Resume Preparation

There are many ways to format a resume. Since each individual possesses a unique set of talents, abilities, experience, and training, there is no one format that is best for everyone. However, it is essential to choose the format that is most appropriate for your circumstances. The two most common types of resumes are chronological and functional. You may also want to use a combination approach to highlight your skills and qualifications before presenting your employment history.

Chronological Resumes

The chronological style is the most traditional and popular. After basic contact information, a chronological resume begins with a summary of qualifications - a concise, professional statement that emphasizes the most important qualities, achievements, and abilities you bring to an employer. A chronological resume then details your work experience - listing each position you've held in the last 10-15 years and progressing in reverse chronological order. Earlier positions may be included if space allows and they are relevant to your current career direction. The next section is education (highest degree first), including any significant continuing education or professional development courses. Information about military and professional/civic experience (considered optional) is typically found at the bottom of a chronological resume.

The chronological format can be a plus if:
  • Your work history is related to your current objective or shows a consistent progression in your organization or discipline
  • You are presently employed or have not been unemployed for a long period of time
  • You recently worked for an organization that is well known and respected in its field
  • Your length of employment at each position falls into an acceptable range.
Functional Resumes

A functional resume gives you greater control than a chronological resume over the way skills, experience, and training are presented. Human resource professionals may view functional resumes with caution, however, as they can be used to hide unfavorable elements in a candidate's work history. Similar to a chronological format, the functional resume begins with basic contact information and a career summary. The next section, however, contains a list of accomplishments and expertise by functional category. Work experience appears after accomplishments, typically including employers, position titles, and dates with little elaboration. As in the chronological format, education and military/civic experience are listed at the bottom.

The functional format may be helpful if:
  • Your recent work history does not support your current career objective and you wish to downplay previous titles or industries
  • You spent a long time with one company and changes in job responsibilities were minimal or difficult to interpret
  • You seek to return to something you did early in your career
  • You have gaps in your work experience or worked for a number of different companies in a relatively short period of time
  • You are re-entering the job market after an extended absence
Resume Components
  • Contact information (name, address, preferred telephone number, e-mail) appears at the top of the first page with name repeated at the top of the second page (if necessary)
  • Career summary is a brief, focused paragraph stating the qualities, strengths and competencies you bring to the marketplace. This statement should contain a synopsis of your experience and critical skills, and may integrate important keywords to make your resume more searchable. Remember to consider transferable and adaptive skills as well as those that are relevant to a specific job. If your career summary sparks the reader's interest, your resume may get a closer look.
  • Work experience (chronological): In a chronological resume, work experience will include employer names and brief company descriptions, job titles/responsibilities, relevant dates, and bullet points earmarking accomplishments. Focus on accomplishments that relate to your career objective and remove job duties or accomplishments that do not apply. Your goal should be to prove your value to potential employers by using strong action verbs and quantifying your results. Providing specific numbers to highlight your accomplishments gives interviewers insight as to the degree of difficulty involved and creates reality and reliability. Consider ways you've saved time and money or managed people and projects, i.e., dollars generated or saved, percentage gains in improved performance, etc.
  • Work experience (functional): Work experience will be much briefer in a functional resume, including employer names, locations, job titles, and dates.
  • Accomplishments (functional): In a functional resume, your accomplishments help identify your real strengths and target positions that maximize them. (Note that this section does not appear in a chronological resume because it is integrated into the work experience.) Accomplishments are typically grouped by category and may follow the guidelines discussed under chronological work experience. Examine your target career to determine what ideal qualifications employers are seeking, then tailor your accomplishments to highlight existing functional skills.
  • Education should appear near the bottom of your resume (with the exception of recent graduates or candidates seeking a career change where continuing education makes them particularly qualified for the position). Show each institution's name and location, degree conferred, and month/year obtained. If you are a student or recent graduate, you may include educational honors, certifications, awards or GPA (especially if your GPA is 3.0 or higher). If you have not finished your degree, list the number and type of credits/classes completed. You may also list related courses, seminars, conferences, and training as applicable.
  • Military and Professional/Civic Experience is optional and should emphasize accomplishments or skill areas which are relevant to your search whenever possible. State your experience in civilian or general business terms. Emphasize any training you received in the military that is relevant to your civilian job objective. You may also want to include professional skills such as languages spoken or proficiencies with computer software.
General Resume Tips
  • Correct spelling and grammar is a MUST.
  • Avoid colored paper, fancy fonts or folds, pictures, or clever delivery approaches.
  • Be honest; make sure job titles and dates are accurate.
  • Keep your resume to one or two pages in length. Use an addendum for specific projects, experience, publications, or patents. A resume should clearly communicate key information and be easy to read. Use short sentences and paragraphs with few prepositional phrases.
  • Pay attention to format; balance information with an appropriate amount of white space.
  • Use the left-hand margin for emphasis. Place titles in the left margin and dates next to the right margin.
  • Avoid personal pronouns. Edit out the first-, second-, and third-person pronouns: "I, me, our, my, we,' etc.
  • Use the past tense. Describe job responsibilities and accomplishments in the same way to maintain consistency.
  • Never include unrelated personal interests, activities, or information such as marital status, number of children, etc.
Can't think of anything to write down about what you do in your job?


