Writing Your First Resume: The Illinois Template

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If you haven’t yet written a resume, it’s time. You may not have needed a resume up to now, but having one ready makes it easy to apply for opportunities that arise.

A resume should be provisional, not set in stone. A good resume is always being revised to reflect both new things you do and the needs of the different employers that you send it to.

There is no one right way to write a resume. Different employers and industries have different expectations, and a well-chosen format can highlight your strengths. You can find many online templates to guide you.

This template is used by many programs here at the University of Illinois. Many employers who recruit on campus are familiar with this format, and it will help you get started.

A few general principles to observe:

  • Not all employers care about your GPA. If the job ad doesn’t specify a GPA cutoff, and your GPA isn’t high enough to be a positive selling point, there’s no need to include it.
  • Employers are more interested in your experience than in your honors and awards. These can generally be omitted. If academic achievement is a strength, include your GPA.
  • The template includes two default headers: “Experience” and “Leadership Development.” You can be more creative if it helps you demonstrate your fit for a particular position. Employers are more interested in what you’ve done than in arbitrary distinctions between paid employment and activities. So, for example, if you are applying for a job that asks for editing and writing experience, a “Editing Experience” section describing your unpaid involvement with Re:Search and Ninth Letter could take the place of “Experience,” putting your most relevant experience first. Under that, a “Customer Service Experience” section could take the place of “Leadership Development” and contain your food service jobs to convey your work ethic, ability to work with others, and reliability.
  • High school experience can continue to fill out your resume until your sophomore year, but after that it should disappear.
  • There’s no need to include any mention of references, unless the job ad asks for them, in which case you should attach a second page with them.
  • The bullet points that describe your work and activities can do a lot to make you an appealing candidate. They should describe your accomplishments — not your tasks. Every food service job involves wiping down tables, every organization requires attending meetings. Including these details on a resume is not helpful. What was YOUR unique contribution to the business or organization? What happened because YOU were doing it? Those are the things to focus on.
  • Quantify everything that can be quantified: specific numbers (how many articles/month did you write? how many people attended the fundraiser you planned? what was the budget you managed for your club?) bring your experience to life and demonstrate that you can produce results.
  • As you gain experience, you may find that not everything you’ve done needs to be on every resume you send out. Create a “resume master file” of all of your jobs, activities, and involvements, so that you can pick and choose when crafting the resume for a specific position.
  • Get advice! Have the Career Center review your resume, at a bare minimum, and show it to Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships for the Department of English (EB 200) as well. If you have an alumni mentor or other professional acquaintance, ask them to review it (it’s a great way to draw on your network). You WILL get conflicting advice — but that’s okay. Make your best judgment based on what you know about the people making suggestions and the reasons they give you.

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