Resume Basics: Writing and Formatting Your Resume

Resume Basics: Writing and Formatting Your Resume

Your resume is the most important document you will use in your job search. It’s what makes the first impression on a prospective employer, and it will either get you an interview or get you a rejection letter, if you even get a response.

The resume you send has only seconds to make an impression on the person reading it. You will want that impression to be not just a good one, but a great one. Your resume needs to be the one that makes the best impression on the person who might be hiring you for your next job, so spending time and effort to boost your resume will definitely pay off. 

The Purpose of a Resume

We create resumes in order to showcase to prospective employers what we have accomplished in our lives as it relates to work and careers. 

Your resume is the way you will highlight your professional accomplishments, your educational achievements, and the skills that are relevant and specific to the type of job for which you are applying. 

Types of Resumes

 There are several types of resumes:

  • A chronological resume is the most familiar type, and the one used most often. It lists your work history in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job listed first. 
  • A functional resume highlights your skills and experience rather than the jobs you have held. 
  • A combination resume highlights your skills (usually with a section at the top of the page), followed by your chronological employment history. 


Which Type of Resume to Choose

If you have a strong work history, use a chronological resume with a statement at the top that highlights your skills.

It’s best to use a functional or combination resume when there are gaps in your employment history. For example, if you have been out of the workforce for a while or are changing careers. That way, you can focus on your skills rather than the gaps or glitches in your work record. 

Write a Custom Resume

In the past, job seekers created one version of their resume, and that was it. You sent the same version of your resume in response to each and every help-wanted ad that you find. Now it’s necessary to have at least several versions of your resume. 

You will send out a different version depending on the job. The job applicants who are getting the most interviews are the ones who take the time to review the job posting and write a targeted resume for each and every job they apply for.

Writing a targeted sample resume isn’t hard. Start by reviewing the job posting. Then write a customized objective that matches the job posting. 

Here’s an example: 

  • Job Posting: This position provides technology leadership and direction for the company’s software systems. This includes technology evaluation, new product architecture and delivery, and management of software engineers and developers, as well as interfacing with sales and corporate administration.
  • Career Objective: To apply my unique combination of technical expertise, managerial experience, business acumen, and sales support to direct the delivery and acceptance of mission-critical software systems. 

Also consider including a section called Career Qualifications or Highlights on your resume. This optional section can include a bulleted list of the experience, skills, and key accomplishments from your employment history. 

Using the technology position as an example, here are career highlights that relate specifically to the job posting. 


  • Directed development teams and implemented software delivery, achieving 100% on-time delivery of three enterprise software products. 
  • Managed all product delivery activities for software services provider, ensuring all products were delivered in advance of scheduled release. 
  • Managed developers, database administrators, and product architects responsible for product design and development in order to streamline all software development activities. 


The recruiter will appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to understand what the company is looking for, and that you have taken the time to identify how you are the candidate with the qualifications for the position. Not only have you saved the recruiter some time reading through your resume, but you have also promoted your candidacy by highlighting your specific relevant qualifications. 

Formatting Your Resume

Keep your resume formatting simple. First, take some time to think about how you are going to construct your resume—not what it says, but how it looks. 

Visualize how your resume looks on paper, even though it may only be read on a computer screen, and the bigger picture of how it’s formatted and laid out rather than the specific words you are including. Leave plenty of white space on your resume because you don’t want it to look crowded or cluttered. 

Tip: Keep your resume to one page if possible, but don’t worry if it is longer because you have lots of experience. 

Keep it Concise and Simple

Don’t write too much. Short sentences and paragraphs work much better than longer ones. Write clearly and simply. Your resume should be written simply and should be easy to read:

  • When choosing fonts, keep the number of fonts you use to a minimum. Choose a font like Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman that’s easy to read. 
  • Tiny fonts cause eyestrain, so make sure the font is large enough to read (10- or 12-point). 
  • Use bolding and bullets to highlight your job titles and responsibilities. 


Tip: Don’t overuse formatting. A resume with too much of a good thing, like too much capitalization or italicization, is hard to read.

After you write your resume, look at it again to see if it looks appealing. Make sure that your fonts and point size are consistent throughout the document. If you use several fonts and sizes, be sure that each section is formatted the way you want it to be. 

Creating Your Resume 

The creation of a resume involves several steps. Your goal should be to create a clean, simple resume that is easy to read and clearly explains what your objectives are, what your background is, and what skills you have. 

Start With a Resume Checklist

Compile the information to include in your resume. Regardless of the type of resume you choose, you will need to gather the information to include before you start writing. Use this resume checklist to compile the information you will need to have ready. 

You will need to make a list of all your employment information, your school and college information, and the relevant skills you have. 

Here’s the information to include on your resume checklist:

[ ] Contact information 

[ ] Summary and objective 

[ ] Work history 

[ ] Education and training 

[ ] Skills 

[ ] Additional information 

How much work history to include depends on how many years you have been working. If you have been in the workforce for years, you don’t need to include all the experience that you have—the last ten to fifteen years of experience is sufficient. If you’re an older worker, also consider leaving off the dates when you went to college.

Stick to the Facts

It’s important to tell the truth and not to exaggerate your qualifications when you write your resume. Here are a couple of reasons why. First of all, many employers check. They check your references, they check your transcripts, and they verify employment with prior employers. If you haven’t told the truth and the company finds out, you can be fired later on.

