The purpose of your professional resume is not to regurgitate everything you’ve ever done in your professional career onto paper. It is not a list of daily activities under job title headings. Your resume builds towards and highlights your professional achievements and skills. This approach allows your resume to stand out among the stack of resumes a corporate recruiter or hiring manager typically rifles through.
Use this guide to develop, update, or rewrite your resume for your new career search. Certainly, there are always exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, this guide provides ways to think about your professional achievements and to place them into a clean, readable, and competitive resume.
Additionally, formatting your resume using this guide, is “training” for your interviews. To be discussed in a later guide, your interview answers conclude with an achievement or a solution to a problem you or your team provided. Your resume is not just a tool for getting discovered, but a battle plan for your career mission.
Some basics first:
Length: Resume shall not be longer than two pages.
Margins: Between 0.75 inch to 1 inch.
Font: Use a modern, clean, and readable font.
X Out: Times New Roman, Typewriter (Courier), Serifs, Narrow
✓ In: Arial, Sans Serifs
Text Size: Depending on which exact font you are using, text size should not be smaller than 11 or larger than 13. Ultimately, you want the employer to be able to read your resume without having to squint or to be blasted with huge text.
Text Alignment: The section containing your contact information may be Left or Center aligned. The remainder of the resume text should be JUSTIFY aligned.
Underlining or Italicizing Text: Avoid.
Bold Text: Use where necessary. Section headers and job titles are good places for BOLD text.
Line Spacing: Between 1.15 to 1.5. Never double space, and never single space.
Bullets: Use standard round, black bullets. Arrows or other shaped bullets distract the reader from your content.
X Out: ⦿ ➤ ➣ ‣ ⁃
✓ In: •
Spelling and Grammar Autocomplete: These great tools are part of any modern word processing software, but they aren’t perfect. Be sure to read through your finished resume three times, and ask another person to read through it three times as well. Make corrections where necessary.
Tables: Use them sparingly. Different employers may use various versions of MS Word or other word processors, and tables do not always convert properly. To avoid the employer passing over your misformatted resume, avoid them in the body of your resume. If a table helps with listing your contact information or rows of skills, that’s okay. What you don’t want is your Employment History, the reason employers are reading your resume, to display with misaligned and misformatted rows, columns, and text.
Tabs: Similar to tables, tabs can display differently in different word processors and versions of software. Generally, you want to use the built in indent, or bullet, or alignment functions in your word processor for text alignment cleanliness.
Horizontal Lines: Horizontal lines can be useful separating major sections of your resume. Use them sparingly, though, and do not use them under job titles as an underline affect. The lines should be thin and black or dark blue so the reader is not distracted from reading your content.
Photos: Do not put a photo of yourself on your resume. Do not include it in a hard copy packet you may hand to or mail to an employer. Your resume is not LinkedIn.
Overall: You want your resume content front and center. Corporate recruiters and hiring managers spend less than 30 seconds reviewing a resume to determine if they’ll even consider interviewing a job applicant. The last thing you want is formatting issues, odd text formatting, crazy colors, or other distractions taking the reviewers eye away from your content for even a moment.
On to the content:
Resume Types: Resumes generally fall into two types: chronological or functional. We recommend, and this guide uses, the chronological resume type. Functional resumes have their place, but for the most part, the chronological resume helps the employer more quickly review which of your skills apply to specific job titles, helping them determine relevancy.
For example, in a functional resume, you may list that one of your skills is team leadership. However, if the job in which you were a team leader was over 10 years ago, and the employer needs more recent experience, the potential miscommunication of skills can lead to frustration for both you, the applicant, and the employer. In order to avoid confusion, and to allow you to present the most competitive, relevant resume possible, the chronological resume is best.
Resume Sections: Your resume should have at least three primary sections: contact information, Employment History, and Education. If you have technical skills in your background, you may include a Skills section. You may do the same with Professional Certifications. If you have major military awards, you may include them in an Awards section, or you may include them within Employment History under certain jobs as achievements. Military Education may also be a section, but remember, we need to keep your resume under two pages.
Contact Information: Place at the top of your resume, but not in the header. You don’t want the contact information taking up space on a second page if you have one.
