how to create a resume from scratch

Wondering how to write a great resume that will show off your skills and experience and get you interviews? Here’s a beginner’s guide to how to craft a resume that will catch a hiring manager’s eyes.

Your resume should be composed of the following sections:

Contact info. This is pretty straightforward – this is the header for your resume, and it’s where your name, address, phone number, and email address go. It’s fine to add a link your LinkedIn profile or your website if you want to, but don’t clutter this section up to much.

Profile or highlights. This section is optional, but profiles or highlight sections have replaced objectives at the top of modern-day resumes. This is a quick list of the highlights of your strengths and accomplishments, summing up in just a few bullet points who you are as a candidate and what you have to offer. The idea is to provide an overall framing for your candidacy, setting the hiring manager up to see the rest of your resume through that lens.

Experience: This is the meat of your resume. You should list each job (from most recent to least recent) – where you worked, what your title was, and the years you worked there. Underneath that, you should have a bulleted list of what you achieved while working there. And this is crucial: These bullets should not be used to just explain your job duties. Instead, you should focus on accomplishments – things you achieved that were simply fulfilling the basis duties of your job. For instance, instead of “managed website,” it’s far stronger to say something like, “increased Web traffic by 15% in six months” – in other words, explain how you performed, not just what your job was.

When you’re deciding what to include, give yourself permission to remove things that don’t strengthen your candidacy. You don’t need three lines explaining boring, basic job duties – especially if these responsibilities are going to be implied by your title. Similarly, you don’t need to include that summer job from eight years ago, or that job you did for three weeks that didn’t work out. Your resume is a marketing document, not a comprehensive listing of everything about you, so include the things that strengthen your candidacy, and pare down the rest.

Education: For most people, this section should just be a line or two, explaining where you went to school and what degree you graduated with. And note that generally your education should go beneath your work experience, because generally employers are most interested in what work experience you’ve had. Leading with your education just buries what will make most attractive to an employer.

Optional other sections: After that, you might include some additional optional sections, like Volunteer Work (or Community Involvement), Skills (if not obvious from the experience section), or Miscellaneous. Fleshing out your skills and experience in these sections can demonstrate a passion for the work that your work experience can’t always do. For instance, if you’re applying for an I.T. position and you run an online software discussion group in your spare time, mention that. Or if you’re applying for a teaching job and you review children’s books for your website, that’s important to mention too. These types of details help paint a stronger picture of you as a candidate.

Things not to include: Your resume is for experience and accomplishments only. It’s not the place for subjective traits, like “great leadership skills” or “creative innovator.” Smart employers ignore anything subjective that applicant write about themselves because so many people’s self-assessments are wildly inaccurate, so your resume should stick to objective facts. Additional no-no’s: Don’t include a photo of yourself, information about your age, any mention of high school, medical conditions, or family members.

Overall formatting: In all of the sections above, you should be using bullet points, not complete sentences. Hiring managers will only skim your resume initially, and big blocks of text are difficult to skim. An employer will absorb more information about you with a quick skim if your information is arranged in bullet points rather than paragraphs.

Length: As a general rule, your resume shouldn’t be over two pages (or one, if you’re a recent grad). The longer your resume is, the less likely an employer is to see the parts you want them to see. The initial scan of your resume is about 20 seconds — do you want that divided among three pages, or do you want it focused on the most important things you want to convey? Short and concise means that employers are more likely to read the parts you most care about. Plus, long resumes can make you come across as someone who can’t edit and doesn’t know what information is essential and what’s less important.

Design: Avoid unusual colors or untraditional designs. All most hiring managers want from a resume: a concise, easy-to-scan list of what you’ve accomplished, organized chronologically by position, plus any particularly notable skills, all presented in a format that they can quickly scan and get the highlights.

I originally wrote this article for publication on

{ 134 comments… read them below }

  1. LittleT*

    Alison, as always, this is great advice.

    For the education section, what would you recommend for anyone with incomplete studies? I graduated from a 2-year associate’s degree arts program and then attempted a BA liberal arts program. Due to health & financial issues, I only completed 2 years of the 4-year BA program. I have no intention of completing the degree at this point.

    Both of these are from over 20 years ago. Should I still list the partially completed BA on my resume? Currently, I have it listed as “ABC University, English Lit, 1998-1990”. There is no mention of me actually obtaining a degree. Does this give the impression that I did complete it or that I’m falsifying my credentials?

