Resume Formatting

So its that time again to bring out the old resume for a new face lift. Or maybe its the first resume you’ve made. Either way there’s some major do’s and don’ts when it comes to resume formats.

The purpose of a resume is to have an easy flowing representation of yourself so an employer can quickly see if you’re worth their time. “Worth their time” sounds brutal but it’s the truth. You don’t know how many resumes they are receiving. You need to stand out.

Think of it this way… when someone receives a pile of resumes they want to sort them into two piles, the “no’s” and the “maybe’s”. You want to be in the second pile. For the sake of time this person is quickly glancing over the resume looking at format and key words. The format should show your level of professionalism and the key words will shout out if you have the skills and experience for the position. If someone can look at your resume at a quick glance and decide they want to keep your resume for further investigation, then you’ve done your job right.

Obviously you need to have the credentials to get the job but format goes a long way. This is even if you’re just starting out and you might not have a lot of experience to list. You need an easy read format that directs to reader to your key words.

Resumes have many different format options. And there is such a thing as a good and a bad resume, just based on format alone. Ask someone from Human Resources how important resume format is and they’ll tell you.

Every resume should fit on one page. That’s one page only. Doesn’t matter if you have an amazing list to show off with or not. If your list if too long, only the best get chosen. If your list is “too short”, its not, you’re just starting out. Everyone starts out somewhere. You have the option of playing with spacing and adding sections that others may not have room for.

These are the basic sections I have used and have been recommended to me:

  • Personal Information
  • Objective
  • Education
  • Academic Profile
  • Selected Works
  • Management Qualifications
  • Job History
  • Technical Skills
  • Awards and Achievements
  • References
  • Interests

I’ll try and provide a quick description of what each of these sections would contain…

Personal Information

This isn’t as much of a section as it is a headline. At the top of your resume you should include your name, address, phone number and e-mail. And make sure you choose a professional e-mail address, not one like, but like You also want to make sure your name stands out the most… usually meaning bold and a lager font size.


This section is where you can write a concise sentence (maybe 2) on what type of position you are looking for and what you’re interested in. You might need to make multiple versions if you are applying to a variety positions.

A typical example of this format this would be:

To obtain a position in the field of ________ to build upon/to utilize my ______ and ______ skills/interests.

The key here is to be direct. You want to be honest and to the point. Think of your Language Arts teacher back in middle school. She always stressed the importance of the first sentence of your introduction paragraph. This Objective sentence is your introductory paragraph’s first sentence. The objective could decide if the employer wants to continue reading your resume or not.


This section is pretty simple. List your school, major, minors, GPA, and graduation date.

Now this is one of those sections that could be retired one day. It might be nice to keep your school and degree but as college becomes a part of a distant memory it probably is not necessary to keep your  GPA, graduation date and things of that nature. This is a personal preference.

When creating this section you also want to think about the layout on the page. It will take up a lot of room and to be honest look kind of ugly if you just make a straight down list like this…


Or straight across like this….

School    Major    Minor    GPA    Graduation

My preferred method and one I commonly see is…


Academic Profile

Simply lists select classes that showcase skills learned and apply the area you’re applying for. This can be a time sensitive section as well, meaning it may become irrelevant over the years. Here’s an example of my Academic Profile:


Selected Works

This is an opportunity to list some projects. For example, I have a demo reel for some of the short films I created, so I listed my projects here. I included the title of my shorts, my position, the date they were created and a short description.

Note that the actual works themselves are not a part of a resume. This would require taking a step further to create a portfolio. The portfolio would contain excerpts or have the entire work of your best projects.

Management Qualifications and Job History

I have put these two together because I would never suggest using them on the same resume. I would choose one or the other.

Management Qualifications is a great chance to combine work and club/organization positions. For example, I combined my top two jobs, related to my field, and combined those with the leadership positions I had in my clubs and organizations at school.

Job History is exactly what it sounds like, a list of the jobs you have held. It is important for both to list the company’s name, your position and the amount of time you were there…

YMCA – Lifeguard     2006-2010

Technical Skills

This is a quick and easy way to list out all the technical skills you have with different programs and equipment relating to the field you’re applying to. You can also list non-technical skills (such as communication  time management, etc.) and certifications here as well. If you do I would reconsider your word choice for the title of this section… maybe Skills and Certifications… its up to you.

Be careful with formatting choice here as it can take up a lot a room. Take advantage of using bold and italic if necessary.

Awards and Achievements

Here you list off no more than the top 5 awards and achievements you have been honored with. I say the top 5 because you don’t want over load. At the same time I don’t think 6 is going to make or break you if it is a strong option. Make sure to list the title and the date when were awarded or held the achievement.


You will want to include a few names, numbers and e-mails of people that you think would speak highly of you. Most of the time employers ask that your references are not the same as your employer. I’ve included past advisers and  bosses from a job I did not list or are no longer with the company.

Make sure you ask permission to put these people on your resume before they get an unexpected phone call. This is not only to be polite and respectful but also so they don’t get caught off guard. You want your references to be prepared with something great to say about you, not to have their first words be “Uhhhh….”


Interests can be a great addition to a resume that might need a little help to fill the page. It can also be a great conversation starter between you and a potential employer. They might see something they have in common with you and remember you later.

Hopefully this all makes sense and is useful for you. The overall format is up to your personal style. Graphic designers usually create something jazzy to stand out with their creative design, but most are simple black and white. Key things to think about is how you are going to separate your sections. Also choose your use of bold and italicize carefully. You don’t want your resume to look like a dalmatian with dramatic spots, but rather use it to draw the views eye where you want it.

Another key piece of advice I was given was to put your strongest and most recent pieces first. For example, if you have held multiple positions in a club you might want to list your most important ones first even if the dates are out of order. Maybe you want to list the multiple position you have held at your job starting at the top with your most recent, leading down to where you started. If your weakest points are first you will most likely be judged off of that alone. These choices can be important because it can be the difference from getting that second look over, or being put back into the big pile of other resumes.

Remember the employer can always take a look later and take the time to familiarize themselves with the your impressive details. You just need to get past round one to get there.

Here are two examples of my filmmaker and general resumes. I’ve taken out my personal information and replaced it with generic descriptions.

Example_FilmmakerResume               Example_GeneralResume

If anyone has any different layouts or tips please share!


2 thoughts on “Resume Formatting

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