Resume writing | Action verbs | Objective, summary, or profileResume samples | Curriculum Vitae | References | Applicant tracking systems

Resume Writing Basics

When writing your resume you should focus on the transferable skills you used to complete your work. This is particularly helpful when your responsibilities are not directly related to your future career. Start your skill statement with an action verb, and tell the reader what you did and how you did it.  For example:

  • Maintained termination files of temporary employees in a database using attention to detail and accuracy
  • Utilized professionalism and excellent communication skills when interacting with customers on a daily basis
  • Employed problem solving and sound judgment resolving conflicts among 10-15 year old campers
  • Managed multiple projects simultaneously using time management and organization

View the resume template

Resume rubric

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Action Verbs and keywords

Action verbs

Action verbs describe your skills, accomplishments, and experiences. Review our action verbs and search online for words/phrases specific to your area of study and expertise. For example, “action verbs for mechanical engineering resumes.”


Keywords are specific words or phrases that job seekers use to search for jobs and employers use to find the right candidates. These are most easily found in the job description under the responsibilities, tasks, and recommended skills sections. Try the company mission statement or values on their website for additional ideas. You can also search online; for example, “keywords for nursing resumes.” Oftentimes, keywords include action verbs, technical skills (programs, software, language, equipment, etc.), and desired personal qualities.

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When to Use an Objective, Summary, or profile

These statements establish a professional identity and summarize key qualifications and accomplishments while informing the reader of position(s) being sought or career goals.  Some people do not use these at all, it is a personal choice. Do not use personal pronouns (I, me) and do not talk about your needs or desires, only what you have to offer the employer.


  • Objectives work best when you know the job title, you have minimal experience in their field (i.e. student or recent graduate), or you career goals are not obvious from your experience and education. Objective statements should be brief (2-3 lines), simple, and specific. A recruiter is interested in what you bring to the company.
  • Be specific and align with employer needs. State the job title if applying for a specific position. Identify what you can contribute (strengths, skills, areas of expertise).

"Enthusiastic management student seeking a summer internship with Target Stores. Offering strong communication and customer service skills to maintain satisfied and loyal store guests." 

"Creative and enthusiastic classroom leader seeks a 6-12 secondary English teaching position with Kalamazoo Public Schools. Skilled in inquiry-based learning and available for after school academic and athletic programming."


  • Summaries are used when you have a variety of experiences. Summaries highlight the most important experiences relevant to the position, giving visibility to key strengths and talents for a specific field or academic discipline. With a summary, customize the cover letter or email for a specific position.

"Four years of editing and writing experience for college and high school newspapers. Interned as an assistant account executive with copywriting responsibilities at local advertising agency. Sold advertising space, managed advertising sales, promotion, production, and circulation. Winner of the 2013 Western Michigan University Lawrence, Clara, and Evelyn E. Burke Journalism Scholarship."


  • Profiles are best used for experienced candidates and graduate students. Profiles are opening statements packed with skills, personal attributes, and often bullet several accomplishments and qualifications.

"Redesigned an outpatient clinic that resulted in a 15% increase in productivity. Led a project team to evaluate space utilization in a pharmacy that managed over 3,000 medications. Utilized data, focus groups, and process improvement teams to lead space utilization and process improvement initiatives with 12 food service employees."

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 Resume Samples

Arts and Sciences | Aviation | Education and Human Development | Engineering and Applied Sciences | Fine Arts | Health and Human Services

Arts and Sciences resume samples

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Aviation resume samples

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Education and Human Development resume samples

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Engineering and Applied Sciences resume samples

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Fine Arts resume samples

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Health and Human Services resume samples

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Have your resume reviewed

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

A curriculum vitae is most often used in an academic setting. Professionals who teach at the college level, conduct research, publish, and present are most likely to utilize a CV to chronicle their accomplishments over a career.  A CV is generally multiple pages, more detailed than a resume and may be required when applying for academic positions or graduate school. No two CVs look the same, here are some suggestions for inclusion.

