How to Format a Resume

Text: How to format a resume over a photo of a woman using a laptop computer.

Creating an effective resume can be tough, especially if you’re starting from scratch. You want to highlight your qualifications and present yourself in the best way possible since a resume is the first interaction you have with a recruiter. It’s important that your resume is an accurate representation of who you are as a professional. When you’re starting the writing process, choosing the right resume format will help set you up for success.

So, how do you format a powerful resume? It’s actually quite a simple process if you follow our guide below!

The Basics: Sections

There are six main sections that your resume should include:

  1. Header
  2. Profile
  3. Education
  4. Experience
  5. Certifications
  6. Organizations

Each section is just as important as the next, so make sure you spend time carefully crafting each part. Recruiters spend an average of six seconds looking at a single resume, so yours needs to jump out from the stack and pique their interest, immediately.

When you’re setting up your resume, using a pre-existing template will help cut down the amount of time you spend formatting your document. Sites like Canva have tons of free (and beautiful) resume templates available. Alternatively, Microsoft Word has preloaded resume templates that you can use, as well.

Templates make resume writing simple – all you’ll need to do is fill in the existing sections with your information. Below, we break down what to include in each resume section.


The header of your resume is generally the first thing that catches the eye of a recruiter. It should be bold and stand out. The important components to include are:

  • Your name (bolded, and larger than other text)
  • Contact information: phone number, email, LinkedIn profile, and website (if applicable)
  • Location (City and state)
  • Headline

Your name should be prominently featured on your resume. It doesn’t have to take over the entire page, but it should clearly stand out from the rest of your text. To highlight it, try using a larger text size, making your name bold, or using a heavy font.

Your contact information should include, at the minimum, two ways to reach you. Traditionally, a phone number and email address are used, but it’s becoming increasingly common to also include LinkedIn profiles, personal websites, and professional social media profiles. If you decide to include social media profiles or other non-traditional forms of contact information, make sure they present a professional image and are consistently updated.

When listing your location, it’s no longer standard to disclose your full address. Years ago, when resumes were submitted by mail, it was necessary to provide your address for correspondence. Nowadays, all you need to include is your city and state.

If you’re searching for a job in a new area, it can be helpful to list your location as the city or state you’re looking to move to. Recruiters will often reject candidates whose location doesn’t match where their job is posted.

Pro-Tip: If you’re moving, include a short line in your profile about your plans to relocate. Include a timeframe for your move, if applicable, to help recruiters understand that you’re serious about applying for their position.

The final component of your header should be your headline. Your header may be the only part of your resume that a recruiter looks at, so your headline needs to immediately prove your value as a candidate.

If you apply for a position as a Finance Director, and your header states that you’re a Customer Service Representative, a recruiter will probably put your resume in the “no” pile. However, if your header says something along the lines of Experienced Finance Professional, Finance Director, Senior Accountant, etc., you’ll have a much better chance of being shortlisted for consideration.

The purpose of a headline is to quickly (and briefly) showcase why you’re the right candidate for the job.

Pro-Tip: Keep your headline short – five words or less should do the trick!


Sometimes, people confuse the headline of their resume for the profile section. While your headline is meant to be brief, the profile should elaborate on the specific experience/skills you have that make you a qualified candidate.

When writing your profile, keep your content between one and four sentences long. You can create a general overview of your skills and experience, but targeting your profile to the job that you’re applying for can help your chances of being considered for the role. You should only include qualifications that relate directly to the position. For example: proficiency in Photoshop wouldn’t be relevant for a role in accounting or maintenance work.

If you’re seeking an entry-level position after you’ve completed your degree, a general profile that’s targeted to your desired industry is an acceptable choice. More experienced candidates should focus on their skill set in relation to the position they’re applying for.

For higher-level positions, there are fewer qualified applicants, which means that recruiters can spend more time reviewing resumes. Taking the time to target your profile to what they’re searching for could be the difference between your resume being tossed in the “no” pile, and being called in for an interview!


Your educational background should be highlighted in your resume, making it easy for recruiters to see if you have the qualifications they’re searching for. When listing your degree, make sure to format it so that the important parts stand out. We’ve outlined the most effective format below.

Major Title, AA/AS/BA/BS/MA/MS
University Name
Any awards/honors/certificates you received
Years of attendance or year of completion

Pro-Tip: When typing out your education, use italics and bold fonts to your advantage.

Mass Communication & Journalism, BA
University of Central Florida
Magna Cum Laude

If your degree is in progress, you can note that by using a range of dates rather than a year of graduation. Feel free to display this as: 2016 – 2020 or “Expected graduation: 2020.” Either format gets the point across.

