Content & Format

The content you include and the format you choose for your resume should largely depend upon your target audience. The information below are general suggestions, not hard and fast rules. Resume content, formats, and styles may vary according to individual preferences and career fields.

  • Your resume needs to convey what you are capable of doing in the future by summarizing what you have done in the past. You can show your target audience what you can do by strategically selecting key action verbs and words that show transferable skills, as well as choosing eye-catching headings for various sections of your resume. As a unique individual with a distinct history all your own, you must:

    • Carefully select what information to include to present and promote the image you wish to convey.
    • Organize categories, focusing attention on your special competencies and qualities.
    • Determine the arrangement and sequence of material to best highlight your particular “fitness” for the position.
    • Begin descriptions with verbs. Avoid starting your resume descriptions with “responsible for” and “duties included”. Write in the active, rather than passive, tense!
  • Though you will find many options for headings, listed below are some of the more common choices:

    • Education
    • Off-Campus Study Programs and/or International Experience
    • Professional and Internship Experience
    • Volunteer and Community Activities
    • Research
    • Leadership
    • Awards, Honors, and Distinctions
    • Special Skills and Competencies
    • Professional Affiliations and Activities
    • Languages
  • There are three traditional formats used in resume writing: the chronological, functional, and combination. Each format style is described below. Choose the format that will best highlight your background.

    Chronological Resume

    The chronological resume lists experiences under each heading in reverse chronological order, listing the most recent first. This is the style one typically thinks of when contemplating a resume. The chronological format works well if the majority of your past experiences directly relate to the type of position/program you are seeking.

    Functional Resume

    The functional resume is designed to emphasize transferable skills and related accomplishments while de-emphasizing the specific positions you’ve held. It is most useful for those who lack experience directly related to their job objective yet have related transferable skills. It also works well for those seeking a career change.

    Combination Resume

    The combination resume combines elements of both the chronological and functional formats. It stresses your skills and abilities while including a chronological listing of your experiences. The combination resumes allows the most flexibility in highlighting your background.

  • There are two basic options when laying out your resume: the “two-column layout” and the “tuck-under layout”. Choose one layout and use it consistently throughout your resume. Both choices are professionally recognized and allow you to highlight your capabilities utilizing any one of the three formats listed above.

    Two-Column Layout

    Tuck-Under Layout