The Basic Resume Format

Setting Out From Scratch: The Right Way to Format Your Resume

The Definitive Guide To Ground Up Resume Writing

The hardest part of writing an effective resume is figuring out the content, such as how to talk about your achievements in ways that tie to what an employer is looking for. But people also do an awful lot of agonizing about the smaller details of a resume – things like resume format, length, and even font choices.

Let’s put those worries to rest. Here are answers to the most common points you need to focus on when creating out your personal resume format.

The Basic Resume Format
In general, your resume should have the following sections in this order:
• Name and contact info
• Work history, listed in reverse chronological order (for each job, list your title, the employer’s name, the dates you worked there and a bulleted list of achievements)
• Education
• Skills

Some people also include a short profile or summary section before their work history. Doing this is optional but has increased in popularity in recent years. The idea is to provide an overall framing for your candidacy. We like to use the phrase, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.
Some people also find it useful to include sections for volunteer work or unique skills. Again, this is optional, but in some cases, it can strengthen your candidacy.

Functional or chronological resume format
The functional resume format, which is focused on one long list of skills and accomplishments rather than connecting them to a chronological work listing. Functional resume formats are also widely disliked by employers since they make it difficult to understand what the candidate’s work progression. Hiring managers also tend to assume that candidates using this resume format are trying to hide weak experience or significant work gaps. Since using the functional resume format is likely to start you out on the wrong foot with hiring managers, stick to using the chronological format.

The education section
Your education section will be just a line or two. You should list any degrees you’ve attained since high school and the college or university that granted them. You don’t need to go into detail about your coursework – just the degrees themselves are sufficient.

You might also list certificates or other forms of continuing education here, but be choosy about what you list. Anything listed in this section should be substantial, so you shouldn’t include something like 15 day-long seminars you attended or every conference you’ve attended.

Work experience – bullet points or paragraphs
The majority of your information should be in bullet points when you’re describing your work experience. Hiring managers are skimming your resume very quickly. Blocks of text are harder to comprehend immediately. Additionally, many hiring managers’ eyes will glaze over if your resume contains long blocks of text. Save that for your cover letter.

Resume Length
The old one-page rule for resume formatting is dead, but that doesn’t mean you can throw out all the rules about length! Your resume still should not be more than two pages. If you’re a recent graduate, or just starting out in the workforce, stick to one page.

Does that feel painful to you? Well, keep in mind that the longer your resume is, the less likely hiring managers are to see the parts you most want them to see. Most hiring managers spend just a few seconds scanning resumes initially; if your resume is several pages long, how many highlights will they spot? Plus, a long resume can make you come across as unable to tell what information is essential and what’s less significant.

Dull, basic layout or can a creative resume design shine?
I have a client that once got an interview after submitting a resume that he’d written in purple crayon! However, in most cases, you should stick to a traditional layout. No fancy colors or fonts. And definitely no self-portraits!

The most important thing about your resume format is that it should be easy to scan and well organized. Few hiring managers want to see unusual colors or innovative templates. The traditional resume layout may feel boring, but hiring managers know how to find the information they want on it quickly, and that’s to your advantage.

Font selection
Hiring managers won’t care about what font you use as long as you choose one that’s easy on the eyes. Your resume is not the place for a flowery cursive font or anything that’s going to make it difficult to skim easily. Sample different fonts and pick one that you like and that’s easy to read. Georgia, Calibri, Arial and even old-school Times New Roman are all excellent. A good litmus test for your resume font is that no one should be thinking about it. You want your content to stand out, not your font selection skills.

And don’t forget that font size matters! Don’t choose a font size smaller than 11 for the body of your resume; anything else can be hard for some people to read.

I hope that this helped you get the basics of how to put together your resume. Lots of us think we know what we’re doing when it comes to creating a resume, but I hope everyone got a tip they hadn’t thought of out of this week’s post.

What did I miss? What did I get wrong? Let me know your thoughts on twitter, @VonDiercc or email me, ldier@vondier.cc.

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