How To Organize Your Resume and Your Sections

You know what to put in your resume … but how do you tie it all together? This complete guide details how to structure your resume for maximum impact.

4 months ago   •   6 min read

By Resume Worded Editorial Team
Table of contents

When it comes to writing a resume, content is what matters … but it’s not all that matters. How you organize your resume can make a huge difference in the hiring process. Keep scrolling for tips that will help you:

But first, let’s start with the basics: What do you need to put on your resume?

Core resume organization tips

Before you spend a lot of time rearranging your resume, make sure it has the most essential information. The sections you should always include on a resume are:

  • Your name and contact details
  • A work experience section that includes the company name, job title, dates of employment, and a handful of accomplishments
  • An education section that lists any degree(s) you obtained and where you got them

That’s obviously the bare minimum, but it’s entirely possible to write an effective resume with only that information. Depending on how much detail you want to include, you can also consider adding:

  • A resume title and summary
  • Relevant technical skills
  • Other certifications or qualifications
  • Awards
  • Volunteer work
  • Internships
  • Educational or personal projects
  • Anything else that tells a recruiter why you’d be a good fit for the job, e.g. foreign languages, board memberships, hobbies, publications, etc.

On the flip side, here are some things that never belong on your resume:

  • Your full street address
  • Graphics or images (including a photograph)
  • References

Obviously, some of these sections are more important than others. So, what order should your resume sections be in?

Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer to how you should organize your resume. What sections you need — and which ones to prioritize — will depend on how much experience you have and what types of jobs you’re applying for.

For instant, professional feedback on your resume organization and tips on how to improve, upload your resume to the free ATS resume scanner below and check out our customized tips.

How to structure an entry level resume

If you’re a student, recent graduate, or just starting out in your career, your resume is going to look a little different from a typical mid-level resume. Unlike other resume advice, you’ll want to dedicate a little more space to things like your education and include other types of experience if you don’t have a lot of traditional work experience.

Here’s a sample entry level resume structure:

  • Education
  • Work experience
  • Volunteering
  • Projects
  • Activities
  • Skills
Example of how to organize an entry level resume
Example of how to organize an entry level resume

Education

The first section on your resume should always be what you want to emphasize the most. In the case of students and recent graduates, this is your education. In addition to your degree and the name of the school, you can also include subcategories for:

Experience

No experience? No problem! The experience section of your resume doesn’t have to be limited to paid work experience. You can also include internships, volunteer experience, and student activities — anything that allows you to show accomplishments from a semi-professional setting.

Additional sections

If you don’t have a lot of work experience, it can also be worthwhile to highlight other things like volunteering, projects, and extracurricular activities. If these are extensive enough, they can go in their own section — try to choose one or two that are most relevant to your experience.

Skills

Only include skills on your resume if they’re a) hard skills — think programming languages vs a soft skill like “communication” — and b) relevant to the job you’re applying for. Speaking three languages may be an asset if you’re working in a public-facing role or for an international organization, but for a job like data entry, you’re better off listing computer skills instead.

If you’re not sure which hard skills are relevant to the job you’re applying for, use the skills search tool below to find the right ones.

Mid level resume organization tips

Once you have some experience under your belt, it’s time to do some rearranging of your resume sections. For most job seekers, try some variation of this standard resume structure:

  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Additional information
Sample template for a mid-level or experienced resume
Sample template for a mid-level or experienced resume

Work experience

If you have even a little bit of professional experience, always list your work experience section first. For most mid-level roles, aim for 1-3 jobs with around 3-6 accomplishments in bullet point format underneath each one.

Education

No matter your level of experience, you should keep your education on your resume, but move it underneath your work experience section and make it brief — 1-2 lines is sufficient in most cases. You can leave off your date of graduation if it’s been 8+ years since you graduated as well as omitting extra information like extracurricular activities, coursework, and GPA. At this stage of your career, you should only be listing:

Skills and additional information

You can condense these into a single resume section if you’re short on space. Only include information that makes you a stronger candidate for the specific role you’re applying for — if in doubt, use the job description as your guide or browse our database of hard skills and keywords.

High level or executive resume structure

If you’re applying for more senior roles — like management, C-suite, or other executive positions — you’ll want to structure your resume a little differently. For starters, it can be longer — a 2-page resume is fairly standard for more experienced hires.

Here’s how an executive resume should be organized:

Key changes to make when organizing an executive or senior level resume
Key changes to make when organizing an executive or senior level resume

Executive summary

Unlike a standard resume, where it’s optional, a summary is recommended for executive resumes. This should be a sort of career highlights section — aim to include a paragraph summarizing your most impressive accomplishments and 2-4 key accomplishments.

Core competencies

Core competencies can go toward the beginning of your resume or at the end, depending on how much you want to emphasize them. Note that this isn’t just another name for a skills section. While most skills sections focus on specific technical skills, core competencies should provide an overview of high-level proficiencies — for example, “Mergers & Acquisitions” rather than “QuickBooks.”

Experience

As this is likely to be more extensive for higher-level positions, it’s okay if your work experience takes up the bulk of a 2-page resume. That doesn’t mean you should aim to include your entire career history — limit older jobs to 1-2 bullet points each and leave off jobs older than 10-15 years altogether.

Education

Keep this as brief as possible — 1-2 lines including the name of your school, degree, and major(s).

Board memberships, certifications, and professional affiliations

These are optional but recommended, especially if you have board memberships or professional affiliations that demonstrate industry-specific expertise. This doesn’t have to be extensive — a couple of lines detailing the organization, your role, and the dates is sufficient.

How to organize a resume if you’re changing careers

Career changers face a unique set of challenges when deciding how to structure a resume. Do you stick to a standard resume format? Prioritize older but more relevant jobs? Put your education first? While there’s no single right answer, here’s the structure we recommend for a career changer resume format:

  • Resume summary
  • Relevant experience
  • Other experience
  • Education
  • Skills
Example of how to organize a career changer resume
Example of how to organize a career changer resume

Resume summary

This is a must for career change resumes. If you’re worried that your resume isn’t entirely self-explanatory — like if you’re applying for a job that’s very different from the bulk of your previous work experience — a resume summary can contextualize your application and highlight transferable skills that might not otherwise be readily apparent.

Relevant experience

Changing careers is the one time it’s acceptable not to use a strictly chronological resume format. If you have older experience that’s relevant to your new field, start with a relevant experience section so it doesn’t get lost.

Other experience

This is where all your other experience can go. Try to highlight accomplishments that demonstrate transferable skills or are otherwise relevant to the new position, even if they’re in different roles or industries.

Education

Keep this below your work experience, unless you’ve recently completed a qualification that’s relevant to your new career. In that case, you should include it at the top of your resume to emphasize that you have fresh, applicable skills.

Skills

Alternatively, this could be an additional information section. List any hard skills, certifications, projects, volunteer work, or awards that strengthen your candidacy.

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