A Resumé that Resonates

Photo by dotmatchbox; licensed via Creative Commons

Ah, the resumé, your work/life experience in 2 pages or less. There will be few documents you will spend more time on than your resumé. Many hours, sweat and yes, some tears may go into crafting the perfect summary of everything you know and are. But dry those tears, HOBY is here to help. Whether it’s your first time writing a resumé for an incredible internship opportunity, or you are looking to start a new job once you start college and need to update your old one, we will help you create an honest depiction of your best qualities and qualifications. We will cover the basics and show you some of the bells and whistles.

Plus, I have a special offer (for FREE-99!) for you at the end!

 Resumé Basics and Guidelines

  • Key Sections

There are 5.

  1. Your name and contact information – easy enough.
  2. Objective (Your major professional goal.)
    • This could be specific, i.e.: Objective: A Project Management position focusing on Program Development and Training. Or more general: To obtain a position that will enable me to use my strong organizational skills, award-winning educational background, and ability to work well with people. There is some disagreement on whether this section is needed at all. Use your own judgment, it will depend on what you are applying for, the applicant pool, and the hiring style of the company.
  3. Education
  4. Work Experience
  5. Skills

As a HOBY alumnus, you may want to add a Volunteer section. The position you are applying for and the breadth of your experience will determine the length of each of these sections.  Awards is another option, or add on, especially if you are applying for a position in which they are common, like copywriting, sales positions etc. I have awards won on my school’s speech team racked on to my education section. If you do not have anything to put in these sections, no need to put them on your resumé!

INCLUDE THAT YOU ARE A HOBY ALUMNUS. Whether in the education or volunteer section, HOBY experience communicates that you are dedicated, enthusiastic and a leader. Use the affiliation to your advantage. The HOBY network is vast. You never know who is on the receiving end of your resumé, could be another HOBY alumnus, parent, or supporter. 

  • Rules – Don’t Break These, Ever!
    • Don’t use the word “I” – We know your resumé is about you. Save the space.
    • Proper grammar and spelling – Don’t use slang! No wanna’s, gotta’s, or finna’s.
    • Should not exceed more than one page (or 2 pages total for front and back).
      • As you get more experience under your belt, this will be harder. If you have 20+ years of experience, it may serve you to show all your history in a given field and sometimes it’s better to only include the most recent positions. Usually, it’s best to stick with the experience that is relevant to what you are applying for.
    • Similar spacing and formatting to an academic essay ( size 10-12 font, spacing between sections, margins etc.)
    • A consistency of tenses and syntax – It doesn’t matter which you choose, as long as it is consistent throughout. For example, if you use a bulleted fragmented style of listing your responsibilities for each position, don’t start using complete sentences in paragraph form halfway through the resumé.
    • List everything in reverse chronological order (most recent first).
    • Do not lie or embellish anything on your resumé. Not only will you not have the necessary skills for the job, you will be discovered as a liar. Employers do not want to hire liars and frequently fire them.
  • Guidelines – Break with Care
    • Use a variety of active adjectives in descriptions that accurately portray your duties and major achievements.
    • Keep descriptions concise.
    • List only current or relevant work experience.
    • Do not undersell yourself.
      • Job titles can misrepresent your actual experience at a particular job. Some jobs don’t make use of all of your skills. List skills that you think you have- even if they weren’t required of the positions listed on your resumé. If you like writing and do it regularly for pleasure- it counts.

Design: Look at the Pretty Colors

First impressions start with your resumé. Employers are often looking at 100+ resumés for a given opening. I’ve heard stories of Craigslist postings that get 250+ responses in the first few hours of going live. Not surprisingly, standing out is a trendy topic that is often covered in advice columns and articles about resumés. We will not take exception here.

What makes a resumé stand out? Perhaps going to an Ivy League college, 3-5 years of relevant experience or 3 different pertinent internships would be helpful. In some cases that just isn’t the reality for many of us, and in others, we will be competing with many other equally qualified applicants. So, like a guy with a mohawk, sometimes you need to resort to other means of drawing attention. (Don’t give your resumé a mohawk.) Design is a tool that can be used to help communicate your personality, attention to detail and is a representation of the quality of your work.

An infinite configuration of layouts, formats, fonts, organization, and structure will have varying appeal to different employers. Greater emphasis on design can be expected for marketing and communications positions, and perhaps less so for engineering or financial positions. At the very least, you might as well enjoy looking at your own resumé since you will be doing it quite often taking care to keeping it uncluttered and readable.

