Skip to content

Resume Builder

Writing a resume can be tricky at first, but with a few pointers and plenty of revising, you can create an impressive resume and personal statement that may land you the job of your dreams! Follow these general guidelines and tips, and if you're still feeling like you need a little more help, check out the links at the bottom of the page for other advice. Good luck!

See our handout and powerpoint presentation from the workshop entitled For Science Students: How to Write a Personal Statement


Personal Statements

General Guidelines and Tips

A personal statement is a chance to demonstrate your unique qualifications, writing ability, priorities…a chance to show who you are and why you are perfect for the position or deserving of the scholarship you are applying for. Whether it is grad school, a scholarship, an internship, or a job, your personal statement serves three purposes: 

  1. To show how well you can express your ideas in English – assessing your thinking and writing skills.
  2. To show how much thought you have put into the position you are applying for; how much you know and why you think that you are capable of doing work/research in this field; the thought you have put into your application will translate into your interest in this field or position.
  3. To give you a chance to present your intellectual accomplishments in a way other than academic records.

Return to top

Structure

Your personal statement should be long enough to express yourself without repetition, but try to keep it around a page in length. A general guide is to write in essay format with an introduction with a main argument, a body, and a conclusion. Here are some ideas for paragraph structure:

--Paragraph 1--

Begin with a good ‘hook’ to grab the reader’s attention, but try to avoid clichés. Once you have their attention, state the thesis and introducing the body of your personal statement. Keep this paragraph short – a few sentences will do. It should identify something about yourself and your interests that separates you from other candidates.

--Paragraph 2--

This is the start of the body of your P.S., and should provide evidence to support your argument . Show how your background and your academic preparation are ideal for the program. Call attention to relevant courses, research experience, special workshops , and overall intellectual development, that are related to the kind of application you are preparing.

--Paragraphs 3 & 4--

Here is where you get a chance to really present your professional goals. What could you do with this scholarship money that makes you stand out? Why do you want to do research with this professor or organization? Why did you choose this program for grad school? Why are you the perfect candidate for this opportunity and why is this opportunity equally perfect for you? Show that you know what you’re interested in, and you know that through this opportunity you will be on your way to achieving your goals.

--Paragraph 5--

In a few sentences, summarize your background and goals and reaffirm that this choice is right for you. Tie up your personal statement, refer back to the opening paragraph and re-state your main argument or thesis.

Return to top

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Personal Statement Writing

Do:

  • give your P.S. a thesis / main argument
  • brainstorm before you begin
  • use concrete examples to distinguish yourself from others
  • begin with an attention grabber - an anecdote or description, but avoid cliches
  • end with a conclusion that refers back to the opening statement and restates your thesis or main argument
  • revise at least three times!! Try reading it aloud to yourself
  • get an outside opinion...have someone else read it
  • be meticulous about spelling and grammar
  • write clearly and succintly

Don’t:

  • include information that doesn't follow your thesis or main argument
  • write in an autobiography, itinerary, or resume prose (e.g., "My interest in endangered lemurs began in elementary school.")
  • be afraid to start over
  • try to impress the readers with excessive vocabulary
  • rely solely on computer spell check
  • provide a collection of general statements and platitudes
  • give excuses for poor test scores or GPA's
  • provide false information
  • be afraid to ask a friend, family or faculty member to read your draft and critique it

Return to top

Resume Writing

Creating a Resume

A resume is a brief, concise document that presents, and effectively sells, your most relevant and positive credentials for employment, admission to graduate school, consideration for a scholarship or fellowship, or other professional purpose. Essentially, your resume is used as a marketing tool or advertisement to help you obtain an interview, and in the end, land you the position you are looking for.

Getting Started

A good way to begin is to determine your objective - the position to which you are applying. If you are applying for more than one position, you may need to modify your resume, depending on the skills and qualifications necessary for the position. Therefore, it is good to have a central resume with a compilation of your previous experience, education, references, etc., and use only the necessary information depending on the job.

Return to top

General Guidelines

As you are writing your resume, put yourself in the readers' shoes: what would you look for in a candidate? Your resume should include pertinent information, but should not be too detailed...save the details for the interview.

Some pointers:

  • Be clear and concise. Use bullet points, short sentences, and key phrases.
  • Keep it short, under two pages is a good guideline (using 12pt. font).
  • If applicable, try to use action words, such as %'s, $'s, and #'s. (For example, "I increased sales by 65%).
  • Highlight your strengths!
  • Match the needs of the hiring company. Pull out keywords from the position announcement and use them in your resume.
  • Get an outside opinion! Have a friend, professor, advisor, or critique service read your resume. Ask for feedback: you want as much input as possible.
  • Read it outloud...you may realize something just isn't quite right.
  • Revise, Revise, Revise! A good resume will be the product of several editing and revising sessions.
  • Don't rely solely on computer spell check, it doesn't catch everything.
  • Maintain a positive attitude throughout the resume.

Return to top

Structure

Your resume should contain five main topics: an objective, education, previous experience, additional skills and achievements, and additional documents .

I. Objective

At the beginning of your resume, you need to state an objective. The objective states the desired position, and will change with each new job application.

II. Education

In this section, let the employer know where you go to school, your major, graduation or anticipated graduation date, and if you think it will benefit you, include your G.P.A.

III. Experience

As a general guideline, you want to include three previous jobs you have held that relate to the position you are applying for. Highlight any significant achievements you had. If you do not have any career-related experience, it is o.k. to list other jobs that highlight other important skills that every employer is looking for, such as work ethic, customer service, initiative, etc. Include dates worked at each job.

IV. Additional Skills And Achievements

In this section, list any other skills that you possess that may help you land this position. Examples include computer skills, field skills, certifications, honors, activities, leadership skills, languages, etc.

V. Additional Documents

As far as what other additional documents you need to provide, each employer may be different. Some will require education documentation, such as a copy of your college transcripts. Often, you need to provide up to three references. Try to find a professor, advisor, former employer ...someone that knows you well and will give the employer a positive report on you. Some jobs will require letters of recommendation. A tip in getting these: Don't delay!! Professionals are very busy people, and they may not be as prompt as you need them to be. Give them plenty of notice, and tell them about the position you are applying for so that they know what strengths of yours they should highlight. A good letter of recommendation may be the step that takes you to the top of the employers' lists!!

Before you send in your resume, Be sure it is complete! Don't forget your cover letter and any additional supporting documents.

Return to top

View an_example of a resume that could use some work_, and learn some tips on how to improve!

Visit MyResumeOnline.org MISSING ICON fa-exernal-link to publish your resume online and have your own web page and look at more resume writing tips and examples.

Return to top

Still not quite ready to begin writing your resume or personal statement?

Here are a few helpful links that will give you additional pointers and walk you through the process: