Resumes

Make Your Fact Sheet
 

checkmark icon for get hired
 

Resumes are an early step in any hiring process. Begin by creating a master resume to track your accomplishments. When applying for a position with a specific employer, tailor the resume to your relevant qualifications.

Use this page to learn how to build a resume that succeeds in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and human reviews.

 Lightbulb icon  Looking to work on your resume? Check out VMock through our Document Review service. Need details about CVs? Review our tips on Undergraduate Student CVs or Graduate Student CVs.

Build Sections

Getting Started With Resume Sections

Because employers have been requesting resumes from job seekers for decades, a number of strategies have emerged to optimally present each section on your resume. These strategies are even more important in the modern era of recruitment with ATS.

A resume is made up of multiple sections of information about you. Some sections are required for all resumes, including the Header, Education, and Experience section(s). In order to be rated highly by most ATS, it is very important to use standard section titles for your Education section and Experience section(s), although these section titles can be preceded with descriptive words (e.g., Relevant Experience, Project Experience, Additional Experience). These sections should also list basic information about a past experience across one or two lines (i.e., full name of the organization, title of your position, location, and dates), followed by descriptive statements in bullet point format. Bullet points are key for these sections in your resume, as they are easier to skim and understand than paragraphs of text.

Other sections on your resume are considered optional and allow for more strategic tailoring for your qualifications, including the Objective, Skills, and a range of other potential sections. No matter which sections you choose to include, your resume should have a generally consistent look and feel throughout the document.

The following information reviews additional considerations for the sections that occur most commonly on a resume, presented in the order in which they typically occur. 

 

Header

A personalized Header is the first section on a resume. For ATS compliance, it is important that this information is not entered in the actual Header of your document (i.e., the space available in Microsoft Word through the View menu for Header and Footer), but rather, on the first line at the top of your document.

This section features key information about you and should always begin with your name as the largest and most visually emphasized text on the page. It should also always include your location (in the format of City, State), phone number, and email address. Your email address should appear professional and easy to read, thus we typically recommend your UCSB email address.

You can also make your contact information more engaging by adding the URL to your LinkedIn profile, a personal website, or a portfolio account. Similar to your email address, try to ensure that the URL appears professional and easy to read.

Here is an example of a header:

Tomás Teacher

Culver City, CA | (555) 333-5942 | tteacher@ucsb.edu | linkedin.com/in/tteacher

PRO TIP

If you include a link to an online profile or website, make sure that it represents your best efforts as an aspiring professional.

Objective (Optional)

A customized Objective provides a lens through which an employer views your resume. For this reason, you may find that this section receives mixed opinions about its effectiveness. Some experts recommend an Objective for its strategy of "priming" the reader with your most relevant qualifications, while other experts believe that an Objective provides no new value for the space it requires (see Vault's answer to Do You Need a Resume Objective? for details).

If you include an Objective, always target it toward the position for which you are applying and use it to synthesize your most relevant qualifications. Draw inspiration from keywords in the job description, and be concise so that every word makes an impact. One brief and tailored statement is more effective than a lengthy and broad statement.

Here is an example of an Objective:

Seeking the Tour Operations Internship at Warner Bros. Studio, utilizing film/media education and 1 year of customer service experience in hospitality.

PRO TIP

For career fairs, public resumes on your Handshake profile, or other general-purpose resumes, generalize your Objective or leave it off of your resume entirely.

Education

As a student of UCSB, you have earned the right to showcase your distinguished Education on your resume while your degree is in progress, and forever after. Because your Education is typically your primary focus at this point in your life, this section should be placed toward the top of your resume.

We recommend that you include your undergraduate degree and, if applicable, graduate degree. Prior studies at 2-year colleges are often seen as optional once you begin attending UCSB, and high school diplomas should be omitted.
 

How to List Education

For each educational institution that you include in this section, list the full name of the institution (e.g., "University of California, Santa Barbara"), degree (e.g., "Bachelor of Arts"), area of study (e.g., "Sociology"), and graduation date (e.g., "June 20xx"). 

