Resume Basics

Resume writing is an art, not a science.

There are basic formatting guidelines as well as required elements that contribute to the ‘science’ of resume writing, in addition to the necessity of ensuring you have appropriate keywords to help your resume get through search filters in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). The science of resumes combined with the art of resume writing — which includes your personal brand — will help you create a resume that best showcases your experience, skills, and strengths.

What are employers looking for in a resume?

At a quick glance, employers are looking to identify how you could add value to their company/team. Generally employers are evaluating your resume against an open position and a set of needs they have for work to be done.

Think of your resume as providing evidence that you could fulfill a certain role and responsibilities, within a particular team, organization, domain, or industry. The evidence should be written in a way that is concise and easy to understand — so that the employer can get the information they need by doing a 10 second scan of your resume.

Evidence that you might provide that show how you are a ‘fit’ for an open role can include: 

  • Skills and strengths that are necessary or desirable for the role.
  • Professional experiences (paid or volunteer) that demonstrate accomplishments or impacts using your skills, strengths, and expertise. 
  • Projects that illustrate skills, strengths, and expertise that are desirable for the role. 
  • Degrees, certifications, or continuing education that exhibit expertise in a subject area related to the role.

Seek to understand who you are and what you offer, compared to what the employer wants and needs.

The “Look”

Give a great first impression with the following design elements

  • Simple layouts with clearly marked section headers; avoid unnecessary design flourishes with can distract the reader
  • Usage of an easy to read font
  • White space that helps separate different sections (e.g., education, experience, and projects) and experiences (e.g., white space in between different jobs that helps delineate each job for the other) 
  • Dates which are all right-justified (on the right side of text) so that the reader sees the most important information first (e.g., title, company) and then the date
  • Details which are bulleted and in easy to read, shorter sentences (1 or 2 lines only)

Your resume should be predictable, in that it should look like a resume! To make the information easy to read and access, follow the formatting best practices below. 

Formatting best practices

  • Length: If you have 0–7 years of experience, keep your resume to 1 page only. If you have 7+ years of experience, you can consider 2 pages (maximum).

  • Margins: At least 0.25” margins and no more than 1” margins on all sides. 

  • File format: If you are submitting your resume or sending it to someone, it should be in a PDF file format. PDF is considered a “published” format, while word or google doc is draft.

  • Font size: Be sure that the font sizes you use are legible and consistent, with headings in a bigger size that is distinguishable from descriptive text. In generally, following the font guidelines:

    • Name: 18–24pt
    • Contact info 9–11pt
    • Section titles: 12–14pt
    • Content within sections: 10–12pt
  • Spacing: Your spacing should be consistent throughout the resume. For example, you should have the same amount of space between each section.

  • Columns: Unless you are applying for a position that requires design skills (e.g., UX design, product design) we recommend 1 column resumes which are easier to format. 

  • Style: You can use style elements such as color, bolding, lines — but be consistent in your styling and keep it looking modern by choosing a few style elements to use (rather than all of the style elements). 

  • Design resumes: If you are applying for a position that requires design skills, then your resume should showcase your design abilities. This does NOT mean it should be overly designed — be sure the design is thoughtful and complementary to your information and other material (e.g., LinkedIn, portfolio). A good design can be very simple but should look thoughtful and polished. 

  • Acronyms and industry jargon: Be careful in your usage of acronyms, abbreviations, and industry jargon. You will want to be sure readers who receive your resume understand everything you are saying. Spell out terminology that is unfamiliar and (especially if you are changing industries or changing roles) use more general terminology.

  • Typos/errors: None! Be sure to proofread and double check your work. Things to particularly watch out for include: 

    • Capitalization: Only capitalize proper nouns, names, or acronyms. Words like data science or cybersecurity shouldn’t be capitalized unless they are part of a course name or your degree name. 

    • Periods: You can use periods to end your bullets or choose not to, but you should be consistent in your usage throughout the resume. 

Resume content

Required sections for your resume include

Contact Information

  • Your name should be large (18-24pt) and stand out, as it is the title of your resume! You will also want to include your email address (use a professional email address), phone number, LinkedIn URL (use a customized link), and website URL (if applicable). 
  • Including your mailing address is optional. 


  • Include relevant and/or current undergraduate or graduate degree(s). 
    • You can visit I School Style Guide for official recommendations on how to display your I School degree. 
    • Position near the top if you are in school, recently graduated, or degree is pivotal to your target job.
    • Your education can include a short list of relevant coursework (2–5 classes).
    • You do not need to list the full range of attendance date, but only your graduation year (month is optional). 
    • Note future graduate date as “anticipated” (month is optional). 
  • Include relevant continuing education or certifications. 

Professional Experience

  • Professional experience can include internships, full-time, part-time, contract, freelance, and unpaid or volunteer work.
  • Keep your professional experience relevant and tailored to your job. You do not have to talk about everything you did — only focus on the transferable experience.
  • You should include experience up to 10 years in the past. 
  • Each bullet should be started with an action verb that paints a picture and helps the reader visualize your experience. Each bullet should also be accomplishment driven.
    • Do not focus on responsibilities, or lists of tasks which do not demonstrate your value or impact 
    • Do focus on a “wow factor” for each bullet. This can include: strengths, skills, or tools used; how you completed the task (e.g., collaboration), the result or impact.
    • Try to ensure your bullet answers the question, “why was this important?”  

