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Career Development Office

Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification

Career Development Office
State University of New York at Fredonia
Gregory Hall, 2nd floor
Fredonia, NY 14063

Phone: (716) 673-3327
Fax: (716) 673-3593

Office Hours:
Academic Year
8:30 am - 5:00 pm, M-F
8:00 am - 4:00 pm, M-F

Writing a Great Resume

How to write a great resume is often a mystery, not only to graduating seniors and undergraduates seeking summer jobs or internships, but also to alumni who are changing jobs or changing careers. Some believe that a good resume will "get them a job;" others feel the resume is an unimportant formality. Neither notion is valid. The truth is that a well-written resume will not make an employer rush to the phone to offer you a position, but it should convince the person that he/she would be wise to offer you an interview. Your resume is especially important in cases where it precedes you; i.e., sometimes you must rely on two-dimensional paper to create an appealing picture of the three-dimensional you. In that situation, in the employer's eyes, you are only as strong as you appear on the page. You could be the most qualified applicant in a pool of 30 or 300, but lose an interview if one or more of your competitors appears to be more qualified.

Although anyone who has ever written a resume is usually willing to give you advice about how to do yours, few people know how to write a resume well. Some may not be aware that assistance is available, while others feel they can't afford the time to do anything more than throw something together after looking at a sample or two. Both approaches can harm your job search.

First, quality assistance is available from the CDO in the form of:

  • Career Guides, handouts, including this one, about writing great resumes
  • Sample Resume Binders on the Resumes and Correspondence shelf
  • How-to Books and Videotapes on resume writing on the Resumes and Correspondence shelf

Second, it is to your benefit to construct a quality resume. It can actually be fun - a challenge, not a chore - if you set aside enough to write it and take advantage of our assistance. Besides, resume writing is a skill you will find valuable in the years to come. After you've written one good resume, those you may need in the future will be much easier. Convinced you should write a good one? Read on.

The Employer's Perspective

Cross to the other side of the fence for a moment. You're the employer, whether the owner of a small organization or the V.P. of a large corporation; it doesn't matter. You have an important position to fill and a pile of 100 or more resumes to consider in order to select three or four candidates for interviews. You're very busy and can't spend too much time reading all these resumes, so you plan to sort through the stack quickly and select about 15 of the best as a first step in narrowing the field. As you give each a 20-second scan, what will you look for? Probably the following:

  • overall appearance - The resume should look great and invite you to read it.
  • readability - You can quickly find the desired information.
  • qualifications - The resume must show that the applicant has the skills and knowledge to do the job.
  • career goal - The applicant should indicate an interest in the type of position you want to fill.
  • forcefulness - The resume should present the applicant as a "doer," using concrete examples of skills and accomplishments.

These criteria apply when a human being is reading your resume. Increasingly, however, organizations are using resume scanning and applicant tracking software to store and retrieve your resume. It may be wise to create another resume in a style that is easily scannable by a computer. You may wish to consider a resume in text-only format that can be copied and pasted into an e-mail or a web-based form.

Eight Important Steps

Most resumes fall short in one or more of the above areas. Yours won't if you follow these steps:

  1. Decide what type(s) of positions to apply for and why. Your resume will be weak unless it focuses on a particular type of position or field. Schedule a counseling appointment in the CDO if you need help identifying your options.
  2. Use the CDO Career Guides and/or the books and videotapes about resumes.
  3. Research your field and know what you have to offer, as well as the important keywords. Use the career information in the CDO, talk to a counselor, and conduct information interviews.
  4. Decide what resume style(s) will work for you - traditional or functional for people to read, scannable for computers to read, one that can be e-mailed and/or an HTML resume. Resume styles are discussed in Career Guide R4 and electronic resumes in Career Guide R8, as well as in the resume books.
  5. Refer to the Sample Resume Notebooks and the resume books in the CDO Resource Library for ideas on style and format.
  6. Compose a draft and review it using the checklist in Career Guide R7.
  7. Have your draft critiqued by a career counselor.
  8. Make final changes, proofread carefully, and arrange for duplication.

For additional tips and information about resumes, refer to the Resumes and Correspondence section in the CDO resource area.


Adapted and reprinted with permission from the Career Development Office, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University

Page modified 12/7/15