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Résumé Tips

Where to Start

It is a good idea to start by assessing your strengths/skills, experiences, and professional goal(s), in relation to the desired qualifications of the position that you are seeking. Moreover, consider your audience as you build your résumé.

Be sure to create a specialized résumé for each job. It can be useful to prepare a résumé for your own use that includes all of your experiences; this can then be used to create your specialized résumés. Please refer to our "Helpful Résumé Building Materials" to help you evaluate and package your skill set.

Also, be mindful that the job search does not end or begin with the résumé but:

  • It should be polished - absolutely no grammatical/spelling errors.
  • Think of it as a "snap-shot" of your experiences - it does not have to include everything you've done.
  • Résumés should highlight outcomes rather than tasks. It is much more than a list of job duties.
  • Make sure to use terminology that is pertinent to your field of interest.

Résumé and Curricula Vitae

A curricula vitae is used by those seeking positions in academia. It is typically quite long, as it emphasizes one's experiences in teaching, research, grant awards, publications and presentations.

Accepted Formats

There are three formats to select from: chronological, functional, and combination. Each should have one-inch margins, 11 or 12-point font size, and an easy to read font type. It should be no more than 1-2 pages in length. Include at the top of the page your name, address, phone number, and email address. Think of this part as your own professional letterhead. Enlarge your name and add a bar across the page to separate your heading from the rest of the résumé. To keep the pages of your résumé together, on the upper right corner of page 2, place your last name and the page number.

Another option you have is to use your header on page 2, to make it your own professional letterhead. If your pages become separated, it may be possible that the employer would think page 2 is page 1 of your résumé, however, and think you left off information. Use your header on your cover letter, as well.

Chronological Format

A chronological format is the traditional format that most people think of when they imagine what a résumé looks like. It is designed in reverse chronological order, meaning you start with your most recent experiences and work your way back. For instance, you begin with your most recent job and end with your oldest job.

Typical headings include: Objective, Education, Professional Experience, Volunteer Experience, Research Experience, Professional Development, Professional Affiliations, and Awards and Honors. You do not need to use every heading; instead, fit the headings to your experiences. Under each heading, highlight your outcomes and accomplishments rather than listing your job description or duties. Please refer to our "Helpful Résumé Building Materials" for examples.

Combination Format

A combination format is the blending of the chronological and functional formats. It is optional to begin with an objective, and it always follows or begins with a "Professional Summary" which highlights in 1-2 sentences your skills/experiences in a broad sense. Then, like in a Functional résumé, you include skills headings. After that, you include a reverse chronological listing of your work history. This time, unlike the Functional résumé, you emphasize your accomplishments and main job functions, as you would in a chronological résumé. Please refer to our "Helpful Résumé Building Materials" for examples.

Choosing Your Résumé Format

The chronological format is usually best to use when you can demonstrate consistent employment in the social work profession. This shows the strengths of your social work experience. If you do not have official employment experience, you can use your internship experience(s) in the employment section. So, the chronological format is still an option available to you because your internship experience is just as significant as your work experience. Instead of titling it "Job Experience", you can either use "Profession Experience"or "Social Work Experience".

As a new graduate or someone who has changed to the social work profession, you may want to consider using the functional format instead. However, always have a chronological format prepared because the employer may ask for this format. The functional format is used to demonstrate specific skills, to de-emphasize a lack of employment in social work, extended periods of unemployment, or beginning the social work profession. Be mindful, though, that employers are aware that people use functional formats for these reasons. Prepare yourself to answer questions that the employer may ask about your qualifications or extended periods of unemployment.

On the other hand, people with a great deal of experience may also prefer to use the functional format because it can highlight the breadth and mastery of one's skills. The combination format is useful if you have strengths in both areas when you can demonstrate consistent social work employment and sought-after skills. It shows that you understand the qualifications for the position, as well as have the experience to back it up.

Should I use a template?

Typically, it is not useful to use a template because:

  1. It does not allow you flexibility with your headings and content (e.g. highlighting your diverse set of social work skills, which differ from traditional experiences and strengths)
  2. It usually wastes too much space on the page with large margins and line spacing.

It can also be helpful to review other résumés to get an idea of what you would like your résumé to include. Please refer to our résumé examples as a guide.

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