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How can I make my resume appealing to employers?

resume1Shane from Red Rocks Community College asked:

I have been out of the workforce for almost three years.  I have been taking classes to pursue a degree and now that my course load will slow down to half time, I want to get some part time employment in my chosen field. I am concerned about my resume.  It does not reflect any experience in this field and does show the gap in my employment. What are some creative and truthful ways to dress my resume for success so that a potential employer can see I am strong candidate candidate?

Hi Shane –

The first thing to remember is that your resume is a marketing document, not an informational document.

Its purpose is NOT to present a general summary of everything there is to know about you.

Rather, its purpose is to present the most relevant information about your qualifications (education, experience, skills and characteristics) in meaningful and accessible ways.

Here are some quick tips:

Your Contact Information

Provide your name, email address and one phone number.  If you have a LinkedIn account and you maintain that account, you should also list the URL to your LinkedIn profile in your contact information.  Don’t provide multiple email addresses or phone numbers, and only include your mailing or physical address if you can find a compelling reason to do so.

Warning! I saw it on a resume template is NOT a compelling reason!

Ask yourself:  Does a potential employer really need to see this information in order to consider me for employment?  If the answer is “no,” leave it off your resume.

Your Education

If you are using your education at the catalyst for a significant change in your career path, put your education before your experience.  It is more relevant to where you want to go with your career, so it will be of greater importance to potential employers.  I assume that you are pursuing a degree that related to your chosen field. (I certainly hope so!).  Use your Education section to highlight relevant coursework, experiential class projects, academic achievement, etc.

Don’t assume that potential employers know anything about the degree you are pursuing.  You have to explain it to them.

Ask yourself: What about my education do employers need to know in order to consider me for employment?  Focus on that information in your resume.

Your Experience

Your past experience may not be directly relevant to the types of jobs you wish to pursue, but it does say something about your maturity, dependability, professionalism, ability to work well with others, ability to deliver quality service, and a variety of other skills and characteristics employers value and seek in potential employees.  Use your Experience section to illustrate (through examples) the qualities, skills, and characteristics you offer.

Don’t simply list job description information!  Job descriptions say nothing about you – they are all about the job itself.  Your resume should be about you.

In describing your experience, focus on YOU and not on the the positions you held.

Your Time Away from the Workforce

You mention that you have been out of the workforce for three years AND that you have just transitioned from being a full-time student to being a part-time student.

Be ready to have that conversation with potential employers.

Be ready to talk about how you are using the opportunity away from the workforce to get more education, to become more skilled and to become skilled in new areas.

Whether you left a job to go back to school or your job left you, you decided to take advantage of the opportunity to become more employable!  THAT is a good story!  That is the kind of story potential employers like to hear.

Your Interests and Hobbies

Be careful including hobbies and interests on your resume.  Make sure they are serving a legitimate purpose.

They show I am a well-rounded person with diverse interests is not a strong enough reason to include hobbies and interests on your resume.

If you are a very competitive person, and competitiveness is a characteristic employers in your field seek in potential employees, including a hobby that fuels your competitive spirit can be a good thing. Competitive sports, for example.

If you are a history buff and a rich knowledge of history is a beneficial in your chosen field, include this information on your resume.

If you are a marathon runner, and you are seeking employment in fields that require personal discipline, endurance, individual effort and perseverance, include this information on your resume.

Get the idea? Everything on your resume must serve a specific purpose.  If it doesn’t serve a purpose – take it off your resume!

Answer this One Simple Question

You stated in your question that you want employers reading your resume to see that you are a strong candidate.  Look at everything you are thinking of putting on your resume and ask yourself:

How does this information show employers that I am a strong candidate?

If you don’t like your answer, see if you can refine/restate the information truthfully so that it will show you are a strong candidate.

If you can’t find a way to effectively refine/restate the information truthfully, it probably doesn’t belong on your resume.

