Resume Building Q&A: All You Need to Know to Apply for Your Future Career!

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As the summer months approach, many Islander students are gearing up their job search. So, we sat down with Leslie Mills, Director of Career Services and Career Counselor for the College of Business, and Dr. Charles Etheridge, Professor of English who teaches resume building in his courses, to learn what you need to know to build the perfect resume and get a leg-up on the competition.

Resume Format

Q: What is the basic resume format?

Mills: A good place to start with a resume is one column with your name and contact info centered on the page, headers for each section, and dates aligned on the righthand side of the document. Bullet points should be used to describe your accomplishments and achievements for each experience you have on your resume.

Etheridge: I always say Google to identify good examples of resumes in the field that you want to go into, because there’s a lot of variation. So, as with any other writing, it’s a genre and there is a genre for writing law enforcement resumes, there’s a genre for writing visual designer resumes.

Q: What are some organizational tips?

Mills: Be consistent in your format. Use bold, ALL CAPS, and italicize to emphasize headers and other important information. Order on your resume should be relevant to your employer, what is the employer going to be most interested in seeing on your resume.

Etheridge: It should make sense visually on the page, and that means different headings, different indentions, bold or underlined or italics if you want to emphasize key information. You also want to have white space around it.

Q: How long should a resume be?

Mills: A resume should be one page in length.

Etheridge: Never over two pages. My professional resume is actually one page and that’s from a fairly long career. Again, you don’t want to have too much text, you want to highlight specific things.

Q: What are some common mistakes to avoid when building a resume?

Mills: Spelling and grammatical errors are huge mistakes. Have your resume proofread by several people to make sure any mistakes are caught.

Etheridge: Underselling yourself. Not making sure it looks good visually and not paying attention to the formatting.

Q: How often should you update your resume?

Mills: Each semester you should update your resume to include any new information. Once you graduate, I encourage people to visit their resumes at minimum once a year to ensure it is kept up to date.

Etheridge: You should update your resume if you have milestones, like you change jobs, if you get a degree, if you get an award, or if you write a grant that gets funded. Take a minute to go into your resume file and incorporate those milestones.

Q: Would you recommend having one general resume or creating customized ones for each job someone applies for?

Mills: Resumes should be customized for each position you are applying for. Having a base resume that you adjust and customize is best.

Etheridge: Having a generic resume is one of the biggest mistakes people make. You want to use key words from the specific job announcement, or ones that are mentioned at the top of the ad. More and more, the first reading any resume gets is by a machine and it scans for those keywords. And if you don’t hit enough of them, it won’t be read by a real person.

Q: What do you think about including professional social media accounts?

Mills: Professional social media accounts, such as LinkedIn, are okay to have on your resume. Just make sure they are professional accounts, have current information, and you are showing professional activity on those accounts.

Etheridge: I have a LinkedIn account and I have an account. I would encourage students to create professional accounts as well because I know that’s how some people get jobs.

Work Experience

Q: What do employers want to see on a resume?

Mills: Employers want to see what you accomplished and achieved in your former and current work positions. They also want to see some progression from past jobs and a well-rounded individual.

Etheridge: You need to honestly be who you are. They want to see what your skills are and they want to know that you’re a good match. If you really think you can do the job based on your experience and your education, your resume should reflect that. Again, always be ethical and always be honest.

Q: Should you include references on your resume if the job posting doesn’t ask for any? How should you find references and what kind of people make the best references?

Mills: You should have references available to include with your resume to employers, but the list of references will not go on your resume. You only have one page for your resume and you do not want to take up this space with references. You should ask individuals such as supervisors, faculty members, and other individuals you may interact with who can speak about your work ethic, professionalism, and skills. This could be past or current employers or supervisors, faculty members, and student organization advisors.

Etheridge: If the job posting doesn’t ask for any, I would still always have a line that says “references available upon request.” Sometimes the job wants the references up front, and sometimes they don’t want to check references until they’re seriously considering hiring you. I always have a current list of references. The best reference is someone who is familiar with your work, whether it is career related or not.

Q: How much detail should be placed into a ‘work experience’ section, and should we include things like hobbies, pictures, and our address?

Mills: You can include your address, but this is not required. A current phone number with a professional voicemail and a professional email should always be present.

Etheridge: You should include anything that demonstrates that you’ll be more than just a paycheck if you’re hired, and instead that you will be a valuable member of the team. For hobbies, if you’re an expert marksman and you’re applying to be a police officer, probably include that. If you’re applying to be a school teacher, probably not. It’s really only relevant to include a photo if you’re applying for an acting job or as a model, so most people should not include one. You should generally include your address so they know where to send things, but always make sure to include other forms of contact information.

Q: Should you include high school work experience and awards?

Mills: If you are a freshman, we do expect for some of your work experience, activities, and honors to be from high school. As you progress through the University, we will expect for high school to be pulled off your resume and only have University experiences, honors, and activities.

Etheridge: Not unless it is very relevant. For example, if you are about to graduate with your Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and you were an all-state tuba player in high school back at Moody, then yes, you should probably include that because it shows a continuous engagement with music from an early age.

Q: For students who may not have internship or work experience in the field they are applying in, what is some advice you can give?

Mills: Experiences on your resume can be pulled from many areas. You can list leadership roles in student organizations as experiences, volunteer work, as well as research and class projects. While it’s not required to include college course work, research projects, and presentations on your resume, it can be beneficial especially if it is experience related to your major or field of study.

Etheridge: Perhaps you’ve had some service-learning opportunities or experiential learning that will work. And remember that if you’re coming out of college, people are going to realize that if you just got your Bachelor of Science in Chemistry in May of 2019, you’re not going to have a long work history. So, for people just coming out of school, your major or important courses are part of your work experience. I would also include any kind of research projects you helped with, or times when you volunteered for the department.

Q: What traits and skills does a humanities student want to put on their resume? What about STEM or other students?

Mills: No matter the major, students gain many traits and skills through their coursework to build and utilize on their resume. Students acquire strong writing skills, public speaking abilities, and leadership experiences through writing assignments, presentations to classes, and leading group assignments. Additionally, they work with a team mentality utilizing critical thinking and problem-solving skills and have excellent attention to detail and research skills.

Etheridge: Humanities students should have strong oral communications skills, they should be able to write to specification, they should have good critical thinking and analytic skills. Hopefully they have some familiarity with visual rhetoric. They should be able to work in teams and they should be able to take information, digest it, and present it to others in a format that is useful. Basically, all the skills an employer wants other than technical skills, a humanities student should have and emphasize. STEM is a different world and often they want a very specific set of technical skills, which either you’ve got or you don’t. So if you’re a mechanical engineering student you really don’t want to apply as a surveyor because you’re not going to have that skillset.

Q: How many skills should you include?

Mills: There is not a magic number of skills you should include. I always encourage students to think about their computer or software skills, as well as their essential skills, such as communication, leadership, problem solving, and teamwork.

Etheridge: A lot of younger people, when they’re building their resumes, they tend to undersell themselves. A lot of first jobs were, for example, a cashier at Taco Bell, and many people think that doesn’t have any relevance to a professional job. But you did customer relationships, you probably managed inventory, you probably managed cash, you perhaps were responsible for opening and closing, and you supervised other people as well. You don’t want to lie or exaggerate, but you also don’t want to undersell. And chances are, if you worked at Taco Bell as a cashier and did a good job, then you did, in fact, develop some skills that would be relevant to other jobs that should be included on a resume.


For extra help building your perfect resume, visit the Career Center and set up an appointment with a career counselor. You can also email, or call 361.825.2628.