Make Your Fact Sheet
Resumes are an early step in any hiring process. Begin by creating a master resume to track your education, experience, and skills. When applying for a position with a specific employer, tailor the resume to your relevant qualifications.
Use this page to learn all about resumes.
Create Your Resume
A resume is effective when it is presented in a format that makes information easy to find, engaging to read, and trustworthy to believe. Serving as your "fact sheet" with the most relevant qualifications you offer a particular organization, an effective resume conveys information in an approach that is direct, specific, and concrete. Collectively, this style of writing is commonly referred to as business format.
Did You Know?
Most resumes are initially evaluated in less than 10 seconds.
Employers often receive many applications for any given position, which could range between 10 and 1,000 applications. Many studies show that employers use skimming techniques to quickly identify an initial group of applications to review more closely for an interview.
It is critical to make your resume easy to skim by providing a clear and consistent format throughout the document.
To achieve an effective format for your resume, we recommend that you follow these guidelines:
- Use a professional word processing software to build your document (e.g., Microsoft Word or Google Docs). Microsoft Word offers more advanced formatting features than Google Docs, which can be useful when you need to tailor your document.
- Set the page margins between 0.5"–1.0", applied consistently for all four margins on the page. Resumes with a lot of text benefit from small margins (i.e., 0.5") and resumes with less text benefit from large margins (i.e., 1.0").
- Choose a professional font (e.g., Garamond, Georgia, or Helvetica), and consider avoiding overly used fonts (e.g., Times New Roman, Arial, or Comic Sans).
- Use a font size between 10.5–12 points. It is acceptable to make headings larger in size, as long as these formatting decisions are applied consistently throughout the document. The size of your name should be about twice as large as the rest of the text (i.e., 21–24 points) to ensure that it stands out.
- Keep the design simple and clean, which typically means black text on a white background and no images or design elements. Unless you are using a creative resume format (for creative paths in Communications + Arts) or a federal resume format (for federal government career paths in Law + Government), most employers prefer this traditional resume format.
- Apply strategic formatting. Specifically, we recommend using bold to emphasize the most relevant type of information (e.g., your name, degrees, job titles, or organizations) consistently throughout the document. Underline and Italics are less frequently recommended.
You may find a template on Microsoft Word or Google Docs that is appealing to use, however, templates are difficult to manipulate when tailoring your resume to different positions. If you like how a template looks, we recommend that you recreate it on a blank document to have full control over your resume's format.
A resume is made up of multiple sections of information about you. Some sections are required for all resumes (e.g., Header, Education, and at least one type of Experience section), while other sections are optional and allow for more strategic tailoring (e.g., Honors, Activities, and Involvement). Overall, the sections on your resume should have a generally consistent structure throughout the document.
Most sections will list basic information about a past experience across one or two lines (e.g., your title, organization, location, and dates of involvement), followed by more details in bullet point format on the lines below. Bullet points are key to your resume's structure, as they are easier to skim and understand quickly than paragraphs of text. You can read more about this in our tips to Build Sections on your resume.
The structure of your resume should also be presented in a very specific order. Generally, sections should be sorted by relevance to the position you are applying for. Within each section, experiences should be sorted by recency, so that experiences with the most recent "end dates" are listed at the top and experiences with the most distant "end dates" are listed at the bottom. Employers typically prefer this order so that they can see how you have evolved over time.
Length is an important aspect to keep in mind when creating your resume. In application processes, recruiters and hiring managers usually receive many more applications than they can study thoroughly, leading to the emergence of specific recommendations for ideal resume length.
Here are our guidelines for the length of your resume:
- If you are a current undergraduate student or you graduated from your undergraduate degree in the last few years, the vast majority of employers prefer that your resume is exactly one page in length (no shorter or longer).
- If you are a current graduate student or you graduated from your undergraduate degree more than a few years ago, most employers accept a resume that is two or three pages in length.
- If you are applying to a graduate program or you are creating Undergrad CVs or Grad Student CVs, the length of your document is usually seen as unlimited.
While there are rare exceptions, these guidelines can be applied successfully to about 95% of student resumes at UCSB. In general, employers prefer to see your most relevant qualifications across a single page, to help them quickly evaluate your qualifications.