Two last bits of advice:

  1. Seek out the assistance from the career coaches and counselors on your college campus.  You will find they can be really helpful.
  2. Check out my Resume Writing Guide and the sample resumes in my Resume Gallery.  Combined they offer a lot of examples of how to effectively present your qualifications in resume format.

Good luck!



Should I use paragraphs or bullet points on my resume?

Kevin from the University of Texas at San Antonio asked:

When highlighting experiences on my resume, should I summarize them in a paragraph or use bullet points? Which is recommended when going to a career fair?

Hi Kevin –

Great question, but one that does not have a single answer which can be applied to every resume in every instance.

In my opinion, the most important factor to consider when trying to resolve the “paragraphs vs. bullets” debate is your audience:

Present your information in a way that is reader-friendly

You want to make all resume content as reader-friendly as possible.  The easier it is for them to get to know you, the better chance you have of being considered.

Bullets usually work when you have a lot of ideas/accomplishments/unique statements to present, paragraphs work when you have fewer messages to present.  Present your information in a way that will allow readers to get to know you quickly.  The more time they have to invest in a specific section of your resume in order to understand it, the greater the chance they are going to give up and skip to the next section; whether that means jumping from one bullet to the next, from one paragraph to the next, from one complete resume section to the next, or from your resume to the next person’s resume!

Remember, you are not writing this resume for yourself. you are writing it for the reader.  Make it easy for the reader to get to know you and what you offer.

Let me give you a few examples:

Paragraphs are used below, because the amount of information being presented is relatively small and focused.

paragraph sample 2

Paragraphs are used in this example, as well.  Note that each paragraph begins with an action verb and each highlights an accomplishment.

paragraph sample

Bullets are used below.  The statements are brief, but each one is unique.  The bullets help create a list of qualifications.

bullet example

Bullets are definitely the right call for the example below.  Each bullet contains a key accomplishment/qualification that would be obscured if all of the information were provided in one large paragraph.

bullet example 2

Remember, resumes are marketing documents, not informational documents, and you need to be prepared to discuss everything that is on your resume with potential employers.  If you are not ready to have that conversation, it won’t matter whether you used bullets or paragraphs on your resume!

Hope this helps,


How should I format my post-military resume?

military_sealsJack at Antonelli College asked: 

I just finished a 15 year career in the military and am working to transition into a civilian career in information technology.  My current resume is six pages long, details my military background and positions using military jargon and has nothing to do with information technology. I know this resume needs revision, but I’m not sure where to start. As I approach my post-military career, how should I reformat my resume?

Hi Jack –

One of the greatest challenges veterans face when they seek to transition from the military to the civilian workforce is translation: How can you translate what you did in the military from military jargon and context into language meaningful to civilian employers?

This translation can be really difficult. Regardless of where you came from professionally, it is usually challenging to explain what you did in terms relevant to someone who doesn’t understand how your qualifications translate.  If you are a teacher, try to explain to someone in business how your teaching skills translate to business. If you have worked in business, try convincing someone in the non-profit sector that you have the ability to work in their world.  The translation isn’t easy, but it is necessary, and it is your job as the job seeker to do the translating.

A while back I responded to a similar question: How can I get  into consulting after a military career?

I recommend you review my advice in that blog post as well.

Now your specific question about resume format and structure.

If the military service is directly relevant, list the specific roles (described in civilian terms) in the Experience/Relevant Experience section of the resume

If your military experience includes experience working in information technology, by all means include that experience in your resume but describe it using civilian language.  Your campus career advisors should be able to help you do the translations..  For example:

Military Experience 1


Military Experince 4

Sometimes, simply using military experience to illustrate beneficial qualities and characteristics is the best option

If your military experience is not related to the civilian field you wish to enter, you may just use it to convey the valuable qualities and characteristics you offer as a veteran, such as leadership, dependability, maturity, decision-making, courage, loyalty, etc.  Your resume speaks to your experience and education, of course, but it should also convey information about your skills, qualities and characteristics.

