What is a Resume Outline?

A resume outline is a type of worksheet you create in preparation for the resume-writing process. This document functions as a repository of all your resume’s content — unedited and free of any formatting. Resume outlines are a great way to break down the steps for writing a resume. They allow you to focus solely on the content to then incorporate resume formats, templates and design elements into the equation.

Resume outlines can look like a simple list of all your resume sections or like a fill-in-the-blank format. These outlines aren’t an actual resume, they don’t follow any of the resume formats, and they have no visual features. The resume outline is a document for your personal use to have your resume information typed and on-hand so you can add it to a template and edit it to perfection.

How to Outline a Resume

Outlining a resume consists of gathering your professional accomplishments and qualifications and assigning them to the appropriate resume sections. Once you’ve properly segregated your information, you can rearrange the order to better suit your needs and choose the most appropriate resume format. To outline a resume, you will need to:

  • Brainstorm to collect information. Determine what the professional achievements that your potential employer is actively seeking. Write down your skills, previous work experiences and other professional goals. You might not use all of them, but having all of the information written down will allow you to choose the best of it for your resume.
  • Plug in your information. Fill in the basic fields listed on the blank resume template such as your contact information, summary statement or
    resume objective
    , work history, skills, and education.
  • Customize your outline sections. Once you have all your information, decide how to arrange the order of your sections and which custom sections you want to add. Make sure the order reflects your best attributes, meaning: If you have more skills than work experiences, you might want to have your skills section higher up. This informs what type of
    resume format
    you should pick.
  • Choose a resume format. Decide which resume format best suits your needs. If you determine you have a lot of previous work experience, say 10 years or more, you should use the
    chronological format
    . If you have little to no experience but plenty of professional skills, the
    functional format
    will best highlight this. If you have a solid amount of experience and skills, the
    combination format
    will best showcase them both in a balanced way.
  • Proofread. Give your resume outline a once-over to catch any spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and typos. Hand it over to a copy editor or writer friend who will be able to spot any errors you didn’t see.
  • Pick a resume style. Once you’ve completed your resume outline, give your resume some personality by choosing a style of template from our collection of traditional, modern, creative styles and more. Keep in mind that the style you choose should fit the industry you’re working in. Browse our resume styles page to determine which one is right for you.

Our Favorite Free Templates for Resume Outlines

Although you can make a perfectly fine resume outline from scratch on your preferred word processor, we recommend you use one of our premade resume outlines. Any of these worksheets will help guide you through writing down all the information you will potentially need when writing your resume. Pick the perfect resume template, download it and fill in your information.


How do I write a resume in 2023?

Writing a resume in 2023 will pose its own challenges, but the key lies in showcasing your best skills, especially transferable skills. Alongside your work history, your skills are one of the pillars of your resume. When it comes to writing your resume, it’s crucial you study the job description of the role you’re applying to and make the employer highly value the skills you include.

Does this outline also work for a CV?

Although similar in their purpose, a resume and a curriculum vitae (CV) have different content and sections. These resume outlines are better suited for a traditional resume. However, if you want to learn how to properly write a CV check out our complete guide with tips and examples.

Do I really need a cover letter?

Do you have a pandemic-related work gap in your work history? Have you had to take time off work for health-related reasons? Have you changed careers in the past few years? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need a cover letter to better explain your professional history and career decisions to a potential employer.

Unless a job ad explicitly states that you should not include a cover letter in your application, we highly recommend including one. A cover letter is another document where you can share even more of your achievements and skills while crafting a convincing narrative about who you are as a professional and what you wish to accomplish in the role.

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