Mass Communication & Journalism, BA
University of Central Florida
Dean’s List, 2018
2018 – 2020

If you have more than one degree, list the most recent one first. For example, if you received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, you would list your master’s degree first, followed by your bachelor’s.

Journalism, MA
University of Central Florida
Magna Cum Laude

Mass Communication & Journalism, BA
University of Central Florida
Cum Laude

Notice how we’ve included a single year to indicate a degree that’s completed, and a range of dates for a degree that’s in progress? Using this format will help anyone that’s looking at your resume understand immediately whether you’ve been awarded the degree or are still working on it.

Since it’s natural to read down a page, list your education and experience from most recent to least recent. This outlines your resume in a way that’s easiest for recruiters to understand!


You don’t have to have expensive professional certifications to include this section in your resume! Many universities offer certificates in addition to their regular degree programs, and there are tons of web-based certifications that you can earn for free, online.

If you’re fresh out of school or looking to change career fields, certifications can help you make up for what you lack in experience (within reason). When you complete any type of certification, you’ll receive a certificate that confirms that you’re qualified to perform a job or task. Feel free to add any professional certificates that you earn to the Licenses and Certifications section of your LinkedIn profile.

If you’re not sure what certifications are available for the career you’re pursuing, a quick Google search can help you out! Online sites, like Coursera, offer online courses and certifications from accredited universities like Stanford, UC San Diego, and Duke. There’s truly something for everyone if you Google hard enough!

If you have a number of different certifications, be selective when listing them on your resume. While LinkedIn is a great place to list every certificate you’ve earned, your resume should only include the ones that directly relate to the job you’re applying for. Listing unrelated certifications takes up valuable space on your resume that could be used in a more effective manner.

Use them wisely, and certifications could make the difference between your resume making the cut and being passed over. Taking the initiative to expand your professional knowledge on your own time, and dime, shows recruiters that you’re a self-starter who’s eager to achieve. (And who wouldn’t want to hire someone like that?)

When listing certifications on your resume, you’ll follow a similar format as was used for your Education section. Bold the name of the certification you received, and on the line below, list the issuing organization or university. Lastly, use italics to display the year that you received the certificate. You can also include the month with the year if your certification was recently obtained.

Preparing to Manage Human Resources
University of Minnesota / Coursera

Notice that we’ve listed two issuing authorities under Preparing to Manage Human Resources. This certification was obtained through Coursera but issued by the University of Minnesota, so we’ve simply listed both organizations, separated by a forward slash (/).

Leadership Certificate
University of Central Florida
January 2019

Because the Leadership Certificate above was recently earned from the University of Central Florida, we’ve listed the month and the year in italics. Using this method provides clarity as to when the certificate was awarded.

Alternatively, if you’re expecting to receive a certificate in the near future, you can denote this fact by using the month and year that you will receive your certification. You can see an example of this below.

Society for Human Resource Management
July 2019


Were you a sister in Gamma Phi Beta, a brother in Kappa Sigma, or the Vice President of the Student Government Association? How about the Treasurer for your local Alumni Chapter? Any professional organization that you currently or previously belonged to should be listed on your resume.

Again, be selective with what content you include on your resume since you have limited real estate available. If you were the type of person who was involved in every club you could sign up for, choose the top one or two that you feel best represent your professional aspirations. While Harry Potter Club might have been the coolest organization you were a part of in college, it probably won’t help you land a marketing job in the corporate world.

If you held a leadership position in an organization, make sure to list it on your resume. Following the same format that we’ve used throughout the other sections, bold the top line (the name of the organization), list the chapter below (if applicable), then note your title (Vice President, Active Member, Treasurer), and finish it out with the years you were involved, in italics.

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
University of Central Florida Chapter
Recruitment Chair
2016 – 2019

Recruiters often read between the lines when looking at resumes, so it’s not always what content you include that will tell the most about you. If you held a leadership role in a club or organization, it’s acceptable to infer that you seek out responsibility and are a dependable person.

Remember that your resume is intended to catch the eye of a recruiter and provide them with enough information to believe you could be successful at the job they’re looking to fill. Often, a recruiter will often see your resume before they speak their first words to you, so it’s important that you put your best foot forward and are selective with what content you include.

Now that you know the six parts of a powerful and effective resume, you’re ready to create your own! And, if you’re interested in more resume tips, you can find them here.

Want a real recruiter to give you a hand with your resume? We offer a free resume review right here on Getting You Hired! Sign up, upload your resume, and we’ll send you personalized feedback that will help you put your best foot (resume) forward.

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