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UMGC Effective Writing Center Resumes

Note the plural: resumes. These days you cannot have just one all-purpose resume. An effective resume focuses on a specific job for which you are applying. For each job you need to tailor your resume by selecting details that match your particular skills and achievements with a specific job description.

When you are applying for positions in different companies or for different jobs in the same company, you must alter your resume to fit. Because reviewers take only a short time to read or scan your resume, the information relevant for them must be easily and quickly accessible. Recruiters don't search for your strong points. You must spotlight them.

Before going any further, stop right now and check out the UMGC Career Services "Resume Tutorial" to learn the different types of resumes and their parts. 

Regardless of the resume type or resume template you use, there is a set of resume characteristics that most recruiters will look for. Following these can get you past that crucial "first cut." Good luck!

Image Still for Video: The Perfect Resume

The Perfect Resume

How to design and write an effective resume for any job description, with examples of functional resume and chronological resume.

Action Verbs for Your Resume

One of the best ways to set your resume off is to make it one of the best written. When it comes to this special genre called resume writing, a defining characteristic is the use of specific, muscular verbs to begin each description of your skills and accomplishments. The use of these verbs also builds your persona as a strong, active employee: 

Resume Sections

Be sure to vary the order of your resume's sections according to the job you are seeking, and vary the names of those sections. Consider what you called each section ("Experience" vs. "Career Background") depending upon the job you are applying for and your personal information. For example, a section entitled "Experience" would allow you to bring in non-career activities such as volunteer experience. Also keep in mind that many company-specific job boards require you to use the section names provided to you.


Use your full name, not a nickname or initials, unless you have a good reason not to.


If you need to include two addresses to insure someone can make contact with you, do so. Include dates, if necessary, and all possible contact information: phones, email, and fax numbers if you have them. If you have a web page, make sure that it looks professional and fits the standards expected in your field. Do not include a present work address. Doing so can be potentially embarrassing for you and your present and potential employers--as well as possibly cost you a job you are otherwise qualified for.

Email Address

The popularity of this form of communication requires some special attention to it. Now is a good time to take advantage of the many free email services available today, like gmail, and set up an account dedicated to your job search. Also, find an email service that will allow you to use your name in a recognizable way without a puzzle of numbers or other characters attached to it. You want plain and professional. This is also the time to ditch clever, descriptive handles such as "SweetLover127" or "MatrixFan0101."

Career Objective

The statement of a career objective is not required on all resumes. However, it is a very good idea to include one. Be sure that you label it "Career Objective" and place it immediately below your name and address section. Limit the objective to one to three lines that list the advertised position you are applying for and summarizes your qualifications for that position. Again, this is a section of your resume that should change according to the job you are applying for.  Whether you choose to write the objective in sentence or phrase format, follow these guidelines:

Guidelines for Statement of Career Objective

  • Word the objective according to the job title you are applying for with this resume.
  • Mention only the experience, skills, and education that address the requirements of this particular position.
  • Include the exact job title as found in the job listing.
  • Do not say what you want ("to learn" or "to gain experience"). Emphasize what you can do for the company.
  • Be specific:
    • Too General: A position using my skills and experience in communication.
    • More Specific: An assistant editor position allowing me to use my skills and experience as an award-winning researcher, copyeditor, and feature writer.


As someone preparing to receive a degree, this is an important section for you. But don't limit this section to your current degree work. For any degree or certification that you have, include the following:

  • Name of institution attended
  • Name of degree and graduation date (month/year format)
  • Major, minor, or specialization
  • Optional: grade point average. Format: your GPA, followed by a slash, then highest point on scale. Example: GPA: 3.7/4.0
  • Use the format that best fits your resume and provides the emphasis you need

Depending on the position you are apply for, you may want to list some upper-level courses you've taken that are particularly relevant, or you might list special courses that are different from those everyone in your major must take, especially capstone seminars, senior theses, or honors courses in which you completed special projects. If appropriate, indicate computer programming languages you know and computer applications you can use.

Experience or Work Experience

Time to toot your own horn. Don't be dishonest, but don't be shy. You have to be willing to sell yourself as an engaged, proactive worker who can handle responsibility and carry out tasks in a professional way. This is also the time to use the list of strong verbs:

Research Intern
Savannah Magazine, Savannah, GA, Summer 2007

  • Gathered all necessary information on cultural events
  • Researched performers & celebrities
  • Fact-checked stories for accuracy


A skills section can be especially useful for job applicants whose list of career experience is limited. This section allows you to list legitimately acquired skills that were acquired in a variety of ways, e.g., volunteer activities, organizational offices held, or part-time jobs that otherwise would not be included on a list of professional experiences:


  • Chaired a committee to prepare and institute new election procedures for Student Government
  • Evaluated employees' (work study students) for monthly reports to administration


  • Wrote weekly advertisements for charity-related entertainment events
  • Represented Communication majors in negotiations with university administrators
  • Spoke to potential funding groups at organizational events


  • Designed a program to record and average student grades
  • Designed and implemented an accounting program to record and track PTO's annual $900,000 budget
Image Still for Video: Four Resume Types: Which One Should You Use?

Four Resume Types: Which One Should You Use?

Introduction to the lecture "Four Resume Types: Which One Should You Use?" given as part of the Career Document Workshop hosted by the Effective Writing Center at the University of Maryland Global Campus. The answer is "none." The best resume is the one customized to you and the job/company you are applying to.

Resume Styles

The two basic approaches to constructing the sections of your resume are by date (Reverse Chronological Resume) or by skills (Functional or Skills Resume). Generally, the older and more experienced you are, the more that the Reverse Chronological style would best present you. And the reverse logic applies for those just graduating: you might be better served by the Functional or Skills style.

Functional Resume

This resume style emphasizes skills and abilities you've gained through jobs, life experiences, and organizational activities. It is most appropriate for the entry-level job seeker and the career changer. The Functional/Skills Resume allows you to pick and choose skills then relate each one to the job you are applying for. Arrange the skills from the most to the least relevant. This approach is particularly appropriate when the skills you've acquired are more impressive than the jobs you've had. 

Chronological Resume

This resume highlights your current and past jobs and responsibilities. If you use this style, make sure your current position is relevant to the one you are applying for. Beginning with your current or most recent job and list your employers and their addresses (city and state only). Each employer should be followed by the dates of employment and a bullet list of your duties, responsibilities, skills, and accomplishments. Each item on the bullet list should begin with a strong, descriptive verb.

Basic Resume Guidelines

  • Provide a visually appealing format
  • Reduce information to prevent overload and clutter
  • Use parallel headings and bullets for emphasis and clarity.
  • Limit to one page if requested.
  • Make it unique. Find a way to highlight your special abilities in relation to the specific job you're applying for.

Federal (Government) Resume

Resumes written for federal jobs often require a unique style. It's so unique, as a matter of fact, that several major companies focus solely on the hiring process for America's largest employer--the federal government. At Go Government, you will find a federal resume wizard as well as tons of resources that help you locate government careers that are right for you. The official government jobs web site is USAJobs. Perhaps the best page to begin with is USAJobs Resource Center, where you will find a link to the federal resume builder.

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