Optional sections for your resume include

Professional Profile

  • This is a short section (1–4 sentences) at the top of your resume that is a snapshot of your skills, accomplishments, interest, and/or expertise. 
  • A profile section can help ‘set the stage’ for the rest of your resume content and helps to introduce and position your brand. 
  • A professional profile is particularly important if you are making a career change or if you do not have significant relevant or direct experience. 
  • Avoid meaningless buzzwords, but do include keywords that are in context.
    • Do NOT say things like “skilled communicator”
    • DO say things like “experienced in presenting analysis and recommendations to diverse stakeholders including leadership, customers, and engineers.”
  • Remember that your professional profile should be unique to YOU and it should complement the rest of your resume, but not summarize or reiterate your experience section. Think of your profile section as a ‘teaser’ statement.

Skills & Tools

  • This section is highly recommended and is a great way to list technical skills and tools. Do not list ‘people skills’ (e.g., communication, leadership) as these are a bit meaningless without more context. 
  • This section helps the reader quickly understand your familiarity with tools that you may need to use on the job. 
  • Be sure to tailor your skills and tools section to the job for which you are applying, and remember that you must be familiar with the skills/tool if you list it — but you do not have to be an expert. 


  • This section is highly recommended if you need to demonstrate new skills or strengths that are not included in depth within your experience section. 
  • Include a project title, brief description, tools used, and date. 
  • This section can be before or after your experience section, depending on how relevant it is to your career goals. 


  • Extracurricular activities can be a good way to show leadership or community involvement, and in fact you may want to avoid the heading “extracurricular activities” (which can trivialize this experience) and instead look for a header that really speaks to what you are trying to demonstrate. 
  • Extracurricular activities can be simply listed OR can have bulleted descriptions, depending no what you are trying to showcase. 
  • Generally we do not recommend that you include interests or hobbies on resumes, however there are always exceptions! If you do include these, keep it very brief. 

Honors, awards, publications, etc.

  • These are all optional sections that can demonstrate your expertise. Just be sure you keep it very relevant and brief. You can add all of your accolades to LinkedIn, but it’s generally a good idea to just keep the highlights on your resume. 

Sample skills & tools

The following lists are common skills and tools within various job categories that you may want to consider including on your resume. 

Data science skills & tools

Programming Languages — Python [could include libraries], R, SQL, MATLAB, Java, HTML, CSS, Javascript, C++, VBA, SAS

Visualization — D3.js, Tableau, Matplotlib, Plotly, Bokeh, ggplot, ggplot2, Power View

Cloud Computing — Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), BigQuery, IBM Softlayer, DigitalOcean

Databases/Data Engineering — mySQL, SQLserver, PostgreSQL, NoSQL, DB2, Neo4j, Airflow, Docker, Kafka

Machine Learning (+ deep learning, NLP) — Neural networks, recurrent neural networks, convolutional neural networks, clustering, K means, K nearest neighbors, decision trees, random forest, Scikit-learn, naive Bayes, XGBoost, recommender systems, computer vision, Tensorflow, PyTorch, Keras, NLTK, SpaCy

Statistics — Logistic/Linear Regression, Time Series Forecasting, Pandas, NumPy, SciPy, Theano, RStudio

Distributed Frameworks — Hadoop, HDFS, Hive, MapReduce, Spark, PySpark, Apache Storm

Business Intelligence — Power BI, Power View, Excel

Code Management — Git/Github, Jupyter notebooks, Visual Studio

Platforms — Windows, Linux, Unix OS, Bash, MacOS

Software Development Methodology — Agile, Scrum

Research/Experimentation — A/B testing, Multivariate testing

Cybersecurity skills & tools

Languages: Python, JAVA, C, C++, C, SQL, , JavaScript, PHP, Bash, PowerShell, AngularJS, NodeJS, React, HTML, CSS

Software and Tools: BurpSuite, Wireshark, OWASP, Jupyter Notebook, PyCharm, Visual Studio VS Code, Terraform, BICEP, GitHub Actions, Azure DevOps Pipelines, NET, AWS, Docker, Kubernetes, Jenkins, Junit, Oracle, DB2, OWASP ZAP Proxy, Nessus, Github, CyberArk, Jupyter Notebook, Pycharm, Sage, Semantic DLP, Automax, ForgeRock, IBM IAM Management, QRadar, SPLUNK, Hashcat

Operating Systems: Windows, Linux, Kali Linux, Raspbian, Android, MacOS

Threat Mitigation — Threat Intelligence, Threat Modeling, Penetration testing, Cryptography, Risk Mitigation, Incident Response, Vulnerability Management

IT Strategy — Enterprise Architecture, Cloud Computing, Hybrid Cloud and Cloud Security, Technical Project Management, Program Management

Product Development and Security Architecture — Secure Design, Secure Coding, Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), Privacy Engineering, Test Strategy, Test Engineering, 

