Resume Formats

All resumes contain some standard elements, but there is no one “right way” to prepare a resume. The same resume style or content will not work equally well for different individuals or for different kinds of positions. The two basic styles of resumes are the chronological and the functional. Combination resumes merge features of the two styles. Create a resume that reflects your goals and unique background and is tailored to the position you are seeking.

Chronological Resume

This is most widely used resume. Education and experience are listed in chronological order, starting with your most recent experience. This format emphasizes positions and organizations, and describes achievements and responsibilities. The chronological resume demonstrates career growth and continuity. It is most effective when the job is in line with your experience and academic background.

Functional Resume

This resume highlights skills and accomplishments and de-emphasizes specific job titles, organizations, and dates of employment. Functional resumes are appropriate if you have held unrelated jobs, the position you seek is outside your academic field, your relevant experiences are primarily from volunteer work, or there are significant gaps in your work history. Organize your duties and activities according to specific skill areas such as writing, research, communication, and leadership to address the employer’s needs.

Combination Resume

This format merges elements of functional and chronological resumes. It accentuates skills and capabilities, but also includes positions, employers, and dates within the skill groups. The directness of the chronological format is retained, and skills are grouped by functional categories.

Elements of a Resume

Most resumes contain the elements described below. You may decide to de-emphasize or even omit sections that don’t relate to your objective or career field of interest. You can also modify the titles of sections to present the information more effectively.


Include name, permanent and local addresses, email address for home and school, if different, and phone number. If using two addresses, you may want to indicate dates you can be reached at each one.


Opinions differ on the need to include a career objective on a resume. An objective can add focus or concisely describe your immediate employment goal, but you can incorporate your objective in a job-search letter instead. Check with your college career office to see which way is recommended for the position you’re seeking. The objective should communicate what you can contribute in a position rather than what you expect to gain from it, such as:

  • A research position in health care applying experience in policy and medicine.
  • A position as a process engineer in the chemical industry.
  • A health-related internship working with the elderly.

Summary of Qualifications

Candidates with considerable related experience may prefer to include a Summary of Qualifications highlighting important assets at the top of the resume. A student interested in working as a legislative aide might include accomplishments such as:

  • Researched and wrote detailed reports for city government.
  • Wrote thesis on relationship between state and federal government and trend towards devolution.
  • Addressed graduate student concerns at Cornell as elected Graduate and Professional Student Assembly representative.

Summary of Skills


  • computer languages and programs
  • knowledge of foreign languages
  • laboratory and research skills
  • analytical skills
  • management skills
  • Leadership Skills
  • Communication skills


List secondary institutions attended and locations, including study abroad experience, degrees and dates received, major and concentration, and thesis title, if applicable.

Honors and Awards

You can list honor societies and academic awards in a separate section if you have more than one or two entries; if not, incorporate them in the education section. Include only scholarships based on merit.

Relevant Courses

Itemize courses that are pertinent to your objective and employers’ needs, particularly if your discipline doesn’t directly relate to your employment goal.

Research Experience

Include diverse experiences, both paid and unpaid:

  • Current postdoc research
  • Graduate student research
  • Internship (If aplicable)
  • Industry experience

List positions you held, names of the organizations, city and state of their location, and month and year of your involvement. Summarize what you accomplished and prioritize these results-oriented descriptions to support your job objective.

Don’t list all your experiences, only those that demonstrate that you can succeed in the position. Mention short-term externships or similar experiences in your cover letter or in a section on your resume called “Related Activities” or “Related Experience.” Use brief phrases beginning with action verbs. Incorporate statistics, percentages, and numbers that show the results of your efforts where possible, such as:

  • Reorganized inventory procedures, shortening processfrom 3 days to 2 days.
  • Designed and implemented marketing strategy thatincreased sales by 25%.
  • Trained and coordinated activities of 33 volunteers,whose efforts resulted in raising $5,000.

Special Skills


  • computer languages and programs
  • knowledge of foreign languages
  • laboratory and research skills
  • analytical skills
  • management skills

Activities and Interests

List, in order of their importance:

  • professional associations
  • committees
  • student organizations
  • community involvement indicating offices held
  • interests such as music, sports, and the arts only if they pertain to your career interest

Avoid including religious activities or those representing extreme political views.


This section is unnecessary. Instead, prepare a separate “List of References” on paper that matches your resume, with a header similar to the top of your resume. Have this available when asked to provide it. Notify references that they may be contacted by prospective employers.

Resume Dos

  • Create a crisp, clean professional appearance with a simple, balanced, and well-organized format.
  • Center the body of text with one-inch margins.
  • Space sections so that the reader can distinguish main headings from position descriptions, activities, etc.
  • Maintain consistent indentation, capitalization, font style, and spacing.
  • Quantify accomplishments when possible.
  • Avoid abbreviations (except for states).
  • Begin phrases with action verbs that emphasize your accomplishments.
  • Include your citizenship only if you’re concerned it might not be apparent from your name and/or address. If you’re uncertain, speak with a career advisor.
  • Have a professional advisor critique your resume.

Resume Don’ts

  • Use flashy graphics or print that is difficult to read
  • Start any phrases or sentences with “My” or “I.”
  • List scholarships or awards based on need.
  • Exaggerate your experience.
  • Include personal information such as social security number, age, marital status.
  • Include information irrelevant to your objective.
  • Use vague words or phrases such as “seeking a challenging position” or “seeking position working with people.”
  • Give complete addresses of your employers.
  • Use the passive voice.
  • Include reading as an interest. It will be assumed!