12.3 Resume Sections and Guidelines

Key Sections of a Résumé

Whatever format you choose, employers will expect to see certain key sections. There is some room for creativity in organization and phrasing, but make sure to be thorough. Each number in the list below corresponds to a section on the sample résumé that follows; as you read through the list, refer to the sample résumé to see how the section appears in context.

      1. Contact Info: Create a header that includes your address, telephone number, professional e-mail address, and possibly a Linkedin page.
      2. Headline (Also called Summary, Profile or Highlights of Qualifications): include a brief summary of your professional self to grab your reader’s attention. Think of this section as your “elevator pitch,” offering a quick impression of your personal brand.  Include a few key (relevant) achievements/strengths (in bullets or sentences). Summary/profile sections are especially useful for candidates with a long work history, or who have experienced job transitions. Here are two formulas for a one-sentence headline:
        – “Accomplished [job title]/Certified [industry] professional holding more than [x] years of experience, specializing in [x,y,z].”
        – “[Field of study] graduate seeking opportunity to focus on [x,y,z,] and promote [desired company’s mission or goal].”Have you been starting your résumé with an Objective statement? These days, most experts recommend leaving the objective off your résumé entirely. Objectives too often emphasize what you want from a job, rather than what you can offer an employer, and thus are generally seen as a waste of space.
      3.  Skills/Achievements/Qualifications:  
        – Use sub-headers to group skills into skill set headings (management skills, customer service skills, laboratory skills, communication skills, etc.). Use targeted headings based on the qualifications your potential employer is seeking.
        – Include only the most relevant, targeted skills and achievements.
        – Emphasize quantifiable achievements and results: skills, equipment, money, documents, personnel, clients, etc.- Use the active voice (supervised sixteen employees, increased profits, built websites) vs. the passive voice (was responsible for supervising or duties included…)
        – See the “Building a Better Bullet” section below for more information on how to craft an effective “skill bullet.”
      4. Employment Experience:
        – List positions in reverse chronological order (most recent first).
        – Include basic information for each job: job title, employer, dates employed, city/state (and country if outside the U.S.) of employment.- Include internships and skilled volunteer positions (but if you do, title the section “Experience” rather than “Employment”).
        – Consider filtering work experience into “Related Experience” and “Experience” instead of one employment section to highlight most relevant jobs (and downplay less significant experience).
      5. Education:
        – Place your education section after the headline/summary section if it is recent and relevant, after the experience section if your stronger qualification is employment experience.- List the most current degree/school attended first, and proceed in reverse chronological order.
        – Include the following information for each educational item: the name of the school, the school’s location, your graduation date or anticipated graduation date, the degree earned (and major if appropriate).- DO NOT include high school if you are in college unless your high school work was outstanding or unique (like a trade/technology/arts high school).
        – DO include trainings and certifications (e.g. first aid certifications, sales seminars, writing groups).
        – Develop this section by adding educational accomplishments:

        o Your GPA (if it is 3.0 or better, and if it is expected in your industry)
        o Relevant courses (if they prepared you for the job)
        o Special accomplishments (conferences, special papers/projects, clubs, offices held, service to the school)
        o Awards and scholarships (could also be separate section – Honors)

      6. Optional Sections (not included in Figure 5):
        – Volunteer Work: List skilled volunteer work (building websites, teaching classes) under skills, along with your other qualifications, but include general volunteer work (making meals for a soup kitchen, etc.) toward the end of your resume in its own section or under activities.
        – Activities:

        o DON’T include a section titled “Hobbies” or “Other,” with irrelevant interests.
        o DO include interests that may be relevant to the position, but aren’t professional skills (sports for Nike, Eagle Scouting for leadership, golfing for business jobs, game design/play for game design jobs, blogging for PR jobs). Market yourself in the best light.
        o DO include honors, awards, publications, conferences attended, languages spoken, etc. You may choose to include a separate honors section or fold these into your skills/achievements section.

      7. References: Do not list references on your résumé.  Instead, give a separate sheet at the employer’s request.  Generally, three references are sufficient. The most important references are your superiors, but you can also use co-workers, clients, or instructors. Contact each person to verify his/her willingness to act as a reference for you. Your reference sheet should match the look of your cover letter and your résumé.



    123 Four Street · City 10110 · 123.456.7890

    you@email.com · www.website.com

    PROFILE Business student with extensive retail experience and award-winning customer service skills. Successfully implemented social media presence and branding to improve sales. Strong written communication and graphic design background. Fluent in Spanish. ←2
    EDUCATION A.A.S. Business (Will Graduate 2018)
    Portland Community CollegeAdditional Coursework in Graphic Design
    Great Sales Seminar, 2015, 2016
    Customer Service Training, Macy’s, 2015
    SKILLS Customer Service

    • Received “Outstanding Customer Service” Award, 2016
    • Assisted up to 100 customers daily in locating merchandise and making purchasing decisions
    • Increased monthly sales approximately $1,000 by utilizing add-on sales techniques
    • Supported customers by fielding and resolving key concerns
    • Effectively handled irate customers and complaints in a friendly, patient manner


    • Assisted manager in analyzing sales and marketing trends for purchasing seasonal merchandise
    • Launched and managed social media presence to increase sales
    • Created innovative in-store displays and promotional materials
    • Stocked, priced, and inventoried merchandise


    • Produced daily, weekly, and monthly sales reports
    • Balanced cash drawer with consistently high level of accuracy
    EXPERIENCE Retail Associate, Macy’s, Portland, OR                     Dec 15 – present

    Sales Representative, Target, Portland, OR          Sept 14 – Dec 15

    Server, Otis Café, Lincoln City, OR                           Jan 12 – Sep 14


    Resume Guidelines

    The following tips will help you write a résumé that adheres to the conventions employers expect while ditching fluff in favor of expertise.

