By Madeleine Post 

The word ‘resume’ often connotes hours of drudgery, scrupulous meticulousness, and perhaps even a bit of fibbing. The reason we dread working on our resumes is often because we don’t know where to begin. What exactly is proper content, formatting, length, etc., when it comes to constructing or reviving a presentable resume? Moreover, there is something about seeing our accomplishments on a piece of paper which can make us feel…well…is ‘insufficient’ the right word?

The fact is that updating a resume is simple and painless — if we use the right tools to do so and abide by what I like to call ‘resume etiquette.’ 

Resume Etiquette

Resume etiquette entails including in your resume that should be included. In other words, don’t do anything weird when composing your resume. Don’t use purple resume paper, don’t list off your ten favorite movies, and don’t attempt to make everything fit onto a single page using multiple columns. During a webinar on career skills I recently attended, a student asked whether or not graphs, charts, or statistics could be included in a resume. The simple answer is no. A typical student’s resume includes only the following sections: name and contact info, educational background, awards & extracurricular activities, and experience. All information included in these sections should pertain only to the job or internship for which you are applying. 

Any information other than what would normally fit into one of the above categories belongs either in a cover letter or an interview. This includes an objective statement, which — by the way — can make an excellent topic sentence for a cover letter. 

Also: don’t lie. When it comes to content (or life, for that matter), being 100% truthful is crucial. And if you lie, you will be found out.


Resume formatting is actually more freeform than resume etiquette. The margins on my own resume are about half an inch; however, many others opt for more traditional, 1 inch margins. Font should remain traditional and professional — you can never go wrong with your trusty old friend Times New Roman. Don’t be afraid to ensure that section titles and key words pop. Make bold, underline, and italicize all you like. Just be strategic. It’s vital that you draw attention to subjects that are relevant — that will help your chances of scoring the job. 


Resume length should always be rooted in two principles: brevity and pointedness. Ensure that your resume is as concise as possible while utilizing action words in describing experience. Say as much as possible in as few words as possible. 

There is one final factor essential to reviving your resume that surpasses resume etiquette, formatting, and length: remembering that you are worth much more than your accomplishments, work experience, and GPA. Seeing your professional and academic life splayed out on a page can bring on the aforementioned feelings of insufficiency — of not being enough. The fact that is that no single human person, in all of his or her strengths, weaknesses, virtues, and flaws can see himself summarized on sheet of expensive tan paper. You are worth far more than your productivity over the past five years, and remembering that could very well be the winning factor of any resume submission, application, or interview. 

AuthorMadeleine Post