To land any job, you first need to write an effective resume.
But, if you go straight to filling in the contents - listing your work experience, education, etc. - you will likely end up with a disorganized and hard-to-read mess of a resume that won’t do your application justice.
As such, no matter what job you’re applying for, it’s first important to make a resume plan - also known as a resume outline.
A resume outline allows you to organize and structure your resume so that you know exactly what goes where.
So, look at the resume outline as a blueprint for your resume - with the right structure, you’re already halfway to a great resume!
Not sure exactly what goes into a resume outline??
This guide covers everything you need to know about making a resume outline, including the sections you should include and tips on how to format each section correctly.
So, let’s dive in!
10 Sections to Include in a Resume Outline
Depending on the job and your experience level, what you put on a resume is going to be a bit different.
While some sections, such as contact information or work experience, are key elements of any resume, other sections, such as volunteer experience or hobbies, may be irrelevant to your resume.
Here’s an example of a general resume outline:
Wondering what your resume outline should include?
We’ve got you covered - read on to learn about each section (AND how to format them!).
#1. Contact Information
Let’s start with the basics. A contact information section is a must-have section for any resume.
As you can imagine, this section is relatively simple - just make sure to fill in your contact information so that the company can get in touch with you.
But, leave a mistake in your name, phone number, or email address, and your potential employer won’t be able to reach you. Or, even worse, they might think you can’t be trusted even with the most basic tasks.
So, in this section of your resume, you want to add the following information correctly:
- Full name
- Professional title
- Phone number
- Professional email
Do you have any job-relevant social media profiles? Feel free to include their URL links in your contact information section. For example, you can add your GitHub profile if you’re a developer or Behance if you’re a designer.
Here’s an example of what the contact information section looks like in a resume:
#2. Resume Summary/Objective
Your resume heading is the first thing most recruiters will notice in your resume.
This is exactly where your resume summary or resume objective goes.
This section is perfect for spiking recruiters’ interest and getting them to read the rest of your resume.
Here’s how to choose:
- Use a resume summary if you have relevant work experience and years in the field to impress the recruiter with your professional skills and achievements.
- If you lack work experience or are going through a career change, write a resume objective where you mention your top skills, education, or any relevant experience in the field, and explain how you’d use it to help the company achieve its goals.
So, if you’re a seasoned professional with a lot of experience in the field, here are the key elements of an impactful resume summary:
- Your professional title and years of experience
- Your most important field-related skills
- Your 1-2 biggest professional achievements
Your resume summary should look something like this:
Passionate and attentive customer service representative with 3+ years in tech support, specializing in live chat customer support. Familiar with LiveAgent, ProProfs Chat, and Userlike software. Excellent communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills. Handled up to 12% more customers monthly compared to other customer support specialists in Company X.
And, if you’re fresh out of university or just don’t have relevant work experience, include these elements to write an eye-catching resume objective:
- Your degree
- Any field-related experience
- Your motivation for choosing this specific company
Here’s an example:
Motivated and people-oriented Philology student looking for a part-time customer service representative job at Company X. Fluent in English, Italian, and French. Looking to apply strong communication and language skills to provide excellent support for international customers in your company.
#3. Work Experience
The work experience section is the most important part of your resume because it shows that you have the necessary knowledge, experience, and qualifications for the job.
So, you should list all the relevant jobs you’ve had, starting with your most recent work experience and then going backward in time.
To begin with, here’s what you should format this section:
- List your work experience in the reverse-chronological order. Start with your most recent work experience, and then go backward in time. However, keep your work entries relevant (e.g. your job waiting tables from ten years back won’t really help you land that marketing position today).
- Add your job title. This will help the recruiter see the role that you had in your previous/current workplace.
- Add the company name. In case your employer isn’t a household name, you can alternatively include a short description of the company too.
- Include the period of employment. Use the mm/yyyy format for all work experience entries to show how long you’ve worked in the company.
