How to create a professional resume

Creating a resume from scratch is not at the top of anyone’s list of favorite things to do – at least not typically. Thankfully, there are people out there who are here to help get this tedious, yet necessary, task accomplished.

James Finegan, director of Gannon University’s Career Development and Employment Services, said that his work allows him to assist a very broad audience. He leads at least 50 in-class workshops per year, and last year he worked on an estimated 550 resumes. From his perspective, there are a lot of things to consider when creating a professional resume.

“The main purpose of a resume is to get an interview,” Finegan said.

One aspect that Finegan stressed several times was not to use a resume template, because an employer sees a template as taking the easy way out. Instead, he offered guidelines as to how to create your own template.

According to Finegan, the margins should only be about an inch all the way around, in order to be more visually appealing, with a 12-point Times New Roman or Arial font. He said, however, that he has seen over 30 fonts for different resumes.

One of the more stressful parts of a resume is to know exactly what to include. For any resume, the first thing that should be incorporated is the person’s identifying information: name, address, phone number and email address.

Finegan said that the email address, as well as the voicemail message, should be pretty neutral. The next aspect that should be listed is the prospective employee’s education, followed closely by any experience in the related field, employment, activities and honors.

The length of a professional resume should never exceed two pages, according to Finegan. So in order to tailor a resume, a person should do his or her best to exclude any information that is not absolutely vital to a prospective employer. For instance, if someone volunteers at 14 different locations, he or she should list that he or she has volunteered for a totaled 30 hours, list a few of the places, and place the words “and others” at the end.

Finegan mentioned that most employers simply glance at a resume, so it is important to try to get as much information as possible onto one page without making it appear cramped.

Things that will help a resume stand out to a prospective employee include effects such as boldface, bullets, capitalization and underlining, but Finegan suggested staying away from italics. He also said using action words, as opposed to ‘is,” will also help to bring a resume to life.

A major importance lies in the experience that the resume shows. While internships and co-ops should be the first thing under the category, Finegan highlighted that other employment shows that the potential employee has a strong work ethic. This is especially true if the person was enrolled in school at the time.

Michael Piccirilli, a fifth-year occupational therapy major, received help creating a resume from Finegan firsthand.

“As fifth-year occupational therapy students, we are all getting ready to go out and look for jobs in our field,” Piccirilli said. “Mr. Finegan came into one of our classes and gave us a brief lecture on building our resume. He went over a lot of the do’s and don’ts of what should make up our resume.”

Piccirilli said that Finegan explained what should be included and made the examples specific to an occupational therapy resume.

For more information on how to make a professional resume better, stop by Career Development and Employment Services at the Student Success Center on the first floor of Palumbo for a book with all the information above and first-hand help.


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