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Components of a Resume

1. Contents: What should I include?

  • As brevity in constructing a resume is key, it is important to only include experience and attributes that are relevant.
  • Instead of using general statements about your abilities, try instead to give specific examples of your use of these qualities
    • e.g. Instead of writing "Strong Managerial abilities" try writing "coordinated and supervised a team of 6 employees to complete effective and specialized marketing tasks in a time sensitive environment"
  • Use industry specific terms so that you sound informed, however, don't become so industry specific that the HR department reviewing your application won't understand your resume.
  • Avoid using demographic information on your resume. Don't include information about your race, ethnicity, age, or a photograph. This can negatively impact your resume due to employer bias, or may cause the company to discard your application to avoid claims of biased hiring practices.

Never forget to include your contact information.
Countless amazing resumes make their way before employers only to discover that the applicant never included a way to contact them. When submitting your resume, make sure your phone number, email, and address is listed on the document.

2. Format: Sections and Sequence

Within the realm of resumes, there are three basic formats which all present information in a different way; focusing on different elements of your relevant characteristics.


Chronological Resume
  • The emphasis in the chronological format is primarily on past employment. In this style, your previous work experience (including position title, and employer) is listed in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent position and working backwards.
  • Under each position, Include the specifics of what you did in that position, and what skills you utilized.
  • This resume format is the most common of the types, and is the best choice if you have past work experience which directly relates to the position that you're applying for.


Functional Resume
  • With this format, the emphasis is placed on your skill set as opposed to your work history. The specific skills you're choosing to highlight are grouped under skill headings, and then under each of these headings, the ways that you've developed and utilized these skills are listed.
  • As always, it is important to keep the specific position you're applying for in mind. For example, if the skill most pertinent to the position you're applying for is multitasking, then make sure to make this the first skill heading listed.
  • This format presumes that what matters is what skills you have, rather than where you learned them. As this resume by its nature does not include past employment history, it is the least commonly used format.
Combination Resume
  • As is suggested by its name, the combination format places emphasis on both skills as well as work experience. The most common way to structure this resume type, is with the skill section listed first, followed by the work history section. The same rules asserted by the Chronological and Functional resume formats are followed by the Combination format.
  • This format is the most time consuming to construct, but may be the best choice if you don't have much work experience that directly relates to the position you're applying for.

Remember that you're not confined to any of these specific styles.
Instead, think of these formats as a starting place through which you can customize your resume in a way which makes you best represent yourself.

As a general rule, when deciding the sequence to write your resume in, list your most relevant experiences or skills to the specific job you're applying to, remembering that this may be different than perceived job prestige.

  • For example; when applying for an engineering position, an unpaid internship in an engineering firm may be of more interest to employers than 2 years spent working at a professional marketing firm.

Potential Resume Section Titles:

This contains 5 or 6 points which summarize your unique skill set.
Education and Training:
This includes past experiences of education and additional training you've received. In this section, you can also list education that is uncompleted, including expected completion date.
Professional Affiliation:
This includes any professional associations you hold memberships in.
Relevant Experience:
This contains a curated and selective presentation of your past work experience.
Technical Skills:
This is made up of additional skills relevant to the position. I.e. Computer Skills, software proficiency, languages spoken, etc...
Additional Training:
This will include any official training you've completed which can be comprised of seminars, workshops, certificate programs, or any other type of training which has furthered your job specific knowledge.
Extracurricular Activities:
This is an area where you can highlight different activities and programs you are involved in outside of a work context. This could include volunteer positions, athletic programs, musical groups, etc... This can highlight being a well-balanced individual.
Awards: Remember to make sure this pertains in some way to your job application; this is not the section to highlight your bowling championship, or winning the coney island hotdog eating contest.
About me: This is a section that is not necessary, but can be used to give a quick synopsis of who you are as a person and how that relates to this position. However, as most applications require a cover letter, this section may be redundant.

3. Word Choice: It's not what you say, it's how you say it

  • It is estimated that over 70% of resumes submitted to job postings never even get seen by an employer. Why is this? Because most employers use online programs to sift through the thousands of applications they receive to highlight those applicants which the program perceives as being most in line with the position due to a number of preset criteria. So how do you help make sure your resume gets in front of the employer? The words you use help.
    • Instead of using the same wording for all your applications, try looking at the specific position you are applying for to see what descriptive terms they use in the job description and title. Next, review your resume and insert those descriptive terms into your work experience or other areas; this can help cause these online programs to flag your resume as one that may be of potential interest to the employer.
    • Another area of importance is to check, double check, and triple check that your resume is free of grammatical and spelling errors. This is another area which can get your resume tossed out (by both a computer program, and by the employer)
  • Instead of using passive statements (My responsibilities included..., My role was...) try using action verbs instead (illustrated, coordinated, organized, lead, etc...). Starting each description with an action verb helps your experiences stand out to an employer by giving the perception that you took an active role in your workplace.
  • Whenever possible, try and emphasize your accomplishments with your past work experience, quantifying them if possible (e.g. Developed new production strategy which decreased overhead expenses by $300,000 in the first 6 months)

4. Presentation: How should your resume look?

There is no set way that a resume should look. Instead, apart from organizational structure, resumes will look vastly different from one candidate to the next. When deciding on how you want your resume to look, it is important to keep in mind what field you're applying for positions in, and who will be reviewing your resume.

For individuals applying into an artistic field, it is natural to expect that a resume should be designed with a particular focus on aesthetic design. Whereas for someone applying into science or business focused careers, a resume that is very structured and linear may be better suited. Regardless of the appearance of your resume, the information contained in it should always be easy to find. Never let design distract from content.

If at all possible, find out if your organization uses an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

If your application is going to be initially sorted through by a computer program, this will affect how you should lay out your resume. In these cases, the simpler the resume format the better, avoiding additions like images, text boxes, shapes, etc...

Common Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) include,,, and others.

General Tips for Resume Presentation:
  • When it comes to fonts, utilize different elements throughout your resume to emphasize hierarchy and structure (e.g. bolding, capitalization, size, etc...).
    • Keep this pattern of use consistent throughout your whole resume; if a job position title is typed in Times New Roman, Size 14, Bold, then format every job position title in that same way.
    • While this is important as it helps to organize your document, don't get carried away. As a general rule, use no more than 2-3 different font elements throughout your resume.
  • Use bullet points in your resume rather than paragraph format. This keeps pertinent information precise and highlighted for the reader.
  • Maintain consistent spacing and text alignment throughout your resume to prevent the employer from getting lost.
    • Ideal line lengths are between 50-70 characters across.
  • Adjust page margins to make sure that there is adequate white space surrounding the text. Resumes with too small of page margins are complicated and time consuming to read.
  • Make sure your resume is no more than 2 pages long.
  • Read, re-read, and re-read again. Proofreading your resume multiple times, or asking others to proofread your resume can help identify and eliminate errors in the the document, which can make the difference between getting the job, and not getting the job.
    • Did you notice where the word "the" was repeated twice in a row in the last tip? You get the point. Now proofread your resume.
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