Resume formatting guidelines have changed over the years. Presenting a potential employer with a resume that’s outdated can quickly remove you from the applicant pool. Stay up to date with the latest format for your resume to increase your chances of landing your dream job.
Basic Resume Formatting Guidelines
There are a few guidelines that apply to the majority of resumes regardless of your experience or field. Proofreading and using the spell-checker are a given, but you might not know that the length of the resume can be one to three pages. For a while, one-page resumes were popular, but that left experienced applicants with little room to shine. As a general rule, condense each 10 years of experience to a single page and add addendums if you have additional achievements in your industry.
A resume that flows well keeps the reader engaged. For most resumes, use a chronological order throughout your resume, starting with the most recent item in the section going backwards in time. There are three exceptions to this rule, which are when you're changing careers, you've always had the same type of job, or you're a recent graduate. For these three types, you can change the resume formatting guidelines to a combination of chronological order and a functional order that highlights strengths or transferable skills.
Sections to Include in Every Resume
As a general rule, include the following sections in your resume, in this order:
- Name and Contact Information
- Summary statement
One common exception to this order is if you’re a recent graduate with little or no experience. In this instance, place the education section right after the Summary Statement and focus on scholastic accomplishments and achievements that are relevant to the industry or position. If you served an internship or have relevant volunteer experience, include those in the education section. It’s perfectly all right to omit a work experience section if you don’t have relevant items to list and other selections adequately cover your experience, expertise and skills.
Additional Resume Sections to Help You Shine
One of the resume formatting guidelines that further helps you stand out is to include additional sections in your resume that showcase your skills, achievements and abilities to perform well on the job. These may be:
- Skills/Areas of Expertise
- Accomplishments and Awards
- Professional Memberships and Affiliations
- Licenses and Certifications
Include an Areas of Expertise/Skills section after the Summary Statement if you have extraordinary skills or advanced knowledge related to the position. This is also a good spot to include keywords and phrases that may make your resume more easily identifiable in a database.
If you have three or more notable achievements or awards, include an Accomplishments and Awards section after the Summary Statement or after the Expertise and Skills section if you used one. This is a great choice if you have lots of experience in your field, and it can serve to entice a prospective employer to learn more about you in the interview. Prioritize concrete achievements, especially quantitative ones.
Both recent graduates and experienced applicants benefit from inserting a Professional Memberships and Affiliations section. For recent grads, use this section after your education section. For experienced applicants, place this section after the Experience section. Do not include affiliations that are no longer active unless you had a leadership role in the organization.
For positions that require licenses or certifications, a corresponding section is mandatory. For others, the section is an optional section to highlight additional qualifications. It’s best to add this section at the end of your resume and only include information relevant to the job.
If you found these resume formatting guidelines helpful, you might find the samples and suggestions at LiveCareer handy when writing your resume.