We guarantee that you will come up with some new ideas about your job responsibilities and skills.
  • What experience, skills, aptitudes, or traits do you have, or think you might have, that could be of use to an employer?
  • What skills have you developed, at least to some degree, that you have never used at work?
  • Do others, at work or elsewhere, come to you for any particular kind of help? What kind?
  • Do you have military experience (include Coast Guard and Merchant Marine)? Branch, grade, specialty? Active duty, reserves, National Guard? Discharge? Duties? Accomplishments? Medals, citations, commendations? Promotions ahead of schedule? You can treat military experience as general background, or list each position as an employer in your work experience. Don't forget, military training can be particularly useful in private industry if it is relevant to your objective.
  • Have you ever published an article, report, or anything, even as a volunteer, in your company or professional association newsletter?
  • Have you ever given a talk, speech, or presentation, or provided training to anyone at work or elsewhere? Give the specifics.
  • Computer literacy and related skills: What platforms can you use? Which ones are you most comfortable with? What operating systems are you familiar with? If you program, which languages do you know, and what is your level of ability or experience? What programs, or kinds of programs, have you designed or helped design or debug? What Internet research tools are you familiar with? What programs are you familiar with?
  • What foreign languages do you know at least somewhat, and what is your level of skill in each? (i.e. native speaker; fluent; moderate; phrase-book; write easily for professional purposes.)
  • What planning or analytical tools are you familiar with?
  • Do you have any special travel experience, domestic or foreign? If you studied, lived, or worked in a foreign country, how long were you there? Did you live in an American enclave?
Responsibilities, Activities
  • How many people did you supervise? Orient? Hire? Train?
  • How large a budget did you manage?
  • To whom did you report?
  • What was the highest level in the company that you reported to or communicated with directly?
  • Did you coordinate anything?
  • Serve as liaison between groups or key individuals?
  • Mediate between groups or individuals? Resolve any conflicts? Serve as mentor to anyone?
  • Did you do, or participate in, strategic planning?
  • Did you evaluate any individual or group performance, or any task or project research?
  • How did you relate to the product or service?
  • Did you communicate with customers? How?
  • Were you on any proposal teams, in-house or with a customer or subcontractor? Did the proposal succeed?
  • What was your function on the team, or your contribution to winning? Your team's percentage of wins?
  • Did you communicate with suppliers or subcontractors? How?
  • Did you purchase services or supplies for the office, unit, department?
  • Ever serve as a troubleshooter? In what area?
  • Did you back up someone? Who?
  • Did you do any surveys or other research or studies? Determine requirements?
  • Prepare recommendations?
  • Design or manage any processes, systems, or projects?
  • Organize any events, conferences, meetings? How many?
  • Did you administer anything?
  • Consult for anyone, inside or outside the organization?
  • Did you gain experience in any special use software?
  • What kind of writing did you do, for yourself or someone else (e-mail, correspondence, memos, reports, concept papers, plans, proposals, office newsletter, etc.)? What did you write about? Did you write anything that was delivered to a customer as a product, or part of one?
Achievements, Accomplishments
  • How much reduction in costs or increase in profits did you contribute to?
  • What did you do?
  • Did you add any smoothness, quality, or economy of operation that noticeably improved the way things were before you assumed responsibility?
  • Any concrete or specific signs of the gain you achieved?
  • Did you propose, suggest, or initiate any programs, changes, or improvements that were implemented at least partly because of your initiative?
  • What positive results occurred?
  • What did you do as a volunteer, beyond the regular duties of your position?
  • Whether you were paid for it or not, what were you particularly good at that made a difference in how the office (job, project, assignment) progressed from day to day?
Awards, Recognition
  • Were you praised, recognized, or given a pat on the back for a particular assignment, a method of working? How? By whom?
  • Were you promoted ahead of schedule?
  • Selected for any special responsibilities or programs?