resumes and curriculum vitae

A resume is an essential tool in almost any professional endeavor. It provides a first impression of a person’s experience, skills, and qualification and gives the applicant an opportunity to make a connection between his experience and the job to which he is applying. As such, it is important to craft a resume with careful consideration and attention to detail. 

Where to Begin

The first step is to determine what kind of resume you need.  If you are applying for a job, you’ll want a resume that highlights your relevant experience and your skills and qualifications as they relate to that specific job.  If you are applying for a residency, a show, or an MFA program, you will want a resume that focuses more on your successes as an artist: exhibitions, publications, collaborations, etc.  And if you are applying for an academic post, either a teaching position or a PhD program, you will likely want to create a curriculum vitae (CV), a longer, more detailed resume. On this page, we will cover a standard employment resume, but for an excellent guide on creating both an artist’s resume and a CV, the College Art Association has a comprehensive guide.

Creating the First Draft

Start by creating a list of all your experience, including jobs, internships, volunteering experience, and other activities that you have participated in, including school activities.  What did you do in each position? What were your responsibilities? What did you accomplish?

Next, make a list of all the skills that you have, including software program proficiencies, technical skills (can you use a camera? what kind?), any art-related skills (drawing, building things, working with different materials), and any personal qualities (public speaking ability, team player, time-management skills).

Once you have this raw information, it is time to start formatting your resume.  Resumes are divided into organizing sections, which can be customized to each individual and his or her own experiences and needs.  The most basic sections that almost all resumes begin with are contact information, education, experience, and skills.  Other sections that sometimes appear in resumes (and might make sense for your resume) are objective, summary of qualifications, honors and awards, volunteer experience, and activities.

Within each section, use reverse chronological order to organize the entries, with your most recent education or experience appearing first. In the experience section, under each job held, it is customary to include a brief description of your responsibilities and accomplishments in the position.

Here is an example of how a first draft of an experience section might look:

San Francisco Art Institute, Receptionist
• Answered phones
• Greeted guests arriving on campus
• Basic filing and computer work

Café Sappore Barista
• Waited on customers
• Make food and coffee drinks
• Wiped tables
• Stocked items

In order to make this section as strong as possible, there are a few revisions that you can do to highlight your experience.  Resume English is different than proper English; short, punchy sentences with action verbs are used to showcase relevant experience and skills.  This is how that experience section might be revised to be even stronger:

Receptionist, President’s Office, San Francisco Art Institute, 2010-present
San Francisco, CA
• Manage a busy reception area, acting as a liaison between staff and visitors.
• Handle all incoming calls to the organization’s main phone line, directing callers to over ten department areas.
• Complete a variety of office-support tasks, including advanced Excel data management and maintaining physical filing systems.

Barista, Café Sappore, 2009-2010
San Francisco, CA
• Maintained the daily functioning of a busy café and restaurant on a two-person team, completing all essential tasks including preparation of food and drink.
• Created a healthy, enjoyable environment for customers and maintained a positive public image.
• Worked with the owner to develop a new scheduling system and to streamline order receiving and bill paying.

There are a few things that this revised version is doing.
• The formatting has been changed to help a reader easily digest the information presented.  The entries are standardized, with the same kind of information appearing in the same place in each entry.  A reader knows, then, to look to the end of the first line for the dates in each entry.  This standardized formatting can carry through into each section of the resume for an even stronger sense of consistency.
• Important information is highlighted.  In this example, the job titles are in bold, making this the first piece of information a reader will absorb.  When you are creating your resume, using bold or italics in moderation is a good way to help direct readers to the most important information. 
• The descriptions of responsibilities in both positions have been rewritten and professionalized.  The language used is specific to resumes, using sentences that typically begin with an action verb.  Notice that any position that has ended is described using past tense, and any position that you still have is described using present tense.  Here is a sample list of action verbs to use when writing your descriptions:


Other Considerations

Although it is not imperative that you keep your resume to a single page, almost all well-written, entry-level resumes will conform to this standard. By keeping your resume to one page, you are making it easier on potential employers who do not have time to look through pages of resumes.
It is a good idea to keep your list of references separate from your resume and to provide them to an employer only upon request.  That way, you can control the contacts, alerting your references that a call is coming from a potential employer.  This is especially important when you have faculty references, as they have many students and cannot always remember them all instantaneously.
Your resume should look good.  Fonts should be clear and easy to read, even for people who need glasses.  Twelve-point font is best.  Headings should be in bold and/or in capital letters to make them easy to find and read.  Use italics for Latin or foreign words, but keep italics to a minimum.  Keep to a single font (or two, if you know what you're doing).  Sufficient white space on the page and margins makes the resume easier to read.  Remember, you're applying to a job as an artist, someone who has a superior eye for design; make sure your resume reflects this.

Targeting a Resume for a Specific Position

Once you have a basic resume, you will want to ensure that each time you send it out, you have edited it for each specific opportunity.  A resume is not only a summary of your skills and experiences but also an opportunity to make a connection between yourself and the position.  Most job listings will attract many resumes, sometimes as many as hundreds. So, targeting your resume to the position is one way to make your resume stand out. 

If you are applying for a position that does not seem in line with your previous experience, or you are switching from one field to another, a good way to deal with this on your resume is by adding an objective or a summary of qualifications section.  This can help employers understand, in a snapshot at the top of your resume, why you’re applying for this job at this time and why you are qualified for it. 

Sample objective statement:

Seeking an entry-level position in a nonprofit arts organization where I can combine my administrative expertise with my creative skills, utilizing my comprehensive knowledge of the San Francisco art world. 

Other ways of targeting a specific position include the order in which you present information as well as selecting the information that you include.  For instance, if you are applying for a graphic design job, but have no professional graphic design experience, in addition to writing an objective statement, you might move your skills section up in the resume, so that what a potential employer will see first is your impressive set of skills, not that you do not have professional experience in the field. 

In addition, if you are applying to your first professional position, you probably don’t need to include the waitressing job you held in college.  More relevant entries would include freelance projects that you have done, internships, and course experience. 

Resume Samples 

Employment Resume

Artist Resume