7 Tips for Strong Resume StructureBy J.M. Auron
A resume is read from the top down, like a news article. So the resume expands from initial headline, through the profile, with strong supporting information in the body of the document.
Clear resume structure is a critical component in telling the story of your career. This structure enables the reader to quickly navigate and find crucial career information. Of course, there is no "one size fits all" resume format. Format and content must both fit overall resume strategy. But the following seven elements will be found in almost all resumes and give a good foundation on which to build yours.
1. Open with a strong, clear headline
Let the reader know who you are, and what you're looking for. Don't make the hiring authority guess - too often, they won't take the time. Be clear and concise. If you're looking for IT leadership roles, for example "CIO / CTO / IT Director" immediately brands you for the opportunity you're seeking.
2. Build a powerful professional summary
This initial paragraph is in many ways the key to the resume. You're telling the reader who you are, and what makes you stand out from the crowd. Focus on your differentiators - the things you do differently or better than your peers.
Avoid soft skills, and concentrate on the abilities that will be fleshed out in the body of the resume. Be sure to include impressive credentials - if you have an MBA from Harvard, an MS from MIT, or TS / SCI clearance, that should be included front and center.
3. Include a list of core competencies
But don't go overboard - 12 is a good number; more can be overkill. Pick the skills that are most valuable, and most in demand - a search through interesting job postings can be very helpful here.
Also, if you're a "hands-on" technical professional, it makes sense to put your technical toolbox on display in the first page of the resume. If you're more senior, technologies can be better presented at the end of the document.
4. The meat of the resume - professional experience
There's a fine line between too much detail and too little. Don't overwhelm the reader - but do give enough detail on your duties and responsibilities to give clear context for your accomplishments. Always quantify scope of responsibility - size of teams and budgets - and include numbers for achievements whenever possible. Numbers make the information in your resume concrete and far more memorable.
5. Education and Training
This section is pretty straightforward - but it's important to keep the format clear and consistent. If you have more than one BA or MA, I'd recommend only using the degree relevant to your goals. Also, professional training can demonstrate both a greater range of skills, and a commitment to professional growth and advancement.
This section can include a range of material that adds value - technical competencies, languages, publications, and affiliations. As with the Education and Training section, consistency in presentation is the key to making this section easily scannable by the Hiring Authority.
Not all resumes will include a section on personal interests; it's certainly not required. But if you have unique interests that may connect with a potential hiring authority, they can add value. If you've won a Triathlon or a Martial Arts championship (for example) that information will stay in the hiring authority's memory. Do be careful to avoid anything controversial - political or religious affiliations, for instance, should generally be omitted.
Of course, there's much more to a resume than this structure - language, strategy, content all play important roles. But with this solid foundation, it's for more likely that the hiring authority will read the document to discover your career success!
As a technical resume authority and former recruiter, I am committed to crafting compelling resumes, cover letters, and other career documents that capture your career essentials, seize and hold the hiring authority's attention, and open the door for the 1st interview.