Basic Tips

  • Résumés for recent alumni should generally be one page long, while résumés for alumni with more work experience can be two or more pages; if your résumé is longer than one page, fill the subsequent page(s) to at least 75 percent.
  • Bullet points are easier to read quickly than paragraphs; in general, each bullet point should be at least five words and no more than three lines long.
  • Choose a standard font style with a 10–12-point text size, and use it throughout the document other than for your name and headings, which can be larger.
  • Be consistent about the use of italics and boldface (e.g., if you use boldface type for one previous job title, do so for all previous job titles). Do not underline words for emphasis.
  • Spell out any acronyms the first time you mention them unless the acronym is widely known (e.g., NASA).
  • Write in the third person; do not use "I" (e.g., "Worked for three summers at…" rather than "I worked for three summers at…").
  • Include only information relating to your education, skills, professional interests, and work experience. Do not include photographs of yourself or personal information unrelated to your ability to do the job (e.g., Social Security number, height, weight, general health status, or personal interests).
  • International alumni: Do not include your visa status on your résumé; however, be prepared to talk about it in an interview.
  • Your spelling and grammar must be flawless.  Review your résumé several times, and have at least one other person review it as well.
  • Use descriptive action verbs to make your résumé more compelling.

Suggested Formats

Reverse Chronological Format

The reverse chronological résumé format is recommended for current students or recent alumni (i.e., those who graduated up to two years ago). In this format, you list your educational experience and qualifications near the top and your professional experiences in reverse chronological order (i.e., most recent first). The layout for a reverse chronological résumé typically includes the following sections.


Include your name, email address, phone number, mailing address, and LinkedIn profile URL if you have one.


  • List your major, degree, and graduation date.  Note that the official name of this institution is The Pennsylvania State University (not Penn State).
  • If you attended the University Park campus, list University Park, PA—rather than State College—as the location.
  • If you don’t have much career-related experience, consider including the names—not course numbers—of 3–6 courses you took that are related to your field of study or intended career.
  • International alumni: Consider including your Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores if English is not your native language.

Work Experience

  • Include current and past paid positions you have held, especially those that are or were engineering-related; include your title, the name of the company or organization, location, and months/years of employment.
  • Include volunteer positions and student projects, if applicable.
  • Begin each bullet point under each job title with an action verb to describe specific responsibilities, and quantify whenever possible (e.g., "Increased customer satisfaction with company procedures, as evidenced in 80 percent of customer surveys between 2015 and 2016").
  • In general, include no more than five bullet points to describe each position.
  • Descriptions of job responsibilities in current positions should be in the present tense; descriptions of responsibilities in past positions should be in the past tense.
  • International alumni: When describing previous work experience in your home country, provide additional information about the company that will help to put your experience into context for an American employer (e.g., "second-largest automotive technology company in China").
  • If you don't have much engineering or technical experience, emphasize the transferable skills that you may have used or developed in non-technical positions you have held, including management or public speaking.


  • Avoid using subjective descriptors of your skills (e.g., "good communicator", "hard worker"). Instead, include specific technical skills, including computer programs that you would use in the position or any relevant special training.
  • Make sure you are reasonably proficient in any program you list as a "skill"—an employer might follow up to see how much you really know!
  • Non-technical skills can be helpful to include as well:
    • Include foreign language skills if you have them, especially if you are interested in working overseas.
    • International alumni: Emphasize strong English language skills (if you can do so honestly).

Activities, Honors, and Awards

  • Include current or past membership in honor societies or professional organizations. Specify those in which you took a leadership role (if applicable).
  • If you received any academic or professional awards at Penn State or from a previous employer or another source, include them along with a brief description of what each award was for.


  • It’s not necessary to include "References Available Upon Request" at the bottom of your résumé.
  • Prepare a reference list—separate from your résumé—that you can provide to employers upon request. Include at least three references with their full contact information, including name, title if available, phone number, email address, and relationship to you. For example:

         John Smith
         Associate Director, ABC Engineering (Bellefonte, PA)
         Supervisor, 2013–2014

  • References should be current or former employers, professors or instructors with whom you worked closely, or other professionals. Do not use family members, friends, or significant others as references. Make sure you check with the people you want to use as references and get their permission before putting them on your list!
  • References need to be prepared for a potential employer's call. Provide each reference with any necessary job descriptions and a copy of your résumé ahead of time.

Functional Format

The functional résumé format is an option if you have several years of work experience, if you are changing careers, or if you are returning to the workplace after staying home for a few years to raise a family or pursue other interests. This format emphasizes work experience and workplace skills rather than education.   

Most elements of a functional résumé are similar to those of a reverse chronological résumé; however, the layout is a little different:

  • Provide your name and contact information in your heading at the top of the page.
  • The next section should be a “Profile” or “Summary” in which you provide a short professional description of yourself that includes some of your top selling points, with quantitative evidence of success (e.g., “Highly motivated engineer with five years of industry experience seeking a chemical engineering research position following completion of master’s degree program. Demonstrated history managing up to 20 people in a research lab setting.  Excellent leadership and team-building skills.”).
  • Include a “Work Experience” section that provides information about where you are working or have worked in reverse chronological order.  Emphasize transferable skills that you have gained from each experience in addition to specific job-related skills.
  • If you have received any workplace awards or honors within the last five to ten years, you can list them in an “Awards and Honors” section.
  • List your educational information toward the bottom.

Sample Documents

See our Sample Job Search Documents for examples of different types of résumés.


Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032