A well-written and detailed resume is a crucial tool in any job seeker arsenal. The resume is traditionally used by hiring managers in the United States to measure a job candidate's qualifications and aptitude for the open position.
This document can follow three formats: a chronological, functional or combination format. This writing guide will give you detailed instructions on how to create the most popular resume format — the chronological resume. However, we do have a dedicated format writing guide to provide you with some additional tips if you’re interested in the other layouts.
As we mentioned, the chronological resume is the most recognized format. It is very popular with recruiters and hiring managers because your work history is front and center. To successfully write this document, you’ll need to include the following sections in this order:
Your name and communication methods sit near the top of the page so that hiring managers can easily find your information.
A two- or three-sentence paragraph that is written in the third person, summarizes your professional accomplishments and how they align with the requirements of the open job.
A list of six- to eight-skills that relate directly to your former jobs and the open position’s needs. This list supplements the achievements listed under your work history and professional summary.
A section dedicated to listing your academic achievements and related certificates or training programs. This section often helps elaborate on what technical know-how you have related to the open position.
Now that we’ve introduced the five primary sections of a resume, you’re ready to start writing. Read on to learn what to include in each section and how to structure your resume.
There’s no point in creating a great resume if a recruiter isn’t able to contact you for an interview. It’s vital that you include your complete contact information in the header at the top of your resume.
Read on to learn what exactly to include in your contact information section.
Below is a list of popular social media sites that you should review:
This section is a short explanation of your qualifications and lets employers immediately know what you can bring to the table as a job candidate.
For your professional summary to accomplish these goals, look closely at the job description for emphasized or repeated responsibilities. These phrases, also known as resume keywords, are used by hiring managers and applicant tracking systems to eliminate the first batch of candidates who don’t meet the job qualifications. You can spot these keywords by scanning a job posting for any special font treatments like bolded or italicized words, repeated responsibilities or special job duties listed in bulleted lists.
“Hardworking recent college graduate seeks an entry-level marketing position. Recently graduated at the top of the class with a degree in marketing and a minor in creative writing — eager to put knowledge to use in a busy marketing department. Past experience includes a proven track record of being a team player who can pivot between assignments with ease.”
Unlike a resume objective statement, which typically expresses the job seeker’s wants, a professional summary should focus on what you, as a candidate, will offer the employer. Identify the problem the company is trying to solve with this hire and then explain how you will solve that problem.
The length of this section will depend on how long you’ve been in the workforce. A general rule of thumb is to add a page to your resume for every 10 years of experience — this section should take up most of that allotted space. Remember, your entire resume should be written in the third person — no first-person pronouns. Use four to six bullet points to break up copy.
This section gives you another chance to highlight your technical know-how. As we mentioned before, list six to eight of your hard, soft and technical skills.
Hard skills: These are objective and measurable qualifications you should present to a recruiter or hiring manager in your resume. Because they’re concrete, they serve as strong verification to a potential employer of your ability and skill set. Hard skills can include:
Soft skills: These skills are also helpful for you to showcase. However, unlike hard skills, soft skills are more subjective and harder to quantify. Most interpersonal skills fall under the umbrella of soft skills. These skills can include:
Technical skills: These fall under a specific umbrella of hard skills –– they involve nuanced or niche-specific technology and computer-based abilities. Technical skills often require more education, training or hands-on experience. They are very advantageous to showcase on your resume, especially if you’re applying to a job in the realm of computers and technology. These specialized skills can include:
You need to pick and choose these six- to eight-skills wisely. Will the skills you include make someone want to hire you for this role? Your hiring manager might be personally impressed that you can speak fluent French, but it’s best to save that fact for the interview portion of the job search if the job you’re applying to will never make use of this skill. Visit our Skills Library to review over 100 skills,
Personalize this section for each job you apply to. Scan the job ad for those crucial keywords we mentioned earlier and echo the exact same language it uses for skills. If it calls for a candidate with “strong customer service skills,” you need to duplicate this language in your skills section. Rephrasing the wording even slightly, like using a different tense, can make it challenging to get your resume past applicant tracking systems (ATS).
This step only takes a few minutes, but it might be the difference between getting your resume into a hiring manager’s hands or getting deleted by a computer program before you even meet a human decision-maker.
Employers are interested in your education, although the amount of detail you offer in this section changes depending on when you graduated. If you graduated more than three years ago, this section is sparse. You can list the name of the school you attended, the date of graduation, and the type of degree you earned. However, most hiring managers will be more interested in your practical work experience if you’ve been out of school for a few years.
If you graduated less than three years ago, it’s OK to elaborate on this section since you don’t have as many years of professional experience to showcase on your resume. You can list your grade point average (GPA), special awards or commendations you earned, or any specialized classes or coursework related to the open job.
Structure your resume’s educational information with the following format:
MA in English Literature, minor in French, 2019
2021 is a strange year — your resume needs to adapt to a suddenly competitive job market, especially if you’re changing jobs due to struggling industries. A resume written in 2021 needs to include transferable skills, aka skills that can easily transfer from one industry to another. These skills tend to be soft skills like customer service, conflict resolution, management experience or language fluency. Here’s a list of 50 transferable skills that can help you.
A resume’s objective statement is not commonly used and has largely been replaced by the summary statement we mentioned above. You can write this section if you’re applying to an internship, re-entering the workforce, or changing your career and want to explain to the hiring manager why you’re making this change. If you fall into those job-seeking qualities, you need to do the following in three sentences to successfully write an objective statement for your resume.
Your resume can be more than one page if you have over 10 years of formal work experience. We generally advise that you dedicate one resume page to each decade of experience, although you don’t want your document to exceed two pages unless you’re applying for an executive position.
There are three commonly used resume formats that you can pick from: the chronological, functional, and combination format. The best resume format that you can use depends on your professional needs, although we'll quickly summarize the pros of each version to help you narrow down your decision. You can also find detailed writing guides examples, and downloadable templates alongside each format.
Chronological resume: This is the most commonly used and recognizable format on the job market. The chronological layout prioritizes your work history and paints a clear picture of your professional accomplishments and career trajectory. Our chronological writing guide delves into deeper details.
Functional resume: A skills-based resume relies on your work experience based on technical achievements, not on work experience linked to specific jobs. The resume has different sections dedicated to your qualifications, your technical skills, digital skills and soft skills. Our functional writing guide delves into each section.
Combination resume: This resume format combines the best of the chronological and functional resumes. It retains the traditional work history structure that hiring managers are familiar with so that you can showcase accomplishments linked to each position, but shifts your skills section above your work history so that hiring managers can quickly scan your abilities and decide if you're suited for the role. Learn more about the combination resume.
There are several differences between a resume and a curriculum vitae (CV.) A resume is a short one- to two-page document that quickly summarizes any relevant work experience you have that may relate to an open job position. It is commonly used in the U.S. for most job positions.
The CV is a much longer and detailed document that summarizes most of your professional and academic accomplishments. It also includes dedicated sections to your publications, lectures, conference presentations or attendance, professional affiliations, and more. This document is rarely used in the U.S. outside of the academic, research, entertainment or federal fields. You'd most likely use this format if you're applying to work abroad –– the CV is commonly used by job seekers through Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Hopefully, this writing guide helps you prepare an interview-winning resume. We also recommend reviewing these job-specific resume examples and downloadable templates for additional guidance.