In order to ensure that ATS process your graduation date correctly, month and year must always be provided (i.e., avoid phrases such as "Spring 20xx"), the month must be spelled entirely, abbreviated with 3 letters and a period, or written as 2 digits, and the year must be written as 4 digits. Additionally, the date should always be aligned on the right-hand side of the page. Note that it is best to omit your degree's start date, and you can choose to include or omit the phrase "Expected Graduation".

Many ATS have very particular methods of interpreting your degree information in this section. Specifically, we strongly recommend that you use a comma to separate your degree and area of study, to ensure that this information can be processed properly. For example, “Bachelor of Arts, Sociology” is the preferred format instead of “Bachelor of Arts in Sociology”. If you choose to abbreviate your degree, be sure to include periods as proper punctuation to ensure ATS compliance (i.e., “B.A.” is the preferred format instead of “BA”). As a best practice, we recommend that you write your degree in both the long form and the abbreviated form (in parentheses).

Here is one example of essential information for Education (one degree, one major):

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) | June 20xx
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Sociology

Here is another example of essential information for Education (one degree, two majors):

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) | June 20xx
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Sociology and History

Here is a third example of essential information for Education (two degrees, two majors):

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) | June 20xx
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Sociology
Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Chemistry

 

How to Describe Education

In addition to the essential information about your Education, you have the option to include bullet points with descriptive information, such as GPA, minors, honors, certificates, study abroad programs, or educational trainings. Depending on your specific educational accomplishments and their relevance to the position for which you are applying, it may be more strategic to include this information as a separate entry within the Education section, rather than as a bullet point beneath your degree (i.e., indicate a study abroad program or certificate as its own entry to draw attention to it).

You can also choose to showcase the knowledge you gained from relevant coursework by listing the general course title (not course code) of about three to six courses. If you would like to write details about individual courses, create a separate section titled Relevant Coursework and include a brief description for each (this can be a good strategy to incorporate keywords). 

Here is an example of descriptive information for education:

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) | June 20xx
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Sociology

  • GPA: 3.7
  • Minor: Professional Writing
  • Study Abroad: Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
  • Relevant Coursework: Language Use and Social Interaction, Climate Change Solutions, Global and International Studies (In Progress)

PRO TIP

Include your GPA if it is a strength within your qualifications. Most students choose to do this when their GPA is above 3.0, but it is a personal decision (unless required by a job description).

Note that your Cumulative GPA and your Major GPA are two separate calculations. If your major relates to the position you are applying to and your Major GPA is stronger than your Cumulative GPA, consider featuring this and clearly indicate it as "Major GPA." Login to GOLD to calculate this in a Major Progress Check.

Experience

On a resume, your Experience showcases all of the ways that you have been involved outside of the classroom. Experience can capture previous employment, internships, significant projects, research, athletics, involvement with community and campus organizations, and more. In most instances, it can include commitments that began as recently as this month and as long ago as four or five years in the past.
 

How to Name Experience

When creating sections for experience on your resume, proper naming is critical for ATS compliance. To ensure success, the term "Experience" must be included in the title of all sections that include any form of experience. If you omit this term when naming the section, ATS typically process this as "Other" information, which is often weighted as less important than "Experience" information.

While it is perfectly acceptable to have one section titled Experience on your resume, it is typically more strategic to organize your resume into multiple Experience sections, which emphasize themes tailored to the position for which you are applying.

Click below to see some example section titles to consider for your experience.

Consider this section if you have a collection of experiences that are all relevant to the position for which you are applying, but do not have a specific theme. Because these experiences are identified as relevant, it is strategic to elaborate through multiple descriptive statements.

Consider this section if you have specific experiences that address a theme evident in the position for which you are applying. For example, Marketing Experience would be a strategic section title if marketing is a theme within the job description. Because these experiences relate to a specific theme, it is strategic to elaborate through multiple descriptive statements.

Consider this section if you have served in leadership roles, whether it be through paid positions or unpaid roles with campus/community organizations. While any form of  Leadership Experience is always useful, it is desired in certain career paths more than others (e.g., Accounting and Business + Entrepreneurship).

Consider this section if you have experience through volunteer work, involvement in the community, or participation in a campus organization. While this type of experience is always useful, it is desired in certain career paths more than others (e.g., Education + Human Services).

Note that you can choose from a wide range of potential section titles to describe this information, as long as the title ends with the term "Experience". 

