A Few Resume Basics

The U of Illinois Resume Format

Copy and paste this so you can use it for your resume.


This format has two advantages:

  1. it’s familiar to employers who recruit at the University of Illinois (this is the format that most career service offices here promote);
  2. it’s very supple (you can cram a lot of information in, or make the font larger to fill a page).

There are very few absolute rights and wrongs when it comes to resumes. There are only strategies and conventions, and these will change according to the kind of job you’re applying for. Your resume can (and should) change all the time. It’s a marketing document–that’s all.

Things to INCLUDE inĀ  your resume:

  • Details about your experience–including menial or minimum-wage jobs, volunteer positions, and unpaid work: employers find it all relevant.
  • Numbers: quantify anything that can be quantified (the number of students you tutored, the budget for the RSO that you led, the average number of customers you seated in a shift, etc.)
  • Accomplishments: events you organized, members you recruited, promotions you received, processes that you improved. Specific is good!
  • Projects: if you’ve done substantial independent work, it may well deserve a place on your resume.

A few things to AVOID in your resume:

  • An objective or summary statement (useful at midcareer, but there are usually better uses of the space in an entry-level resume)
  • Anything that dates from high school, once you’re past your freshman year in college
  • Any mention of references (wait until you’re asked)
  • Honors and awards (demonstrate your academic excellence with your GPA)
  • Clubs or groups where your only role has been to show up at meetings (use the space to say more about organizations where you’ve demonstrated some leadership)

Judgment calls:

  • Skills section? Can be useful if you have some hard technical skills, language abilities you want to showcase, or abilities that an employer has asked for that you can’t find a better place to name-drop (e.g., Microsoft Word). Can be omitted, particularly when your bullet points can promote your skills more effectively.
  • Study abroad? Depending on the nature of your experience and its relevance to the job you’re applying for, it can either go in your “Education” section or in “Experience.” If you mostly took classes and honed your language skills, “Education” might be better; if you had an internship, volunteered, or had a leadership role in your program, “Experience” will help to emphasize the skills you demonstrated.
  • REALLY significant honors and awards, like Eagle Scout or a Westinghouse medal? Consider your audience. Employers tend to be more impressed by what you can do than by the stamp of approval that someone else gave you in the past. However, if you have reason to believe that your reader will recognize and be impressed by the award, then go ahead and include it