Article thumbnail

This is what a perfect resume looks like, according to Harvard career experts

Who hasn’t wondered at some point during their job search: “Does my resume look like it should?”

Unless you’ve got the time and money to consult a career coach or expert, perhaps no-one has ever mentioned that your resume looks terrible, is leaving out crucial information, or is otherwise stopping you from getting the interviews you’ve been trying so hard to secure!

So a big thanks to the career experts at Harvard University for putting together some great examples of what a good resume looks like. If you’re doing everything right, it should look something like this:

They’ve also provided some valuable dos and don’ts for writing your resume:


  • Be consistent in format and content
  • Make it easy to read and follow, balancing white space
  • Use consistent spacing, underlining, italics, bold, and capitalization for emphasis
  • List headings (such as Experience) in order of importance
  • Within headings, list information in reverse chronological order (most recent first)
  • Avoid information gaps such as a missing summer
  • Be sure that your formatting translates properly if converted to a pdf


  • Use personal pronouns (such as I) Abbreviate
  • Use a narrative style
  • Number or letter categories
  • Use slang or colloquialisms Include a picture
  • Include your age or sex
  • List references
  • Start each line with a date

Resume language should be:

  • Specific rather than general
  • Written to express not impress
  • Articulate rather than “flowery”
  • Fact-based (quantify and qualify)
  • Written for people who scan quickly
  • Active rather than passive

Active vs Passive?

What are “passive” and “active” language you may be asking?

Well, with passive language the object appears as the subject – that is, things just happen, without anyone doing them. For example, “The number of donations increased 50 percent” might be something you’d find on a fundraiser’s CV.

Active language on the other hand has a doer – ideally you! So for example that same fundraiser might write “I increased the number of donations by 50 percent.”

The Harvard experts have also lovingly collated a list of over 200 active verbs for you to use in your resume. Download the full resource here (PDF).

Hopefully that’s a help! If you’re still not sure if your resume is up to scratch, consider spending an hour or two with a career coach/counsellor – it could be money well invested!

Other posts you might be interested in:

Get weekly updates with expert tips to help you land your dream ethical job