As a graduate student, your time in high school is no longer relevant, and your time as an undergraduate student is becoming less relevant.

  • If you went straight from undergrad to your master’s here at Emerson: Frame your school project experience as professional experience, while being clear it was through school. Use the STAR Method to help write about the projects. See STAR method information in the Interview Tips section.
  • If you have professional experience between undergraduate and graduate school: Only include undergraduate experience when it is relevant to the skills required for the job you’re seeking (leadership, organizational, detail-oriented skills, etc). If you are many years out of undergrad, only include the college/university, location, and major/minor. 

Highlight accomplishments and achievements: A great resume focuses on accomplishments rather than responsibilities. Tell the employer only what they need to know to want to meet you. This does not have to be everything about you—it’s merely the highlight reel to showcase you’re a well-rounded ideal candidate for the job. Highlight your achievements, experiences, projects, and past positions to showcase your strengths and that you’re an ideal candidate for the job.

Pay attention to details: Organize it in a way that is clear, easy to read, and quickly shows how your skills match their needs. This is directly related to the format of your resume.

Remember your audience: Different industries have preferred resume formats. Do some research before you begin writing to customize your resume to the job. For more info on how to format your resume, don’t forget to read the “Beat the Applicant Tracking (ATS)” section of this resource.

Recent studies show employers will scan your resume in approximately 5–15 seconds. With limited time, your job is to show them efficiently how you are qualified and why you should be interviewed.

Career Changers: Optional Summary Statement

For career changers, you may want to include a short statement at the top of your resume that summarizes how your experience and skills translate to a new industry or different type of role. This is an opportunity to summarize your skills and is not a regurgitation of your resume.

Tell Your Professional Story Through Your Accomplishments

This is your first introduction to a potential employer, so you must demonstrate how your skills and experience make you an excellent candidate. Show your duties and accomplishments, and give enough details of what you’ve done so the reader can relate to and understand your experience. Using numbers and names can help give a sense of the project's scope and what actions you did to help the project succeed.

From The Job Closer: Time-Saving Techniques for Acing Resumes, Interviews, Negotiations, and More by Steve Dalton:

Starter Resume

  • Formatting: Error-Free
  • Bullet Source: Job Description
  • Bullets describe your: Responsibilities
  • Results are: Not addressed

Good Resume

  • Formatting: Error-Free
  • Bullet Source: Annual review
  • Bullets describe your: Major projects
  • Results are: Provided with quantitative

Great Resume

  • Formatting: Error-Free
  • Bullet Source: “Greatest Hits”
  • Bullets describe your: Impact (and root causes, if any)
  • Results are: Always provided

Great resumes improve on starter resumes by clarifying why each bullet is impressive.

Starter: Responsible for refrigerated biscuit marketing budget of $400 million.
Good: Analyzed advertising channels to optimally allocate a $400 million marketing budget.
Great: Optimized $400 million marketing budget by analyzing historical returns and increasing budget to highest-return channel (newspaper inserts), increasing profits by 22%.

Beat the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) helps employers streamline the hiring process for prospective employees. Employers create tailored job postings within the ATS, emphasizing relevant skills and experiences for graduate-level positions. The ATS allows employers to screen and filter candidates based on academic achievements, research experience, and specialized skills.

In addition to understanding how employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), graduate students can take steps to enhance their resumes for better visibility within the system. Here are some tips:

  1. Use Relevant Keywords: Research the job requirements and incorporate relevant keywords and phrases throughout your resume. The ATS relies on these keywords to identify and match qualified candidates.
  2. Format for ATS Compatibility: Use a clean and simple resume format with standard fonts and headings to ensure the ATS can accurately parse and extract information. Avoid using images, tables, or complex formatting that may confuse the system.
  3. Highlight Skills and Achievements: Clearly articulate your skills, accomplishments, and relevant experiences using bullet points and concise statements. Quantify your achievements when possible to demonstrate the impact you've made.
  4. Include Relevant Educational Details: Highlight your educational background, research projects, publications, presentations, and any specialized training or certifications that align with the desired position. Ensure these details are prominent and easily identifiable by the ATS.
  5. Proofread and Customize: Avoid errors or inconsistencies in your resume. Tailor your resume for each application, aligning it with the specific job requirements and using the language used in the job posting.
  6. Submit Compatible File Formats: When submitting your resume, follow the specified guidelines for file formats. PDF is usually the safest choice, as it maintains formatting across different systems. Do not use .jpg or other picture documents.

Master’s FAQ

Q: I started my master's program right after undergrad so I don’t have much experience outside of school. How do I fill up a one-page resume?

A: This is an opportunity to include relevant coursework and projects you completed in school. What you do during your education are important, too! Also, don’t forget to include internships, personal projects, and research.

Q: I am a career changer and don’t have much relevant experience in my resume. How can I update my resume to reflect the job I want?

A: Think about the “soft skills” that are transferable to any job or industry. Did you use problem-solving skills, leadership, or communication skills in previous roles? We bet you did, so reframe your experience to reflect those transferable skills.

Q: How can I trim my resume down to one page when it’s just over?

A: Time to be strategic. Highlight the most relevant responsibilities and jobs where you’ve used skills (i.e., time management, project management, communication, etc). Maybe reformat a little bit or delete some technical skills not relevant to the role. 

Q: Should I add my hobbies or interests?

A: As a master’s student, we would advise against adding your interests or hobbies unless it’s relevant to the role in which you’re applying.

Q: There is a gap in my resume; how do I show I wasn’t being lazy or unproductive?

A: It’s OK to take a break or have a gap in your resume. This is an opportunity to showcase other work you were doing. Maybe you were working on a project or volunteering. Even if your experience was unpaid, add it to your resume to show the diversity of your experience. 

Q: How do I show a promotion on my resume?

A: Congratulations on a promotion! You will want to reformat your resume to start each experience with the employer, then job title, then bullet points (rather than job title, employer, bullet points).

Example of how to display a promotion on your resume

Q: What’s the difference between a CV and a resume?

A: The main difference between a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and a resume is the level of detail and the purpose they serve. A CV is commonly used in academic and research fields and for international job applications. On the other hand, a resume is a concise summary of a person's relevant skills, work experience, and achievements. Resumes are typically used in the corporate world and for job applications within a specific industry. Unlike a CV, resumes are usually limited to one or two pages and focus on highlighting skills and experiences directly relevant to the position being applied for.

Q: How do I explain a retail or food service job in my resume?

A: This is an opportunity to showcase your hard work and various other skills. Most of retail and food service is about working fast and having great customer service. Highlight those skills when describing what you and your outcome. Did you maintain a highly organized store of over 2,000 products? Did you use your marketing skills to display new products to increase sales? Did you create a calming environment in the fast-paced coffee shop for patrons to work quietly?

For guidance and more personalized questions, contact your career advisor.