Resumes are important documents for all kinds of application packages — jobs, scholarships, grad school, etc. Your resume should fit within the total package highlighting your achievements in a concise manner that can be further expounded upon in your personal statement, cover letter, or your letters of reference. It is important to custom tailor your resume to any particular position, or program you are applying for. Some information needs to be emphasized more than other depending on what the reviewers may be looking for.
Using your space wisely
In general, a resume should be no more than two pages long — unless you have a large number of presentations or publications that need to be listed. Avoid the tendency to add more “stuff” to your resume to try to look impressive. Use the relevant experience you have and determine what was impressive about it (for example, demonstrated independence, innovation, grit, or tenacity; helped improve ways of doing things in the lab; were given additional responsibilities as time went on; etc.)
- Some things may not be RELEVANT – leave them off. It is ok!
- A reviewer would rather read about the two positions you had that are relevant, than try to sift through seven or eight clubs or fast-food job descriptions.
- What else is in your ‘package’? How can you use them to your advantage? Make sure your info is consistent!
- Recommendation Letters?
- Personal Statement?
Where to put the experience
Typically, resumes are formatted so that your most recent position is listed first. However, don’t put working at Dairy Queen first, if you are applying for a research position. Instead, consider using some of the following sections:
- Academic Accomplishments
- Research Experience
- Work Experience/Employment
- College Activities
- Volunteer Work
- Presentations and Publications
You do not need all of these categories, especially if you do not have relevant, interesting, or recent experience with them. Do not feel forced to try to fit your resume into someone else’s template. Make a list of what you want to include then design categories that fit your experience and story. Keep in mind that these categories will change over time (for example: five years after college, you will no longer need to include a section on “college activities”).
What to include
- Always include your mentor’s information.
- Area of research
- Not only does it show that you worked directly with a faculty member in your position, but reviewers might be familiar with your mentor’s work which could put you at an advantage.
- Some students spend multiple years with one mentor, and/or work on a variety of projects with the same mentor.
- Consider listing projects and accomplishments the group achieved first before breaking things out on a year to year basis.
- If you were funded by different sources at different times, put a list of these sources at the bottom of the experience in this position.
Job Titles, Time Periods
- Use something that makes sense (sometimes HR titles do not)
- Make sure the job title is understandable to the reviewer — ie: not an acronym
- Instead of “MUURS Scholar” say “Student Researcher funded by the MU Undergraduate Research Scholars Program”
- Be specific when listing your positions.
- Summer 2017 (9 weeks, full time internship)
- Academic Year 2018-2019 (15 hrs/week)
- If you won a scholarship/award to fund your research:
- What does that award mean?
- Will anyone outside of campus know what that is?
- Was the program selective?
- What was the award amount?
- What was the duration of the award?
- You can list various funding sources at the end of the relevant section
- Talk to you mentor about your specific funding source. Many research projects are grant funded, and it is important to correctly list the funding source.
- External funding (from a government entity such as NIH, for example) is impressive. Be sure to list it.
You need to take the time to seriously consider your experience and how that allowed you to grow and mature as a researcher. Ask yourself these questions when brainstorming about your experience:
- What are areas you excelled in?
- What are lessons you learned?
- What are things you improved upon from the person before you?
- How did you spend your time?
- What skills did you gain?
- What research outcomes were reached?
- How long were you in the lab?
Use specific numbers or other qualifiers when applicable to show just how much work, effort, independence, or tenacity you had.
|Student Assistant||Student Lab Assistant (10 hrs/wk)|
|Washed dishes and made solutions||Washed dishes and made solutions for 10-person laboratory|
|Took care of plants||Responsible for well-being of 100 seedling samples|
|Entered data||Entered data for a study involving 200 patients|
|Transcribed interviews||Transcribed 500 pages of interviews|
|Coded interviews using a coding system||Coded 300 interviews using a coding system with over 90 options|
|Honors Project||Competitive University wide project funded through the MU Honors Program (7 students selected out of 75 applications). Student researchers were granted a $7,000 stipend and $2,000 in lab equipment expenses to fund their independent research project.|
|Summer Intern||Summer Research Intern in Molecular Biology funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates. MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX . Worked on characterization of the Notch-1 gene under the supervision of Dr. John Smith (Department of Molecular Biology). Experiments involved the use of PCR.|
Publications and Presentations
If your publication and presentation experience is limited, it is recommended that you include it with your relevant experience. However, if you have extensive or otherwise impressive experience (won a presentation award at a conference, or presented your work to state legislators at the Undergraduate Research Day at the the State Capitol, for example) then include a new category specifically for Presentations and/or Publications.
- Include full list of authors
- Include full and official title
- Include if it was poster or oral presentation (ie, 15 minute presentation)
- Include location, event
- Include date (at least month and year)
- Include any award
- Check in with your mentor, to find out if a poster you co-authored was presented elsewhere.
- Full citation when published
- In Press – journal, date?
- Submitted for review – journal/date
- In preparation
- Keep this list updated!
- Check with your mentor as many projects are not completed by the time as student graduates.
- Know your audience
- Explain (or spell out)
- Organize to fit your own situation
- Make it easy to follow – esp. if you have ‘time away’
- Update regularly and start leaving some irrelevant and less impressive things off!
- But have on comprehensive and cohesive running resume.
- Have a system in place to update/organize your resumes.
- Be aware of what you name your PDF!
- Use professional language, as most files are submitted electronically — the reviewer will see if you named a file “Better Resume”
- Include your first and last name and the title of the position in the file name.
- ex: Jane Doe Resume – Biochemistry REU, UT Austin
- This will ensure that the reviewer knows who you are and what you are applying for without even opening the file.
We encourage students to visit the MU Career Center in the Student Success Center for help on their specific application needs.