    For reference, any of my jobs held since then were office admin type roles that were not related to the field of study.

    Thoughts from you or the other readers would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Sascha*

      I’m curious about this as well. My husband completed high school and about 30 hours of core courses, but did not obtain a bachelor’s degree. This was almost 15 years ago and he’s been employed in IT ever since, and at his most recent job for 7 years. We’re working on his resume so he can apply to other IT jobs and I’m wondering how to word the education section.

    2. LAI*

      I would assume that if you didn’t specifically list a degree (like B.A. or B.S.), that means you don’t have one. But I work at a university so I’m not sure if that would be as widely understood everywhere. Maybe you could say something like “Courses in English Lit at ABC University, 1998-1990”. Although I’m not sure that really even matters if you didn’t get the degree, and you have 20 years of work experience for them to judge you on instead. Do you list the associate’s degree?

      1. LittleT*

        @LAI: yes, I absolutely list the associate’s degree, because I want to show that I have at least *some* formal education and because I don’t have what people consider a “real” degree. I have a lot of work experience to supplement the education I do have, but I’m always afraid that the partially-done BA shows that I’m a quitter or that I can’t complete things I start.

        I’ve also done a number of other ad-hoc courses that were not leading up to a degree, but from a local university’s “Continuing Education” division. These have been applicable to my roles, as they were 1-semester courses in things like business writing and organizational behavior. I do list these to show that I’m committed to ongoing learning, even if it doesn’t lead to a proper designation or degree.

    3. EAA*

      Yes, would like to know this too. Daughter is not going to complete her masters. She has however done 70% of it. Fortunately she was working during this time so there will be no gap but referencing it would be helpful.

    4. OriginalYup*

      I don’t think the way you’re written it is misleading at all. But if you’re worried that it’s not clear enough, I write mine as “University of ABC, 1990-1991, Coursework in Advanced Teapot Design.”

  2. The Wall of Creativity*

    No mention of what font to use? I find size 14 Comis Sans tends to go down well.

    1. Sunflower*

      I would advise switching to another font besides comic sans. It’s frequently seen as unprofessional and some people down right hate it. I use a mix- different fonts for job title and for my bullet points. I use times roman for my bullet points and Arial for my job title.

    2. Zowayix*

      ^I was under the impression that Comic Sans should never ever be used for anything serious, including resumes. Not sure how widespread this opinion is, but personally I just use Times New Roman and most people I know do as well.

    3. Bryan*

      We use a service and I swear the font for its company name on all of its communications is in comic sans. It’s a really expensive service too so I feel like we’re paying a huge sum of money for an amateur service which is the furthest thing from the truth.

    4. BB*

      I use Calibri or Microsoft Sans Serif- my job titles/companies are slightly larger than the font I use for bullet points. I think I use 12 for the bullet points and 14 for job titles

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Any professional, readable font is fine. But yeah, obviously no Comic Sans or anything else unprofessional.

      For size, I’d go with 11 or 12 point; anything smaller is hard for some people to easily read.

      1. Red Librarian*

        I feel like I’m the only one who realizes this is a joke. (I hope it is at least.)

        1. Eden*

          It’s a joke. In the immortal words of Prince Humperdink, “I’d stake my life on it.”

          “Unless I am wrong, and I am never wrong.”

    6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      If you send your resume as a Word document (.doc or .docx) rather than a PDF, use a common font. If you use something you downloaded yourself, chances are that your recipient won’t have it on their computer and Word will pick a different font – thus making your resume look different than the way you planned it.

      1. businesslady*

        …although it should really always be a PDF.

        also, I once saw a resume for a high-level academic administrator position (somewhere in the provost’s office hierarchy) that was actually in Comic Sans. you probably don’t believe me–I still can barely believe it myself–but it happened, somehow.

        1. Jeanne TW*

          Some recruiters require a Word document so they can add their logo/company name.

    7. Mike*

      Wingdings is a better choice than Comic Sans. Unless they are willing to translate it back to letters, how will you know they are serious about hiring you?

    8. Scott M*

      Has anyone read the hilarious “I’m Comic Sans” Monologue? I’d post a link here, except the title actually contains a profanity. Just Google “I’m Comic Sans”.

      1. louise*

        This made me giggle to myself like a maniac. The rest of the coffee shop is staring.

  3. TychaBrahe*

    Thank you.

