Structure of Resume

Two Styles of Resume

In this book, we have placed a great deal of emphasis on the "Advertisement" style for both resume and covering letters. However, there are situations where the resume is expected to follow a well-established format, conveying information rather than scoring selling points. The formal style cannot be ignored in many professions such as law, medicine and accounting. For such job applications, you will have to conform to established practices. No doubt, a well-crafted covering letter provides subtle advertisement for you, but you have to format the resume in the established "black tie and waistcoat" style, in order that it is considered at all.

It will enrich your resume and covering letter and increase your chances of an interview call even if your resume is finally written in a "regulation" format.

A Great Resume has Two Sections

In the first section, you make assertions about your abilities, qualities and achievements. You write powerful, but honest, advertising copy that makes the reader immediately perk up and realize that you are someone special. The second section, the evidence section, is where you back up your assertions with evidence that you actually did what you said, you did. This is where you list and describe the jobs you have held, your education, etc. This is all the mandatory stuff, you are obliged to include.

Unfortunately, most resume have just the evidence section, with no assertions. If you have trouble going to sleep, just read a few resume each night just before going to bed. You will fall asleep in no time! Unfortunately, the average resume has the same soporific effect on the potential employer. But, that is not what you want. Rather, you want him to immediately reach for the phone and invite you for an interview when he has finished reading your resume.

The resume you have written in the past have probably been a gallant effort to inform the reader. You don't want them informed. You want them interested and excited. This is where the assertion section comes in. The juice is here!

You can judiciously distribute the assertions between the covering letter and the resume itself. It is a good idea to first write the resume and then pick up the key highlights from the assertion and the evidence sections to incorporate them in the covering letter.

The Assertion Section There are two or three sub-sections in the assertion section. You begin the assertion section by stating your objective in applying for the job. This is followed by a summary of your most important qualifications, qualities and achievements. In exceptional cases, especially for high level appointments and for major career change situations, you may need a third sub-section that outlines your skills and accomplishments.

The Objective

Ideally, your resume should subtly convey why you are the perfect candidate for the job Remember that good advertising is directed towards a very specific target audience. When a car company tries to sell their inexpensive compact to an older audience, they show grandfather and grandmother stuffing the car with many happy, contented and shiny grandchildren and talk about how safe and economical the car is. When they advertise the very same car to the young executives, they show the car going around corners on two wheels, with plenty of drums and trumpets thundering in the background. You must be equally specific in focusing your resume.

Targeting your resume requires that you be absolutely clear about your-career. The way to demonstrate your clarity of direction is to display the first major topic of your resume as your objective.

Let us look at a real world example. Suppose the owner of a small software company puts an advertisement in the paper seeking an experienced software sales person. A week later the employer receives 3,000 resume. The applicants have a bewildering variety of backgrounds. The employer has no way of knowing whether any of them are really interested in selling software. He knows that many of the resume received are from people who are just using a shotgun approach, casting their seed to the winds. Then, he comes across a resume in the pile that starts with the following:


To seek a software sales position in an organization where an extraordinary record of generating new accounts, exceeding sales targets and enthusiastic customer relations, would be needed.

This wakes him up. He is immediately interested. This first sentence conveys some very important and powerful messages: "I want exactly the job you are offering. I am a superior candidate because I have the qualities that are most important to you. I want to make a contribution to your company." The message works well because the employer is smart enough to know that someone who wants to do exactly what he is offering will be much more likely to succeed than someone who doesn't. And, he will probably be a lot more pleasant to work with as well. The candidate has done a good job of establishing why he is the perfect candidate in his first sentence. He has thought about what qualities would make a candidate stand out. He has started communicating that he is capable of making a contribution to the employer. He is not writing from a self-centred point of view.

Even when people are smart enough to provide an objective, they often make the mistake of saying something like, "a position where I can hone my skill as a scissors sharpener." or something similar. The employer is interested in hiring you for what you can do for him, not for fulfilling your private goals and agenda.

How to Write an Objective

Here's how to write your objective. First of all, decide on a specific job title for your objective. Then go back to your list of answers to the question "How can I demonstrate that I am the perfect candidate?" What are the two or three qualities, abilities or achievements that would make a candidate stand out as truly exceptional for that specific job? The applicant in the above example recognized that the prospective employer has a small, growing Software Company. Therefore, he would be very interested in a candidate with an ability to generate new accounts. So, he made that the very first point in his resume. Be sure the objective is to the point. Do not use fluffy phrases, which are obvious, or do not mean anything, such as: "allowing the ability to enhance potential and utilize my experience in new challenges." An objective may be broad and still somewhat undefined in some cases, such as: "a mid-level management position in the hospitality or entertainment industry." Remember, your resume will only get a few seconds attention, at best! You have to generate interest right away, in the first sentence they lay their eyes on. Having an objective statement that really sizzles is highly effective. And it's simple to do. One format is:


An Xxx position in an organization where Yyy and Zzz would be needed.

