Cornell University

In This Section:

Resume Purpose

To help you develop your resume's content and writing style for maximum effectiveness, it is important to understand how they are used. Employers use resumes to:

  • Screen applicants and determine whom to interview. Employers scan a resume quickly—in under 30 seconds—for evidence that a candidate will be of value to their organization. Your resume should be results-oriented and tailored to the employer's needs.
  • Develop interview questions. Statements on your resume often serve as the basis for interviews.
  • Judge an applicant's communication skills.
  • Remind them of a candidate's qualifications when hiring decisions are made. Employers want to know how your experiences have prepared you for the job. Understanding the specific job or career field requirements will allow you to highlight your related experience and personal attributes, distinguishing yourself from other candidates.  

To make your resume stand out among the hundreds they receive, address an employer's concerns about your ability to do the job. Even if you don't have relevant experience, employers recognize that many personal attributes are transferable to the workplace. For example, a leadership position in a student activity translates into leadership potential in an organization. Specific, concrete information describing your activities and accomplishments will illustrate these qualities:

  • Initiative and self-motivation
  • High energy level
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Leadership potential
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Critical thinking and reasoning abilities
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Willingness to assume responsibility
  • Capacity to work as team player
  • Skill in dealing with stress
  • Persistence

First, inventory your experiences and compile data about yourself. Think in terms of the following categories:

  • Academic background
  • Summer jobs
  • Internships
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Volunteer work

Second, analyze what you accomplished in each experience. Consider skills you developed and your level of involvement. Prioritize information and be selective, highlighting what is most significant and relevant about your background in relation to your career field and the needs of employers.

Third, write accomplishment-oriented statements introduced by action verbs. Convey through direct language that you are active and produce results, while targeting your achievements and skills to employers' needs.