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Asked by Charity on March 31, 2015

I'm just starting to put together my first real resume. Most online templates have Education listed first, Work Experience listed second, and Personal Interests and Skills listed third. Is this a fair breakdown of how my resume should be laid out? Are there any other "sections" I should consider including? What's the best way for me to outline my resume?

Answered by Ashley, Hiring Expert at Cardinal Health, on April 1, 2015

This is a very common breakdown of how a resume is laid out, especially for entry level positions. In my experience, the first thing a recruiter will look for on your resume is your level of education, if a degree is required for the position. For an entry-level position, I would recommend your resume not be more than one page. If you have limited experience on your resume, you could also include your coursework or projects you’ve worked on. I would also be sure to include any student organization involvement, leadership positions, volunteer experience or extracurricular involvement. If you have a high GPA, I would list this with your Education as well. For a position that requires a minimum GPA, I would recommend including your GPA as long as it meets the minimum requirement. If your GPA isn’t listed on your resume, a recruiter may assume you don’t meet the requirement and could automatically disqualify you.

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Answered by Stephanie, Hiring Expert at AT&T Inc., on April 1, 2015

Think about what details you want to stand out to the person that sees your resume. What will land you the job? Is it your recent degree, courses and projects you did in class? Is it your work experience, the internship that puts you in a perfect position to apply for this job? Is it your volunteer work in your community or blog you write on the side? What sets you apart? Figure out what that is and lead with that.

Most often for college students or recent grads, I would recommend leading with the degree and a few key points from your recent years in school. If you have extensive project work that lends itself to the type of job you are looking for, carve out some space to outline the project and your role. If you have technical skills and those will help get your foot in the door, I would draw those out toward the top and list your level of experience with each (beginner, intermediate or expert). You only get a few seconds of a recruiter’s attention, so think about how you want to pull them in and make them want to read more. You might also consider having a few different resumes and tailoring them based on a specific job or company. If you use the terminology in the job description it helps remind the reader that you are a potential match for job!  Best of luck!

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Answered by Bryan, Hiring Expert at IBM Corporation, on April 1, 2015

A candidate seeking to create a resume (or have it revised) is likely to get as many opinions as the number of people that they ask. There is not a “best way” to format a resume; what matters most is that the one submitting a resume feels comfortable with the document they are submitting as the best representation of their background and skills to the marketplace. There are some common socially accepted features in resumes today, and a general rule candidates should follow is to always highlight the most important characteristics about their background and work down the page in order of significance. Hiring managers and recruiters spend very little time skimming through numerous resumes, and it is important to have the most important information in a prominent position on the page couched in adequate “white space”. As a college student, there are staple sections potential employers are looking for - education, work experience, and special skills are very common. Leadership, in the form of “volunteer activities” and or “student organizational involvement”, is often an omitted or underrepresented section of a resume by many and can help supplement the lack of substantial or practical work experience. In the event student organization leadership or operational activities has practical relevance to ones’ desired career path, it should be expounded upon in similar fashion to work history. A more professional candidate with more work experience would put that section ahead of education the further removed they are from their last obtained degree.
To show the details of a candidates’ work history, a common practice to follow is to succinctly outline situations that arose while they held a position, tasks the individual was charged to complete, actions they took to complete the task/resolve a situation, and the resulting outcome of those actions. By staying consistent and focusing on the situation, task, action, and result (using a format aptly named the STAR method), it allows employers to employ behavioral screening techniques to ones’ background and help them stand out from the field. Finally, to help maintain consistency with formatting, the most common way to outline any section of a resume is keeping the information in reverse chronological order. This technique keeps current experience in a primary position regardless of what section so a potential employer can easily discern your current (or most recent) degree/aspect of work history/leadership position held/ obtained skill quickly and help them gauge where your career may be trending. This is especially helpful for individuals pursuing advanced degrees or shifting career paths (or industries) as it helps to show a clean break from dated and potentially impractical information.

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Answered by Martin, Hiring Expert at Emerson, on April 1, 2015

Thank you for the great questions! Now let’s jump in and answer your questions.
Is this a fair breakdown of how my resume should be laid out? For the most part the answer to this question is yes. I would say that by and large resumes follow a certain pattern when laid out, but this is not always the case as a marketing role might require a portfolio to be included in the resume or you might be pursuing an artistic position and so you might wish to show your flair for the dramatic by including different font styles or columns in your resume.
In my humble opinion I prefer seeing a resume that states an Objective first, and then includes Skills, Education, Work Experience, Personal Interests, and finally a section for References. Those sections allow me to clearly see your skills and experience for the role you are pursuing.
Are there any other “sections” I should consider including? That depends on the type of position you are pursuing. A great example of this is PhD students coming into the workforce for the first time. They will typically have sections for publications and patents to showcase the research they have done. I have also seen sections for awards for sales candidates to show how well they have done at selling a product. You could also include sections on associations or groups you participate in on a regular basis. Lastly, I have seen sections that point out certifications that people have received as they wish to showcase something they worked very hard to achieve.
What's the best way for me to outline my resume? The best way to outline your resume is to go with a traditional resume format or a “basic” format. I have included just the sections below and you really can’t go wrong with this type of format for a resume. Consider it the foundation of a house and then you can really build it up from there and change it however you might like in the future.
- Name
- Address
- Objective
- Skills
- Education
- Work Experiences
- Personal Interest
- References I hope that helps and I wish you all the success now and in the future.

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