Xxx is the name of the position you seek. Yyy and Zzz are the most compelling qualities, abilities or achievements that will really make you stand out above the crowd of applicants. The research you have previously done to find out what is most important to the employer will provide the information to fill in Yyy and Zzz.

Be prepared to write separate and specific resume, written in appropriate style, for each job that you apply for. There is nothing wrong with having several different resume, each with a different objective, each specifically crafted for a different type of position.

You may even want to change some parts of your resume for each job you apply for. Remember to create an objective that is perfectly matched with the job. Remember also that you are writing advertising copy, not the story of your life!

The point of using an "Objective" is to create a very specific psychological response in the mind of the reader. If you are making a career change or you are a young person, you want the employer to immediately focus on where you are going, rather than where you have been. If you are looking for another job in your present field, it is more important to stress your qualities, achievements and abilities, first.

A few examples of separate "objective" sections now follow:

  • Senior staff position with a bank that offers the opportunity to utilize my expertise in commercial real estate loans and strategic management.
  • An entry-level position in the hospitality industry where a background in advertising and public relations would be needed.
  • A position in teaching English as a second language where a special ability to motivate and communicate effectively with students would be needed.

The Summary

The "summary" or "summary of qualifications" consists of several concise statements that focus the reader's attention on the most important qualities, achievements and abilities you have to offer. Those qualities should be the most compelling demonstrations of why they should hire you instead of the other candidates. It give you a brief opportunity telegraph a few or your most sterling qualities. It is your one and only chance to attract and hold their attention, to get across what is most important, and to entice the employer to keep reading.

This is the spiciest part of the resume. This may be the only section fully read by the employer, so it should be very strong and convincing. The summary is the one place to include professional characteristics (extremely energetic, a gift for solving complex problems in a fast-paced environment, a natural salesman, exceptional interpersonal skills, committed to excellence, etc.), which may be helpful in winning the interview. Direct every word in the summary to your targeted goal.

How to Write a Summary

How to write a "Summary"? Go back to your lists that answer the question, "What would make someone the ideal candidate?" Look for the qualities the employer will care about most. Then look at what you wrote about why you are the perfect person to fill their need. Pick the stuff that best demonstrates why they should hire you. Assemble it into your summary section. The most common ingredients of a well-written summary are as follows. Use the ones that highlight you best.

- A short phrase describing your profession,

- Followed by a statement of broad or specialized expertise,

- Followed by two or three additional statements related to any of the following:

  • Breadth or depth of skills.
  • Unique mix of skills.
  • Range of environments in which you have experience.
  • A special or well-documented accomplishment.
  • A history of awards, promotions, or superior performance commendations.
  • One or more professional or appropriate personal characteristics.
  • A sentence describing your professional objective or interest.

If You are Making a Career Change

Notice that the examples below show how to include your objective in the "summary" section. If you are making a career change, the summary seaion must show how well your past experience has prepared you to do what you seek to do in the future. If you are a young person new to the job market, your "summary" will be based more on ability than on experience.

Examples of "Summary" Sections

  • Highly motivated, creative and versatile real estate executive with seven years of experience in property acquisition, development and construction, as well as the management of large apartment complexes. Especially skilled at building effective, productive working relationships with clients and staff. Excellent management, negotiation and public relations skills. Seeks a challenging management position in the real estate field that offers extensive contact with the public.
  • Over 10 years as an organizational catalyst/training design consultant with a track record of producing extraordinary results for more than 20 national and non-government organizations. A commitment to human development and community service. Energetic self-starter with excellent analytical, organizational, and creative skills.
  • Financial Management Executive with nearly ten years of experience in banking and international trade, finance, investments and economic policy. Innovative in structuring credit enhancement for corporate as well as personal financing. Skilled negotiator with strong management, sales and marketing background. Areas of expertise include: (a bulleted list of areas of expertise should follow this paragraph.)
  • Health Care Professional experienced in management, program development and policy making in India as well as in neighbouring countries. Expertise in emergency medical services. A talent for analysing problems, developing and simplifying procedures, and finding innovative solutions. Proven ability to motivate and work effectively with persons from other cultures and all walks of life. Skilled in working within a foreign environment and with limited resources.