Consider this section if you have completed projects in academic, professional, or personal endeavors. While this type of experience is always useful, it is desired in certain career paths more than others (e.g., Engineering + Technology).

Note that this can also be a way to feature a significant project from a role that is listed in another experience section on your resume. For example, in a Project Experience section you could describe a large event that you planned during your role with a campus organization, whereas the basic aspects of your role could be described in a separate Volunteer Experience section.

When listing information within Project Experience, you can include a general title of the project instead of the title of your position, along with the full name of the organization, location, and dates

Consider this section if you have miscellaneous experience that is not directly relevant to the position for which you are applying. You may want to include only one to two descriptive statements for each entry to put less emphasis on this type of Experience, yet still "get credit" for your hard work. (ATS typically need at least one descriptive statement in order to recognize this information as Experience.)

We recommend that you emphasize transferable skills in these descriptive statements, in order to keep the information as relevant as possible to the position for which you are applying.

How to List Experience

When listing information within an Experience section, it is very important for ATS compliance that you write the full name of the organization (e.g., “Adams Resources & Energy, Inc.” instead of “Adams Resources & Energy"), title of your positionlocation (in the format of City, State or Remote), and dates (in the format of Month Year-Month Year, and to Present for current experience). 

In order to ensure that ATS process your dates correctly, months and years must always be provided for start dates and end dates (i.e., avoid phrases such as "Summer 20xx"), months must be spelled entirely, abbreviated with 3 letters and a period, or written as 2 digits, years must be written as 4 digits, and hyphens must not have a leading or trailing space. Additionally, dates should always be aligned on the right-hand side of the page.

Here are three example formats that optimize your dates for ATS:

September 20xx-December 20xx
Sep. 20xx-Dec. 20xx
09/20xx-12/20xx

Additionally, most employers prefer to see information sorted by recency within any Experience section on your resume, in the order of your most recent to least recent end dates.

Here is an example of essential information to include about Experience:

UCSB Recreation Center | April 20xx-Present
Intern, Santa Barbara, CA

 

How to Describe Experience

Once you have listed the essential information about your Experience, you are ready to elaborate with one to six descriptive statements in bullet point format.

Each statement should focus on an aspect of your Experience that is worth communicating to the position for which you are applying, thus, it should demonstrate transferable skills that you utilized in your past role. For instance, if you worked in food service, you probably learned various tactics to keep customers satisfied, communicate clearly with coworkers, and manage your time in a fast-paced environment. On the other hand, if you worked in sports recreation, you may have learned how to organize events, create shared experiences, and administer equipment within a budget.

To begin each descriptive statement, choose an action verb that represents the type of skill you utilized. Click below to begin exploring powerful action verbs, which you can supplement further by searching for synonyms.

Allocate, Analyze, Appraise, Assess, Balance, Budget, Calculate, Collect, Conserve, Critique, Deduct, Determine, Evaluate, Examine, Forecast, Interpret, Investigate, Manage, Map, Market, Measure, Negotiate, Organize, Plan, Project, Qualify, Quantify, Record, Secure, Survey, Yield

Advocate, Author, Campaign, Communicate, Compile, Compose, Correspond, Develop, Document, Edit, Educate, Formulate, Market, Mitigate, Present, Promote, Publicize, Record, Speak, Translate

Build, Conceptualize, Create, Demonstrate, Design, Develop, Direct, Establish, Implement, Initiate, Institute, Integrate, Perform, Resign, Shape, Transform

Advise, Assist, Clarify, Cooperate, Educate, Familiarize, Field, Guide, Help, Implement, Inform, Intercede, Relieve, Resolve, Support

Achieve, Amplify, Attain, Award, Chart, Complete, Delegate, Earn, Endure, Improve, Launch, Lead, Manage, Maximize, Monitor, Orchestrate, Organize, Outpace, Outperform, Oversee, Regulate, Showcase, Spearhead, Stimulate, Strengthen, Succeed, Surpass

Calculate, Configure, Decipher, Diagnose, Digitize, Engineer, Envision, Fabricate, Fabricate, Implement, Merge, Model, Modify, Overhaul, Program, Prototype, Repair, Resolve, Route, Secure, Solve, Test, Update, Upgrade

After you have identified an action verb to begin a descriptive statement, write the verb in the tense that matches the dates of the Experience, using past tense for past dates (e.g., "Assisted") and present tense for present dates (e.g., "Assist"), and avoiding the present participle tense (e.g., "Assisting").

