How to Structure a Resume
Length: Be concise, and limit yourself to 1-2 pages.
Main Heading (centered): Include
- your name,
- telephone number. plus
- fax number and email address (if applicable).
Employment Objective (against the left margin): Identify the type of job that you are seeking.
- You might also indicate a longer-term goal, such as a professional position that you hope to build toward in the future.
- Avoid defining your job objective too narrowly, so that a prospective employer excludes you from consideration for a position that might interest you.
Education (against the left margin): Include
- college(s) attended,
- dates that you attended college(s)
- degree(s) received,
- major field or concentration,
- academic honors (if applicable).
Employment Experience (against the left margin): List jobs from most recent to the earliest that is appropriate or relevant to the position that you are seeking. You may choose to exclude very early, relatively irrelevant work experience in fast foods or retail, for example.
- Emphasize full-time jobs and those most relevant to the position that you are seeking.
- Specify job title, dates of employment, name and address of employer.
- Concisely describe the duties you performed in previous jobs, stressing the duties that were relevant to the job that your are currently seeking.
- Identify any promotions that you received.
- Highlight significant accomplishments that you achieved while working for a particular employer.
- Don't state the salaries that you earned at earlier jobs.
- Present military service as a job; specify the dates that you served, the duties you performed, and your rank at discharge.
Special Skills and Activities (against the left margin):
- If appropriate, report your knowledge of a foreign language, familiarity with computer software or hardware, or demonstrated writing and editing skills.
- Include community service activities and memberships in relevant clubs and professional (or pre-professional) organizations.
- Mentioning one or two hobbies might give readers a sense of your personality or a rounder view of you as a person.
References (or Further Information) (against the left margin): Either a) specify particular people who have agreed to serve as references or b) indicate that references will be "Furnished upon request."
- You might also offer to provide other supporting information such as college transcripts, writing samples, or a portfolio of projects completed for course work or for previous employers. Make certain that offering such a portfolio does not violate your previous employers' confidentiality policies.
How to Format Electronic and Paper Resumes
Several guidelines for paper resumes also apply to electronic ones.
Use a high quality printer and white or beige paper for maximum readability.
Proofread and ask someone else to proofread for you. However, some unique guidelines apply to electronic resumes that might be posted or scanned into electronic databases.
Emphasize nouns rather than verbs: In paper resumes, as in most writing, stressing verbs (action words) encourages forceful, concise expression. However, the software used to search through electronic resumes often relies on nouns.
- Search programs use nouns as "key words." If your resume includes those key words, the search program will identify your resume as a "hit."
Include a separate section for key words: Immediately after the main heading of your resume (stating your name, address, telephone number, etc.), add a section and heading entitled "Key Words."
- To identify important key words, review job postings that interest you; then incorporate relevant terms into your resume, especially in the "Key Words" section.
- In that section, list up to fifty key words such as "sales," "customer service," "inventory management," or "information systems."
Use additional white space: That will help an electronic scanner capture a clear and accurate image of your resume.
Use simple, clear formatting: Complicated formatting sometimes becomes distorted or garbled in electronic form.
- Avoid italics, underlining, and bold face.
- Avoid decorative fonts or type faces.
- Use 10 to 14 point font sizes.
An Alternative (Functional) Structure for Résumés
In most cases, recent college graduates who have not held full-time jobs for very long will want to organize their work experiences around separate jobs presented chronologically from most recent to earliest.
In the following cases, however, job applicants might choose an alternative structure that organizes work experience according to the skills used or functions performed, such as "Training," "Program Development," and "Staff Management."
- Applicants who have held one job for a long time may want to emphasize the broad range of experience that they gained in that one position.
- An applicant who hopes to change fields or industries may want to suggest that skills gained in his or her former field (teaching, for example) can be transferred easily into a new field (such as human resources).
- Applicants who have been out of the work force for a long time due to illness or personal problems, for example, may want to draw attention away from gaps in their employment histories.
Beware: Because applicants sometimes use the "functional" résumé structure to distract from problems in their employment histories, prospective employers may examine such résumés carefully. Be prepared to answer questions concerning significant gaps in employment and to explain why you chose the functional résumé structure.
Use the following headings to organize a functional résumé.
- Main Heading (centered): Name, address, telephone number, fax number, and email address.
- Employment Objective (against the left margin): Follow the guidelines for a standard, "chronological" résumé.
- Professional Accomplishments (against the left margin): Use subheadings to identify the particular functions or types of skills (such as "Training," "Program Development," and "Staff Management"). Cite specific accomplishments that correspond to those functions or demonstrate your mastery of those skills.
- Education (against the left margin): Follow the guidelines for a standard, "chronological" résumé.
- Employment Experience (against the left margin): Concisely list jobs from most recent to earliest. Simply specify job title, dates of employment, name and address of employer. You will have covered the relevant details in the section entitled "Professional Accomplishments."
- Special Skills and Activities (against the left margin): Follow the guidelines for a standard, "chronological" résumé.
- References (or Further Information) (against the left margin): Follow the guidelines for a standard, "chronological" résumé.
A Fictive Example
(Note: Some browsers may alter the formatting in these examples)
13 Shadow Lane
Sunnydale, California 90666
Senior Extermination Technician in a national, pest-control organization.
University of California at Sunnydale, Sunnydale, California, September 1999-Present
Major: Abnormal Psychology
Sunnydale Community College, Sunnydale, California, September 1998-June 2000
Associate's Degree, Demonology, June 2000
Provost's Medal of Valor, May 2000
Happy Trails Mausoleum (Sunnydale, California)
Overnight Security Guard, September 1999-Present
Patrolled premises, dispatched intruders, apprehended roving band of grave robbers, and did some light filing.
Hocus Pocus Novelty Shop (Los Angeles, California)
Store Clerk, June-August 1996
Operated cash register, inventoried stock, and prepared potions.
SPECIAL SKILLS AND ACTIVITIES
Languages: Fluent in ancient Assyrian.
Equipment: Certified as proficient in use of medieval crossbow.
Diablo County Morgue: Community volunteer.
Scooby Doo Fan Club: President of Sunnydale chapter.
References, college transcripts, and a portfolio of notable stakings will be furnished upon request.