Student Involvement & Career Center

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Resume Writing

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General Information

Download the following informational files for your personal use:

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Optimal Resume

Optimal Resume is an online resume tutorial that is accessible via GatorJOBS. Once you have logged onto GatorJOBS, click on Optimal Resume, then click on the Create New Account link. If you have any questions about the program you can meet with a Career Counselor during drop-in hours, listed at right, or email your questions to alegator@sfsu.edu.

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Resume & CV Formats

You can use a variety of resume formats depending on the kind of job you are applying for. Make sure to select the resume format that best shows how your skills fit the job.

Chronological ResumePDF File[PDF]

This format organizes your work history with the most recent experience listed first. This format is so commonly used that many assume it to be the only option. However, if your formal experience is sparse or does not closely match the requirements of the job you may want to consider using a different format below.

Functional ResumePDF File[PDF]

This format organizes your specific skills, abilities, and accomplishments into skill clusters ("administration," "teaching," or "design," for example) to focus the employer's attention on skills valuable to the job. This help to divert attention from your unrelated job titles. This section is typically followed by an employment history section, written in reverse chronological (most recent to earliest employment) order. This format is good for students who have skills valuable to the position, but have not used them in a related job environment.

Relevant Coursework ResumePDF File[PDF]

Many students gain work-related knowledge and skills not only on the job, but in their college courses as well. Students can use a related coursework section alone, or in combination with other resume sections, to show the employer how school experience addresses the job requirements.

Electronic (Scan-able) ResumePDF File[PDF]

This is the best resume format to use when emailing potential employers because it does not use desktop formatting. (Often mail clients or servers will clear formatting from an email before it reaches its destination.) By adding a keyword section, and utilizing a san-serif font (like Arial or Helvetica), this format is also suitable for organizations that use resume scanning software.

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Some positions, especially those in higher education or research, may ask for a Curriculum Vitae (curricula vitæ or CV). A CV is structured to highlight one's academic and research achievements, although related work experience can be mentioned also, if related to the position.

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Action Verb Statements

An action verb statement describes accomplishments you have had in a variety of areas, including work, volunteer experience and related coursework. Your action verb statement does not have to be a huge accomplishment, but it should show something that you are proud of while demonstrating that you can take action when the situation arises. Employers like action-oriented people. Download the following list of action verbs:

To write an effective action verb statement, follow these three steps:

Problem, Action, Result (PAR)

  • Problem or Situation: Identify the problem or situation that needs to be improved.
  • Action: Describe the action you took and what skills you used.
  • Result: Describe the result. Whenever possible, quantify your result with a number.

An example:

  • Coordinated a walk for breast cancer which raised more than $2,000

This action verb statement is effective because it identifies the situation (Breast Cancer Walk), it describes action (coordinated) and it highlights a quantifiable result (raised over $2,000).

More examples:

  • Designed a homepage and electronic mail distribution list for local club and increased member participation at club events by 20%
  • Coordinated and facilitated weekly meetings while managing a team of five researchers
  • Promoted from sales associate to assistant manager within five months of initial hiring

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Cover Letters

Unless the job description specifically states not to, you should always send a cover letter with your resume. A cover letter is there to introduce you to the employer when you can’t be there in person to introduce yourself. Your cover letter provides a first impression of who you are, and should be created with just enough information so that the employer will want to call you in for an interview to find out more.

Here are several documents with cover letter instructions and examples:

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Thank You Letters

A good interviewing habit is to send a thank you letter to your interviewer within 24 hours after an interview. This is an opportunity for you to add your personal touch, and helps to leave the door open for future networking in case you do not get the job. Download an example of a thank you letter:

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The Reference List

A reference list is a list of three to five people that will give a potential employer excellent reviews of your past performance. This list should always be put on a separate page and only given out when requested by the employer. When an employer asks for it, it may mean that they are seriously considering you for the position.

A reference might come from a favorite professor that you have studied under and received a good grade from, a university staff member that has mentored you, a current or previous work supervisor, or a coworker that has experienced what it is like to work with you. A coworker can even be someone you worked with on a school project or a volunteer effort.

Include the following on your reference sheet:

  1. Mr./ Ms. Name of reference, Title
  2. Company/Organization
  3. Street Address, City, State ZipCode
  4. Phone number
  5. Email
  6. Add a brief description of your relationship with the reference and in what capacity he/she would be able to speak to your relevant past performance.

Example:

  • Mr. Jack Brewer, Director of Customer Support
  • Brewer Corporation
  • 1000 Van Ness Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94122
  • (415) 555-1212
  • jack@brewer.com
  • Mr. Brewer was my direct supervisor at Brewer Corporation and can comment on my administrative skills, learning ability, and knowledge of customer service.

Be sure to touch base with your references regularly throughout the job search process. Let them know what type of position you are aiming for, as well as the organizations you have in mind. Help them think through how they should highlight your skills and accomplishments so that it is clear that you fit the bill for the job you are interested in.

Finally, don’t forget to let your references know of your successful outcome, and be sure to thank them! References play a critical role in a successful job search.

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Common Questions

How do I write a resume if I've never had any work experience?

Don't underestimate the value of your educational experience! Create an effective resume by highlighting your academic experiences and achievements. Your degree and related coursework are important qualifications that can meet the requirements for many entry-level professional positions. Activities might include related coursework, projects, presentations, volunteer experience.

I haven't worked because I've been so busy with my on-campus activities!

These activities count as experience, too. In fact, most of our On-Campus Interview program recruiters tell us they look for extra-curricular experiences in a candidate. Your resume should focus on your accomplishments and responsibilities in your club or organization. On-campus activities might include: student government; athletics; resident advisor; student newspaper; academic or cultural clubs; sorority or fraternity.

I went to SF State and I have four years of volunteer experience but no real experience!

A mere paycheck is not proof of related experience. Your demonstrated skills and experience as a volunteer count just as much as any paid, professional position.

Help the reader to understand your responsibilities, as well as the impact, results and the contributions you made in the volunteer positions(s) you held. In turn, both unpaid internships and volunteer experiences, on- or off-campus, should be included on your resume. Examples of such experiences are: Habitat for Humanity; Big Brother or Big Sister; American Red Cross; Associated Students; International Business Club.

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