5 tips to create an effective resume

Your resume structure matters, so follow these tips – don’t burden your potential employer with a jumbled list of your work history!

Writing a resume involves more than simply listing job experiences and education. It must be a clear representation of you as a professional: including your skillset, qualifications and career goals.

However, unnecessary add-ons – like lengthy paragraphs, lists of irrelevant hobbies and interests or unclear section breaks that put strain on the readers’ eyes – are bad resume form.

Also, there are different ways to format your resume, depending on your employment history and experience. If you’re a recent graduate, for example, the focus of your accomplishments will be on your academic performance. The right structure will highlight this. If you’ve had large gaps in your employment history, breaking from the traditional resume format can allow you to accentuate your skills and distract from the gaps.

It’s common knowledge that employers and hiring managers don’t take the time to read through resumes in the initial round: They scan. So, in order for your resume to not immediately end up in the rejected pile, it should be easy to read and follow. Taking the time to properly organize your resume is worth the investment.

Here are five tips to help you create a solid resume structure:

Keep it simple and neat

The look of your resume can make it either easy or difficult to interpret and follow along. Using a tiny font to cram your information on one page will only strain the hiring manager’s eyes, and an extra-large font isn’t appropriate either. 10-12 pt is the appropriate font size for a resume. Choose a standard font – like Helvetica or Arial – and use the same font throughout. Be sure to leave some space between sections to clearly delineate them. For conciseness and clarity, make use of bullet points to list qualifications and accomplishments in lieu of writing paragraphs.

Contact information first

List your contact information at the top, so it’s easy to find. Don’t make employers have to hunt around for a way to contact you! Include: your name, address, phone numbers, email address and website, if applicable. Depending on the role you’re applying for, you should also include any social media accounts you’d like employers to see.

How to list work experience

List your job title, company and dates of employment under the “Work Experience” section. List them in reverse-chronological order with your most recent job at the top. Use bullet points underneath instead of paragraphs to highlight accomplishments and responsibilities for each job – paragraphs take longer to read and tend to use extra words that make the relevant information hard to find. You’ll find bullet points keep things simple and easy-to-read, just the way employers like it.

Which resume format: chronological, functional or combined?

The chronological format is the traditional format, (as described in #3) and is appropriate for those with a steady employment history. This format gives a reverse-chronological list of your work history, so the most current information is listed foremost. In the case of those with large gaps in their employment history, a functional format may be more effective.

A functional format lists your skills instead of dates of employment, putting the focus on your achievements and experiences and taking it off the gaps.

A combined format lists your skills as in the functional format, but underneath the skills you should include employment history information. This format is recommended for those changing careers. It allows the employer to see that you have skills that are relevant to the field, even if you haven’t held a job in that field before.

Choose relevant information from your educational background

Your educational background should come under “Contact Information” if you’ve graduated recently. In this case, the main focus of your resume will be your academic accomplishments. List the name of the institution, your degree and major and your GPA (provided it’s at least 3.0 – if not, leave it out). If you have any academic honors or achievements, list them as well.

However, if you already have several years of work experience under your belt – internship experience or otherwise – list your education at the bottom, as the main focus will be on your job skills and career achievements. At this point you can leave out your GPA and academic honors unless they are outstanding or internationally- recognized, such as Rhodes Scholar or Fulbright.

The right structure can allow you to emphasize what you’ve accomplished, and take the spotlight off any employment gaps or a lack of employment history. Utilize the appropriate resume structure to your advantage and make your accomplishments work in your favor.