    I’ve been at this job for six years. I was hired based on a verbal inquiry. (“Dave, will you be hiring someone for this work?” “Probably, but John won’t hire from outside Chicago. He’s afraid after one winter they’ll leave.” “I grew up in Chicago. My mother lives there and my father lives in Riverside.” “Oh. I’ll talk to him.”)

    I was hired for my previous job in 1993. My last resume predates the Web, let alone Monster, LinkedIn, and electronic application systems. I’m not looking for work at the moment, but you never know what can happen.

  4. Program Officer for Teapot Satisfaction*

    What would you do if your job title doesn’t really do a good job describing the core of what you do? For instance, my title in most organizations would be in charge of evaluating product success with zero management responsibilities and limited budget.

    At my organization I manage a staff of 30 and oversee three separate departments with very different goals and processes. I’ve taken to having my first bullet point describe my basic areas of responsibility, number of staff supervised, and budget size to give hiring managers an idea of what the job actually is, since it’s not what they would likely assume. The other bullets then describe accomplishments — does that sound like a reasonable format?

    1. Sunflower*

      Not sure if this helps but I have a profile section at the top of my resume under my name/info that has my key skills listed in bullet format. I have about 8 of them, listed side by side, they don’t take up too much room. That might help to showcase what you actually do as opposed to your job title

    2. AAA*

      I have this same problem. My current job title is “Assistant Administrative Analyst” – really I manage a program within my department with 30 people, am responsible for hiring into the program, and do data analysis on the efficacy of this and a large range of other programs in the department.
      I generally do what you do- use the first bullet point to explain duties, then 1-2 more with accomplishments.

      1. the gold digger*

        Glad to see that the “analyst” title doesn’t necessarily mean lower level. I have not had “analyst” in my title since 1997 (have been manager level), but have been told I will be getting an offer for a job (that is being created for me) that is whatever analyst.

        I am thinking this is not the hill I want to die on – I would rather have more money – but it is a little bothersome!

        1. LQ*

          I have analyst in my title and it’s a fairly mid level position but I’m sort of at the bottom end of the analysts. Many of the high level positions around me (and that I aspire to!) are also whatever analyst positions.

        2. Stephanie*

          Everything even remotely quantitative is an “analyst” nowadays. It’s like every vaguely managerial position being called a “vice-president.”

        3. AAA*

          Yeah, I think “analyst” can refer to a huge swath of different jobs!
          Honestly it is not the “Analyst” part of the title that bugs me, it is the “Assistant Administrative” part — which is easily confused for “Administrative Assistant”. Nothing wrong with being an admin asst. but it’s really not what I do and it definitely gives employers a false impression of my skill-set on my resume if they are scanning quickly.
          My current position is in local government, and the job titles are very inflexible. It’s frustrating, but as you said, not a hill to die on.

        4. HM in Atlanta*

          I think it depends a lot on the industry. Technology/engineering/scientific really value analysis, so you want experienced professionals to really analyze and draw conclusion, interpret patters, and the like. In other industries *cough*hospitality*cough*, I’ve seen them use analyst as a way to describe a job that doesn’t have management responsibilities, uses a computer, and isn’t customer facing.

    3. Alex*

      I don’t know if this is a good solution, but I usually put in a more descriptive/accurate title, and then the official title next to it in parentheses. For example, I worked in a Tier 1 tech support call center, but my title was Telecom CSR 3. So I put it on my resume like this:

      Tier 1 Tech Support Agent (Telecom CSR 3)

      1. cecilhungry*

        Personally, and please note I have no hiring experience, I would switch that and put the official title first, followed by a parenthetical explanation title.

        Telecom CSR 3 (Tier 1 Tech Support Agent)

        Or, say, in a field I know more about:

        Editorial Reviewer (Copy editor)

        1. Alex*

          Actually after you mentioned this, I was thinking “That makes more sense to me too…” So I pulled up my resume, and lo and behold, I’ve got it listed how you’ve outlined above! You’re so wise :)

      2. Not an IT Guy*

        So what would you do if you were never given a job title? I worked in my company’s IT department for three years, but I never received a job title or was not allowed to do anything IT related (this could cause potential employers to be mislead…”oh, you worked in IT, you have experience”). How would you address this on a resume?

        1. Maggie*

          If the company is still alive , I would call their HR dept and see what is listed in your files.

          1. Alex*

            I agree – this will help you but will also ensure that your background/reference checks are accurate.

