Study Abroad Corner

Resume 101: How to have a stand out resume? (Part 1)


Resume acts as a summary of your education and experience. It allows recruiters to have a brief idea of who you are as a candidate, as well as your academic history and accomplishments. Applicants use resumes when applying for a full-time job, part-time job, internship, and academic and professional organization.

Because recruiters often receive plenty of resumes from applicants, they don’t have the time to review everything on the resumes. Plenty of recruiters spend LESS THAN 30 SECONDS reviewing a single resume before deciding whether or not the applicant has the potential to proceed to the interview round.

So how to have a stand out resume, especially if you are applying for a highly competitive position with hundreds, even thousands of qualified applicants? For me, I had the opportunity to learn many helpful tips from the Career Center at USC, as well as from my business writing class. I’m writing this post, along with Part 2 to share with you what I believe to be the most important aspects to focus on in order to make your resume. This post outlines what’s included in a resume and includes a sample resume, while Part 2 offers some tips on how to structure your resume and make it stand out.

You don’t have to follow a definite format or style for your resume, since it really depends on the position that you are applying for. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your resume needs to be able to articulate your skills and accomplishments and convince recruiters that you’re a qualified candidate for the job in 30 seconds or less.

Regardless of how you choose to present your resume, make sure that it’s consistent throughout and the overall layout is easy to read. The most common resume format for college students is the chronological resume, in which your most recent experience or accomplishment is listed first.

Sample resume

Source: Hue La

What to include in a resume?

  1. Your contact information
  2. Your contact information, including:
    (1) Your full name (with nickname in parenthesis if you wish)
    (2) Your address
    (3) Your phone number
    (4) Your e-mail address (use an e-mail that you check often)
    should be at the top of your resume. I personally prefer to center my name and put my address, phone number and email in one line to save space, but you can put them in separate lines. Make your name stand out by capitalizing, bolding, centering, or using bigger-sized font.

  3. Objective (Optional)
  4. Whether you choose to have an objective in your resume is optional. I’ve seen tons of resumes that have an objective, as well as others that don’t have one. For me, I prefer including a cover letter instead of an objective, since I can elaborate my experience and accomplishments in my cover letter and save space for my resume. If you decide to include an objective, remember to tailor it to the specific job that you’re applying to, as well as keeping it brief and concise (1-2 sentences only).

  5. Education
  6. You should list the school/s that you attend, your major/minor and your expected graduation date in chronological order in this section, with the most recent school and degree first. If you studied abroad or participated in exchange trips, do list them in this section as well, along with any degree that you’ve earned.

    If your GPA is 3.0 or above, and if you received any degrees, awards, honors or scholarships, go ahead and include them in this section. You may also wish to list relevant course work to highlight specific skills and knowledge. This is especially useful if you don’t have any related work experience yet but want to demonstrate specific knowledge in the area.

  7. Experience
  8. I perceive this to be the most important section in a resume because it highlights what you have accomplished and how are you qualified for the position that you’re applying to. I recommend using sub-headlines to separate your experience, such as full-time/part-time jobs, internships, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, community service, and research/academic projects etc. List your experience in chronological order, with your most recent experience first.

    Each experience should include:
    (1) Your job/project/leadership title
    (2) The company/organization’s name (you may include the abbreviation for the company/organization in parenthesis to save space)
    (3) The city and state of the company/organization
    (4) Date and duration of employment/involvement (I usually list the month and year for the start date and end date. E.g. September 2010 – May 2012. Use “present” for the end date if it’s an ongoing experience. E.g. March 2012 – Present.)
    (5) Descriptions of your responsibilities and accomplishments in bullet points

    Remember to keep your descriptions brief and concise: summarize your responsibilities and accomplishments in no more than 3 bullet points for each experience that you listed. Don’t include lengthy sentences in your resume, do that in your cover letter instead. I highly recommend using action verbs and statistics to emphasize your accomplishments, as well as specific key words that correspond to the skills and responsibilities listed in the description of the job that you’re applying to. You’ll be surprised how these seemingly little details can really strengthen your resume! More examples of action verbs and statistics can be found in Part 2.

  9. Additional information
  10. This is an optional section that lists your skills, interests/hobbies, and professional associations. If you have any language or computer skill, make sure to include them in your resume because these skills make you stand out as an applicant, especially if these skills are beneficial for the position that you’re applying to. Sometimes recruiters may want to see what your interests are besides academic and professional experiences, so list them down if you still have extra spaces in your resume.

    Something to keep in mind: Never list English as a language that you’re fluent in under the Skills section! I made this mistake before, and never included it again in any of my resumes. Recruiters expect you to have strong oral and written English skills. Plus your resume is already written in English, so there’s no point of restating that again. Instead, impress recruiters with any foreign language skill that you may have.

What not to include in a resume?

  1. Your high school information and experience
  2. If you’re applying as a freshman, you’ll need to include your high school information and experience because your just start college. However, as an upperclassman (sophomore, junior, or senior), don’t include your high school materials in your resume, unless you have done something extraordinary (e.g. founded a Fortune 500 company, received the Nobel Prize or won a national championship), thus it must be on there. Otherwise, focus on what you have done or are doing in your college years since recruiters are more interested in your current achievements in college.

  3. Your personal information and picture
  4. Don’t include personal information such as age, marital status, religion or political affiliation in your resume. Recruiters are also not allowed to ask you these personal questions during interviews unless you choose to tell them. Furthermore, companies don’t usually require your picture when you apply. However, this rule is different depending on where you live. In Vietnam for example, applicants must state their age and marital status, as well as attaching his/her picture in the application.

  5. References
  6. You should prepare a list of 3-4 references on a separate page and only send it in when recruiters ask for it. Make sure to use the same format as your resume and cover letter for your reference page. An important thing to keep in mind when deciding your references is that these people need to have worked with you before and know you well. Thus, they’re able to speak highly of your performance and provide a strong positive reason of why you’re qualified for the position that you’re applying to.

Continue with Part 2: Resume 101: How to have a stand out resume? (Part 2). Read it HERE.

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Hue La

About Hue La

Hey there, I'm Hue (pronounced “huay”, not “hue” like how you would normally say it in English). I'm a USC graduate and traveler with 6+ years of study abroad experience in the U.S. I founded Study Abroad Corner with the goals of providing helpful advice and building a social network for fellow study abroaders around the world.

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