- List your responsibilities and professional achievements. For your most recent jobs, include 5-6 achievements and responsibilities in bullet points. For older roles, use only 2-3 bullet points.
Want to go the extra mile and make sure your resume really stands out? The answer lies in your achievements!
Think about it - although the hiring manager already knows what a position entails, most candidates only list their responsibilities and call it a day.
As a result, most sales associates, for example, end up with a nearly identical work experience section: welcoming and consulting customers, working the cash register, etc.
Instead, consider listing your achievements over your responsibilities.
Focusing on your achievements makes you stand out from other candidates, gives you credibility, AND shows the hiring manager the value you can bring to the company.
Keep in mind that the best way to show off your achievements is by backing them up with numbers, and being specific about your contributions.
This way, recruiters know exactly the impact that you had (e.g. “Exceeded sales KPIs by 30% for 3 months in a row” instead of “Increased sales”).
And here’s an example of an effective work experience section:
- Managed all recruitment activities, including sourcing, interviewing, and hiring talent.
- Successfully hired 15+ IT specialists.
- Worked with hiring managers to create accurate job ads, resulting in a 32% increase in relevant job applications.
- Used Facebook and LinkedIn to source talent.
- Sourced 20+ senior professionals in a single year.
No matter if the job requires you to have a degree or not, hiring managers want to know your educational background.
As such, you should always include an education section in your resume.
Generally, though, recruiters care more about your work experience and skills than education, so your best bet is to keep the education section brief.
To do that, simply start with your latest and highest degree and mention the following:
- Name of degree
- Name of educational institute
- Years attended
Optionally, you can include any of these education details (if they are relevant and add weight to your resume, of course):
- GPA (if relevant and noteworthy)
- Courses relevant to the job
- Exchange programs
Only include your high school education if that’s the highest degree you possess. Otherwise, feel free to skip it and use the free space for other, more relevant sections.
And, here’s an example of what an effective education section looks like on a resume:
B.A. English Language and Culture, Minor in Teaching
University of Groningen
09/2016 - 07/2019
Magna Cum Laude
The skills section is a key section in any resume - after all, it serves to show off your professional abilities.
So, to impress the hiring manager, you should list your skills the right way.
Now, there are two types of skills:
- Hard skills - which refer to the technical knowledge or training you acquired from experience (e.g. software, tools, language skills, etc.)
- Soft skills - which describe skills that are not concrete (e.g. your people skills, interpersonal skills, leadership, organizational skills, etc.)
No matter the job, you should always list both hard skills and soft skills on your resume.
For example, game development may be a highly technical field, but a game developer must have great communication skills to successfully work in a team.
Likewise, a customer support representative has to master both active listening and computer skills required for the job.
Having said that, here are some tips to make your skills section effective:
- List your soft and hard skills separately. This will make your resume look well-organized and easy to skim.
- Tailor your skills section to the job. Hiring managers need to know if you’re competent for the position, so only list your relevant skills (e.g. if you’re applying to be a waitress, the hiring manager won’t care if you have advanced knowledge of Adobe Premiere Pro).
- Carefully read the job description and take notes. If you’re unsure which skills you should include in your resume, see whether you match any required skills in the job listing and add them to your resume.
Need more inspiration? Check out these 101+ skills to put on any resume.
#6. Awards & Certifications
Now, if you have some free space on your resume, don’t let it go to waste - instead, include relevant additional sections to make your resume stand out and show off your professional background.
So, to really impress the hiring manager with your skills, experience, and expertise in the field, include any relevant awards and certifications you have.
Here are some ideas:
- Publication in a journal
- Language certificate
- Professional certificate
If you have multiple certificates, start with the latest and add the following information:
- Certification name
- Certifying body name
- Year of obtainment
- Location (optional)
- Date of expiry (if applicable)
- In progress (if applicable, also add the expected date of obtainment)
And here’s an example:
Professional Certificate in Digital Marketing (2018)
Digital Marketing Institute
Professional Certified Marketer (2018)
The American Marketing Association
Today, most companies are very international, so knowing a foreign language or two can give you a competitive advantage when it comes to landing your dream job.
