Resume Sections: How To Organize A Resume

By Heidi Cope - Apr. 11, 2021

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When writing a resume, it is important to think about how recruiters and hiring managers will receive it. One way to make your resume stand out is to make a well-organized resume with the appropriate sections.

A resume is not only a piece of paper with details about your past work history on it, but also a document that can tell recruiters about your schooling, extra-curriculars, and even personality.

To help maximize your candidate potential, you will want to optimize your resume and format it in a way to best suit you as a candidate.

Keep reading for a more detailed look into the sections of a resume.

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Required Resume Sections

At the very least, you will need to have these main sections in your resume:

  • Header (contact information). Your resume header is a critical part of your document. Include your name, location ([City, State] is fine), phone number, email address, job title, and a LinkedIn profile or link to an online portfolio, if you’re feeling extra fancy.

    The most important tip to remember on resume headers is to never put them into an actual header on a word processor.

    Some applicant tracking systems (ATS) can’t read the information in a header, which means that a robot will throw your resume away before it even reaches a human reader — talk about a silly reason to miss out on a job opportunity.

  • Resume summary statement. Some career changers or recent graduates without any professional experience may opt for a resume objective over a resume summary statement. Truthfully, though, regardless of your situation, a resume summary statement is the stronger choice.

    While a resume objective basically states that your objective is the same as every other job-seeker (to get a job), a resume summary statement focuses more on your qualifications and the needs of the employer you’re applying to.

    In any case, always try to sprinkle 2-3 keywords from the job description into your summary statement, if you can do so without sounding awkward.

  • Work history. Your work history section will follow your resume summary in a chronological resume format (the standard one that 95% of job-seekers should use). Regardless of your resume’s format, list your work experience in reverse-chronological order (the most recent stuff first).

    Include the following key information for each job you’ve had:

    • Company information. Start with the company’s name, location, and a short description, if the company isn’t well-known.

    • Job title. Next, write your job title. If you had multiple job titles with one company, you can either repeat the company’s information for each position or simply list each job title under one company heading (just be sure to bold or otherwise draw attention to each separate job title).

    • Time frame. Give a time frame for each individual job entry. You can also include a cumulative time frame beside the company’s information. We recommend sticking with the mm/yyyy format, but whichever way you choose to write it, stay consistent throughout your resume.

    • Job description. Include 2-4 bullets for each of your former jobs. The more recent ones can include more bullets, while those dating back more than five years can be shorter.

      Don’t make the mistake of simply writing out your job’s responsibilities — your job title acts as shorthand, and hiring managers have a basic idea of what you do already.

      Instead, list your most impressive accomplishments from each position, using numbers wherever possible. Your goal is to show tangible value and generate interest. Still, keep things short and to the point; no bullet point should be longer than two lines, and one line is really ideal for a clean look.

  • Skills. There are a few different ways to write a skills section, depending on if you’re using functional or chronological resume format. With a functional resume, you follow your resume summary statement with a skills section that gives a 2-3 sentence spiel on each of your major skills.

    However, for most job seekers, your skills section will be a list of 3-10 skills, with a mix of hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are those that are taught and indicate expertise with a task, process, or tool. They can be tested and evaluated.

    Soft skills cannot be taught and relate to your interpersonal abilities. They also include intangible qualities that make you better at your job, like a knack for organization.

    Soft skills are nearly impossible to prove within the confines of a resume. Make sure that your skills don’t exist in a vacuum — if you say if you have great collaboration skills, there better be a line item in your work history section about a successful team project.

  • Education. Education matters less and less as you progress through your career (for most professionals). Still, you should always include, at a minimum:

    • Name of the school

    • Name of your degree

    • Graduation date (feel free to drop this if you’re afraid of ageism)

    You can also include your minor, your GPA (if it was at least 3.5), honors like Dean’s list or Latin titles, major accomplishments (thesis, group projects), and extracurriculars that are relevant to the job.

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Optional Resume Sections

There are many optional sections you can add to your resume to make it individualized and specific for each job application.

A recruiter will notice if your resume is a standard one: the same piece of paper uploaded to every application.

Adding different resume sections depending on the application shows that you have spent time customizing your resume for the job. By showing effort in the application process, you are also showing potential employers a peek into your work ethic as a potential employee.

Optional resume sections include:

  • Achievements/Honors and awards

  • Publications

  • Community engagement/Civic engagement/Volunteering

  • Extracurriculars

  • Continuing education and certifications

These optional sections can highlight other expertise and skills you have that may or may not be related to your employment history but can help make you a more well-rounded candidate or more qualified for the new job you are applying to.

Resume Order Of Sections

When choosing a resume template, or when designing your own, you want to arrange the sections in a way that emphasizes your skills the best way possible.

  1. Header (contact information)

  2. Resume summary statement

  3. Skills or work history

  4. Skills or work history

  5. Education

  6. Optional sections

The order of your resume depends entirely on what you want to emphasize on your resume. If you are a job seeker with many years of experience, you will probably want to create a career summary and put work history first.

If you are a new job seeker or a recent college graduate, you won’t have as much experience to put on your resume, so you will want to order your resume slightly differently. Try writing a resume summary statement first and putting your skills section before your work history section.

Final Thoughts

Writing resumes can be difficult, especially if you are not using a template. But even if you are, most templates are flexible, meaning you can switch the order of the sections throughout the resume.

While determining which order of sections is right for you can be confusing, it does allow you to be able to personalize and make your resume stand out from the competition.

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Heidi Cope

Heidi Cope is a former writer for the Zippia Career Advice blog. Her writing focused primarily on Zippia's suite of rankings and general career advice. After leaving Zippia, Heidi joined The Mighty as a writer and editor, among other positions. She received her BS from UNC Charlotte in German Studies.

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