How To Write A Resume

An important step in your job search is creating a résumé.  But what should you include?  This guide will walk you through the sections typically found in résumés, ways of formatting your résumé, and Web sites that can help you put together your résumé quickly.

Resume Sections

The résumé includes several different sections of information about you, your job history, and other items related to the job for which you are applying.

Contact Information 

If the employer isn’t able to find your contact information, they can’t get in touch with you!  You will need to include all of your contact information, including your name, address, telephone and/or cell phone number, and email address. 

If you don’t have an email address, it is a good idea to set up a free account through a provider like Hotmail or Yahoo.  Make sure that your email address has a professional sound to it – you might want to use "" instead of ""

More information about applying for an email address can be found on the email subject guide.


Another important section in your resume is your objective.  You can think of your objective as telling your potential employer what you can do for them.  The rest of your resume should support your job objective.  This can be helpful for your potential employer as it identifies where and how you might fit into their organization.  It also shows them that you have definite goals.

Your job objective should avoid being too broad or too specific – a difficult task! 

Sample Job Objectives:

  • A clerical position where proven analytical skills and attention to detail will be utilized
  • A position in production using my background in computerized and non-computerized assembly
  • Experience and accomplished professional seeks a position as an accountant
  • To perform a variety of warehousing functions in a distribution center


This section of your résumé will be especially important if you are a new graduate or someone changing careers.  You should include the name of the school, dates of attendance, and degree attained. 

The education section doesn’t have to be limited to just formal education.  You can also include formal and informal training, workshops and seminars, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training.  Just make sure that what you include is related to the type of job you’re applying for!

Work Experience 

For those with any sort of employment history, the work experience section will be the most important section of your résumé.

To start filling in this area of your résumé, you will want to start by listing all of your jobs and dates of employment.  These could include part-time and volunteer positions.  You want to start with a complete list of your work history, even if you don’t include everything in your résumé.

After you list each job you will want to list the duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments.  Emphasize your skills and abilities, especially transferable skills – those skills that can be applied to a wide variety of jobs, rather than a specific job.  Some sample transferable skills are managing time, editing, and solving problems. 

When listing your duties, skills, abilities, and accomplishments, make sure to use action words.  If you can add numbers to your accomplishments, employers will be able to more clearly see what you were able to do.  For example, a resume for a teacher could say “Supervised an after school club for students.”  But if it were to say “Supervised an after school program for 30 students three days a week,” that would sound more impressive!

If you are concerned about age discrimination, you can limit your work history to the past 10-15 years.  However, if there is a related and important position outside of that time frame, add a paragraph at the end with the heading “Prior Relevant Experience” and list the position without the dates.

Optional Sections 

A résumé can contain a variety of optional sections.  When adding them to your résumé, you should decide which sections would be most relevant to the job you are applying for.  Some samples would be:

  • Memberships in professional organizations
  • Awards or honors
  • Licenses or certification
  • Hobbies or community involvement
  • Special abilities such as language skills or computer skills

References can also comprise another section of your résumé.  The names and contact information are typically not listed on your résumé.  At the end of the résumé, you can list "References available upon request" to indicate their availability.

Formatting the Résumé 

Now that you’ve figured out what sections of the résumé you will be including in your résumé, how do you want to put it all together?  There are two different types of résumé s that are typically used.

Chronological Résumé 

If you already have a résumé, chances are that it’s a chronological résumé.  This is the standard résumé format, taking the work experience in reverse chronological order (the present to the past).

The job information (duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments) can be presented in a few different ways, either in paragraph format or bulleted. 

When should you use a chronological résumé?  It’s best if you are advancing in your present field or if you have a strong job-related background.  According to a 1999 survey by the Society of Human Resources Management, 74% of those surveyed preferred the chronological résumé format.

Functional Résumé 

The functional résumé rearranges the typical format to focus on responsibilities and skills.  Instead of grouping responsibilities and skills by the specific job where they were attained, you would list them in groups using headings like “Customer Service” or “Administration.”  Each functional heading includes all the skills related to that heading, regardless of the different job positions.

A functional résumé is very useful if you lack work experience, are trying to change careers, or are re-entering the workforce after a lengthy absence.  The emphasis of the functional résumé is on skills and responsibilities, rather than a consistent work history.

Sample Résumé Web Sites 

Not sure which type of résumé would be best for you?  Take a look at these sample résumés to see the difference between functional and chronological résumé s.

eRésumés has many sample resumes, including profession-specific and industry-specific résumés. Many of the samples show the résumé both before and after revisions and include critiques by professional résumé writers.

JobStar - Résumé s & Cover Letter Samples 
Includes samples of both functional and chronological résumés.  A section on selecting the right résumé format is also included. 

Résumé Resources

Maybe you have to get a résumé put together at the end of the hour to apply for a job right away.  There are some Web sites and books that can help you write your résumé in a hurry.

Career Journal - Résumé and Cover Letter Tips 
The Career Journal from the Wall Street Journal provides advice for writing résumés and cover letters. Articles cover all aspects of résumé s and cover letters, as well as other job searching topics, such as interviewing, networking, and changing careers.

Emurse can be used to create and download résumés in a variety of formats, including PDF, DOC, HTML, and TEXT.  Registration with the Web site can help with sending your résumé via email, keeping track of when it has been viewed, and saving your résumé as a Web page with a unique URL on the Emurse Web site.

Farr, J. Michael.  The Quick Resume & Cover Letter Book: Write and Use an Effective Résumé in Only One Day. 
Excellent guide to writing a quick résumé in just one hour, or spending more time to create a more polished résumé.  Book includes many sample résumés and cover letters. 

Parker, Yanna.  The Damn Good R ésumé Guide: A Crash Course in Resume Writing.  4th edition. 
Includes 10 simple steps to writing a great résumé along with sample résumés in a variety of different styles.  Parker has also written The R ésumé Catalog: 200 Damn Good Examples (Job Center HF5383 .P354 1996Q) that includes many excellent sample résumés for a wide variety of career areas. 

Provenzano, Steven.  Blue Collar Resumes. 
Catalog of sample résumés for a wide range of careers from artisans to carpenters to zookeepers.  Also includes advice for the job search.

Simply Hired 
Simply Hired allows you to post your résumé to five major job boards at the same time for free.  After registering with the Web site, fill out a form and have your résumé posted.