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Selling Yourself: A Guide to Writing Effective Resumes1

Jonathan Wallace, Allen Wysocki, Derek Farnsworth, and Jennifer L. Clark2

Introduction assumed that there are many applicants for the position
and that few will get interviewed. When writing a cover
One vital tool when seeking employment or considering a
letter, the applicant should ask the question: “How can my
career change is a powerful, effective, and well-written re-
knowledge and abilities increase a company’s sales and
sume. It is a major deciding factor in gaining an interview.
profits, or otherwise add value to the organization?”
There are a number of fundamental elements to consider
before writing a resume or cover letter. This article guides
the reader through the basic components of the resume and The Resume
cover letter and provides comments on frequently asked The Basics
questions by job seekers. First, a common myth about the resume is that it must be
limited to one page. In today’s business setting, nothing
could be further from the truth. Some experts now advise
expanding the resume to two or more pages if the informa-
tion has value (Rockport Institute 2002). That is, never
use unnecessary filler information that has no value to the
potential employer.

Second, it is important to print the resume on high quality

paper. Retail office stores offer high quality resume paper in
many colors and textures to express the individuality of the

Third, it is very important for the resume to be easy to read

Credits: Creatas Images/Thinkstock.com and well organized (Rockport Institute 2002). A well-
written resume that is grammatically correct and free from
The Cover Letter spelling errors demonstrates the writing and organizational
The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce the applicant skills of the applicant.
to the potential employer. There are no stringent guidelines
to writing a cover letter, but it should effectively highlight Finally, the resume should be written from the perspec-
the applicant’s skills and qualifications and explain the tive of the potential employer (Rockport Institute 2002).
reason for the letter and enclosed resume. It should be Resumes should be written specifically with this question

1. This document is SN008, one of a series of the Food and Resource Economics Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date July 2002.
Revised October 2015. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2. Jonathan Wallace, former graduate student; Allen Wysocki, associate dean and professor; Derek Farnsworth, assistant professor; and Jennifer L. Clark,
senior lecturer, Food and Resource Economics Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services
only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status,
national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County
Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.
in mind: “Why should this employer interview or hire me?” coursework, as well as skills developed from that course-
A sample resume is included at the end of this document to work, that might be relevant to the position for which the
illustrate the various parts of a resume. applicant is applying.

The Heading There is much debate relating to the issue of including

The heading is one of the most important areas of the re- grade point averages (GPA) in the education section of a
sume. It should include the following contact information: resume. It is the authors’ belief that the GPA should always
be included if it is higher than 3.0. Not listing a GPA in
• Full name the resume might be interpreted that the applicant has
• Current address something to hide.
• Current phone number
• E-mail address If the applicant is a college student or college graduate,
there is no need to include high school education informa-
The applicant’s name should be printed in large, bold text tion. High school graduates should follow the same rules
at the top of the page so that it stands out from the rest of for completing the education section as college students.
the resume. It is undoubtedly the first thing you want a
reader to notice about the resume. Contact information As a final note on the education section, applicants who
should be concise and listed at the top of the resume under self-funded all or a majority of their college expenses might
the applicant’s name. Because many employers now contact want to list that fact on their resumes. This would demon-
applicants via e-mail, it is advisable to include an e-mail strate that the applicant can balance a busy schedule.
address as part of the heading, if possible. Avoid using an
unprofessional e-mail address (e.g., bigbird@aol.com) on a Experience Section
resume. The employment experience section offers the applicant
the opportunity to demonstrate work skills. The authors
Objective Section believe that employers hire people for SKILLS developed,
The objective section should be a short, concise state- not DUTIES performed. Therefore, the applicant’s resume
ment that outlines exactly what the applicant intends to should heavily emphasize skills that were developed from
accomplish by writing the resume. The applicant should performing duties, rather than just enumerating the duties
consider both his goals and the company’s goals when performed. Heavy emphasis should also be placed on
writing the objective statement. Whatever is chosen for the special achievements in the workplace. The authors advise
objective statement should entice the potential employer avoiding the use of terms such as “responsible for” and “as-
to read the resume. For instance, the applicant could state sisted in.” For example, instead of the statement, “Worked
how he wishes to increase company sales and profits. as a teaching assistant in the instruction of AEB 3341,” a
This is obviously of benefit to the potential employer. The more favorable statement would be, “By working as a teach-
applicant’s leadership, organization, and interpersonal skills ing assistant in the instruction of AEB 3341, I developed
will almost certainly be of benefit to the employer as well. exemplary organizational and people skills by interacting
with students in a classroom setting.” Once again, reverse
chronological order is preferred, with employment history
Education Section beginning with most recent employment. In this case, place
The education section is very important for both current of employment should come first, as in the sample resume.
college students and recent graduates with no experience
because it provides them the opportunity to explain their
Other Information Section
potential skills for the job. Both current college students
and recent graduates would be well advised to list the An other information section allows the applicant to
education section before experience, while seasoned emphasize special activities achievements, and awards
veterans of the workforce might elect to list employment acquired outside the workforce or through college activi-
experience before education. ties. Emphasis should be placed on skills developed and
achievements accomplished. The applicant should use this
The education section should be listed in chronological section as an opportunity to demonstrate strong leadership
order, with the most recent diploma/degree listed before the abilities. The applicant should state how he participated
name of the school attended. It is also advisable to list the in student organizations, not just list the names of the
major and specialization. Consider including any specific organizations with which he or she was involved. When

Selling Yourself: A Guide to Writing Effective Resumes 2

listing scholarship awards, the applicant should state the
recognition criteria for the awards and the grantors of
awards. Non-school awards should also be listed.

It is advisable to include any special abilities, licenses,

certifications, etc. that may be applicable to a potential
position. The applicant should include anything that might
be appealing to a potential employer.

There is a debate on whether to include any interests or

hobbies in this section. The authors believe that this can
certainly do no harm, if space permits. Who knows?
Perhaps the potential employer has similar interests, which
might help the applicant gain employment.

There is also a debate on whether to list references. Some

professionals advise listing references on the resume, while
others advise listing references as “available upon request.”
The authors believe that it is best to leave a reference section
out of the resume because almost all employers assume that
references are available upon request. The applicant should
have an available list of references (including how to contact
the references and what information the references may
provide) to give to the potential employer when requested.

A cover letter and resume are documents designed to
present the applicant’s skills in the best possible way to add
value to an organization. These documents should focus on
achievements that effectively set the applicant apart from
other applicants. In summary, a resume should be easy
to read, have substance and depth, and be targeted to the
company. Good luck and happy job-hunting!

Rockport Institute. 2002. “How to write a masterpiece
resume.” http://www.rockportinstitute.com/resumes.html.

Selling Yourself: A Guide to Writing Effective Resumes 3