If you do a Google search for resume templates (or even samples), you see a lot of different versions to choose from. But after you pick the one you like (hint: simple formats with clear and easy to read sections are best), what the heck do you do with it? How do you make a resume template work for your particular skills and experience?
I’m glad you asked. There are some things you need to know about working with a template. Let’s start with the sections.
Sections of a basic resume template
There are plenty of really good templates out there, that include different fonts, formats, and styles. You can find them by searching online, or take a look at some of my resume samples listed on this page:
Now that you have the basic idea, let’s look at a list of possible sections.
[Note: Not every resume template includes each one of these. It’s up to you to think about what works best for your experience and career level.]
Heading – This is where you put your contact information such as name, address, phone number, and email. It’s often centered, but can be on one side or the other or even split with some on the left and some on the right. Browse some online samples to see what format you prefer.
Some people also add their LinkedIn profile and/or website. I’d be careful about the website, unless it clearly speak directly to the job. But if your LinkedIn profile is good and offers significantly more applicable information, that might be useful.
If in doubt, keep it simple. If the employer wants to do a search (fairly common), they will easily find your LinkedIn profile. Just remember that they will also find things you might not want them to see, so Google yourself beforehand!
Summary of skills / qualifications – This is where you can create a short description or bulleted list of the things you’ve done or the skills you have that speak strongly to this particular job. It’s placed under the Heading, with ample spacing (as with your entire resume) to allow the eye to catch the major points.
I prefer a centered, bulleted list to make it easy for a screener to quickly see the match. Some formats use short paragraphs, which I’ve found (in my many years of screening resumes) are not as likely to be read, especially if a screener has a large number of resumes to go through.
Professional Experience – This is where you present your experience, with an emphasis on things that apply directly to the job you want. Just remember that a good resume is not a list of everything you’ve ever done. Use the job description to help you decide what to include.
You also want to target your resume to make it easy for people to quickly see how well you match THEIR job opening, not just any job out there.
Volunteer Experience – If you have relevant volunteer experience, especially if you’re light on direct required/preferred experience, you can add a section that again highlights any skills, even transferable ones, that would speak to the job you’re applying for. (NOT a required section.)
Other skills / Software – A place to list anything else that may be useful to the new job. Again, the job description will help you. But even things not mentioned by them, if you know it might enhance their picture of you as the right candidate, can be included. (NOT a required section.)
Awards / certificates / publications – Only if applicable.
Education – This is usually placed toward the bottom of the resume, but can be at the top if you’re fresh out of school or if you had some unrelated jobs in between and want to return to that field.
Personal information – A resume is not a place for marital status or religion or weight or eye color or anything of a personal nature. Some people choose to include things like hobbies, interests, athletic endeavors, etc. But that needs to be carefully considered.
TMI RULE: Beware of too much information!
Just remember that you want them to focus on whatever would make you the candidate who best matches the job opening. And you don’t want to divert them with all kinds of extraneous stuff — or get them thinking will s/he be so caught up in this they ignore their work.
So be thoughtful about including extraneous information on your resume, unless it does speak to the job or offer an extra picture of an exceptional person. Or, if your research tells you the interviewer (should you know their name) loves soccer for example, then by all means list it if you play. (NOT a required section.)
Why didn’t I include a job objective?
You can use one, of course. Many templates still have them, and it won’t necessarily hurt. But as someone who screened resumes for many years, job objectives just took up precious real estate you can use more effectively. And in cases where automated systems retain your applications afterward to match with other jobs, your objective may actually raise questions.
Do you want THIS job? I’ve gotten resumes like that, with job objectives that don’t speak to the current opening — and it worked against the candidate. If your immediate goal isn’t this job, then why are you applying? And if your general goal is NOT a job like this, then I don’t want you. So adding an objective seems besides the point.
Your objective is THIS job, and that should be clear from the way you target your resume — not a few wasted words taking up space. If you want to make a clear case for the fit, then (added to the way you write your resume) use your cover letter!
What about job references?
Using “references upon request” on a resume is no longer needed. In fact, once again it’s wasted real estate. Obviously you’ll supply references if they ask you. If not, there’s little chance you’ll get an offer.
More help with references:
More help for your resume
=> Tips for Writing Resumes and Cover Letters (with Examples)