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A Step-by-Step Guide to Formatting Your Resume

Does being queen count as a skill?

Young woman formatting her resume

Image courtesy of Sherise

There’s no shortage of resume templates—and plenty of conflicting advice on how to format your resume. The truth is, there’s no single correct way to format a great resume. 

But we’ll make the process easy. Stop staring at that blank document and use this guide to get it done right the first time around.

Pick the right resume format for your job search 

Before you dive in, you should be aware that there are basically three professional resume formats. Each contains essentially the same buckets of information, just organizes them differently.

Chronological

This format lists work history chronologically, starting with your current or most recent position. This is the most common type of resume, and the kind we’ll talk about in this article.

Functional

This format focuses on qualifications and relevant skills rather than specific positions. This option is best suited for job seekers with large employment gaps, career changers, or those with little work experience

Combination

As the name suggests, this format combines elements of chronological and functional resumes. Use this style when you have a particularly long or diverse work history.

General resume formatting tips 

Before we format each section, consider this guidance for formatting your resume. 

  • Don’t cram onto a single page. It’s okay to use more than one page if you need to.

  • Be consistent with formatting. If you label all sections with bold font, do so throughout. If you use bullets to list responsibilities for one job, do so for all of them.

  • The best font for your resume is something simple and easy to read, like Times New Roman, Cambria, or Calibri.

  • Use 11- or 12-point font, except for your name and for section headers.

  • Single space within sections, double-space between sections.

  • Don’t overdo it with lots of colors or complicated styling. Black text works just fine. If you'd like to add an accent color, use discerningly and consistently.

  • Left-align all text, unless you opt to center your name.

  • Tailor your resume to each specific job application. (You heard me!)

  • Send your resume as a PDF unless otherwise instructed. This is so the format isn’t distorted when the reader opens the file.

Read more: How to Get a Job in Another State (From Someone Who's Done It Twice)

How to format key resume sections

We’ll go over the format for a chronological resume, which emphasizes work history over other sections.

1. Name and contact info

Your full name should be the very first element on the page and on a line by itself. Make it the largest text on your resume, bolded if necessary, and your choice of either left or center-aligned. If it relates to the job you are applying for, you can include your current title or expertise under your name. 

Next up is contact information. Include location (city and state will suffice), phone number, and email address—all on one line with separators or stacked if you chose to left-align your name.

Example #1 - Name and contact information centered

Jane Eyre
Digital Marketing Manager
Los Angeles, CA   · 444.555.4444 ·   j.eyre@gmail.com

Example #2 - Name and contact information left aligned

Jane Eyre
Digital Marketing Manager
Los Angeles, CA
444.555.4444
j.eyre@gmail.com 

Add a double space between this section and the next.

2. Resume summary or objective

This section is optional. A resume summary is a sentence or two that hits the highlights of your relevant education and experience. An objective statement is a sentence or two that tells the reader what you hope to get from your job search—a management role or a career change, for example. 

Include one or the other, but not both. A summary is appropriate for most resumes, unless you’re changing careers, in which case an objective statement is best.

Example #1 - Resume summary

Yoga instructor with three years experience in prenatal yoga education and five years experience working with elderly populations. 

Example #2 - Objective statement

Yoga instructor with five years experience seeking new opportunities in health and lifestyle coaching. Rock climbing enthusiast, one-day marathon runner.

Add a double space between sections.

Read more: How to Write a Resume Summary They Will Actually Read

3. Work experience

On a chronological resume, the work experience section is the star.

List recent work experience most relevant to the position you’re applying for. Begin with your current or most recent position and continue in reverse chronological order. 

Start with your title followed by the company name on the same line, both bolded to stand out. Underneath, include dates of employment before listing three to four bullets detailing your responsibilities and achievements.

Bonus tip: This section is a great place to insert resume buzzwords from the job description.

Work experience 

Copywriter, Schuster Company
September 2017–January 2020

  • Increased clients’ email engagements by 20 percent with optimized copy

  • Facilitated the content ideation and website launch for five emerging brands

  • Boosted organic traffic by 25 percent with keyword-rich content for an e-commerce client

Junior copywriter, Power Solutions
May 2017–September 2017

  • Wrote subject lines for email marketing campaigns

  • Assisted senior editors with SEO research

  • Wrote 2–4 SEO-optimized blog posts per week

Use a double space between each experience and before the next section.

Read More: How to List Professional Experience on Your Resume

Education

Your educational history section can be brief. Simply list your any degrees, area of study, and name of the school. You do not need to list your graduation date and/or GPA, unless you wish to include them or the job description explicitly asks for those details. 

Education 
B.S., Marketing 
Study University, Marksville, CA

No degree? No problem. List any relevant educational experience you have, like training, certifications, or even incomplete degree programs (when relevant).

If you’ve not yet graduated, you may want to include your projected graduation date so employers know when you are available to start work.

Add a double space after this section. 

Skills

This section is optional and can be placed as early in the resume as is necessary. 

You might consider adding a section like this if the job you’re applying for calls for specific hard skills, like a coding language or a spoken language, a software program, etc., or if you want another chance to include resume buzzwords.

Use a bulleted list, broken into two columns, if necessary. 

Skills

  • Python, C++, and Java

  • Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator

  • Korean language fluency

  • Agile management experience

Add a double space between sections.

Read more: Do You Really Need Special Paper for Your Resume?

Certifications 

This section is optional. Include only certifications relevant to the position you’re applying for. Give the section a label and list your certifications below.

Certifications
Project Management Professional (PMP)

Add a double space between sections.

Read more: How to List Certifications on Your Resume

Volunteer experience

This section is also optional. Your volunteer experience doesn’t have to be relevant to the job you’re applying for, but bonus points if it is. Listing Volunteer experience is a great way to show your employer who you are outside of work.

List the name of the organization you work with and what you do with them. You can include dates if you like. 

Volunteer experience
Austin Literacy Council, volunteer coordinator
January 2018–present

Let's put it all together

Here's what your resume format might look like.

Complete resume format example

Read More: 19 Do’s and Don’ts for Crafting Your Best Resume

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By Megan Hageman

Contributor

Megan Hageman is a Columbus-based freelance writer specializing in social media and content marketing.

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