  5. ZSD*

    This is really helpful advice for people who are just starting out! (Or for those who might have been out of the workforce for awhile.)
    I think there’s an important word missing in one place, though:
    “Things you achieved that were simply fulfilling the basis duties of your job,” should be, “Things you achieved that were NOT simply fulfilling the basic duties of your job,” right?

      1. Librarian Laura*

        I think there’s a typo in the “Design” paragraph as well, where it says “All most hiring managers want from a resume”?

        1. CollegeAdmin*

          Not a typo, but I’m seeing what you’re seeing. “All” and “most” aren’t competing here to modify “hiring managers” – in a rephrase, it would be “What most hiring managers want from a resume…”

  6. Lizzie*

    In my field, your education really should go at the top because often a hiring committee will only be interested in hiring a Ph.D., or someone who attended an accredited program, or someone who has a license that is billable (all of which would most likely be indicated in the education section). I suppose this could be mentioned in a profile/highlights section, but I really like to see an education section up front. I know experience is generally more important than education, but there are exceptions that are worth noting. I’d also hesitate to bury your education at the bottom if you are a recent graduate of a school with strong name recognition, or an anytime graduate of a school with a strong alum network. Anyone who meets basic skills criteria and went to my (small, selective, intense) alma mater would get an initial interview with me because I know the caliber of the students and education provided.

    1. Sunflower*

      This 100% does depend on your industry or field. I would advise to read the job description and determine if the education seems like the most important thing. Some job descriptions will read first and in caps or bold MUST HAVE X DEGREE and some will casually mention further down ‘Bachelors required; Masters preferred’ or some simply state ‘Bachelors degree or equivalent’

      I had actually wrote in a couple months ago about where to put my education. I’m about 3 years out of college and went to a university with a very strong alumni network. I decided to put my education at the bottom still but have the university name slightly larger and bolded so it stands out a bit more.

    2. AAA*

      I have a Ph.D. and I keep my education at the bottom, even when applying for jobs for which a Ph.D. is required. But have a (admittedly somewhat gimmicky) logo/letterhead/personal branding mark that just consists of a simple font saying “firstname, ph.d.” This has been effective.

    3. Aunt Vixen*

      Can’t it be mentioned in your name? If you can’t get the job without the credential, why not have your header be “Lizzie Borden, JD” and *then* mention your law school later on in the education section where it belongs?

      Mind you, I do not do this. But when I have to upload my resume to some outfit’s database and give it a title in addition to its filename, I do give it a title like “Aunt Vixen DDS PMP CPA” or whatever. (NB: I am neither a DDS, nor a PMP, nor a CPA. I’m making up the certifications.)

    4. Ash (the other one!)*

      Yup, agree with others. I have my contact info at the top with “Ashley Doe, Ph.D.” and the education stuff at the bottom of the second page.

    5. Stephanie*

      I’ve sometimes put it at the top when it’s the most relevant thing to the posting. I worked in a tangential field to my degree after I graduated. If I’m applying for a position that’s a more directly related, I’ll list the education (and associated certifications) at the top. I’ve also done it as a reframing tool–I don’t want to stay in my old field (and it’s doing horribly anyway, as it is) and the education at the top helps to frame me as a Chocolate Teapot candidate initially (when my experience is in Caramel Teapots).

      But I think this is only really good if it’s a lower-level job and you’re in a field where the degree’s crucial (like an engineer or lawyer).

    6. Cath in Canada*

      Yep, my header also has “Cath Lastname, PhD” in it, along with my contact info and citizenship info. Experience is the first section, followed by education (which does, however, have more detail in it than the couple of lines Alison suggested in the article).

  7. CanadianWriter*

    These are good tips, but with no mention of paper colour. Your resume should always be on fluorescent paper so that it stands out from the pile.

    You also should smear a generous amount of glitter onto the paper so that the hiring manager can never forget you. Every time they see that glitter clinging to every surface in their office, they’ll think of you.


      1. Lar*

        I once received a resume with so much perfume my wife thought that I had a girl friend. I couldn’t get the smell out of my office so I decided to make a copy and destroy the original which only made every document placed on the copy machine smell like it came from a brothel.

    1. Stephanie*

      On a serious note, what paper should you use? I don’t want to spend $10 on 7 sheets of resume paper, but the flimsy copier paper we use for our home printer can look a bit rough after minor handling.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        If I were still printing out resumes and mailing them places, I would use plain white printer paper, but the higher quality than “flimsy”. Bright white, a bit of heft.