Skills and Accomplishments

Assume that you are a top- or mid-level executive, wanting a significant career change or upward move. You want your professional career to blast off! You are going to need more details in your assertion section since you need to be more persuasive that you are truly outstanding and that you have the preparation, the talent and the will to make a big career change, or upward move, and succeed!

You are still writing to enroll the reader, not to inform him. Basically, you do exactly what you did in the previous section, except that you go into more details. In the summary, you focused on your most special highlights. Now you have to tell the "rest of the best" of your story! Let them know what results you produced, what happened as a result of your efforts, what you are especially gifted or experienced at doing. Flesh out the most important highlights in your summary.

You are still writing to do what every good advertisement has to do well, communicating the following: "if you buy this product, you will get these direct benefits". If it does not contribute to furthering this communication, do not bother to say it. Remember, not too much detail. Preserve a bit of mystery. Don't tell them everything.

Sometimes the "Skills and Accomplishments" section is a separate section. In a chronological resume, it becomes the first few phrases of the descriptions of the various jobs you have held. When it is a separate section, it can have several possible titles, depending on your situation, such as:

  • Skills and accomplishments.
  • Selected accomplishments.
  • Recent accomplishments.
  • Areas of expertise.
  • Career highlights.
  • Professional highlights.

The Structure

There are a number of different ways to structure "Skills and Accomplishments" sections. In all of these styles, put your skills and accomplishments in order of importance for the desired career goal. If you have many skills, the last skill paragraph might be called "Additional Skills".

Here are a few ways you could structure your "Skills and Accomplishments" section:

1. A listing of selected skills or accomplishments or a combination of both, with bullets:

  • Raised Rs. 10 Lakh in 21 days in flood relief collection drive.
  • Conducted legal research for environmental group on the use of CFL gas.
  • Coordinated the annual company wide goal setting meeting.

2. A list of bulleted accomplishments or skill paragraphs under each job (in a chronological resume).

General Manger of Sales and Marketing at Export Sales Corporation, Mumbai.

  • Promoted from Sales Representative within two years of joining company to GM of Sales and Marketing. Responsible for international sales of raw materials, as well as printing and graphic arts equipments. Oversaw five sales managers. Was in charge of direct sales and marketing in 7 countries throughout the Middle East.
  • Recruited, trained and managed sales staff. Developed marketing strategy, prepared sales projections and established quotas. Selected and contracted with overseas sub-agents to achieve international market penetration.
  • Negotiated and finalized long-term contractual agreements with suppliers on behalf of clients. Oversaw all aspects of transactions, including letters of credit, international financing, preparation of import/export documentation, and shipping/freight forwarding.
  • Planned and administered sales and marketing budget, and maintained sole profit/loss responsibility. Within first year, doubled company's revenues, and produced Rs. 300 Crore in annual sales during the next three years.

The Evidence Section

No resume has a formal "Evidence" section, with such a title! However, whatever you assert, must be supported by evidence and this evidence is attached in the conventional format with headings such as:

  • Education.
  • Experience.
  • Awards won or papers published.
  • Membership of professional bodies.

Compelling evidence is absolutely necessary. No resume can only make assertions and not back up the claims! In the next section, we shall go into the details of how to present evidence in your resume.

Three Kinds of Resume

There are two basic kinds of resume. The third kind is really a combination of the first two:

  • Chronological resume.
  • Skills or Functional resume.
  • Combination resume.

Which one is best for you depends on many factors such as your experience level, the level of the job being applied for, the employer and the sector of the industry, whether you are applying for a promotion or a career change and so on.

Here are some guidelines to help you decide what is best for the job you are applying for.

Chronological resume present your life experience in a chronological format. They focus on what have you been doing and what you haver achieved. They provide a clear picture of your employment history, focusing on career advancement and increased responsibilities. If your previous education and work experience support the job you are applying for, you may use a chronological resume. A big advantage of a chronological resume is that it is easy to do. A simple chronological resume can be completed in 3 or 4 hours!

Skills Resume, sometimes called Functional Resume, focus on the skills you have acquired while working. It clusters the skills/knowledge you have gained under major skills areas. A skills resume is a better alternative if you are changing careers and do not have much of relevant work experience in the job you are applying for.

Employers sometimes dislike the skills resume, as it does not provide a clear picture of your employment history. Skills resume does not answer the questions many employers are asking themselves when they first look at your resume such as "How well has the applicant performed in his job? Has he been promoted? Has he been given increased responsibilities?"

