
- Including a picture or personal information such as marital status, sex, age, or religious affiliation
- Listing all positions and activities, instead of selecting those relevant to the position
- Making it visually cluttered: be aware of white space, and make it concise and quickly readable
- Forgetting to demonstrate results – quantify these results where possible