Formatting, Presentation, and Other Details

1. Put the Experience section first, probably.

Use this order:

  1. Education/Experience
  2. Experience/Education
  3. Activities
  4. Personal

Education should go first if you’re still in college, or if you just graduated and don’t have a job or internship. Otherwise, put Experience first.

2. Use reverse chronological order.
That is, put your most recent job on top. If you have two jobs at once, put the one you started more recently on top.

3. Keep it to one or two pages.

As long you make every bullet substantive, you can submit a two-page résumé (unless, of course, the school asks for one-page résumé). Don't go over two, though.

4. Put your contact information on two lines in the header.
I prefer this style:

Orville Redenbacher | L12345678
1432 Kernel Way, Coronado, CA 89147 | orville@fakemail.com | 000-365-0000

Some people like to break it up differently:

Orville Redenbacher 1432 Kernel Way, Coronado, CA 89147
000-365-0000 orville@fakemail.com | L12345678

If you want to get fancy, underline the top line.

5. Don’t use an unprofessional email address.
Balloonsandponies@hotmail.com won’t cut it. Get yourself a free firstname.lastname@gmail.com address.

6. Use a sensible eleven-point or twelve-point font.
I know you want to save space, but you’ll annoy your reader if you go any smaller. I recommend tried-and-true Times New Roman.

7. Leave 0.7-inch margins all around at the very least.
But there’s nothing wrong with 1-inch margins.

8. Use present tense for what you’re doing, past tense for everything else.
You’ll also use the past tense for projects you’ve already completed at your current job:

Chicago History Museum, Chicago, IL
Archivist, January 2016–Present

  • Research custodial history and copyright restrictions for various collections.
  • Update policies, procedures, and training materials related to finding aid creation and encoding.
  • Created two legacy finding aids using EAD.

9. Use en dashes ( – ) for date ranges, not hyphens ( - ) or em dashes ( — ).
Hyphens are short. They’re commonly used to form compound words: a three-year-old grammar enthusiast, a much-needed punctuation lesson.

Em dashes are long, and they’re used either to set off part of a sentence—like this—or as an alternative to commas or colons: My personal statement is a week away from being finished—and has been for months.

En dashes are medium, and they’re used to indicate a date range: 2009–2011.

Using hyphens for date ranges is one of the most common mistakes I see on résumés. Let’s review.

Incorrect: 9/2002-5/2006.

Correct: 9/2002–5/2006.

I choose not to put spaces around my en dashes, per The Chicago Manual of Style. If you do add spaces, make sure you add them consistently.

But how do you make an en dash? You could copy and paste an en dash from, say, this lesson. You could use the Insert>symbol menu item in Microsoft Word. Or you could type it manually. On Windows, hold down the ALT key and type 015. On Mac OS, hold down the Option key and press the minus/hyphen key.

10. Write your dates consistently.

You can write September 2009 or Sep. 2009 or 9/2009 or 09/2009 just as you please, so long as you stay consistent throughout.

11. Put periods at the end of all bullets or none of them.

Inconsistent use of periods is another common mistake, so I recommend giving all your line endings a once-over.

12. Make sure your GPA and other details match your transcript exactly.

If you round up your GPA, your résumé will raise a red flag.

13. Don’t call it a resume. It’s a résumé.

Show your attention to detail by writing résumé even in your file name. The easiest way to get the e-acute character (é) is to copy and paste it. On a Mac, you can also simply hold down the E key until you get a menu.

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