At the same time, most employers will admit that ^a list of your core skills and abilities definitely adds value to your resume. It allows you to demonstrate your strengths in relation to the position you are targeting.

Therefore, we advise you to use a combination resume in most cases. It includes the better of the two generic resume types. First, outline the skills and knowledge relevant for the position you are applying for. Then continue with your and educational background supporting the skills you have with specific examples.

We shall now look at all the three types of resume in detail.

Chronological Resume

A chronological resume presents your professional experience in a chronological format. Chronological resume focuses on what you have been doing and what you have achieved. Chronological resume work best if your previous job experience and education supports the position you are applying for.

Many employers prefer chronological resume to skills resume as it provides a clear picture of your employment history, focusing on career advancement and increased responsibilities.

What to Include in a Chronological Resume

  • Name and contact details.

Include your full name and contact details: address, phone numbers and email. If you are planning to move, include the new address and the date from which you will be accessible at the new location.

  • Job objective.

If you are targeting a specific job opening (e.g. marketing assistant in a large service organization), you can use the title of the position you are applying for. Otherwise, avoid using narrow job titles.

Do not try to target a whole universe of positions. The employers would not like to employ someone who does not seem to know what he wants. Do not include meaningless job objectives such as "a challenging and well paid position in a creative environment".

Selecting a job objective may be a time consuming process, but it will certainly pay off. Based on the job objective, you will be able to decide on the experiences/training most relevant to the position, you are targeting.

  • Work experience.

Start with the most recent position.

Indicate the organization you worked for, your job title, employment dates, major responsibilities and achievements. Focus and provide more details about the jobs that support your job objective. If you worked for a small, not so well-known organization, indicate the type of business it is engaged in. Provide details of the city, state or province in which the organization is located.

As your job title, include one that describes your duties and responsibilities best, which may not necessarily be your formal title. For example, you might write "responsible for public relations", and not "assistant to vice-president", if that is what you did.

Include both your responsibilities and achievements. Do not simply write "Purchase Manager". Instead, use a more descriptive paragraph that will immediately follow the job title, as shown below:

"Purchase Manager. Through implementation of strict raw material inspection procedures and skilful negotiations with key suppliers achieved 10 per cent reduction in per unit raw material costs maintaining the same quality level".

The description of achievement adds punch to the job title.

  • Education and training.
If you have a long employment history, focus on the relevant educational and training experiences.

Consider dropping the whole section, if your education and training do not support the job objective or if you do not have the education and credentials that are typically required for the type of position you are targeting.

If you are a recent graduate, your education is likely to be your most significant achievement! If you have good marks, put them down on your resume. Focus on the subjects that directly support your job objective.

  • Language skills, computer skills and other skills.

Be sure to mention multiple language fluency, skills with computers and any other skills relevant for the position you are applying for.

  • Personal information.
Do not include any personal information, unless it strongly supports your job objective. For example, if you are applying for a position of an actor, you could include your height, weight, hair and eye colour. Otherwise, leave them out!

  • References

You can include the names and contact details of 2 to 3 referees. Make sure that your referees give positive references by asking them how they would characterize you and your work. Include only those referees whose opinions of you and your work would be most beneficial. Another option is to prepare a separate list with the names of referees or, even better, get 2 to 3 of your referees to write letters of reference but provide them only upon request.

A Skills or Combination Resume?

If you are changing career and have little or no experience related to the position you are applying for, you should use a skills resume. Skills resume focuses on the skills you have rather than work experience or education.

As we have already seen, employers sometimes dislike a skills resume, as it does not provide them with a clear picture of your employment history.

Therefore, we advise you to select a combination resume whenever possible, since it will present your skills and abilities, your relevant work experience and education in the best possible light.

What to Include in a Skills Resume

  • Name and contact details.
  • Job objective.
  • Skills, abilities and areas of expertise.

As its name suggests, skills resume focuses on your core skills. Therefore, the major part of a skills resume should be devoted to skills, abilities and areas of expertise.

Identify the skills that are required for the position you are targeting. Compare the skills you believe are important for the position you are targeting and the skills you have.

Cluster the skills you have and those that are required for the position, grouping them under 4 to 6 sub-headings. Where ever possible, support your statements with facts. Do not write "good management skills" but support them with evidence. Write instead "managed a group of 8 people from different backgrounds." You can use sub-headings such as:

  • Work experience.
  • Education and training.
  • Language skills, computer skills and other skill.s
  • Personal information.
  • References.

