Resume Guide

Emerson College Resume Guide

There is a lot of information out there about resumes, and it’s difficult to know who to trust. This guide will help you make the many decisions to make a great resume when applying to work at Emerson College. A great resume not only demonstrates your professional experience and skills, but it also can show your professionalism, attention to detail, and even your design skills.

For most applicants and most positions, a resume should be able to fit on one side of a single page. Only use a second page if you have a great deal of experience and the position to which you’re applying requires that depth of experience.

What Software to Use

  • Microsoft Word and other word processors such as OpenOffice Writer and Apple Pages are perfectly well-suited for creating a resume. If you’d like to show off some design skills for a position that might value that, design software such as Adobe Indesign or Illustrator will give additional flexibility, but are, of course, more complicated to use.

  • There are many websites that allow you to create a complete resume using an online template. Some applicants may find these online resume builders useful, but Emerson College prefers you not use them to create your resume. Oftentimes managers will have seen the template you’re using in a previous resume, and will know you did not build it yourself. Building it yourself shows the hiring manager that you have at least a basic understanding of Microsoft Word or other software packages that may be useful for the position. The online builders also will have less flexibility to override the templates, so it may be tricky to customize the resume for each application.

  • A resume can also be built in Google Sheets, although keep in mind that Sheets doesn’t have the fine controls you will need to create a unique and attractive resume. If this is the only word processing app you have access to though, by all means take advantage of it.

Which Resume Design to Use

  • There are two common formats for a resume: one-column and two-column.

    • The one-column format is the more traditional of the two. Everything is listed out in one wide column down the page. Name at the top, then contact info, education, and your professional experience. This format is simpler to create, but also tends to create a lot of wasted space. It is still preferred for academic CVs, where much more information needs to be displayed than on a professional resume.
    • The two-column format is the more “modern” of the two. It is more visually attractive and allows for more information to be displayed on the page. The large column lists all your work experience items, while the smaller column contains your name, contact information, education, skills, and any other items that don’t fit with professional experience, but demonstrate qualifications for the position. Design software is very adept at producing this kind of resume, but word processors can also accomplish it using a “columns” or “tables” feature.

  • The decision for format is up to the applicant, and rarely will affect the hiring decision, except in the case of positions that incorporate a great deal of visual-design responsibilities. Some industries and hiring managers do still prefer the traditional one-column format though, and if applying to multiple positions or multiple employers, it’s helpful to have both styles on hand. If you have less experience with word processing or design software, the one-column may be the easier style to produce. Regardless, the contents of the resume are far more important than the design! So choose one or the other and make it the best it can be.

Content of Your Resume

Basic information

  • Your name: It should be big, but not too big, or it will look ostentatious.
  • Contact info: Address, daytime phone number, and email.
  • Education: Schools, areas of study, and graduation dates
  • Social media: A LinkedIn address is useful. Other social media (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) should only be included if relevant to the position.
  • Photos: Do not include a headshot on your resume.

Professional experience

  • There are two main ways to list professional experience items: “Reverse chronological” and by “most relevant.”
    • Reverse chronological is best if you have less experience, or if you’ve only worked for a few employers. It is simple and easy to understand for the hiring manager, and should show a steady professional path.
    • If you have worked for many different employers, or in multiple industries doing very different work, it will be more useful to the hiring manager to see the experiences that are most relevant to the position. List relevant experience in reverse chronological order, and be sure to create a header for this section so the hiring manager knows this is relevant experience only. You might use a header such as “Higher Education Experience” or “Administrative Experience” or “Facilities Maintenance Experience.” (Note: this format may create “holes” in your resume: periods of time that are not listed. Be ready to answer what you were doing in that time!)
    • Another good idea is to create two sections for professional experience: one for the relevant experience, and one for additional experience. In this way you feature the most relevant work at the top of your professional experience list, but you still capture some of the other work you’ve done, which might be more relevant than you expect. For example, perhaps you worked in an ice cream shop for a few years, which doesn’t seem applicable in an office environment, but the hiring manager might be interested in someone with customer service experience, so it’s worth including if there’s room for it.
    • Individual professional experience items should show the following at a minimum, preferably in this order:

      • Official job title or role

      • Employer (company name, institution, organization, or individual)

      • Location (city and state, or country, if not obvious by the employer’s name)

      • Dates of employment (month and year is detail enough)

      • Bulleted list of responsibilities and projects

    • Other items to list under professional experience

      • If you have ever been self-employed or run a small business, make sure to include it! Even a modest business may demonstrate a variety of skills, and show that you are self-motivated and capable of managing yourself.

      • If you’ve worked as a volunteer for a charitable organization or political campaign, and feel the work is relevant, include that as well. This also may show you as a well-rounded and motivated person.

Listing your Responsibilities, Roles, and Projects

  • Within each professional experience item should be a bulleted list (managers love bulleted lists) of individual responsibilities you performed in that position, or specific projects you worked on. Choose three or four of the most important responsibilities from that role, or choose one or two projects you were involved with.  If you worked in the role for more than five years, you might include five or six bullet points.