Miliary Experience 2

Many resumes include Honors and Affiliations or Honors & Recognition sections. This can also be a good place to include military honors

Your military honors are evidence of you accomplishments.  Employers like resumes that are evidence-based (example-based), and military honors are evidence that your superiors recognized excellence in you!

Military Experience 3

Keep it brief – 1-2 pages tops

Your resume is an executive summary of what you offer.  It should not be the “extended play version” of your life on paper.  Try to keep your resume to a single page (two pages, tops!).  Again, your college career counselors should be able to assist you with your resume.  You can also check out my Resume Guide and the Resume Gallery that is part of this blog.

Focus on the “Why” not on the “What”

It is important to focus on the “Why” and not just the “What” when preparing content for your resume.  Answer the “Why” question and you will know where and how to include your other experience on your resume as well.

Your resume should tell your story.  Not your entire story; but the parts of your story that are relevant to employers told in a way that makes sense to them.  You are the storyteller, so tell an interesting and compelling story.

When you focus on the “Why” message in your resume (your story), you have to translate what you offer into language meaningful to the audience you are trying to persuade of your candidacy.

I hope these examples help.

Good Luck



How should I show my LinkedIn profile on my resume?

linkedin-icon1Kevin from the University of Texas at El Paso asked: 

If I have a LinkedIn Profile, how can I show it on my resume header?

Hi Kevin –

Great question.

Your LinkedIn profile is a valuable resource in your job search, so you need to pay a lot of attention to it.

Potential employers may first get to know you when they read your resume, but they will learn a whole lot more when they “Google” you to see what they can find on the internet. So, . . .

Make sure your LinkedIn profile and your resume are up to date and tell similar stories

If employers like what they see about you on your resume, they will very likely check to see what you look like online.  If your LinkedIn page is out of date or presents information different from/contradictory to what they see on your resume, that raises a red flag.  They will wonder:  Which resource is telling the truth?  Keep your story consistent across platforms and keep it professional.

Employers do check. If a Facebook or Google+ search on you reveals some extreme photos, language, links or likes, chances are that the employer is going to make some decisions (probably not positive ones) about your character, decision-making, maturity and, ultimately, employ-ability.  Surf, post, blog and like responsibly.

It is good to have a LinkedIn account.  It is extremely important to maintain that LinkedIn account and keep it as up to date as possible.  It is also important to be active on LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn on a regular basis and you will begin to understand its potential value. Use it as the basis for managing your professional network of contacts, and it will pay big dividends in your job search.

Your online brand is very important

A while back, I responded to a similar question about social media and the job search.  I recommend you read that post:

How important is establishing an online presence when I’m looking for a job?

As that post suggests,  the picture you paint of yourself on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. goes a long way toward defining your identity (your brand!) in the eyes of your boss, peers, partners and subordinates and your potential bosses, peers partners and subordinates. Manage it carefully.

Include your LinkedIn Public Profile URL in the contact information on your resume

First off, customize the URL on your LinkedIn Public Profile,  Make it as user friendly as possible. Search your name on the internet, see what comes up.  If your name is very common, you many need to be creative (but still professional) in selecting your URL.  You want to make sure potential employers find you and not someone else with your same name.

The contact information on your resume must include your name, phone number and email address.  It should include links to your LinkedIn Public Profile and other online resources (your personal website/online portfolio or blog) if they will help convey your professional brand. It can also include a brand statement and/or your physical address if you believe they will help market you to potential employers.

Following are some examples of how you might include your LinkedIn profile on your resume:

Contact Info Sample 3

Contact Info Sample 2

Contact Info Sample 1

Hope this is helpful,


Can my resume exceed one page?

stack-of-resumesTwo questions came in this week on the topic of resume length.

Kevin from the University of Texas – El Paso asked:

Should a resume be one page long, or is it okay for it to be longer? 