So, if you know any extra languages, add them to your resume and make sure you mention your proficiency with each language as such:
English - Native or Bilingual Proficiency
German - Professional Working Proficiency
Dutch - Limited Working Proficiency
Be realistic. Don’t exaggerate your language skills, or you might end up in some very awkward situations. You never know which languages your interviewer knows!
#8. Volunteer Experience
Now, if you have volunteer experience, adding this optional section to your resume is a sure way to stand out from the rest of the applicants.
That’s because your volunteering experience shows the hiring manager that, unlike most other candidates, you are passionate about a cause and giving back to the community.
Additionally, your volunteering experience can explain odd employment gaps or make up for a lack of work experience!
Here’s an example of what your volunteer experience section could look like:
X Nursing Home
02/2018 - 09/2019
- Led 15+ senior citizens in arts and crafts and social activities.
- Helped with planning and building a potting shed.
- Initiated and organized weekly board game events.
#9. Personal Projects
Want to show the recruiter that you can take initiative, are passionate about the field, and have great leadership and project management skills?
Consider including your personal projects, such as blogs and side gigs, in your resume! And, of course, make sure to describe what each project is about.
Ideally, you want to include personal projects that are more or less relevant to the job you’re applying for.
But, even if your personal projects aren’t exactly in that field, listing them on your resume will show the recruiter that you can successfully manage many activities at once.
Here’s an example:
Co-founded Vegan Wednesdays Workshop (2017 -2019)
Imperial College School of Public Health
- Launched a weekly meal prep workshop to raise awareness of the environmental impact of overconsuming animal products
Launched a recycling program (2015)
Imperial College School of Public Health
- Created materials and informed all the students on campus to differentiate and be aware of their waste
#10. Hobbies & Interests
Although your hobbies and interests aren’t the game-changer that will land you the job if you aren’t otherwise qualified for the position, they are still a fun section to add if you have the extra space.
Think about it - if the recruiter has 2 equally qualified candidates and they have to pick between:
- Someone they have a lot in common with
- A stranger with whom they don’t have anything in common
You can bet that they’d go for option #1!
Besides, listing your hobbies and interests can help you show off your unique skills and traits, making you stand out from other candidates.
Optimally, though, you should aim to include only relevant hobbies (e.g. a video gaming hobby is a great advantage if you’re applying for an open-world designer position in Blizzard Entertainment, but it won’t impress the recruiter if you’re applying to be a financial analyst in a local law firm).
Not sure which hobbies to mention in your resume? Check out our list of 40+ hobbies and interests to put on your resume!
Use a Tried & Tested Resume Template
Making a resume from scratch can be time-consuming.
Before you even get to fill in the contents, you have to plan the resume outline and deal with the formatting of your resume.
Instead, use one of our free resume templates!
By picking one of our professional templates, you don’t have to worry about making a resume outline or formatting your resume - it’s all done for you!
So, you can dive straight into filling in the contents of your resume.
Not to mention, our resume templates look fantastic, so you’ll surely catch the recruiters’ attention!
See for yourself how our tried-and-tested resume templates compare to the usual black-and-white resumes:
So, by now you should have a much better understanding of how to make an effective resume outline that shows off your professional abilities.
Before you start working on your resume, though, let’s quickly go through everything we learned in this article:
- To write a job-winning resume, customize your resume to the job you’re applying for.
- The most important section of your resume is your work experience section, so make sure to list it right and focus on your achievements to help you stand out from other candidates.
- Instead of putting in unnecessary information (e.g. your high school diploma if you already hold a Bachelor’s degree), use the space to add relevant additional information to show your professional background in greater detail.