IT Operations — DevOps, Information Security (InfoSec) Security Operations (SecOps), Application Security ,Network Security, Infrastructure Security, Privacy Engineering

Cyber Risk Management — Governance, Risk and Compliance, Identity Access Management, Privacy

User experience skills & tools

Sketch, Illustrator, Adobe Creative Suite, HTML, CSS,  InVision, Principle, Figma, Balsamiq

Wireframing, usability testing, journey mapping, storyboarding, accessibility, prototyping, survey design, Interviews, in-person and remote usability studies, experimental design, focus groups, diary studies, card sorting, vignettes

Product management skills & tools

Requirement/Gap Analysis, Stakeholder Analysis, Personas and Job Statements

Functionality Design/Specs Creation, Software Development Lifecycle, Lean & Agile Methodologies (Scrum, XP), Roadmapping, Competitor Analysis, Market Research

Customer acquisition, growth marketing

Prototyping, design thinking, wireframing, storyboarding

Sample action verbs

Craft your resume to be action-oriented, attention-grabbing, and dynamic. Reference, but don’t overuse, the list of action words below.

Addressed Arranged Articulated Authored Clarified Collaborated Communicated Composed Condensed Conferred Consulted Contacted Conveyed Convinced Corresponded Debated Defined Described Developed Directed Discussed Drafted Edited Elicited Enlisted Explained Expressed Formulated Furnished Incorporated Influenced Interacted Interpreted Interviewed Involved Joined Lectured Listened Marketed Mediated Moderated Negotiated Observed Participated Persuaded Presented Promoted Publicized Recruited Referred Reported Resolved Responded Solicited Specified Spoke Suggested Synthesized Translated Wrote

Advised Aided Analyzed Answered Assisted Clarified Coached Contributed Consulted Demonstrated Diagnosed Educated Encouraged Evaluated Explained Facilitated Guided Helped Individualized Informed Instilled Instructed Persuaded Planned Recommended Resolved Simplified Supported Taught Trained Volunteered

Financial / Data Skills
Administered Adjusted Allocated Analyzed Appraised Assessed Audited Balanced Budgeted Calculated Computed Conserved Estimated Forecasted Managed Marketed Measured Netted Planned Programed Projected Qualified Quantified Reconciled Reduced Researched Retrieved

Helping / Teamwork
Adapted Advocated Aided Answered Arranged Assessed Assisted Clarified Coached Collaborated Contributed Cooperated Counseled Demonstrated Diagnosed Educated Encouraged Ensured Expedited Facilitated Familiarized Furthered Guided Helped Insured Intervened Motivated Provided Referred Rehabilitated Presented Resolved Simplified Supplied Supported Volunteered

Management / Leadership
Administered Aligned Analyzed Appointed Approved Assigned Assisted Attained Authorized Chaired Considered Consolidated Controlled Coordinated Decided Delegated Developed Directed Emphasized Enforced Enhanced Established Executed Generated Handled Headed Hired Hosted Improved Incorporated Increased Initiated Inspected Instituted Led Managed Merged Mentored Motivated Organized Originated Overhauled Oversaw Planned Prioritized Produced Recommended Reorganized Replaced Restored Reviewed Scheduled Streamlined Strengthened Supervised Terminated

Organization / Detail Skills
Approved Arranged Cataloged Categorized Charted Classified Coded Collected Compiled Corresponded Distributed Executed Filed Generated Implemented Incorporated Inspected Logged Maintained Monitored Obtained Operated Ordered Organized Prepared Processed Provided Purchased Recorded Registered Reserved Responded Reviewed Routed Scheduled Screened Submitted Supplied Standardized Systematized Validated Verified

Problem Solving / Creativity
Acted Adapted Aligned Began Combined Composted Conceptualized Condensed Created Customized Designed Developed Diagnosed Directed Displayed Entertained Established Formulated Founded Illustrated Initiated Instituted Integrated Introduced Inverted Modeled Modified Originated Performed Planned Recommended Revised Revitalized Shaped Solved

Analyzed Clarified Collected Compared Conducted Criticized Detected Determined Diagnosed Evaluated Examined Experimented Explored Extracted Formulated Gathered Identified Inspected Interpreted Interviewed Invented Investigated Located Measured Organized Researched Searched Solved Summarized Surveyed Systematized Tested

Teaching & Helping
Adapted Advised Aided Answered Assisted Clarified Coached Communicated Conducted Contributed Coordinated Critiqued Demonstrated Developed Educated Enabled Encouraged Evaluated Explained Facilitated Focused Guided Helped Individualized Informed Instilled Instructed Motivated Persuaded Resolved Simplified Simulated Stimulated Supported Taught Tested Trained Tutored Volunteered

Adapted Applied Assembled Built Calculated Computed Conducted Configured Conserved Constructed Converted Debugged Designed Determined Developed Diagnosed Engineered Fabricated Fortified Implemented Installed Maintained Migrated Operated Overhauled Participated Performed Printed Programmed Provided Rectified Regulated Remodeled Repaired Replaced Restored Solved Specialized Standardized Studied Upgraded Utilized

Last updated:

February 1, 2024