For details to be provided under each of the sub-headings see the previous section under "chronological resume".

Suit Your Profile to the Job

We have discussed a large number of principles for writing an arresting resume and covering letter. The central theme that emerges is that you must match your skills, aptitudes and abilities to the needs of the job, tailoring each resume to specifically suit the needs of the job advertised.

In your desire to match job needs with your education, skills, and experience, do avoid the temptation to be too creative. It is important to realize that the resume is only a first step. After getting an interview call, it will still be necessary to back-up your claims in the face-to-face interview.

It goes without saying that not every job will match your own profile. While some change in emphasis may align your resume closer to the job advertised, some will be obvious mismatches and are best left alone.

You will do better to target a job, which is more in line with your education and skill profile. Do not court disappointment by trying to fit a round profile in a square job!

Improve that Fit!

Assuming that there is a preliminary fit between what the employer wants and what you have to offer, here are suggestions for improving the thrust of your resume and enhancing the fit between you and the job.

Build on Your Strengths

Identify your skills and qualifications. Ask yourself the following questions. Some hints are given to help you to reply.

1. What skills do you have?

[Hint: Are you quick in making decisions? Or, do you have good negotiation skills?]

2. Which of the skills that you have will be useful for the job you are applying for?

[Hint: Which of the key skills you listed above, you enjoy doing most? Try to prioritise them. Also, do you have any training specific to the job you are applying for?]

First, make a list of the key skills you possess. To help you, we have given a list of some key skills.

List of Skills

Loyal Willin'g to Learn Reliable Hard Working
Creative Responsible Confident Trustworthy
Ambitious Energetic Friendly Flexible
Mature Reliable Communicative Independent
Honest Resourceful Competent Analytical
Negotiation Budgeting Supervision Planning
Public Speaking People Skills Management Skills Technical Skills

This is not an all-inclusive list, and should only serve as a guide in developing your own list of your skills. Do take your time in preparing this list. It may be the most important step in planning your career!

Next, relate your skills to the needs of the job. For example, if you are applying for the job of an office assistant, your knowledge of word-processing software will be a good selling point. Or, if you are applying for an overseas job, then, having a passport will be a big plus point.

Take a proactive stance. If you believe that you need additional training to be able to perform the job you want, take a suitable course! Even if you have only enrolled in a relevant training programme before the job interview, you will have a powerful selling point in your favour when you are face to face with your prospective employer.

The employer is more likely to employ someone who shows that he is genuinely interested in the job by investing time and resources in obtaining the required skills on his own time.

Take the Employer's Style into Account

We have touched upon the importance of taking into account the employers own style of functioning while deciding between the modern "advertisement" style of resume and the more conservative styles such as the "chronological" style.

Therefore, before writing, some research about the employer is necessary. These days, many companies have websites and you can gain valuable information about the company's size, performance and product range by visiting their web site. The local chamber of commerce will generally have old copies of the company's annual reports, which is another source of useful information about the company.

Ultra conservative organizations wanting to hire professionals such as doctors or lawyers will favour a conventional resume with only a muted and subtle sales pitch. The IT industry or the rapidly growing FMCG sales organizations on the other hand, will look for an aggressively structured resume that promises action from the day you join them! Your style must match the employer's style!

Much of the information you collect will help you to select and highlight your relevant attributes, which will project you as the best candidate for the job. In addition, you will gain a feel of the organization from the website itself. Do they appear conservative or state of the art? You can adjust your "sales pitch" accordingly.

Put Yourself in the Employer's Place

Imagine that you are the person who will do the hiring. Do not think of some anonymous paper pusher deep in the bowels of the personnel department. Usually, the person who makes the hiring decision is also the person who is responsible for the bottom line productivity of the project or group you hope to be a part of. This is a person who cares deeply how well the job will be done. You need to write your resume to appeal directly to him.

Ask yourself: What would make someone the perfect candidate? If you are seeking a job in a field you know well, you probably already know what would make someone a superior candidate. If you are not sure, gather hints from the help wanted advertisement you are answering, ask people who work in the same company or the same field. You could even call the prospective employer and ask them what they want. Do not make wild guesses in your resume. It is very important to do this step well. If you are not addressing the employers real needs, he will not respond to your resume.

Putting yourself in the shoes of the person doing the hiring is the first and most important step in writing a resume that markets you rather than describes your history. Every step in producing a finished document should be part of your overall intention to convey to the prospective employer that you are a truly exceptional candidate in their eyes!