Start With a Resume Template

Using a resume template is an ideal way to make sure that you include everything you need on your resume. Here’s an overview of a resume template, with optional sections for an objective and career highlights. 

Contact Section

The first section in your resume should include information on how prospective employers can contact you: 

[ ] Name 

[ ] Home address (optional) 

[ ] City, state, and zip code (optional)

[ ] Cell phone 

[ ] Email address 

Career Objective

The next section of your resume is the objective. In the past, an objective including a description of what type of employment you were seeking. Today’s resume objective shows what you have to offer the employer. This is optional, but taking the time to write a customized objective that matches the job you are applying for will definitely help you stand out from the other candidates. This section should contain a sentence or two describing your goals for employment. 

Career Highlights

If you are seeking a professional position, include a section called Career Highlights or Qualifications. This section is also customized to the job you are seeking. List your relevant achievements and skills. This can either be a paragraph or a bulleted list of your skills as they match the job description.


The Experience section of your resume is a list of your work history. It should include the companies you worked for, dates of employment, and jobs you held, along with a list of responsibilities and achievements.

 The following is an example of the Experience section: 

  • Company 
  • City and state 
  • Dates of employment 
  • Job title 
  • Responsibilities and achievements 



The Education section of your resume should include a list of the colleges you attended, your degrees, and honors or awards you received: 

Tip: If you’re a college graduate or have been in the workforce for a while, you don’t need to include high school information. If you’re a student seeking a part-time job or an internship and you’re still in school or have just graduated, it’s fine to include high school on your resume. 


The Skills section of your resume comes next. It should include information on the skills you have that are specific to the type of job you are applying for (i.e., Microsoft Office, HTML, or foreign languages). 

For example, if you’re applying for a job as a social worker, where being bilingual is an asset, include the foreign language skills you have and your level of fluency. On the other hand, if you have advanced programming skills and you are applying for a job as an editorial assistant, there is no reason to list them. In fact, you may appear to be overqualified for the position if you list high-level skills that aren’t related to the job. 

Additional Information

The last section of your resume is the Additional Information section. Use it to list professional memberships, publications, volunteering, and other related activities. Do make sure that what you include is relevant. For example, if you have taken piano lessons for years and teach piano as a side job, but you aren’t applying for a job in the music field or as an educator, there is no need to list your ability to play the piano on your resume. 

The rule of thumb to remember is if it’s related to the position you are applying for, include it on your resume. Consider whether the skill adds value to your credentials, and if not, leave it off your resume. 

Tip: Use one of these free resume templates to get started writing your own resume.

Don’t List References on Your Resume

There is no need to include references on your resume. Instead, have your references on a separate list, ready to give to an employer on request. 

Carefully Proofread Your Resume

Use the following checklist to make sure you have checked and double-checked everything on your resume: 

[  ] Use an online dictionary as you write. 

[  ] Your current position should be described in the present tense (manage staff). 

[  ] Previous positions should be described in past tense (managed staff). 

[  ] Use a period at the end of each full sentence. 

[  ] Make sure your punctuation is consistent. 

[  ] Double-check all the dates of employment. 

[  ] Double-check your contact information. 

[  ]  Spell check your finished resume. 

[  ] Ask a family member or friend to proofread your resume. 

What To Leave Off Your Resume

Some things should not be included on your resume in the United States. In fact, it is illegal for employers to ask for some personal and confidential information. The information you do not need to include on your resume is: 

  • Age 
  • Gender 
  • Marital status 
  • Number of children 
  • Salary history 
  • References 


Update Your Resume Regularly

It can be time-consuming to edit and rewrite your resume for every job you apply for, but in the long run, it’s well worth the effort you put into it. Here are tips for keeping your resume updated, so it’s easy to apply for a job when you find one that’s a perfect fit.

Review a Resume Example

Amy Weber

City, State | (000) 123-4567 | [email protected] | LinkedIn URL


Summary of Qualifications

Experienced Office Manager well-versed in handling all A/P, A/R, payroll, and bookkeeping functions for multi-physician medical offices. Proven leadership and effectiveness training and supervising administrative staff in optimal performance of office and reception activities.

Core competencies include:

  • Medicaid / Medicare Billing Processes
  • Vendor Relations
  • upply Purchasing
  • Employee Timekeeping
  • Office Accounting


Office Manager, 6/2018 to Present

Promoted to direct medical billing, A/P and A/R, timekeeping, and accounting functions for 12-physician medical practice. Troubleshoot and resolve issues with insurance providers; ensure on-time execution of all financial reporting. Mentor and supervise 3 direct reports. Key contributions:

  • Implemented new business office system solution that improved accuracy of billing and accounting processes.
  • Restored positive cashflow by eliminating backlog in adjustments to accounts receivables inherited from predecessor.
  • Recognized with multiple “Employee of the Month” awards for increasing staff morale and overall office efficiency.

Medical Receptionist, 8/2015 to 6/2018

Greeted and provided excellent customer service to patients of busy medical office. Answered phones and scheduled patient appointments; distributed mail and managed digital and hard copy medical records. Key contributions:

  • Earned promotion to Office Manager role after completing Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM) certification training.

Education and Training

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE (City, State) | Bachelor of Science in Business Administration

Professional Certification: Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM), Practice Management Institute

Computer Skills

Platforms: Windows, Android OS

Applications: Microsoft Office Suite (Excel, Word, Outlook, Access, PowerPoint), QuickBooks, Google Docs

Get Started Writing Your Resume

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  • July 27, 2023