There are a number of schools of thought about how to format a resume. However, there is also a generally accepted standard format recognized by many search firms and human resource departments. Stray far from this standard, and you run the risk of being eliminated. In short, the resume is to be written in a standard format. Don’t try to be different or creative. You are not trying to show the interviewer your creativity at this time.
Screeners, including human resource and executive search professionals, who will form the first level of reducing the number of candidates, are known to discard resumes that aren’t consistent or have typographical errors. (See Screening vs. Hiring Interviews)
You need to decide whether you want a one or two-page resume and whether to have it in chronological or functional order. You want to make sure it is clean, succinct, and has the information where it needs to be.
Our recommendation for the type of resume is a traditional reverse chronological resume (last job first) rather than a functional resume (a heading for each of the functions you have experienced, followed by a reverse chronological listing of jobs). Most screeners feel that a functional resume is trying to hide something such as a short tenure at many companies.
As to the length of your resume, a one-page resume shows headlines and urgency, while a two-page resume shows text with greater detail. Our preference is for one page, because senior executives have short attention spans and, if important items are on the second page, they can get lost. Type size can go as small as 10-points and still be read.
Your resume needs to be consistent with the acceptable formats for the most demanding human resources and executive search professionals. Standard formatting conventions are:
- The resume heading and the section headings should be centered and bold.
- Contact information should be at the top of the resume and centered though variations are acceptable if space is needed. Provide name, address, telephone numbers, and e-mail address. (Note: it is critical that none of this information changes during your job search!) Examples
- The Profile (or Summary) is bold and centered and written in paragraph form. This is where you briefly outline your objectives and summarize your competencies. The Profile is normally 4-6 lines long. Carefully select your 3 outstanding competencies. Examples
- Work Experience:The most recent company name is bold and in caps and is found in the first vertical column on the left margin. Examples
- If the company changed its name you may want to list the original company (if it was better known)
- The years you worked for the company are on the same line as the company name and on the right margin. (Do notuse months.) If there is a break in the years you must be prepared to tell why-if one job ended at the end of the year (say 2010) and the next started at the beginning of the year (say 2011) wrap one side around so there is no break
- Put the location of the job only if it adds to the resume (positions all over the world, for example)
- Your title is bold, underlined and not in caps and is found on the line below the company name and in the first vertical column on the left margin (first letter of title is directly under the first letter of the company name)
- The job description is not bold or in caps and begins in the first column on the left margin. (The first letter of job description is directly under the first letter of the title.)
- Job description-the job description should tell your responsibility, the number of people you supervised and/or the budget (if any)
- The job description should be one or two lines in length on a one-page resume. It can be slightly longer for a two-page resume
- Bulleted accomplishments-gives your best accomplishments under each title you have held (as space allows) written as follows: action verb (past tense)—the accomplishment—quantification that addresses how it was good for the company
- Force rank your accomplishments and give the best one first
- Demonstrate how you produced revenue, profit or reduced expenses early on the list
- List any creative or innovative ideas that became commercial
- Be sure that your accomplishments, as a whole, give a good representation of the breadth of your skills
- You normally have room for about 14-16 bullets on a one-page resume if most of the bullets are one line
- You normally have room for about 20-22 bullets on a two-page resume with most bullets being 2-3 lines in length
- Remember-you were never hired, nor will you be hired for accomplishing your job description but you will be hired for achieving your accomplishments
- The next job in reverse chronological order appears next in the same order as above. Examples
- Additional Experience (if applicable): Can be written across the row (paragraph form) or bulleted for effect. This is experience that doesn’t fit neatly with the rest of your work history but demonstrates an important set of skills. Examples
- Military experience is highly valued in all business categories and should have its own section on the resume, if possible. Examples
- Participation in sports is also valued for teaching team work, discipline, the drive to win
- Equally important is any activity that provides service such as food shelters and other non-profit work, etc.
- Education: Begins with the name of the college first on the left margin, followed by the other information to fill the row except that the years are on the right margin. Examples
- Education-name of school, degree, major, and years of attendance. Note: Education comes before Experience only when you are receiving an undergraduate degree and have no full time experience. Otherwise it comes after Experience
- Include grade point average, academic honors (honor society), college honors (student government), sports (volley ball), activities (glee club) as appropriate
- The ability to perform academically and in extracurricular activities demonstrates energy, drive, passion, ability to multi-task
- Special or Technical or Additional Skills: Can be written to fill the row or bulleted. Examples
- Special or technical or additional skills-can be listed in paragraph form, bulleted or included as part of education (to save space)
- Computer skills and abilities should be listed
- Technical skills such as having acquired a pilot’s license
- Personal: Personal section is written across the row. Example
- Personal-presents your interests and activities-this is considered an important section by senior management
- It shows you are well-rounded and have interests outside of work
- Provides one or two things you do for yourself (physical activity, travel) and for others (coaching, soup kitchen)
- The personal section is normally one or two lines in length