Step 2: Tailor and Format

Informational Videos

Watch these and other videos on our informational videos page. Check back often for new uploaded content.


See the sample resume and CV section for examples and field-specific tips.

Now that you've completed Step 1 by collecting content to include in your resume or curriculum vitae (CV), it's time to start thinking about the format of your document and how to tailor it specifically to an employer and/or position. It's important to know your audience and the field you're applying to. If you are unclear about the differences between a resume and a CV, see the resume vs. CV page.

General Guidelines

  • Resumes are typically one page for students and recent graduates, or two pages if you have extensive work history. For master's and Ph.D. students and postdocs, you may have a three-page resume with academic accomplishments such as publications, presentations, awards and grants. Consider not including more than 10+ years of experience on your resume unless the experience is highly relevant. For info on CVs, see the CV section.
  • View resume samples and industry-specific tips to get started with tailoring and formatting. There are some alternative ideas for formatting sections within the resume that may help address specific concerns or offer options. There are many acceptable resume formats, so it is important to find one that fits your specific situation.
  • Proofread! No typos, spelling or grammatical errors. Don't rely on spell-check.
  • Tailor content to each job or application. This means you'll have multiple versions of your resume or CV, and you may end up featuring different skills or experiences based on what you're applying to.
  • List information in reverse chronological order, with most recent first.
  • Be selective about what you include and organize information logically.
  • Use consistent verb tense. If you choose to use present tense, be sure it's only used to describe currently held positions or activities.
  • Some job boards and employer sites ask you to upload a text version of your resume. For more information, see the text/online resume example.
  • Start with a blank Word or LaTex (used in the sciences) document. Templates are not recommended as they restrict formatting and can result in frustration when trying to organize multiple sections.
  • Initially, resumes receive about a 20 second glance, so make your resume layout is easy to read. Use plenty of white space (i.e., margins no smaller than .8). Bullet points are best used in describing experience. Include 10-12 point font, and your name in 14-20 point font.
  • Hyperlinks are being increasingly used. Be strategic when using hyperlinks and don’t include long urls. For example, "Developed ICC website content on resumes" is better than "Developed ICC website content on resumes, see:". However, embedded links will not work when a paper copy is being used.
  • Neither personal information (e.g., marital status, number and ages of children) or hobbies (e.g., yoga, hiking) are generally included in the U.S.A.
  • In some countries, the term "resume" and "curriculum vitae" or "CV" can be used to describe a range of documents. If you are unclear what is really being requested, ask for clarification.

Impactful Language

To create impactful content about your experiences, consider the information you collected during Step 1, your transferable skills and use strong action verbs to describe your accomplishments. Be succinct. Bullet points are frequently used in a resume for ease of reading by employers.

Quantify your experiences as often as possible in order to enrich your descriptions. Replace vague adjectives (e.g., very, many, some) with numbers (e.g., more than 200, up to 50, average of 10).

You can add qualifying descriptors for more detail. For example, rather than saying "instructed people", you might say "instructed senior citizens in physical therapy techniques using water aerobics".

Common Formats

There are many ways to effectively format a resume or CV, and often the format is dictated by your experiences and which skills you want to feature based on the position you're pursuing. Review the different formats below to decide which will work best for you. You can even combine formats. See the sample resume and CV section for examples.

Chronological Format
  • Most common format, most preferred by employers.
  • For each section, list your experiences in reverse chronological order by employer or organization.  Most recent first.
  • If you organize your experiences section of your resume into subcategories (e.g., Internship Experience, Teaching Experience, Research Experience, Leadership Experience), each subsection should be in reverse chronological order to feature those areas that make you a good "fit" for the position.
Combination Chronological/Functional Format
  • Useful if you have distinct skills sets, but no work, project or internship experience.
  • Also useful if you have gaps in your work history or are looking for a career field change.
  • Lists your experience organized into "function" or skill areas (e.g. Communication, Marketing, Sales, Event Planning, etc.)