Ask a Recruiter: What is the best resume format?

woman using her laptop

Your resume is a chance to make a first impression on an employer. So what are recruiters looking for when your application comes across their desk? 

What is the best resume format?

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question! The best resume format depends on several things including where you are in your career and what type of job you are applying for. 

Here are a few general rules to follow.

sample resume example

Recent college graduate resume format

If you’re recently out of college, lead with your education. You may have little to no work experience yet, and that’s okay! 

Start with your name and contact information, and then dive right into your academic history. You can include:

  • Degree
  • Major or concentration
  • Years attended or anticipated graduation date

In this section, you can also list relevant coursework that you completed. After that, include relevant experience you have like being a member of a club, internships, or jobs you held while in college or high school.

Lastly, you can include a section at the bottom that outlines your hard and soft skills and certifications.

Seasoned professional resume format

If you’ve been out of school for more than three years or so, lead with your experience. What you’ve accomplished in your professional career will be more important than the clubs and or organizations you were involved with in college. 

Start with your most recent job experience and work your way back in chronological order. Be sure to add a few bullet points to each job to outline your major accomplishments and duties. 

After you cover your experience, you can list relevant hard and soft skills and certifications. If you have room left, touch on your educational background.

Resume format FAQ

Here are quick answers to common questions that applicants have about resume formatting.

Should you put a picture on your resume?

You may find that some resume templates allow you to include a photo of yourself. It may seem like this would be a good way to let employers get to know you a little better, but most recruiters actually recommend against doing this for a number of reasons.

  • Photos could introduce unconscious bias: Unconscious biases are ingrained stereotypes and attitudes that affect our actions, decisions, and understanding of the world around us on a subconscious level. Including a photo gives employers the opportunity to make assumptions about you based on your appearance.
  • Images are not ATS-friendly: Today, many companies use applicant tracking systems, which help them manage job applications. The automated systems analyze resumes and help recruiters and hiring managers find the best fits for the job.  
  • They distract from what’s important: According to an eye-tracking study, recruiters, on average, only skim a resume for 7.4 seconds. You want to be sure they’re looking at what counts— your skills and experience!

When in doubt, leave it out! 

Do you need to put your objective on your resume?

You may have also seen resume templates that include an objective. 

Unless it is specifically requested, you should leave this off your resume.

Recruiters and hiring managers know what your objective is—  to get the role! Since resumes should be no more than one page long, it’s important to use the space wisely. Don’t waste valuable real estate by stating what they can already infer. If you really feel it necessary to talk about your career objectives, mention it in your cover letter.

Should I use a creative resume template?

Looking to fill your resume with color, aesthetic fonts, and a little graphic design? If you’re applying to a role that is creative in nature, say a content creator or social media marketer, your format can allow for a little bit more creativity. This could be a good opportunity to showcase your artistic side and demonstrate the visual style you bring to the table. 

However, if you’re looking for a more standard role, you’ll probably want to stick with a standard resume. Too many bells and whistles that are irrelevant to your role may distract the recruiter from what matters on the paper.

What should I leave off my resume?

You often hear what should go on your resume— but what should you leave off?

  • Old and irrelevant job experiences: If you are several decades into your career, you probably don’t need to include your high school summer job at 
  • Personal information: Your resume doesn’t need to include information like your age, date of birth, home address, marital status, or whether or not you have children.
  • Reasons for leaving previous job(s): Your resume is no place to go into detail about why you are seeking employment elsewhere,

DO be sure to include contact information, work (or other relevant) experience, education, and skills. 

Chart: What contact information to put on a resume

Include: First and last name, phone number, professional email address

Optional: location, linkedin profile, social media accounts, link to website or portfolio

Do not include: your birthday, your home address, unprofessional email

How should I format my resume if I have no work experience?

Not having work experience doesn’t necessarily mean having a blank resume. You can include a number of life experiences on your resume, including:

  • Internships
  • Self-employed experience
  • Volunteer work
  • Clubs and activities 

Each of these types of experiences can provide valuable skills and knowledge that your future employer is looking for!