        But I use PDF paper these days myself.

      2. Judy*

        There are different weights of copy paper, a quick browse through Staples website shows lots of 20 lb, but there are some 22, 24, and 28 lb that are closer to $10-$16/500 sheets.

        If you’re talking about to print copies for you to carry with you to the interview, that might be a good compromise.

        1. Laura*

          Finally my knowledge of paper weight is useful! =)

          20lb is standard every day use copy/office paper. If you want a little more heft and remain relatively affordable, go with 22lb or 24lb. You do not need to get the super fancy 80lb paper.

  8. Mimmy*

    This is a great guide!

    The thing that I think has been kicking me down is the fact that much of my recent experience is volunteer-based, so I have them fleshed out on my resume like the paid positions. Is this bad? I’ve been in passive-search mode, but have been thinking of amping up again and looking for part-time work to bring in additional income.

    1. cecilhungry*

      Since no one’s replied, I’ll bite. I believe Allison generally says to treat RELEVANT volunteer work as work experience. If you’re an event planner, and you help plan the local Y’s benefit dinners & fundraising events, put that in your experience/work section (noted as a volunteer job). If you, say, volunteer at the animal shelter or Habitat for Humanity, it’s worthy of a line but not much else (more “I’ve been keeping busy helping the world” less “I can use this experience in my job with you).

  9. LV*

    I am still struggling with the difference between duties and accomplishments. I’m a reference librarian – my job boils down to helping people find the information they need, doing interlibrary loans, giving presentations/training sessions on how to use our resources, etc. I’m not sure how to translate that into tangible accomplishments. “Did X presentations in 2013 on (database)”? “Wrote Y annotated bibliographies for Z patrons”?

    1. Lily in NYC*

      This is my biggest hurdle. I’m an admin and it’s so hard to translate my work into accomplishments. My bosses just want me to do my job well and taking initiative is sort of frowned upon in my role here. I actually got in trouble once for offering to help another admin who was feeling overwhelmed. It felt like I was in bizarro world – any other place would probably have given me a pat on the back for being a team player.

      1. Red Librarian*

        It took me awhile when I recently redid my resume to think in those terms so I tried to focus on things with tangible numbers like you provided or I pulled out specific projects.

        I mean, librarians and hiring managers looking at your resume are going to already have an idea of some of what you do just because of the field, like ILL and assisting patrons, so what specifically have you done that perhaps the other applicants haven’t? How many ILL requests do you process in a given week? What is your service population like (large urban, small rural, etc.)? Any programs you’ve overseen or projects you’ve managed? What are some topics of the training sessions and the attendance or proven outcomes?

    2. Ephemerista*

      You might say something like: Conduct an average of x reference transactions per year.
      Reached xx patrons in training sessions on topics such as a, b, and c.
      Filled xx requests for interlibrary loan materials.

    3. OriginalYup*

      I’m guessing at these because I don’t work in your field, but can you talk about:
      -the volume of patrons you help on a daily or weekly basis? whether you dealt regularly with any identifiable groups of patrons who might have very specific needs, like helping lots of job seekers or research scientists or very young children or new residents who aren’t native English speakers?
      -the level of interlibrary loans that you handle, such as 20 libraries in a 5 county area? the number of loans you process on a monthly basis, and any improvements you made to the process (like reducing a notification time from 2 days to same day, or implementing an e-request system)?
      -whether you designed or improved the presentations and trainings yourself, and any feedback that you got from the trainees?
      -any type of special projects that you’ve handled, like digitizing records or upgrading the reference system or hugely improving the library’s XYZ section or collection?

    4. Betsy*

      My advice would be this: think about what the job would have looked like if you weren’t the one doing it. Picture a competent but uninspired reference librarian doing your job, and figure out what wouldn’t have happened. That will show you what your accomplishments are.

      1. businesslady*

        that’s perfect.

        my mom used to write resumes for a living, & here’s the example she’d always use back when I was younger (which I may’ve mentioned on AAM before) to help explain the difference between “responsibilities” & “accomplishments”:

        “my teenage daughter is RESPONSIBLE for cleaning her room. but that does not mean her room is CLEAN.”