Dawn from DeVry University Online asked:

In writing my resume I have noticed that many are two pages long. If my resume is two pages long, should I print it double-sided on a single sheet of paper or single-sided on two sheets of paper?

Hi Kevin and Dawn –

“One page or two?” is a very popular question.  In response, I have one hard rule (no exceptions!):

Your resume must not exceed one page (unless it needs to!)

Huh?  Most people can and should stick to a one page resume, but a one-pager is not realistic or suitable for everyone in all circumstances.  Context is very important in answering the “one page or two” question.

Here are a few guiding statements:

Most traditional-aged college students looking for an internship or entry-level employment should stick to a one-page resume.

Most mid-career professionals can and should stick to a one-page resume.

Academic professionals (professors and researchers)don’t prepare resumes to look for academic work. They will write a Curriculum Vitae that can range from 5-50 pages.

Some executives and other senior level professional have resumes that range from 2-4 pages (many are able to keep it brief and stick to a one page resume).

Your resume is a marketing document, not an informational document

Your resume is an executive summary of your relevant qualifications (education, experience, skills and characteristics) formatted in such a way that the reader can easily get to know you and what you offer and make an informed decision regarding whether or not they want to consider you for an interview.

Your resume is NOT an all-inclusive document that speaks to every aspect of your education, experience, skills and characteristics.

Let’s be honest. Not everything about you is relevant or important to employers making hiring decisions.  Including irrelevant information on your resume makes it harder for employers to find the relevant information. Irrelevant stuff gets in the way.

Just because you want to say it, doesn’t mean employers want or need to hear it.  Just because it is important to you, doesn’t mean it is important to them!

Before you put anything on your resume, ask yourself : “Why do employers need to know this about me?” and “How does this information make me a stronger candidate in the eyes of the employers I am targeting?

If you can’t come up with good answers, employers won’t be able to either.

Look at yourself from the employer’s perspective before you start writing your resume.

Don’t let the format of your resume get in the way of the content

Really small fonts. Too many font styles. Too many font sizes.  .25″ margins all the way around. Generic “one size fits all” resume templates.

All of these formatting tricks just get in the way of the content and make it harder for employers to get to know you through your resume.

For some good resume examples, check out my Resume Gallery,  You will see that, when it comes to resumes, one-size-fits-all and formatting gimmicks are the wrong ways to go.

If you have a two-page resume, don’t print it double-sided

It may be the most earth-friendly approach, but printing a two-page resume double-sided on a single sheet of paper is a bad job search strategy.

These days, you will probably be submitting your resume as an email attachment (send it as a PDF, by they way!).  In this case, how your resume gets printed will not be your issue.  Don’t worry about it.

When you do need to present your resume in a hard-copy format, choose a good quality stationary paper (20 lb stock at least), make sure the watermark is right side up and forward facing, and print each page of your resume on its own sheet of paper.

When you print your resume, you control the appearance.  Make the best impression possible on paper by going single-sided.

Good luck,


How should I list my graduation date if I haven’t yet finished my degree?

Jennifer from the University of Detroit Mercy asked: 

I am currently still in school working on my Master’s degree, so I don’t have a graduation date.  How should I list my graduation date if I haven’t yet finished my degree? 

Hi Jennifer –

You have a few options.  Following are three examples of how you might address this question:

Three Examples

Hope this helps!

Good Luck


What is best type of resume for someone with a University Studies degree?

resume1Ashleigh at the University of Tennessee asked:

What is best type of resume for someone with a University Studies degree?

Hi Ashley

I answered a similar question back in December:

What can I do with a degree in University Studies?

That response does not focus specifically on resumes, but the general content is on point. Following is some resume-specific advice.

Regardless of your degree, your resume needs to be a marketing document

There is not one specific type of resume that is best for someone with a University Studies degree.

Unlike a degree in accounting or engineering, your degree does not prepare you to do any one specific thing.  Because of this, your resume has to help employers learn who you are and understand what you offer and what you want.  It needs to convey why they should consider hiring you!

