Resume Section Tips

In addition to the general tips presented on a previous page, the following guidance is offered for each of the resume sections.

The purpose of the header is to identify the author of the resume and to provide the employer with the information necessary to contact the job candidate.

  • Your name should stand out by being a few font sizes larger and usually bolded.
  • Make sure your phone number and e-mail address are current and accurate.
  • A physical address is not required on a resume, especially if you know the resume might be widely-dispersed. Consider including a current or permanent address if it is close to the job location. Employers like to hire students/graduates that have ties to areas close to their facilities.

The objective statement tells the employer what type of position is being sought (i.e. internship or full-time), when you are available to work (or the work period for internships), and the type of work or industry that interests you.

  • Objective statements are highly recommended for college resumes.  College recruiters often collect resumes for multiple positions and the objective statement helps them keep all the resumes organized.
  • It is usually best to keep the objective to one phrase that is directed towards the company’s position and/or directed towards keywords concerning your professional interests.  A longer summary/profile paragraph is normally not needed for a one page resume.
  • When possible, tailor the objective statement to a specific job description.  Do not mention the name of the company specifically, but rather make sure the objective matches the type of work indicated in the job description.  An objective statement that matches the type of work being offered will tell the recruiter that you are a good fit for the position and deserve further consideration.  Be careful not to limit your options by making the objective statement too specific.  A tailored objective statement is usually not possible in a career fair setting where the same resume will be used to apply for multiple positions.
  • In the examples, you will see a mix of objective statements; some applying for specific positions and a few more generic statements that would be appropriate in a career fair setting.
  • Tip: ‘Full-time’ is hyphenated when used as an adjective, (i.e. looking for full-time employment) but the words are not hyphenated otherwise (i.e. looking to work full time).
  • Example generic objective statement:
    Objective:  To obtain full-time employment as a chemical engineer starting May 2013.
  • Example tailored objective statement:  (when job description mentions material property testing and failure analysis)
    Objective:  To obtain full-time employment, beginning May 2013, as a materials engineer working in the areas of material property testing and failure analysis.

For students or recent graduates, employers are most interested in education, so this section should follow the objective statement.

  • Include the name of the school, location (city, state), Bachelor of Science in “Major” Engineering.
  • Employers want to see cumulative GPA and not including it will immediately raise a red flag.  If your cumulative GPA is low, consider adding your major GPA (only if it is higher) or most recent semester GPA to show that you have improved.  List the GPA to the hundredths place!  The 4.00 is assumed, but can be put as 3.54/4.00 if desired.
  • Include dates of attendance or the anticipated graduation date.
  • List any other official minors, majors, or specializations.
  • Include study abroad experience – school, location, and time frame.
    • You may want to include a few bullet statements to highlight the skills or personal attributes that the experience provided. (e.g. Developed a stronger appreciation for cultural and communication differences that should be considered when working as part of a global team.)
  • Honors can be listed here, if less than two. Otherwise, provide a separate section near the bottom of your resume. See Activities and Honors section.
  • High school education will appear on a freshman resume but should typically be removed after 1 year is completed at ISU.
  • Transfer students can include other institutions they have attended, especially if they do not have a GPA established at ISU. If a degree was received from another institution, it should be included.
  • Technical electives and relevant courses do not need to be added to your resume unless they significantly match the job and company needs.  Remember, everyone in your major takes the same core classes, so only list courses that make you a candidate with specific knowledge.

This section provides information on the work experiences where you have applied and developed your skills.  On a student or recent graduate resume, this is the most important section after the education information.  When reviewing work experiences employers are looking to see:

  1. What knowledge and skills have you had an opportunity to apply?
  2. Were you successful in applying your knowledge and skills?
  3. What level of responsibility have you been given?
  4. What kinds of things have you been exposed to that have resulted in growth?

Apply these best practices to develop an effective work experience section:

  • Include all work experiences, both professional (engineering-related) and other jobs that can be used to highlight your skill set, knowledge and work habits.
  • List experiences in reverse chronological order.  If you have had a professional work experience but it is not your most recent job, then you should consider separating your work experiences into two sections; “Professional Experience” followed by “Other Work Experience”.
  • For each position held:
    •  Begin with the company name, city, state, the job title, and dates worked.  This information should be displayed in a format that makes it easy to quickly assess your complete work history.
    • Next, provide a series of statements that highlight your effective use of engineering and other important skills to accomplish some task, project or service.   More on developing skills-based, impact statements.
  • Focus on highlighting engineering competencies and transferable skills.   For example, the statement, “made detailed measurements and performed data analysis to keep a chemical processing system operating at peak efficiency,” is better than “monitored a hydrogenation system to make sure it was functioning properly.”  Making detailed measurements and analyzing data are skills that many employers value, while monitoring a hydrogenation process may only appeal to a small number of employers.  However, if a job description mentions a hydrogenation process, providing them with a tailored resume that includes this terminology can be very effective.
  • Always emphasize professional skills, even for non-technical, part-time jobs.  For example, a position working in retail can be used to indicate that you have experience addressing customer needs, contributing to team efforts, and applying integrity.
  • Use the technical and business jargon found in job descriptions to help craft your statements.
  • General format of phrases in this area is VerbJargonResults.  Rather than just saying, “Tutored math” say, “Applied technical communication skills to effectively tutor 20 students in differential equations.”
  • Qualify or quantify your level of responsibility and results, when possible, to show that your work had a measurable, positive impact.  “Evaluated drilling processes and identified changes that saved the machinist an estimated two hours per week” is better than, “Evaluated drilling processes.”
  • Use descriptive action verbs and avoid vague verbs such as, “Worked on”, “Helped”, etc.  Don’t simply say that you assisted with a particular project, but rather say how you assisted in the project.
  • Professional work experiences, such as co-ops and internships, warrant four to eight statements.  Less professional and/or nontechnical work experiences should get less page space.
  • Recruiters do not want to read unnecessary information so eliminate all unimportant words.  Do not provide a list of duties or numerous details that employers are not likely to care about.
  • Be consistent with the tense of verbs.

