Resume Pointers


Employers receive dozens if not hundreds of resumes for open positions, so many will spend only about 20 seconds with any single resume. From that applicant pool they need to choose just five or six (or fewer) candidates to interview. Most employers will be looking for the following when evaluating a resume:

  • Overall appearance: at first glance, it looks professional and organized
  • it is easy to find the most important information
  • detailed information applicable to the position is included
  • demonstrate that you have the skills and knowledge required
  • present concrete examples of contributions, achievements, learning, and success



The CDO recommends that candidates avoid using resume templates. Using them will not make your resume unique – it will look just like the millions of other template resumes. Templates can also be very restrictive regarding formatting and spacing, and can be difficult to manipulate once you’ve entered your information.

Start with a plain document with 1" margins and 10, 11 or 12 point font. You should use a basic, easy-to-read font: Arial, Helvetica, Times Roman, Book Antiqua, and similar fonts are usually best. Adjust the margins and font size if needed.

With only about 20 seconds to impress an employer, try to use some of the following techniques to guide the reader's eye quickly down the page:

  • Phrases, not sentences – When describing your experiences, use phrases beginning with “action words" (past or present tense verbs). Check out our Action Verbs handout for ideas.
  • Lists, not paragraphs – For optimal skimming by the reader, phrases should be listed one to a line, using a bullet or other visual marker to indicate the beginning of each phrase.
  • Priority order – Organize your information from most important to least important, putting your most important sections first. This also applies to your experience descriptions – start with your most significant or related work.
  • Use of blank space – The way you use blank space (in your margins, between sections, and within each section) will affect what the reader sees as he/she skims the page. The more blank space that surrounds a word or group of words, the more visible it is. That is why section headings are often placed by themselves along the left margin.
  • – Judicious and consistent use of highlighting techniques, such as boldfacing, using all CAPITAL letters (or both), and italics can call the attention of the reader to key words or sections.
  • Consistent layout patterns – Within each section, place the same type of information consistently in the same position. Not only does this look more professional, it also makes it easier for the reader to locate the information they seek. For example, always placing the job title first (or the name of the organization) in an experience section, placing the dates in the same location (after the job title or after the name of the organization, for instance) provides a logical pattern.
  • Perfection – The resume must be mistake-free and represent your very best work. Anything less will hurt your chances of receiving an interview. Review your resume with a CDO counselor.

For more information about writing resumes, refer to Resumes: What to Include.

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