How The Best Careerists Build the Perfect Resume

ResumeRecently, I’ve been writing about word choice and phrasing, which is incredibly important when writing your resume.

Today, I thought I’d take a step back and address how resumes should be constructed and formatted, because if the format doesn’t appeal to the reader or help your resume past the ATS… words and phrases don’t matter that much.

Think about it like a building: it doesn’t matter how pretty the rooms are if the sky lights are on the first floor and the garage is on the third, because they are just pretty rooms in a bad building.

Almost every resume is built upon a series of sections, usually work, education, and skills sections. So the question becomes: what is the best way to order and construct those sections to create a functional, well-designed document that grabs the reader’s attention and holds it?

I’m glad you asked… here’s the best careerists build the perfect resume:

Summary of Qualifications 

First of all, you need a summary of qualifications, unless of course you don’t. I’ll explain, but what you never need is an “objective.”

The objective is usually the place where people say what kind of job they are looking for. A lot of people recommend this (especially old-school people). But an “objective” is silly and redundant. The person who is reading your resume is reading it because they have a job to fill. They know you are applying for that job. Putting an objective doesn’t do anything to help you, and it actually could hurt you if they situation you are describing doesn’t match the job you are applying for.

So never, ever, use an objective. It’s worse than putting the garage on the third floor.

Instead, put your qualifications and strengths as they relate to the position in a “Summary of Qualifications.” Keep it simple. Five to eight bullets will do nicely, especially if 50 percent of them are quantified to demonstrate performance.

Work Experience or Education

The next section should be the most important thing. And by that I mean either work experience or education.

If you are relatively new to the work force or still in school, then your education needs to go first. And, if you graduated, it needs to say “Graduated (month and year)”. Because if you just put a date range people might think you didn’t actually graduate (because people who didn’t graduate do that all the time). If you’ve been in the workforce for awhile and have accumulated some accomplishments, then start with your work history.

The key is to put the most impressive thing about you first. Period.

The Parts That Aren’t Work History or Education

The next most important thing is not necessarily education or work history.

If you are in school, something like “Volunteerism,” “Associations,” or “Academic Projects” might be more important than work history, and that should go after education and before work. If you have been in the workforce for a long time, then “Volunteerism,” “Associations,” and “Independent Projects” might go before education.

Continue to order the sections in terms of importance. Remember to always put months and years for dates and to put hours, either per, week, month, year or a total amount, next to any volunteer work. Why? People will volunteer a few hours every year and then show a wide date range so it looks much more impressive than it is. And people who read resumes know this. So by putting the actual hours you volunteered on your resume, you are communicating that your volunteer work is accurately stated… and your integrity is intact.

Technical Skills

Ending your resume with technical skills serves as a sort of word bank for all of the skills, software, tools, processes, and equipment you know and know how to use. This is great for resume scanning software (aka ATS), and great for human beings who are scanning your resume to make sure you have some specific piece of knowledge they are looking for.

To keep your resume organized, create categories for the skills and group them accordingly. This should not have sentences or experience or skill levels. So instead of:

“Six years of experience designing websites with HTML and PHP”

Just say:

“Web DesignHTML, PHP …and whatever other web design skills and tools you have mastered.”

And Never-ever End With…

“References Are Available Upon Request.”

Everyone knows this. No one is going to refrain from requesting references from you because you didn’t put that on your resume.

That’s pretty much how you build the perfect resume. Of course, if we at can help, let us know. We’ll make sure that skylight is on the roof and that garage is on the road.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Resume to Interviews!


Resumes to Interviews


jason bAbout the Author: Jason B. has written, edited, and proofread thousands of resumes, cover letters, academic CVs, LinkedIn profiles, and personal statements for clients with work histories dating back over thirty years. You can find him on Google+: Jason B.,Facebook, and Twitter.




This entry was posted in Job Search, Resumes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.