    5. Tomato Frog*

      -Kept my cool when a patron screamed at me because the information he was looking for did not exist.
      -Answered questions to patrons’ satisfaction even when questions made no sense.
      -Assisted a very bad-smelling patron and resisted the urge to speed up the transaction so I could escape.

      More seriously — I think you should think in terms of outcomes, rather than numbers. Are patrons able to make better progress with their own projects, because you helped them? Do people come out of your training sessions more comfortable using library resources, and with a better sense of how to do research? Have you been particularly tenacious or meticulous in your work, and has anyone benefitted from it?

  10. Sophia*

    I’m really having the hard time with the achievements part.

    To really simplify it, what if you work at Taco Bell? You go in, you do your job, that’s it….. If you’re a good worker you probably make people smile a lot.

    At my job, I go in and do my job. There’s already a set of expectations and I get those done. There isn’t time to increase xyz by 15%. It’s already at maximum efficiency. I’m not really sure what to put on my resume other than my job duties. I’m well aware that I make less mistakes than most people, just like the Taco Bell person makes more people smile… but how do you list that as an achievement?

    1. Alex*

      What about things like:
      *Achieved 95% on customer satisfaction surveys for 2013
      *Won “Employee of the Month” award in January 2013 for outstanding service
      *Track record of less than 4% error margin on cash handling
      *Was promoted to key holder after only 8 months
      *Developed new process for quesadilla orders that has been successful in improving production time, and as a result is now considered the standard process at my store

      I don’t know… just some ideas.

        1. Not an IT Guy*

          So by who’s standard are the accomplishments measured? For example, my manager asks me to develop a new procedure for tracking rentals. So I develop one and turn it in, and it never gets implemented and no feedback is given. Can you really consider that an accomplishment that’s resume worthy if the company refuses to recognize it as such?

          1. Alex*

            I guess my thought is that everything should be verifiable if you’re going to put them on your resume, either by reports from the company, or by legitimate reference that can verify. In the example you referenced, no, I don’t think that would be something I’d personally put on my resume. Just my opinion though – if it was a huge undertaking that you learned a lot from, and can apply what you learned to the job you’re applying for, then maybe it belongs on your resume to use at a talking point, even if it wasn’t adopted by the company.

        1. Marina*

          Not at all, I’ve had jobs where I’ve started measuring things like that myself even though my employers were uninterested. Obviously you wouldn’t be able to implement customer satisfaction surveys, but think like a manager–what would you track, if you were in charge, to figure out whether you were doing a good job or not? There’s probably something you can start tracking on your own.

    2. FD*

      “Developed a reputation as one of the most accurate cashiers at Taco Bell Monstropolis South”

      “Consistently received feedback for excellent customer service”


      Just because you can’t quantify an accomplishment doesn’t mean it isn’t an accomplishment.

  11. Ash (the other one!)*

    Question about the “other” section —

    Is there any benefit to including scholarly publications? What about including the titles of theses/dissertations under education?

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      It seems like this would depend on both the field the scholarly work was in, and the field of the job you’re applying for. I’ve been involved with hiring a middle school science teacher, and one candidate listed a few publications she’d had in scientific journals. It was relevant because it demonstrates her depth of understanding of the subject matter. If she’d been applying for a job as a fundraising coordinator, though, it’d be less relevant.

    2. Red Librarian*

      If the publication is related to your field or profession and the job you are applying for, absolutely. My resume has an actual Publications section.

  12. Regular who does GIS*

    Great timing, because I was struggling the other day with a specific problem.

    I tried to do this as a chocolate metaphor, but realized I could not, so I changed my name. Basically, Python is an extremely trendy language in geographic information systems, my field. It is a “desired” qualification on a very large percentage of job listings.

    About a half dozen people in the midwest teach geospatial Python, and right now, I am the only one who does workshops on it. Last conference I was at, I did 20 hours of Python workshops at four different levels, and I have been going at this rate for a couple of years. For this state, probably 80%+ of GIS professionals using python regularly were taught by me at some point. For the midwest, maybe 30-40%.

    I figure this would be a significant thing to put on a resume. I probably only have 1-2 bigger career accomplishments. But it is not at all part of any of my paid work experience, just volunteer work I do regularly. Do I put this under volunteer work then list that first? Or would that be too weird? (I do actually have several major achievements and international level recognition for my volunteer work in my field. Almost no recognition for my actual paid work.)

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      Hmm, in your case I would put that in the summary and then list the job as volunteer work. That way, it’s at the top for potential employers but it is correctly noted as to where it occurred.

