Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Resume Writing
At UCLA Extension Career Services, we have helped hundreds of students to update their resumes to best showcase their skills and experience for a targeted job search. Below is a compilation of the most commonly asked questions that students ask, along with a brief answer that applies to most job seekers. We hope this helps serve as a quick reference for you. However, as there is no one size fits all approach to resume writing, UCLA Extension Certificate students are welcome to schedule an appointment for further resume assistance.
1. Can I use the same resume for different jobs?
- Unless you are applying to substantially different types of jobs, you do not need completely different resumes. However, it’s always a good idea to tailor your resume to match the requirements of each role. You can do this by reviewing the job description for keywords, skills, and qualifications and then adjusting your resume to focus on the information that is most relevant to the position you’re applying for, and if needed, removing details that are unrelated or unnecessary.
2. What type of format or design should I use for my resume?
- If you are applying to a large company, your resume is most likely to get pre-screened by an applicant tracking system (ATS) before getting reviewed by a recruiter. An ATS filters job applications by skills, education, years of experience, and keywords. To ensure your resume is ATS readable, use a simple resume format. Bolding, underlining, lines, borders, and color are all okay, but avoid using text boxes and headers/footers, as content in these areas are not readable. Unless it’s specified on the application to upload your resume as a PDF file, or you are directly sending an e-mail to a recruiter with your resume as an attachment, it’s best to stick to a Word document saved as a .doc file.What about resumes for creative professionals? If you are applying to jobs that are in design, most likely your portfolio will showcase your design skills, while your resume can focus more on your experience and technical skills needed for the job. You can also create two versions of your resume, a creative PDF resume and a plain Word doc. version to use depending on how you are submitting your application (online vs. emailed).
3. What should be included on a resume?
- The key pieces of information to include on your resume are your contact information (name, address, phone number, and e-mail), education, work experience, and skills. If you are a recent graduate and do not have a lot of professional experience, you can also include any leadership experience, volunteer work, relevant coursework, or projects, and highlight the responsibilities and achievements you have that are most relevant.
4. What should NOT be included on a resume?
- Leave out any personal data beyond your contact information. Do not include your date of birth, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, marital status, nationality, social security number, or driver’s license number. While many companies outside the U.S. require a photograph, most companies in the U.S. do not want you to include your picture in order to avoid any possible bias or discrimination. Do not include any unrelated hobbies and interests, salary history, or references.
5. How long does my resume have to be?
- The length of your resume can vary depending on your job, industry, and years of experience. For most job seekers, a resume should be 1-2 pages unless you have many years of relevant experience with unique, standout achievements. Keep in mind that recruiters spend only a few seconds on a resume and most attention will be given to the first page. If your current resume is more than one page and you want to make it more concise, try downsizing your fonts and margins and remove irrelevant details and outdated information. Remember, you do not have to list every task for every job you have had.
6. How should I list my address?
- You can list your address at the top of your resume with the rest of your personal information, such as your name, phone number, and e-mail. If you are an international student, make sure to use your local address and phone number. If you have privacy concerns, it is perfectly fine to just include the city, state, and zip code, without the street address and apartment/unit number.
7. Do I need to include an objective on my resume?
- It depends. While objective statements are now generally considered not necessary and out of fashion, if you are making a career change you can include an objective, or preferably, a professional summary statement to explain that you are in the process of making the switch and how your former career has provided you with the skills you need in the new field. If you choose to include it, make sure to keep it concise and targeted to the job you are applying to. It is okay to use bullet points to describe what type of career you’re seeking and what skills and experiences you have. Otherwise, a resume objective or professional summary is optional, and you can replace it with other career-related information.
8. What type of keywords should I use on my resume?
- As mentioned in tip #2, some larger companies may use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen and filter out resumes based on work experience, qualifications, and industry keywords. You can find keywords that are specific to the position or industry you’re applying for by reviewing job postings and company websites and incorporate them into your skills or past job descriptions. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing manager position, some of the possible keywords are: “marketing strategy,” “content development,” “manage social media platforms,” etc
9. What should I list first, education or experience?
- It depends on the type of information you want to highlight. Generally, if you are a recent graduate with limited professional experience, the Education section can go before the Work Experience section. Also, if you are switching careers and are taking academic courses, you can use your Education and Skills sections to present your new credentials. However, if you have many years of professional experience, you want to highlight your accomplishments and abilities by listing your work history first.
10. How should I write my job descriptions?
- First, include a clear heading such as “Work Experience” or “Relevant Experience.” You can then list your job title, the company name, company city and state (or country if outside the U.S.) and the dates for each position you held. To keep it concise and also to make it easy for recruiters to scan your resume, use bullet points to describe your most relevant experience, achievements, and skills in that position. If you have any quantifiable data, such as how many people were on the team you managed or how many clients you worked with, it’s always a good idea to use numbers. Use action verbs to start your bullet points and to avoid overusing the same words, check out this list of resume actions verbs from the muse.com. Keep your job descriptions in the past tense to describe your past responsibilities and accomplishments. The key here is to be consistent throughout the entire resume.
11. In which order do I need to list my work experience?
- The most common way to list your work experience is in reverse chronological order, from your most recent job to the oldest. If you have been working in the same field for some time and if you’re applying for a job that is similar to your current job, consider using this format. On the other hand, if you had many different types of jobs, or if you are making a transition to a new career field, a functional or combination resume format might be better for you. You can organize your skills into categories and list relevant jobs under each category. Read more about different types of resumes at thebalancecareers.com.
12. How far back can I go in my work experience?
- In general, you can go as far back as 10-15 years. If you have decades of professional experience, check the job posting to see how many years of expertise are required. Make sure to list relevant skills and experience to the position you are applying for. You can also group your early years of work together and list each company name if you held similar job titles. Another way to showcase your early work experience without elaborating on it is to include your accomplishments in the professional or qualifications summary at the top of your resume.
13. How do I explain employment gaps?
- It’s easy to feel discouraged and lost when you have long or multiple employment gaps. Instead, try to focus on what you have gained during your time off and how you’re still the right fit for the job. You can list the academic courses, professional training, or volunteer work you did while unemployed on your resume to show that you kept up with the industry and stayed active. If you had a medical issue or had to care for a family member, you do not have to provide specific details of the illness. Instead, you can briefly state that it has been managed and that you are excited to jump back into the workforce. Click here to read more about how to minimize the impact of unemployment on your job search.
14. Do I need to list references on my resume?
- Some employers might require references as part of the job application, but unless explicitly stated, you should not include your reference list directly on your resume. Also, do not put the sentence “references available upon request” on your resume. If you are asked to provide a list of contacts later in the hiring process, create a separate document and be sure to ask your references for their permission first and provide them with the details of the job you are applying to.
15. Do I need to include my GPA?
- Unless you are applying to certain occupations that require GPA as part of your job application, including your GPA on a resume is optional. Generally, if you are currently in school or a recent graduate, and have a high GPA (3.5 or above), you can include your GPA in the Education section with any academic honors and awards you have. On the other hand, if your GPA is 3.0 or below, or if you have 2-3 years of work experience, it’s better to leave out your GPA and focus on your professional accomplishments.
16. Any other resume tips?
- Remember that the purpose of a resume is to quickly showcase your qualifications for a job. There are several ways to present your information depending on the job/industry and your level of experience, so it’s important to know what your strengths are and what employers are looking for. If you are a job seeker or need help with your resume, please reach out to our Career Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer resume and cover letter review, career exploration, job search, and mock interview sessions to UCLA Extension students who are currently enrolled in a certificate program.