  • Contact information: At the top of your CV, include your name and contact information. Outside of the US, many CVs include even more personal information, such as gender, date of birth, marital status, and even names of children.
  • Education: Include college and graduate study; school attended, dates of study, and degree received.
  • Honors and awards: Include dean's list standings, departmental awards, scholarships, fellowships, and membership in any honors associations.
  • Thesis/dissertation: Include your thesis or dissertation title. You may also include a brief sentence or two on your paper and/or the name of your advisor.
  • Research experience: List any research experience you have, including where you worked, when, and with whom. Include any publications resulting from your research.
  • Work experience: List relevant work experience; this may include non-academic work. List the employer, position, and dates of employment. Include a brief list of your duties and accomplishments.
  • Teaching experience: List any teaching positions you have held. Include the school, course name, and semester. You may also include any other relevant tutoring or group leadership experience.
  • Skills: List any relevant skills you have not yet mentioned. This may include language skills, computer skills, administrative skills, etc.
  • Publications and presentations: List any publications you have written, co-written, or contributed to. Include all necessary bibliographic information. You should also include any pieces you are currently working on. Include papers you presented at conferences and/or associations: list the name of the paper, the conference name and location, and the date.
  • Professional memberships: List any professional associations to which you belong. If you are a board member of the association, list your title.
  • Extracurricular activities: Include any volunteer or service work you have done, as well as any clubs or organizations to which you have belonged.
  • References: Include the name, title, and contact information for those people who have agreed to be a reference for you.

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Reference Lists

  • Plan ahead
  • Select three to five people who can provide support for your abilities, accomplishments, potential, and performance.  Possible references include past or present employers, faculty members, student organization advisors, and supervisors of volunteer or service learning experiences.
  • Always secure permission before including names as references.  Remember to send a note of thanks.
  • Provide each reference with a copy of your resume and some idea of your employment goals.
  • Include name, professional title, organization, complete address, phone number, and email.
  • References are usually contacted by telephone and need not write letters unless asked.
  • List references in alphabetical order by last name.  Repeat the same heading used on your resume, in the same font style, to present a uniform appearance throughout your application materials.
  • Consider adding a line identifying the reference’s relationship to you, e.g., “Relationship: former supervisor.”

Reference list example

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Applicant tracking systems

If you have applied for a job lately, you likely were directed to an employer’s website to complete an application online. The employer probably uses an applicant tracking system. These systems are designed to help the employer manage the employment process more efficiently.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), or candidate management systems, are used to post job openings on an employer’s website or job board, screen resumes, and generate interview requests to potential candidates by e-mail. Most employers that recruit at WMU use a type of applicant tracking system. It is common in business, engineering, government, healthcare and even education.

How to be successful with applicant tracking systems

  • Research of the company so you know the keywords, phrases and terms this organization uses.  Make sure your answers include the language of this organization.
  • Have all your documents ready so you can complete your application in one sitting.
  • Gather license numbers, dates of various certifications, and information on your references before you begin.
  • Give yourself enough time (and privacy) to read the questions carefully and twice in order to complete the fields correctly.
  • If given an area to add comments at the end of your application, do so.  Don’t leave it blank. 
  • Write down the date and time you completed the application, including the login information you used so you can return to your application or follow up with the employer.
  • If the organization requires you to complete the online system, you must follow the directions and complete the form to be considered for a job there.  You can, however, also contact the HR department or a representative of the company to ensure they know you have applied and that you are passionate about working there.

How to prepare your resume for an applicant tracking system

  • Don't include tables or graphics
  • You can submit a longer resume as the length of your resume doesn't matter in an applicant tracking system
  • Call your work experience "Work Experience" rather than "Professional Experience" or "Career Achievements"
  • Don't start your work experience with dates. Always start with your employer's name, your job title, followed by the dates.

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