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How to Structure Your Resume

This post is part of a series called How to Create a Great Resume (Ultimate Guide).
The Secret to Crafting an Attention Grabbing Resume
How to Make Your First Job Resume Stand Out

If it has been years since you've updated your professional resume, it's time to take another look at it. Even in today's competitive job market, where most job hunting is done online, your resume makes a difference.

Your resume structure is also important. Your resume needs to have the right headings and sections. Your resume formatting makes a huge difference in the impression you make on potential employers.

In this tutorial, I'll explain how to create a good basic resume with proper resume sections and resume headings. I'll also describe why your resume structure is important and share a few go-to template resources.

Resume Must-Haves

A good way to start creating or updating a resume is to view your information through an employer's eyes. Ask yourself:

  1. What information about me does a potential employer or client need to know?
  2. What information about me would they like to know?

Let's take a closer look at the basic resume sections and resume headers that every resume needs. Here are the sections of a resume and a brief look at why each section is important:

  • Contact information. You won't get hired if you don't include a way for hiring managers to get in touch. Yet too many job hunters wrongly submit their resumes with incomplete or outdated contact information.
  • Strong summary statement. The summary statement is a short phrase that describes your skills and experience. It should appear towards the top of your resume since many employers look at it first.
  • Keywords. What terms will your employer look for in their candidates? Read the job ad carefully and sprinkle the employer's terms throughout your resume. Keywords can help you get around filters and gatekeepers.
  • Job history. When you list past jobs on your resume, describe what you accomplished at each job. Don't merely repeat your job description. They key to standing out from other candidates is to show how you excelled in your prior positions.
  • Education. Under the Education resume heading include your formal education beyond high school. Don't forget to list certificates and continuing education as well. Include any coursework that specifically relates to the position you are applying for in this resume section.

Organize your resume into sections with related information grouped under separate resume headings. Well-defined resume headers make it easier for potential employers to quickly find what they need to know about you.    

That’s why I include a good resume template on the list of resume must-haves. A good resume template keeps you organized. The basic resume structure and resume headings are already in place. A template also ensures that your finished resume will have a polished, professional look. 

Now that we’ve discussed the resume sections your resume needs, let’s take a look at some things it doesn’t need.

Resume Mistakes to Avoid

Resume structure has changed over the years. Some resume headings and other resume-writing practices that used to be common are now viewed as unnecessary. Even worse, following outdated resume advice can cost you a job.

Here is a short list of common resume mistakes and outdated advice:

  • Objective. The old advice was to include a resume heading called Objective at the top of your resume. The section described your career goals. Many human resource professionals agree that this section should be replaced by the more employer-oriented resume heading of Summary Statement.
  • References. Another piece of old resume writing advice was to include your references in a resume section at the end of your resume. If an employer or potential client is interested, they will ask for references. Keep a separate reference sheet handy. Bring it on your interviews, but don't submit it with your initial resume unless it's asked for.
  • Lots and lots of pages. A longer resume is not a better resume. Your resume should be long enough to cover your information, but not so long that it overwhelms a recruiter. Structure your resume carefully to avoid repetition.
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes. If you make mistakes on your resume, potential clients and employers may assume that you'll also be careless on the job. Consider having a friend review your resume to make sure there are no mistakes. Another option is to hire a professional resume writer who specializes in resume and cover letter writing. 
  • Fancy paper. Years ago nearly all resumes were received through the mail. It became common practice to pre-print resumes on expensive stationery. Today, most resumes are initially received online. You will need a few printed copies of your resume to take to interviews, but don't invest in reams of pricey paper. A good quality basic paper (make sure it's not too thin) is fine for most interviews.
  • Fabrication. Lies have no place on your resume. Remember, most companies will verify your education and work experience, so don't make it up. Take a look at what HR professional Liz Ryan has to say about resume lies in her article on Forbes, The Truth About Lying On Your Resume

Now that we’ve looked at the dos and don’ts of what to include in your resume, let’s discuss your resume structure.

Why Your Resume Structure is So Important

The information is all there, you might think. So, why should I bother with getting my resume structure just right?  

The answer is simple. Hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes. Often, they only have a few minutes to glance at each resume and decide whether they want to consider a candidate.

A good resume structure helps HR professionals find relevant information quickly. Resume headings should be well-defined and easy for a rushed recruiter to scan. Plus, an attractive and informative resume shows that you are well-organized.

How can you make sure your resume structure will catch a recruiter’s eye? You could spend hours and hours trying to create an attractive resume and still not get it right.

A quicker, more efficient solution is to use a resume template such as those Envato offers through GraphicRiver. Here is an example of three attractive resume templates:

1. Clean, Well-Structured Resume Template

This minimal, cleanly structured resume template is perfect for the creative professional. It includes a matching cover letter and a separate portfolio page for your work samples. The format is designed with clarity, with a bold color resume header that stands out, and it's organized with clear resume sections. You can grab this template, add your info, and apply for a new job quickly!

Clean resume structure template
Clean structured resume template + cover letter + portfolio.

2. Swiss Style, Minimal Resume Formatting Template Set

This resume template was designed to make you stand out from the competition. It's set in a classic, clean style with an organized resume structure of proper headings and formatting. It includes two page layout templates and is ready to print and put to use.

swiss resume template with organize resume sections and formatting
Swiss resume temple, with well-organize resume structure, sections and heading.

3. Simple Resume Template with Creative Format/Sections

Resume formatting matters. You need to make best use of the sections of your resume, your resume headings, and the structure of your document. This simple, clean resume template is laid out to present your work experience professionally. Also, you can demonstrate your skills creativity with simple infographics. It includes a cover letter and portfolio, in addition to the main resume page. It's very easily to edit this organized resume template, add your information to, and prep it for your job application!

Simple resume template format with creative sections
Simple Resume Template with creative formatting, headings, and sections.

Learn More About Crafting a Professional Resume

If you're currently updating your resume, use this tutorial to learn the basics of how to structure your resume. It also describes the basic resume sections that all resumes should include.

Depending on your profession, you may want to include other resume headings and sections. To learn more about how to create a resume for a specific situation, review the following tutorials on our network:

With the right resume for your needs in hand, you're now ready for your job search. Good luck!

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