What this resource is about:

Here we share the results of a research project MSU Writing Center tutors conducted in 2019. We created sample résumés, brought them to our campus career fair, and asked company representatives which résumés they preferred. 

What we did... 

  • Created four résumés with technical formatting differences (all content was the same) 
    • Simple, color, picture, 2-pages 
  • Went to the career fair and asked over 60 companies which of the four résumés they preferred
  • Took note of the number they chose - and why 

Resume 1: Simple 

  • Simplicity is aesthetically pleasing 
  • Conciseness is important - be straightforward 
  • One page limit ensures info is relevant and important 
  • References on the back are fine 
  • Some recruiting agencies will not consider a resume longer than one page 
    • Jackson Contractors said, “No one has enough info for a two page resume.” 

Resume 2: Color 

  • Color breaks up flow 
  • Color helps guide your eye 
  • Minimal color, neutral colors, or gray scale are preferred
  • Most companies preferred color over black and white 

Resume 3: Picture 

  • 30% of companies said yes to including a photo of yourself on your résumé; 70% said no.
  • Including a photo is a double-edged sword:
    • Some saw photos as unprofessional or worried that photos brought up issues of bias.
    • Some pointed out that including your picture for an event, like a career fair, helped companies remember you.
  • Some preferred a Linkedin profile over a résumé picture.

Resume 4: Two Pages 

  • 67% liked one page, 33% liked two pages. 
    • Performance Engineering said, “Resume 4 could still be one page if the individual focused on their most important experiences.” 
  • A two-page résumé gives employers more information about what you have done.
  • Never do more than 2 pages! 

Summary, General Tips, and Take-aways

  • Make sure the structure is consistent and grammar is correct 
  • Do not include salary information 
  • Put the "Education" heading at the top of the résumé and 
    • Include GPA, major, expected graduation date, and honors/awards 
    • Be aware that if you don’t include GPA, the company assumes it's low.
  • Volunteer experiences and community engagement show who you are as a person  
  • Employers want to know that you will contribute to both their company and community 
  • 2 page versus 1 page 
    • Overall, companies liked one-page résumés
    • Focus on important experiences and on providing more context 
  • Make use of white space and use bullet points 
  • Make sure information is RELEVANT to the company! 
  • Guiding colors, neutral colors, and gray scale can be nice on the eyes 
  • Pictures are risky - use caution 
  • A "Skills" section isn’t necessary 
    • If you do include a "Skills" section, be specific and consider listing skills in alphabetical order 
    • Avoid “hard-working” or “team player” 
    • Don’t use synonyms of the same word! 
  • References Available Upon Request is sufficient 
    • It is the job of the company to follow through 
    • Consider listing references if one of your references is well-known within the company 
  • Objective statements can showcase your writing skills 
    • Objectives need to be specific to the company 
    • Only include an objective if you aren’t attaching a cover letter