In order to know what to include in your resume, you must be able to answer the following questions:

Who do you want to read your resume?
What types of employers are you targeting?

What types of jobs are you seeking?
One Size Fits All Resumes don’t fit anyone really well.

What do you want employers to learn about you when they read your resume?
About your education, your experience and your skills.

Essentially, what is the core message of your resume?
If you don’t know the core message of your resume, how can you expect an employer to figure it out?

Now, the formatting of your resume must be clean, consistent and easy to navigate for the reader, but unless the message is clear and the document is easy to navigate, you will not have an effective resume.

For more specific advice:

Read my Resume Writing Guide  and check out the resume examples on the Resume Gallery.  Also, check out my previous blogs on resume writing:

Where does my job flipping burgers fit on my resume?

I have no relevant experience; how can I make my resume attractive to potential recruiters?

What should I highlight on my resume – my unrelated work experience or my related classroom experience?

Does my resume need an Objective statement?

Hope this helps!

Good luck,


How can I show projects from my coursework on my resume?

LN from the University of Minnesota asked: 

I am a Master’s student in Electrical Engineering. A job that interests me calls for experience in specific areas of control engineering. Although my research (motor controls) does not deal with these specific areas, my control engineering courses were very comprehensive, included project type assignments, and  exposed me to the desired aspects of control engineering that this job requires. I would like to emphasize the comprehensive nature of these courses and present myself in my resume as a viable candidate for this job, but I can’t think of a way other than listing the relevant coursework I have taken. Would you have any suggestions on how I could project my experience through this coursework ?

Hi LN,

I do have some suggestions!

Remember, your resume is a marketing document.  It should present the MOST RELEVANT information about you in a way that is easy for your reader to access.

So, by all means emphasize the aspects of your qualifications (your control engineering projects) that present your most relevant skills.

Your resume can feature sections or subsections that focus on your experiential classwork and projects. For example,

You could list relevant projects as a subsection of your Education section:

project 3

You can list multiple projects if you have them; if you do, do so in reverse chronological order:

Projects 1

In some instances, it makes sense for the Projects section to stand alone.  It can also beneficial to add a Relevant Skills section:

Project 4

Here is another example of how you can provide information about relevant coursework:

Project 2

There are many sample resumes in our Resume Gallery.  I encourage you to review these examples to see if they offer you any ideas for ways to present your qualifications.

Remember, your resume should tell your story. Not your whole story (no employer wants to know EVERYTHING there is to know about you), but rather the parts of your story that matter most to them as the are trying to determine whether or not you are a good candidate.

In most cases, employers reviewing your qualifications will not know you.  You are introducing yourself to them through your resume.  Tell them things that will keep them interested!

Hope this helps,


What is the difference between a CV and a resume?

Vicki from Antonelli College asked: 

What is the difference in a curriculum vitae (CV) and a regular resume? Also, can skills and qualifications be combined into one informative section at the top of the resume or CV?

HI Vicki –

Great question!  There are significant differences between CVs and resumes.

What is a Curriculum Vitae (CV)?

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is the resume format used by academic professionals to summarize their qualifications for employment in higher education as a professor, lecturer or other academic professional. It is comprehensive and therefore usually quite long and detailed. It is an informational document.  Some professors’ CVs can be up to 50 pages long.  Newly minted PhDs will typically have CVs that range in length from 3-10 pages.

What is a Resume?

A resume is a marketing  document used my non-academic professionals to present their qualifications for non-academic employment. Your resume should be focused on delivering a specific and relevant message about you to your target audience. It should help the reader understand you and your qualifications in relation to the types of opportunities you are seeking.  Most entry-level professionals should limit their resumes to one page.  Experienced professionals will sometimes have resumes that exceed one page.

The goal of a CV is to offer a comprehensive picture of the candidate. The goal of the resume is to offer a targeted picture of the candidate.