Next, elaborate on the most important or relevant details for the specific role to which you are applying. Consider the following questions to brainstorm initial details, and then include the details that are most important or relevant:

  • What did I do? (i.e., task, assignment, or job duty)
  • How did I do it? (i.e., methods, tools, or processes) 
  • Who did I do it with? (i.e., collaborators, customers, or stakeholders)
  • Where did I do it? (i.e., work environment, context, or situation)
  • Why did I do it? (i.e., purpose, value, or impact)
     

As part of the details that you share, incorporate quantifiable numbers and results when possible (i.e., How much of it did I do?). By including meaningful statistics and outcomes of your efforts, your descriptive statements communicate the impact of your accomplishments. In order to catch the most attention, we recommend that you write all numbers on your resume as digits (e.g., 3, 17, 105). Also, make sure that your numbers are accurate and do not disclose confidential information from within the organization.

To optimize your resume for ATS, try to use the exact same keywords and phrases as what is found in the job description, without plagiarizing long phrases or entire sentences. You can identify terms that are consistently used in a job description by copying and pasting the text into an online tool that measures word and phrase frequency, such as the Text Analyzer from Online-Utility.org

Overall, the general structure of “Performed X to do Y resulting in Z” is a useful way to communicate most descriptive statements. For the most strategic use of space, write statements that are about the width of the page in length, and include more statements for Experience that is more relevant or recent. You can also sort the more relevant statements higher than the less relevant statements, for maximum strategy.

Here is an example of descriptive information to include about your Experience:

UCSB Recreation Center | April 20xx-Present
Intern, Santa Barbara, CA

  • Assist in the planning and organization of 10 intramural soccer teams
  • Coordinate the concurrent use of 5 soccer fields for 16-team tournament
  • Schedule referee staff for annual 3-week tournament
  • Negotiate for intramural Greek tournament in exchange for Greek sponsorship and staffing of Tiny Tots Tournament, resulting in cost reduction of $3,500

PRO TIP

When uploading to ATS, consider the total number of Experiences on your resume. If an ATS identifies several short-term Experiences (i.e., more than five experiences that are a few months in duration or less), it may score you negatively by interpreting you as a "job hopper." Even if your Experiences were intended to be short-term due to your college studies (e.g., summer jobs and internships), it can be more strategic to combine Experiences or omit less important Experiences.

Skills (Optional)

In addition to your Education and Experience, you likely have several Skills that are useful for the position to which you are applying. A targeted Skills section traditionally contains technical, language, or laboratory skill-related information, but it can also include any ability or area of knowledge that is relevant to the position. This section is optional, though it is typically advantageous in the following scenarios: 

  • If you are an undergraduate student pursuing a STEM career (e.g., Engineering + Technology and Science + Health)
  • If you are a graduate student pursuing any career (i.e., often presented as a Summary of Skills / Summary of Qualifications section at the top of the page)
  • If you are a student of any class level with several relevant qualifications
     

When this section is included on a resume, it should be strategically tailored to the job description and indicative of evidence-based information. Rarely should a Skills section include broad interpersonal aptitudes, because they are widely overused by applicants and lack concrete evidence. For instance, writing “Good Communication Skills” or "Effective Communicator" is typically too vague to leave an impression on an employer. In this instance, it might be more useful to address your communication abilities in a context related to the employer's unique needs for the position to which you are applying.

To include your most relevant Skills, review the job description for qualifications and keywords. Then, create a list of factual statements in bullet point format, incorporating specific, concrete, and measurable information about each skill. This can complement the descriptive statements within your experience section(s), and it may even strategically repeat a few keywords. 

As a gauge of your level, you can use the following categories to describe your Skills:

  1. "Basic Knowledge" or "Familiarity"
  2. "Proficient" or "Accomplished"
  3. "Advanced Knowledge" or "Expertise"
     

It is also worth noting that a Skills section can be formatted into multiple columns without issues, although ATS typically encounter issues with multiple columns in other sections. Ensure that each Skill is preceded by a bullet point, otherwise ATS may not parse your words correctly.

