How important is a resume?

In the past, resumes and cover letters were the primary method to introduce yourself. Increasingly, they are merely a trigger within an employer’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS). These tools search through submitted resumes for keywords and related semantic context.

Types of Resumes

Chronological Resume​

Employers typically prefer this type of resume because they can easily scan which jobs you have held, when you held them, and what you accomplished there.

Chronological resumes benefit job seekers with a strong work history.

  1. Work History - Begin with your most recent position first and continue in reverse chronological order
  2. Key Accomplishments & Qualifications - Supplement each position listed to detail work you have done in the past and what you are capable of doing.
  3. Education - Include schools you attended with dates, degree(s) earned, major(s)/minor(s), and any honors or awards received. 
  4. Skills - List applicable skills such as computer skills, laboratory skills, languages spoken, etc.

Note: New graduates should list education before experience.

Example (PDF)

Functional Resume

Consider a functional resume if you’re a new graduate without much professional experience or if you have noticeable gaps in your work history.

A functional resume can benefit job seekers who are changing careers to a field very different from their previous experience.

Keep in mind that many recruiters and employers do not prefer functional resumes and they are not always accepted on online employer career pages and job sites.

  1. Skills - Highlight skills acquired instead of listing a complete work history
  2. Experience - Focus on a few key areas, listing responsibilities and accomplishments for each experience area
  3. Skill Clusters - Be specific to the position and provide lots of context

Example (PDF)

Combination Resume

Chronological Resume + Functional Resume = Combination Resume

  1. Skill Clusters - Be specific to the position and provide lots of context including accomplishments
  2. Work History - Begin with your most recent position first and continue in reverse chronological order
    • Job Title
    • Company Name & Location
    • Dates of Employment

Note: You do not need to list what you did at each job because that information is already included in your professional skills section.

Example (PDF)

Using Resume Templates

Jobscan is a free resume builder. Documents can be downloaded to MS Word to make additional edits.

Rezi is an AI-based resume builder which writes ‘work experience’ statements. It generates just enough language for a thought the user then completes.  NDMU users have free, but limited access with an email. The site gives users a set of AI credits. These are useful for 10-15 hits from the AI generator. After the credits are depleted, a payment method is required for more assistance from the AI. The credits should be used sparingly. The templates and downloads can continue to be accessed for no charge. Downloads are available as PDF’s, Word docs, and Google Docs.

Other possibilities for building a resume are the templates on Microsoft Word and Google Docs, but they can be difficult to edit. There are also other web-based resume services. Avoid any templates that offer embedded graphics in the design however. They are not always ATS-friendly. Finally, Resume Assistant in Microsoft Word in the Review tab provides suggested text for work experiences. A LinkedIn profile is required.

Use the examples on these two sites to get ideas for your resume

Using Resume Evaluation Sites

Several websites score a resume’s impact, keywords, and presentation. Their comments can help to improve first drafts. These are general evaluations, and sometimes the trade skills of occupations like Education or Nursing are not recognized in the score they generate. They also do not weave an individual’s strengths into the document. Make an appointment with Career Center staff to develop language for your strengths. Fees to use these sites may apply.

Applicant Tracking Systems

Nearly every employer uses a system that manages applicants’ resumes. Here are some tips for creating a resume that can pass through an ATS.

  • Use keywords in the job ad within the context of your work/school experience. Summarize accomplishments and projects.
  • Give more emphasis to the keywords nearer the top of the job ad.
  • Pay attention to the adjectives used before a skill. ATS systems can judge proficiency by looking for words like expert, superior, strong, meticulous, efficiently or effectively.
  • Place the primary skills from a job ad in a professional summary section at the top of your resume.
  • Mirror the soft skills needed in the job as well as the hard skills.
  • Use standard job titles and section titles (e.g., Work Experience) not abstract labels.
  • Avoid using headers and footers.
  • Use simple designs/layouts
  • Submit documents as PDF’s

Cover Letter

A cover letter accompanies your resume when applying for positions. It lets employers know why you are interested in the position and their organization.


  • Customize each cover letter to match your skills and experience to the position.
  • Adhere to application guidelines.
  • A well written, free of errors and grammatically correct cover letter is a must! Do not overuse the word “I.”
  • Be sure to lead with the correct verb tense. 
  • Read your letter out loud to ensure that your ideas flow and to catch any awkward sentences or overuse of words or phrases.
  • As a final check, have your letter reviewed.

Cover Letter Checklist(PDF)    Example (PDF)

Salary Requirements

If you are required to include salary requirements, always state your requirements in a range and that you want to learn more about the position by meeting with them. Form your response on the basis of your research, not your personal need, such as: “Based on the research I have done for this position, it seems the salary range is…”

If an employer asks you to include salary history, avoid answering. This question is illegal in an increasing number of states.