    Using “Me” and “I”:

    The convention in a résumé is to write in sentence fragments that begin with active verbs. Therefore, you can leave out the subjects of sentences. Example: “I eliminated the duplication of paperwork in my department by streamlining procedures” would become “Eliminated paperwork duplication in a struggling department by streamlining procedures.”

    Quantifiable Skills:

    The more you can present your skills and achievements in detail, especially quantifiable detail, the more authoritative you will sound. This means including references to technologies and equipment you have used; types of documents you have produced; procedures you have followed; languages you speak; amounts of money you have handled; numbers of employees you have supervised or trained; numbers of students you have taught; technical languages you know; types of clients you have worked with (cultural backgrounds, ages, disability status – demographic information that might be relevant in your new workplace); graphic design, blogging or social media skills; and so on.

    Filler Words (Fluff):

    Avoid generic, filler words that can be found on many resumes and don’t suggest meaningful skills. Filler words include: “team player,” “results-oriented,” “duties include,” “fast-paced,” and “self-motivated.” If you MUST use these phrases, find concrete examples to back them up. For example, instead of using “team player,” include a time you collaborated with peers to earn a good grade on a project, save your company money, or put on a successful work event.


    In at least one place in your resume, preferably more, make mention of a positive impact (or result) of your skills/achievements. How did you create positive change for your employer, coworkers or customers? Did you resolve a customer complaint successfully? Did you make a change that saved your employer money? Did you build a website that increased traffic to your client? Did you follow procedures safely and reduce workplace injuries?

    Building a Better Bullet (Two Skill Bullet Formulas):

    Each skill bullet may need to go through a few revisions before it shines. Here are two formulas to help you strengthen your bullets:

    Formula 1: Verb + Details = Results

    Start your bullet with an action verb describing a skill or achievement. Follow it with the details of that skill or achievement, and then describe the positive impact of your achievement. For example:

        • Developed (VERB) new paper flow procedure (DETAILS), resulting in reduced staff errors and customer wait times (RESULT)
        • Provided (VERB) friendly customer-focused service (DETAILS) leading to customer satisfaction and loyalty (RESULT)
        • Organized (VERB) fundraising event (DETAILS) generating $xxx dollars for nonprofit (RESULT)
        • Provided (VERB) phone and in person support for patients with various chronic and acute health issues (DETAILS & RESULT COMBINED)
        • Supported (VERB) 8-10 staff with calendaring, files and reception (DETAILS), increasing efficiency in workflow (RESULT)

    Formula 2: Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]

    Develop your bullets by going into detail about how you accomplished what you have accomplished and why it matters to your potential employer. Compare the following three versions of the same skill bullet:

        • First Draft:  Participated in a leadership program
        • Second Draft:  Selected as one of 125 for year-long professional development program for high-achieving business students
        • Final Draft:  Selected as one of 125 participants nationwide for year-long professional development program for high-achieving business students based on leadership potential and academic success

    Note how the third version is not only the most specific, but it is the one that most demonstrates the “so what” factor, conveying how the applicant’s skills will benefit the potential employer.

    Key Terms:

    Remember, use key terms you gathered in your pre-writing, preparation phase (from the job description, research into your field, and the “action verb” list presented earlier in this chapter). If your potential employer is using a résumé -scanning program, these key terms may make the difference between getting an interview or a rejection.


    Résumé length is a much-debated question, and guidelines change as the genre changes with time. In general, the length of a résumé should be no longer than one or (at most) two pages (and each page should be full — no 1.5 page résumés). Some fields, however, may have different length conventions (academic resumes, for example, which include publications and conference attendance, tend to be longer). If your resume is on the longer side, your work history should justify the length. Some experts recommend one page per ten years of work history; while that may be extreme, it is better to cut weaker material than to add filler.


    Résumé design should enhance the content, making it easy for the reader to quickly find the most significant and relevant information.  See the chapters on Document Design for overall design tips.

    A few general guidelines:

        • Templates are handy, but bear in mind that if you use a common template, your résumé will look identical to a number of others.
        • Use tables to align sections, then hide the borders to create a neat presentation.
        • Use ten-twelve point font.
        • Don’t use too many design features — be strategic and consistent in your use of capitalization, bold, italics, and underline.
        • To create visual groupings of information, always use more space between sections than within a section. This way your reader will be able to easily distinguish between the key sections of your résumé, and between the items in each section.
        • Use the same font in your résumé and your cover letter to create coherence.

    Field-Specific Conventions:

    You may find that there are certain conventions in your field or industry that affect your choices in writing your résumé. Length, formality, design, delivery method, and key terms are just some of the factors that may vary across disciplines. Ask faculty or professional contacts in your field about employers’ expectations, visit your school’s career center, or conduct web research to make informed field-specific choices.


This chapter was written by Megan Savage, Portland Community College, and is licensed CC-BY 4.0.


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Technical Writing Copyright © 2017 by Allison Gross, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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