Here is an example of information to include about your Skills:

  • Leadership: Voted into leadership position by peers and entrusted to make decisions for residence hall floor.
  • Language: Fluent in Cantonese, spoken and written.
  • Communication: Training and tutoring experience in food service and educational settings. Consistently received positive evaluations from supervisors.
  • Technical: Proficient in Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel).

PRO TIP

If you have Skills that pertain to written or spoken language, consider using a general scaling of "Basic Knowledge," "Conversational," "Proficient," "Fluent," and "Bilingual" to rate your level of ability. If the position to which you are applying requires language abilities, consider using the Interagency Language Roundtable scaling system, the official rating system for language.

Other Sections (Optional)

There are several other sections that can be included on your resume, but they should be considered based on the qualifications that you offer as a candidate.

When considering these sections, it is important to review the job description for the position to which you are applying, so that you can tailor your resume strategically. Also, remember that ATS typically give the most weight to your Education section and Experience section(s), while treating all other sections as less important. 

Click below to explore a few other example sections that a resume can include, noting that the section titles can be adapted as needed.

Consider this section if you have completed several courses with subject matter that relates to the role for which you are applying, and you would like to elaborate on each course with a brief description. (As a more space efficient option, you can alternatively choose to omit the brief descriptions and only list course titles. See the Education section above on this page for details.)

If you include this section, write the general course title (not course code) of about three to six courses. Indicate each course on one line, followed by a brief description of the course with relevant keywords. For courses in which you are currently enrolled, include the phrase "In Progress" for clarity.

Consider this section if you have several achievements that you would like to list together in one section, instead of listing them within the Education or Experience sections to which they pertained.

If you include this section, write the title of your achievement, the organization that honored you, and the date it was received (in the format of Month Year). Optionally, you can include a brief description of each honor, similar to a Relevant Coursework section.

Consider this section if you have several programs that you would like to list together in one section, instead of listing them within an Education or Experience section. Certifications are more common in certain fields and less common in others, so it is useful to speak with professionals in your field to get a sense of the importance of highlighting these types of qualifications.

If you include this section, write the title of your program, the organization that provided it, and the date it was completed or will be completed (in the format of Month Year).

Consider this section only when you have been advised to do so by a specific employer or hiring manager. In most cases, information about how you spend your personal time is not considered to be relevant enough to include on a resume and inform hiring decisions. 

In certain occasions, including this information can be advantageous if you select specific interests that relate to the role to which you are applying (e.g., if you are applying to a job in finance and you read the Wall Street Journal daily). If you would like to take this calculated risk, it may give an employer a sense of your personality to connect over a shared interest, but be very selective about what you share.

References (Separate Document)

Though it was common for References and Reference Statements (i.e., "References available upon request") to be traditionally included on resumes for several decades, modern-day resumes omit this information unless specifically requested in an application.

Employers often ask for References at some point during a hiring process, but it is typically not necessary to use valuable resume space for this information. Instead, be ready with a list of two to four strong References on a separate document. This document should have the same Header as your resume, followed by each reference's full name, current position, current employer, and preferred contact information. It is also useful to include a sentence about your relationship to clarify how they know you.

No matter who you choose for your references, be sure to contact your References in advance to ask if they would be willing to provide a positive Reference for you. It is also helpful to offer them your updated resume and any relevant information about the position(s) to which you are applying.

Here is an example of information to include about a Reference on a separate document:

Jonathan Sanchez
Regional Manager for Central Coast, Starbucks
Phone: (555) 555-5555
Email: jon.sanchez@email.com
Relationship: Direct supervisor from 20xx-20xx

PRO TIP

Having strong References is key to your career success. Build relationships early and often with professors, TAs, supervisors, and other people in your network. Any of these individuals can provide strong References, but your friends and family cannot.

icon of lightning bolt  Take Action: Where to Go From Here

Suggested Steps for Success

 

icon of document upload

icon of horizontal line

SUBMIT DOCUMENT REVIEW

See Details >>

VIEW VIRTUAL WORKSHOP

See Details >>

 icon of an events calendar

icon of horizontal line

ATTEND AN EVENT

See Details >>

icon of arrow facing to the right

icon of horizontal line

CONTINUE TO COVER LETTER

See Details >>

Book navigation