When writing a resume, the starting point is often the resume template, as it sets out the basic structure of the resume. Most resumes follow the resume template format below. As you write your resume, you can start with this basic format and then go on to modify it according to your particular circumstances.
The following is a general outline of the key sections that a standard resume should have. This outline uses the reverse chronological resume format.
The header of a resume refers to the portion of the resume that includes the name, professional designation(s), address, contact information (phone, email) and social media references (LinkedIn, blog URL) of the candidate.
Some people no longer include their address on their resume as that information is technically not relevant and also out of privacy concerns.
The Objective Statement
There is a longstanding practice of including an "objective statement" at the top of the resume. However, such practice is no longer recommended by most professional resume writers, although there are still disagreements on the issue.
It is fair to say that job seekers with several years of experience and applying to senior roles should not include an objective statement on their resume. However, new graduates or job seekers applying for entry level positions can still do so.
For a more in-depth discussion of when it is appropriate to include an objective statement, see: When to Include an Objective Statement in Your Resume and Some Examples. As the title suggests, the article also provides a few examples.
The title is sometimes included as a branding statement, such as “Dedicated Customer Service Professional” or “Banking & Lending Executive.” If you don't have an objective statement, you should add a title to your resume, as it will help focus the reader's attention. Notice how some people add a qualifier in their resume title, i.e. Dedicated Customer Service Professional. It's just another way to gain a slight edge.
The Summary of Qualifications
The summary of qualifications refers to the first paragraph of the resume highlighting the candidate's key qualifications or what he wants to put in evidence. Most resume templates now include a summary of qualifications. Whereas the objective statement was often written from the candidate's perspective (i.e. what his objectives are), the summary of qualifications is written in function of the employer's needs (i.e. what the candidate can bring to the job).
The summary of qualifications sometimes ends with a "Skills" section where the candidate lists his key skills in relation to the position he's applying to.
Accomplishments & Career Highlights
The accomplishments section is sometimes included in the resume, just below the summary of qualifications, to highlight the candidate’s key accomplishments over the years. Generally, this section is more appropriate for executives, but can also be used creatively for intermediate-level positions.
The Employment History
This is the main section of the resume where the candidate lists his employment history in reverse chronological order. For each position held, you should include the employer's name, the location, the title of the position(s) you held, your period of employment, a description of the position and key accomplishments. It is sometimes recommended that you include a one-liner describing the employer, especially if the employer is a small or medium size business, not well known.
To showcase what you contributed in your prior positions, some resume writers recommend the use of PAR statements, i.e Problem, Action, Result.
The education section is where the candidate refers to his education in reverse chronological order, including the name of the institution, where the institution is located, the degree obtained, the year of graduation and anything else relevant about the curriculum.
The level of details may vary depending on the candidate's career stage. If the candidate is a new graduate, this section goes before the Employment History and should provide more specifics.
This is where you list your membership in professional organizations, including the role that you played (e.g. member, executive member, chair, etc.).
This refers to the practice of including quotes from various people. It's a matter of preference.
This is where the candidate lists his references, although references should not be listed on a resume, unless specifically asked. Instead, references are normally given after the job interview, upon request.
The above provides the general outline for a basic resume template. From there, you can tailor your resume depending on your specific circumstances and the specific objective(s) you're trying to achieve.
You can look at our vast database of resume samples for inspiration and see where you stand compared to others.
Writing a resume is easy. Writing a good resume is hard and takes time. Make sure to be strategic when you write your resume. Each word, each piece of information, each element of the layout needs to have a purpose. As you spend time working on your resume, you will also revisit and reflect on your qualifications and past experiences. The time spent working on your resume is not wasted.
If you want to read more on resume writing, the following articles shed more insights on how to write an effective resume:
- How to Write a Resume: Step-by-Step Process
- How to Create a Resume That Gets Results: Insights From a Professional Resume Writer