Many hiring ‘experts’ advise staying away from color because they don’t photocopy well. I have only ever emailed my resumé to presumably be seen on a computer screen before ultimately being printed (usually in color). So my advice is to selectively ignore this old adage. There is nothing wrong with color- it is another way to show your personality and add to your professional narrative. If you are applying for a position in a creative field, it will likely give you an edge over other more plain resumés. Color communicates that you are bold, inventive, and playful. In a sea of black and gray, it pays to be purple.

Heed my warning; too much color will look juvenile. (Re: Lisa Frank, or the 80’s). I’m not going to say never, but be wary of bright colors. You’ll want to use more muted colors that don’t compete with the content of the resumé. I’m a big fan of dark teal and purple. Try navy blues, maroons, or sage green. Color placement is important as certain color fonts can be annoying to read. At most, have the position titles or the section headings in color. You can also create section dividers with color.

Creative Greys
For those that fear flamboyance, there are fun things you can do with grays and formatting. Below are some examples, including different organization and formatting choices.

Magic Templates
Here are some templates (pre-designed formats) that you can use to get started. They can be easily customized. The ones I am posting are for Microsoft Word. But if you use Pages, the templates already included in the program will do the job (heh, heh). (Go to File/new from templates- click resumés)

Template 1Template 2Template 3Template 4


Skills and #humblebrags

When asked what your strengths are in an interview, (and you will be asked) answering can feel like an out-of-body experience. Personal strengths are difficult, to be honest about with ourselves, let alone other people. It feels like bragging. Advice to be honest and direct about your skills and strengths and to ‘just be yourself,’ can come off as trite and unhelpful, but there is a truth buried in there.

Without sounding too much like Mr. Rogers, everyone has something that makes them who they are. Often it is something you practiced without meaning to. For me, it was leadership and communication. I joined the speech team in high school because my older sister was on the team. I hadn’t expected it to shape my formative years and make me who I am today. Competing taught me discipline, drive, and creativity. Coaching taught me patience, interpersonal communication and how to manage a group of young people. Team sports teach us important lessons, learning to play an instrument helps us develop valuable strengths. You just have to verbalize what they are for you. Even playing video games helps us to practice certain skills like perseverance, attention to detail and problem-solving. Perhaps don’t mention the origin of these traits… unless you’re applying for a position at a video game company.

It’s lookin’ sparse…
If you are worried that you do not have enough experience to fill the page, get some. Volunteer work is the best and quickest way to do this. The world is desperate for people that care and for your time. You will not find a nonprofit organization that doesn’t need your help. You can often find one that supports or is involved with something you care about. Everything from animal shelters to food banks, to children’s hospitals, after school programs, advocacy groups, to things like film festivals and Comic-con need volunteers.

 Who are you, really?
I believe it is important to include interests and hobbies. They help a potential employer build a more complete picture of who you are. On my resumé, my interests are listed are yoga, dogs, tea, movies, cooking and reading. Strategically, some peripheral skills of the position you are applying for that aren’t included in the original job description may get you a call for an interview. Suppose the boss brings his dog to the office and is hoping to have the new hire walk her for a half hour. (As an aside, when you are starting out, few tasks should be beneath you.) Employers are looking for people they want to work with as much as they are looking for people that are qualified.


Parting Words

It’s important to view your resumé as a tool to get something you want, and not a grown up homework assignment. If it becomes the latter, you’re not going to want to do it. Resumé writing and job searching have a knack for unearthing the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves. They shine a light on our perceived shortcomings and inequities- things we’d rather leave buried. Resumés by nature ask us to strip ourselves down to what we think will matter to other people. But I’m asking you to include what matters to you. If what you think is important about yourself isn’t important to your employer, chances are you won’t have been happy at that job. Don’t punish yourself for the things that you didn’t do, or haven’t done yet. Don’t be embarrassed by what you put on that paper. People are not born with experience. And as you will learn, a resumé is only one of many methods to help you achieve what you want.

I will read and give feedback for the first 10 people that send their resumé (after reading and following the advice above) to socialmedia (at) hoby.org.

Please, please, please take the time to spruce it up before sending it over so I won’t have to repeat myself. I highly encourage you to take advantage of this! Time allowing and depending on the response, I may choose to do more than 10- so send it in even if you feel you may have missed the boat. If you prefer to go it alone, I’ve collected some other resources for you below.




I will be writing a follow-up about cover letters. If you would like to be notified when that gets posted, sign up here: 

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