February 21, 2019

6 Steps to Creating a Triumphant Resume

Posted by AGU Career Center

Do you find job searching to be time consuming, frustrating, and possibly even disappointing? When you are competing against so many other applicants for one job opening, it’s best to be prepared so you can apply quickly and with the least amount of stress. It is your responsibility to quickly demonstrate that you are a match for the job qualifications, and the organization. It is the employer’s job to figure out your limitations. Don’t do their job for them.

Employers will likely receive hundreds of applications for any given job. Therefore, they use resumes as a tool to quickly screen candidates and eliminate those that don’t fit. Research shows that they spend no more than eight seconds before making the decision to keep or toss a resume. In that short amount of time, it is unlikely that a recruiter will make it past the top half of the front page, so you need to put your best stuff there! Catch their attention and give them a reason to read through the rest of your resume.

A resume is a marketing brief that communicates how your experiences and strengths demonstrate your fitness for a particular job. The quickest way to be rejected in a job search is to have a misdirected, or non-specific resume. You need to create a targeted resume for each job application. Your resume should only contain those experiences that demonstrate how you will address the needs expressed in your potential employer’s job listing. Any other experiences are superfluous.

Here are some tips and tricks to help create your resume and how to update it for each job that you apply.

Tip #1: Keep it Simple and Be Consistent
Your resume should not exceed two pages. (In fact, undergraduates usually only have one-page resumes and those of you with advanced degrees may require more space up to two pages). Keep it simple and intuitive. Be consistent and concise. Be error free from grammar and spelling mistakes. Use a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial at a size of 10 or 12 points. Your resume is not a diary and should not contain a reference to everything that you have ever done. Your resume is a tool used to highlight your best characteristics. According to Google, the definition of Best is “that which is the most excellent, outstanding, or desirable.” Merriam-Webster says, “a thing that is better than all the others.” Both definitions imply a singular entity.

Some of you have been working for a while and with age comes experience. Because of the richness of your professional lives, you will likely have trouble sticking to two pages, so call out your accomplishments that specifically address your potential employer’s needs and condense sections that do not apply. Force yourself to focus your relevant accomplishments into a two-page, targeted resume. If needed, you can highlight your other assets and experience during an interview.

Tip #2: Computers Can Eliminate You
Many organizations use computer programs and databases to manage the employee recruitment process. Even if you do not submit your application materials electronically, they are likely to be scanned into a computer system. In the process of digitizing your information, onboarding systems are used to simplify the comparison of applications and may even perform preliminary screenings of applications based on key words or other criteria.

Tip #3: Resume Sections
Your resume should have three main sections: Introduction, Background, and Supporting Information.

a. Heading
b. Job Objective (optional)
c. Highlights or Professional Summary

a. Education
b. Work Experience
c. Other Relevant Skills

a. Honors or Awards
b. Professional Affiliations or Volunteer experience
c. Publications, Patents, and Presentations
d. References (optional)

Tip #4: Introduction Description
• The Introduction contains the two most important pieces of information that a resume screener needs to know: how to contact you, and why you are a great fit. Make sure that you list your name, a reliable phone number with voicemail, and a professional email address; also include your LinkedIn profile if you have one. Since your resume may be up to two pages, consider using a header with your last name and contact information on both pages.

• A job objective is an essential tool for grabbing the recruiter’s attention so be sure to clarify your interests and demonstrate the alignment of your qualifications with the job. However, job objectives are tricky, because it is very hard to write a good one that will help you to get a job, and it is very easy to write a bad one that wastes valuable space and may work against you.

• The Highlights or Professional Summary section is used to summarize specific accomplishments that demonstrate your ability to solve your potential employer’s problems. Employers generally state the problems they want solved in the job description, especially the problems listed first. The only difference between a Highlights section and a Professional Summary is the format. Highlights are usually bullets or short statements and a Professional Summary contains the same information in narrative form. In either case, use the CAR Analogy to demonstrate your solution-oriented thinking.

The CAR Analogy

Context – why you acted: statement of the problem, setting and circumstances
Action – what you did to solve the problem or make the situation better
Result – the qualitative or quantitative benefits of your action

Tip #5: Background Description
• The Background Section is the most extensive part of your resume. It contains the records of your educational and professional achievements. Use reverse chronological order to list Education and Experience. The order of the sub-sections can vary, based on how long it has been since you graduated. In general, you should list your education before experience if you are within 5 years of your graduation date. If it has been longer, list your experience first, because it is most relevant. Resist creating a section for Other Skills. It will be better to embed relevant skills into the descriptions of your educational and experiential accomplishments.

Tip #6: Supporting Information Description
• The Supporting Information Section is used to list your honors/awards and professional affiliations. If you have room left, you may also include a subsection listing publications, patents and presentations, as well as a subsection for references (however, they can be provided later on request or listed on a separate document).

After finishing all these steps, you should have an effective 1-2-page resume! Remember to save it in PDF format and then review it in a PDF Viewer to ensure it looks clean and all spacing is correct.

For information or examples for each subsection, you can view AGU’s Application Packet. You can also contact AGU’s Talent Pool Team if you have any questions.


Sharon Rauch, Ed.D., Student and Career Services Coordinator and David E. Harwell, Ph.D., Director of Talent Pool, American Geophysical Union