The exact structure of your resume will depend both on the position for which you are applying and on the content you include, but the sections described below are standard to nearly all formats. (Note that an academic Curriculum Vita is not the same thing as a resume and will be organized differently.)
Include your full name, street address, email address, and phone number in the heading of the résumé. Consider including both your campus and your home address so that employers can get in touch with you even if you leave Madison. Use your @wisc email address or a external address that includes your real name, not a nickname or novelty address.
Include a brief yet specific line about the kind of job you are looking for. “To find a job that uses my skills as a history major” is not specific and focused enough to be useful (and could suggest that you are desperate for any job); “to apply my communication skills in print and broadcast media” is more precise about what you want to do and where you want to do it. Keep the objective neutral as well; “To gain valuable experience at a world-famous company with excellent benefits” says more about your expectations than your career goals. The objective should be no more than two lines at the absolute most.
Note: Many online job guides will include a summary rather than an objective. Summaries are generally only relevant for managers or executives who already have considerable experience in the workforce and who can describe specific accomplishments without resorting to using jingoistic, qualitative claims like “proven self-starter with good work ethic.” In nearly all cases, undergraduates should use an objective rather than a summary.
In this section, list your university (University of Wisconsin-Madison), your degree, your major, and your expected date of graduation. Including your GPA is standard, but it is technically optional unless the job ad states a minimum requirement – in that case, you must include it. Consider using your major GPA if it is higher than your overall GPA; this is common and will not raise concerns with employers.
If you attended another school prior to UW (for example, if you transferred from another institution or if you took some time off before coming back to college), include that below UW and note any Associate’s Degrees or certifications. If you did not complete a degree, note instead the dates you attended and the area in which you did most of your coursework.
If you have taken upper-level courses in your major and/or completed a lengthy research project, you may wish to include that under your degree information. Do not list general education or introductory level courses, and be sure to use the course titles (The Making of the American Landscape) rather than the numbers (History 469) so employers can see the relevance of the course.
In this section, list the jobs you have held and the tasks/duties you completed. Include your employer’s name and address, the dates you were employed, and a bulleted list that highlights individual tasks you completed. Keep your lists parallel and your language neutral; that is, make sure each item in the list starts with an action verb in the same tense. Keep the bullets succinct and save detailed descriptions of your work for the letter, where you can draw more explicit connections to the job for which you are applying. Avoid subjective language about your performance (e.g. “provided excellent service”); your references will offer praise on your behalf if they see fit.
Typically the “Experience” section is ordered reverse chronologically, with the most recent position at the top. If you have held a position that is very similar to the one you are applying for but is not your most recent job, you may highlight that in its own section titled “Relevant Experience” (or a title that matches – “Museum Experience,” “Writing Experience”…). Title the remaining section “Other Experience” and order it reverse chronologically as usual.
In this section, note any basic skills or certifications you have that are relevant to the job’s responsibilities: working knowledge of computer applications, statistical software, and the like. If you speak a second language, include that as well, but note your level of proficiency – basic, conversational, proficient, fluent, or native speaker – rather than the number of semesters you studied it in college.
Listing your outside activities can help employers see that you are engaged in the college experience beyond your coursework. Include a selection of your UW and community organizations here, especially any in which you have held leadership positions or that can demonstrate social awareness. Your activities should not outweigh the other sections of your résumé, however; be sure you do not accidentally suggest that you spend all your time on clubs! List only those activities in which you are currently participating; by the time you are a junior in college, you should not have to look back to high school organizations to round out your accomplishments.
Sources differ on whether either references themselves or “references available upon request” is necessary on a résumé, but if you have room on your résumé or can put them on the back of the same page, including references can save an employer the time of contacting you, waiting for your response, and then contacting the reference. At the same time, omitting references means that the employer must contact you, which will give you an hint that you are under consideration for the position. Whichever you choose, be absolutely sure that you ask before giving someone’s name as a reference; this is common courtesy and it ensures that your supervisor or professor is prepared to give an honest assessment on your behalf.