This section is used to highlight special skills that you have, but can be left off if you don’t have special skills to highlight.  If space is an issue, work experience should be given priority over this section.

  • The types of skills/tools recruiters like to see in this area include: hardware, operating systems, programming languages, business/project management programs like MS Office and/or MS Project, simulation programs, analysis programs, advanced laboratory equipment, mechanical trade skills, and foreign languages.
  • Focus on tools/skills that others may not have and employers will find useful.
  • Avoid general and subjective skill declarations like “Good communicator”, “Strong team player.” Employers ignore these types of statements.  Employers need evidence that these are truly your strengths.
  • It is okay to simply list skills in multiple columns to save space.  Qualify skills (i.e. Proficient in, Expert in) only when it is advantageous due to a high skill level.
  • Even a limited amount of skill with certain programs and tools can be important to employers, so include these even if your hands-on experience is limited.

Being active in college can help separate you from other candidates with similar academic qualifications.  Get involved in your department, professional societies, student organizations, and volunteering where you help manage people, budgets, timelines, resources, and events.  This section is used to highlight your activities and your leadership/involvement within those activities.

Employers will be reviewing this section to see whether:

  • You took the initiative to engage in student or professional organizations.
  • You have leadership potential because you sought (or at least accepted) responsibility to lead a project, committee, or organization.  Equally important- your peers trusted you to lead.
  • You have other character traits that will help make you a good employee (volunteerism, compassion, etc.)

Best practices for this section.

  • Include professional society memberships.
  • Highlight activities that have significant professional skill use and responsibility.  Employers are looking for active participation, acceptance of responsibility and leadership.
  • Present participation and leadership activities like a work experience and provide one or two action verb statements describing your skills used and impact created.  For example, don’t just give your student organization title of “Treasurer”, but instead add a bullet of information stating, “Managed $3500 budget including four outreach events- educating hundreds of K-12 future engineers”.
  • Leave off any activities that are controversial and may be viewed negatively by some employers. For example, if you are involved in church or political organizations, make sure to talk about the professional skills associated with your participation rather than the mission of the group.

Similar to the work experience section, a projects section can be included on a resume to highlight transferable skills. Typically this section will include academic projects, but relevant non-academic projects can be included as well. A projects section can be particularly effective for individuals with little to no professional (engineering) work experience. Follow the same format as a work experience section for your projects.

This section can show employers that you excelled to a degree that others recognized you for your accomplishment(s). Include any awards that were earned through active involvement.  Examples might include a “Best Team Project Presentation for Senior Design” or “Third place in the ACM programming competition”.

Passive awards like scholarships given solely based on GPA (or honors like Dean’s List) are not as important to employers as the recognition earned from demonstrated skill excellence. You can include them if you have space, but often times the space is better used to elaborate on other sections.

References are not part of the resume, but a separate document that should be prepared along with the resume.  Do not include “References will be furnished on request” on your resume.  Employers occasionally ask for a list of references during or after an interview when you are a finalist for a position, and therefore, you should have them ready for that situation.

  • The references document should have the same header as the resume.
  • List three to five professionals that can speak to your varied professional and technical skills, and/or work habits.
  • Format should include: Name, Title, Company, E-mail, and Phone.
  • Always ask your references if they are willing to serve as a reference for you.
  • Make sure your references are willing to recommend you “without reservation.”
  • When you are actively pursuing employment, make sure your references have a current copy of your resume, and understand your qualifications as well as the types of positions you are seeking.
  • When you know that your references are about to be contacted, notify them first and prepare them for the call from your potential employer.
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Statements (Bullets)

The Employment Process Menu

Introduction

Step 1: Understanding Employers and the College Recruiting Process

    -Maintain a Positive Attitude

Step 2: Determine Career Goals and Skillset

Step 3: Identify Preliminary Target Employers and Industries

Step 4: Develop Effective Marketing Materials

Step 5: Search for Specific Employment and Research Target Companies