The following chart summarizes the differences.


If you are seeking academic employment, use a CV. If you are seeking non-academic employment use a resume.  PLEASE NOTE – The terminology is different in other countries. In some countries the words are interchangeable.  In the US, they are not.

Can skills and qualifications be combined into one informative section at the top of the resume or CV?

It is very common to see summaries of qualifications and or skills at the very beginning of a resume.  It is not as common on CVs, which typically begin with an Education Section.  The samples in our Resume Gallery present a variety of options for listing skills and qualifications at the top of your resume.  Following are a couple more examples:

Qual Summary

Summary 3

Skills 1

Skills 2

65 “Ask the Coach” Answers from The Campus Career Coach

Do you have a question for the Coach?

The following questions have been addressed by The Campus Career Coach during the 2012-13 Academic Year.  If you have a question, just “Ask The Coach” and look for the response on this blog!

Are there any jobs where you can work from home?

Are there jobs in Omaha related to lobbying?atc

Can I afford my current lifestyle?

Can I get a job with a 2.2 GPA?

Can you recommend trusted sites for salary information?

Do career centers verify the legitimacy of employers that post jobs to their systems?

Does my resume need an Objective statement?

Does studying abroad give you an edge in the job market?

Getting Your Foot in the Door with the Southwestern Advantage Company

How can an international student find a job in the US?

How can an international student find a job in the US?

How can I build up my managerial skills?

How can I find an internship when I’m not enrolled in school?

How can I find an internship/co-op that matches my skill set?

How can I get a job in my career field with a degree but no experience?

How can I get experience in a new field when I work full-time and go to school?

How can I get into consulting after a military career?

How can I get paid experience when no one will give me an opportunity?

How can I prepare an Applicant Tracking System-friendly resume?

How can I pursue a career in homeland security and cyber intelligence?

How do I improve the appearance of my resume?

How do I pursue a career in sales when my degree is in political science?

How do I show my education from another country on my US resume?

How do I write a resume when my skill set is very diverse?

How do you pursue a long distance job search?

How does an older job seeker get his foot in the door in web development?

How important is establishing an online presence when I’m looking for a new job?

How should I address my military experience on my resume?

How should I format my resume so I don’t come across as a “job hopper”?

How should I respond when asked for my salary requirements?

How should I show transitional employment on my resume?

I am frustrated with my job search. Can you provide insight or new ideas to consider?

I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m qualified to do. What do you suggest?

I have no relevant experience; how can I make my resume attractive to potential recruiters?

I need help with my resume. Where do I start?

I’m a senior – is it too late for me to do an internship?

I’m ready to re-enter the workforce – where do I start?

Is a Master’s degree necessary in today’s job market?

Is it time to leave a job I love to advance my career?

Is this job posting real or fraudulent?

It’s good to be selective – it’s bad to be picky

Should accomplishment statements on a resume be stated with bullets or in paragraph form?

Should my resume have an Objective Statement?

Six Questions to Frame Your New Year’s Resolutions

What are you going to do with that graduate degree?

What can I do with a BA in English and a desire to write?

What can I do with a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies?

What can I do with a degree in University Studies?

What can I do with a Psychology degree? Should I get a graduate degree overseas?

What is the best way for a “first timer” to look for a job?

What is the proper attire when attending a career fair?

What is the starting pay for an entry level laboratory testing engineer?

What jobs can I get with a Psychology degree and Spanish/Business minors?

What kind of jobs can a History major really look into?

What kind of on-campus job should I get?

What should I do next? I am at crossroads early in my career and I have a lot of questions

What should I highlight on my resume – my unrelated work experience or my related classroom experience?

What should I include in a cover letter?

What should I major in?

When is the right time to follow up with an employer after an interview?

When should I ask for a promotion?

Where can I get help writing my resume?

Where does my job flipping burgers fit on my resume?

Will getting an MBA help me advance in my field?

With 20+ years until retirement, what should I do next?