    2. JMegan*

      I would just put it under “Experience,” and list it as a job title like any other. Definitely note that it’s volunteer, but I think that should be a parentheses, rather than highlighed as a main feature of what you did.

      Those are some pretty significant accomplishments, and they’re work-related – I think they’re in a different category than volunteering at the local food bank for a couple of hours a week. (Not that volunteering at a food bank isn’t an awesome thing to do, of course! Just that I wouldn’t put it on the same professional footing as the training you’re doing.)


      ~Current Job Title (2010-present)

      ~Python Workshop Facilitator (2010-present, volunteer)

      Other Volunteer Work

  13. Franny*

    Silliest, nit-pickiest question ever. What about using “and” vs using an ampersand (&) does it matter as long as I’m consistent?

    1. businesslady*

      I’d say consistency trumps all, but I personally love ampersands & [ha, see what I did there?] find them more efficient if you’re dealing with a lot of compound job/org titles. in paragraphs/bullet points, though, I think they come across as more casual/less polished.

      also, while I violate this rule all the time in the run of text, you’re technically not s’posed to use a serial comma with an ampersand (so “Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe” or “Dewey, Cheatem & Howe”).

      1. LBK*

        Agreed with this – for titles or other really short descriptions an ampersand is fine, but for longer lists (even in bullet points) “and” is probably better. FWIW I also love ampersands & use them all the time when I’m writing informally.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think ampersands belong in formal writing like a resume. They’re fine for a title or heading, but not for the actual narrative bullet points of your text.

  14. LBK*

    Here’s one thing I struggle with often: what’s the best way to list multiple positions in the same company? I worked retail for about 2 years and I had 5 positions during that time, each one of which had slightly different responsibilities and accomplishments. Part of my “accomplishments” in each of those was also being groomed for the next role – for example, I was trained in return processing as a cashier so I could serve as backup for customer service (not typically part of the job).

    I think showing that I was essentially promoted every 6 months is important, but I struggle with how to list it without occupying too much space. It looks something like this now:

    Company ABC (2010-2012)
    Supervisor (Date thru Date)

    Dept Senior (Date thru Date)

    Customer Service Rep (Date thru Date)

    Is that okay?

    1. businesslady*

      I do this too, for exactly the same reason (“check out how much my employers liked my work!”). I think that layout works well, especially if you use a different font/format/something to distinguish between the company & the various positions (which I’m guessing you do, but just in case)–like bold smallcaps for the company, and then indented underlined job titles.

      1. LBK*

        Yep, I differentiate the formatting between the company name and the job titles so it’s clear they’re all a subset of my time there.

  15. Chocolate Addict*

    Can you provide an example of a good profile? I’m struggling with not adding subjective things and not having it take up 10 lines!

      1. Erica B*

        I was going to ask for a legit example of a highlights/profile section. because even though you say it has replaced objectives and summaries, the term just doesn’t mean anything specific to me.

        also I have seen this link before!

  16. Meg Murry*

    I’d also like to recommend the advice I got to occasionally throw out your resume that you’ve been editing for the last 10+ years and start over with a new document. I’d been editing and adding to the same document since college, and it was full of tab stops that didn’t line up, areas where the font defaulted from one to another, bullets that didn’t line up, etc. Every time I edited my resume, I wound up spending more time fighting with the formatting to make it match the rest of the document than I did actually editing the text. Starting from scratch with a fresh document really helped there, and manually re-typing bullet points that had been on my resume for years helped me see which were strong and which needed revised, instead of just glossing over them and moving on.
    I’m not suggesting a fresh document for every job hunt by any means, but if the document you’ve been working on started from a template in Office 97, its time for an update.
    Also, when you export to pdf, open the actual exported document. I’ve found 95% of the time the export is ok, but every so often the export winds up with strange margins or tab stobs, or the ever so annoying spillover of one line onto the next page.

    1. CC*

      That’s probably something I should do — especially the part about freshly re-typing the bullet points and making sure they’re the strongest they can be.

      I’m finding it tricky, in that my two jobs after university had substantially the same duties, and I’m one of those people who thinks that anybody with the same education/certification could have done what I did so how is that really an accomplishment? The stuff my co-workers have commented on enough that I realize they are not universal to my role are the sorts of things that Alison says to not put on a resume. Stuff like how I’m very detail-oriented; I’ve had a boss use exactly those words in a review, and a co-worker commented that they like having me be the second pair of eyes to check over drawings before they go out because I catch mistakes that nobody else saw.