  • It’s best to start each bullet point with an action verb. It shows that you were active in the role. Verbs like led, developed, wrote, researched, assisted, built, created, trained, managed, maintained should lead off each bullet point.

  • Keep each bullet point as short as you can, to improve readability. No long sentences, please! And no aggrandizing or commentary. Keep it brief and direct.

  • Use real numbers and be specific. Real numbers show the scale of your work, and stand out.

    • Instead of saying “Trained employees,” say “Trained seventeen employees on inventory control software.”

    • Instead of saying “Managed department budget,” say “Managed $20k operations fund budget.”

    • Instead of saying “Assisted banquet operations,” say “Assisted logistical support and itinerary for banquet with over 200 guests.”

  • Do not list every responsibility of the job! Choose the responsibilities or projects you are most proud of, or which seem most relevant to the position you are applying to. Projects outside your normal job responsibilities, even small ones, can show individual initiative and leadership.

Other Things to Include:

  • A skills list can be placed almost anywhere on your resume. You can be liberal here with the types of skills you include, but keep each point short. Languages spoken, customer service, writing, etc.; this is a good space to list your “soft” skills.

  • Because so many of us use so many types of software these days, it’s usually useful to create a separate section of software knowledge, though these items can also be a part of your “skills” list. Be careful, though, in listing software skills. Don’t claim to be an “expert” unless you’re sure you are an expert.

  • Depending on the position and your background, you might also create a small section for volunteer experience, creative experience, or something similar.

  • Don’t be afraid to share a few of your hobbies or interests, which could go under “skills” or could be their own section. It may turn out the hiring manager also loves ping-pong, which will give you something casual to connect on during an interview. If nothing else, it shows a little of your personality.

Design Elements

  • There are no rules about the various design elements of a resume. Whether you use slashes or dashes or extra space or different bullet point shapes, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that whatever you use, use it consistently. Don’t use dashes as separators in one section and slashes in the next. Create a visual “grammar” for the resume, and stick to it.

  • Spacing: Design software and word processors give you many ways to control spacing, and you should take advantage of them. Running each line of text into the next is difficult to read and feels less professional. Make sure each section and each professional experience item is set off a little from the others so it feels like a unit by itself.

  • Color is a nice way to dress up your resume. It’s a handy way to set off header text or the name of your employers. However, use subtle colors, not bright ones, and stick to one color, in addition to the black or gray text, to keep things simple and professional. Color should simply be used as an accent, not as a way to make your resume flashier. Also keep in mind that many hiring managers will be printing your resume for review, and most office printers print in black ink only. So make sure your resume looks good when printed in grayscale, too!

Clean it Up!

  • Attention to detail is important in almost every position you can apply for. Your resume is a great way to showcase your own attention to detail. A resume that is free of spelling errors, that is grammatically clean, and that is consistently designed, will make you seem more professional and attentive than a resume with spelling errors, grammar problems, and messy design. And don’t forget punctuation! Check all your periods and commas. There is no hard rule on use of punctuation in resumes. What matters is that you are consistent. Don’t let one tiny period out of place make you look bad!

  • Once your resume is finished, run it through a spell check and read every line and every word and check every punctuation mark like you were a copy editor for the New York Times. Don’t just skim your resume to find errors, set some time aside and hunt down the errors, because everyone makes them and you will find them.


  • Just because you’ve finished preparing your resume, it doesn’t mean it is made of stone. It can, and should, be adjusted for every position you apply for. This does create more work for you, but to maximize your chances of being selected for an interview, you want to match your resume to the job description as best you can. Great applicants do this every time they apply.

    • Change what you feature in the “relevant experience” section, if you created one, to match the position. If you have experience that matches the position well, even if it’s older experience, it might be best to feature that at the top of the list.

    • Alter the items or language in your bulleted lists of responsibilities to match the job description. Read the job description carefully and look for specific responsibilities and projects that you feel you have the best experience in. You can then use exacting language from the job description to show off that you have performed that task or worked on that kind of project before. You might also adjust the language in bullet points you already have to more closely resemble the language in the job description. A hiring manager skimming your resume quickly is more likely to see those items if the language closely matches the job description.

    • If applying to multiple positions, you may find it helpful to keep a few different resumes handy, which feature you in slightly different ways, so you can more quickly customize your resume to each position without having to make radical changes.


All hiring managers are able to read Word doc files, but it can be a good idea, once your resume is finished, customized, and proofread, to save it as a PDF when you’re ready to submit it. Most word processors and design software are able to save as PDF. PDFs will ensure the hiring manager sees your resume exactly as it was intended. However, please follow the guidelines in the job description as some managers may prefer one format over another.

Helpful Links

The information we've shared above is what Emerson College recommends, but the video "How to Write a Resume with Indeed" could be helpful and relevant in tandem with our recommendations above.


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