      I have had interviews, even from companies who weren’t hiring but wanted to talk to me anyway (??) so my resume can’t be all that bad. But I’m sure it could be stronger. It doesn’t help that my particular sub-field is … small. Growing, but still small, with lots of little startups and hardly any job postings.

      1. JMegan*

        I’m very detail-oriented; I’ve had a boss use exactly those words in a review, and a co-worker commented that they like having me be the second pair of eyes to check over drawings before they go out because I catch mistakes that nobody else saw.

        You could totally put that on your resume! These are concrete examples of how other people see you and your work, so they definitely fall into the category of “show don’t tell” that Alison talks about.

        1. CC*

          Ha, I guess I kept seeing “don’t say you’re detail-oriented” and missed the part about “without evidence”. The second one, specific to catching mistakes on drawings (and being something somebody said *about* me) could be a good bullet point on a resume. Need to think about how to bullet-ize it.

          I’m also looking at that resume summary link, above. I think that may be a good way to point out that I’m in my particular sub-field for a reason and I want to stay in it. I don’t think that’s as clear as it should be, from my resume as it stands.

        2. vvonderwoman*

          Instead of mentioning what a boss says, I would turn “a co-worker commented that they like having me be the second pair of eyes to check over drawings before they go out because I catch mistakes that nobody else saw.” into something like being the go-to person for the final check for drawings before they leave the office etc.

          1. CC*

            Well, it wasn’t consistent or official in any way. It was just something some co-workers appreciated and mentioned.

  17. Trixie*

    Re: Self-Employment, how do folks include this if its not an official enterprise? For three years I’ve been house/pet-sitting but its not an official business with records, taxes, etc. I’m thinking I’ll address in the cover letter but not sure how to include on resume.

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      I hope at the very least you’ve paid taxes on the money you’ve earned here…

    2. HR Lady*

      I think you should still list it, particularly if this was your main form of income or a pretty big deal. (I wouldn’t list it if you just did it a few times a year as a favor for friends.) Alison had a question about this recently and she said it was OK to list it.

  18. Meghan*

    A friend uses some color on her resume (her first name and bullets), what are your thoughts on it? Does it work only in a creative field or not at all?

    1. AAA*

      I think this *can* work, but most of the time it backfires. I am thinking of techincolor bullets and cringing a bit…

      I do have color on my resume, but it is only a teeny bit of very subdued hunter green in the top left corner (consisting of my first name). All other text is black. I was very careful that if you print the resume in black and white, you can’t tell that it was ever in color.

    2. vvonderwoman*

      A friend of mine is in a design-like field. She has her entire resume in dark navy. Nothing a hiring manager would consciously notice, but she says it makes it pop. I don’t really notice anything, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

  19. vvonderwoman*

    Thank you for this! I’ve never thought of the title “Community Involvement” before. I’d been using “Volunteer Experience” for the past 4 years but a few months ago, I was elected to be a Board Member and I wanted to include it in that section and I’ve been trying to find a title that isn’t too wordy. The best I’d had before your suggestion is “Professional Affiliations and Volunteer Experience” bleh.

  20. Jeanne G.*

    You say not to mention high school, but what about if that is your highest/latest education?

  21. K*

    Is the article still available? The link takes me to an AOL page, but the page contains no article. Thanks.

      1. The Engineer*

        AOL seems to have removed that section of their site. Any chance of getting it posted elsewhere?

  22. Christina*

    What can I do to tighten up a resume when related jobs aren’t consecutive? If you looked in reverse chronological order, you’d see something like this:

    ESL teacher
    Home care worker for the developmentally disabled
    Case manager for the financially disadvantaged
    ESL teacher
    Inventory worker
    ESL teacher
    Attendant care service coordinator
    Career planner at the county employment office
    Caregiver for developmentally disabled
    Office manager for startup telecom company
    Research writer
    Housing program worker for the mentally ill
    Office worker
    Treatment specialist in MH/MR residential program
    Kindergarten teacher’s aide
    Substitute teacher

    It makes a lot more sense to me to cluster similar jobs together so the person reading the resume isn’t wondering why I’m neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat.

    Complicating factor: It’s that very flexibility — and the fact that I consistently excel at jobs I don’t look qualified for — that I want to bring out.

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