- Your name: First and Last with a suffix (Jr., III, Esq.). If you are retired and want to include your rank with your name, use the appropriate format for your service with your name before the rank, but do not use “Ret.”. No need to include your middle name or initial.
- Address: Self explanatory.
- Phone Number: Best to provide a mobile phone number so you are available anytime to receive employer inquiries.
- Email: Do not use an current work email. Grab an outlook, gmail, yahoo, or other modern email provider. Try not to use juno, hotmail, aol, or other early web email provider. Your email address username should be professional, as well. It’s best to simply use your name or some derivative of it.
- Social Media: You may provide your public LinkedIn profile URL. Do not list your Facebook profile or your Twitter handle.
Employment History: This is the most important part of your resume.
As we mentioned before, you do not want to put your life history on your resume. You want to focus the reviewer to your career highlights and achievements. With that in mind, your most recent three or four jobs are usually the most relevant for the career you seek. A lifeguard position you held 15 years ago, is not as relevant as your team or organizational leadership or technical skills in your current job. Unless you seek a career in health care or emergency services, in which case, the lifeguard position may be relevant, even from that far back.
Each job listing in your employment history contains three sections:
1) Job Title: Try to keep it all on one line. Name of the job and the employer. Dates of employment, month/year format is all you need. You may also add the city and state of the job, if there is space on the single line.
2) Job Description: One paragraph which includes no more than three or four sentences of relevant, high level duties. Do not list additional duties, unless they directly relate to your primary duties.
Led the supervision, training, health, and welfare of one hundred personnel. Responsible for maintenance, accountability, and operability of $10 million worth of equipment.
Maintained high-performance aircraft propulsion and starting systems valued at $5 million using precision measurement, inspection and diagnostic tools.
3) Achievements: For your most recent jobs, your three to four top, specific and measurable achievements are listed below the description in bullet format. For jobs in the more distant past, one to two top achievements are all you need. Each achievement bullet starts with an action verb.
- Led a team of forty to best performance evaluations in unit of four hundred during annual inspection.
- Earned Airman of the Quarter on installation of four thousand personnel.
- Improved unit efficiency through a new program of better transportation planning resulting in 25% annual budget savings.
- Increased sales revenue 75% to over $2 million in southeast territory winning salesperson of the year.
Education: Provide after employment history. If you have an Associates degree or higher, there is no need to list your high school. Only provide GPA if 3.0 or over.
Technical Skills: List and briefly describe specific technical skills. If you have a security clearance, include it here. You may display your skills in bullet or table format. Only list skills relevant to the career you seek. Keep in mind, in today’s world, listing MS Word as a technical skill is like listing that you know how to dial a phone – it’s not relevant.
Professional Certifications: List and briefly describe specific professional certifications. You may display your certifications in bullet or table format. Only list certifications relevant to the career you seek.
Military Awards and Military Education: If you have a Purple Heart or higher, you may list it under awards. Relevant military education may be listed in its own section if there is space. Schools with strict standards of acceptance and training, such as special forces schools, are generally more relevant than courses anyone can attend.
References: Do not include on resume. Keep them on a separate sheet to be provided upon employer’s request. Do not say at the bottom of your resume: “References available upon request” – they know this.
Most likely, civilians with no military experience are reviewing your resume. It’s important you strike a balance describing your military employment history.
You want to clarify any military terms with useful and understandable content. For example, if you worked on JDAMS, you don’t want “JDAM” or “Joint Direct Attack Munition” in your resume. It’s best to replace it with “all-weather smart munitions kit.” The civilian may still not know what it exactly means, but it’s more relatable than the acronym or official name.
However, you don’t want to go to extremes. If you were a squad leader, then use the title “Squad Leader” and describe what the duties are in the job description. Do not convert the title to “Shift Supervisor.”
The key is be proud of your military experience, but make sure it’s described in relatable ways to the resume reviewer.
Your career search can take a few days or several weeks. The best way to prepare is to know your achievements, skills, and yourself ahead of time. Beginning with a well thought out resume, your march toward a new career can be success.
The process of developing your resume is similar to the process of preparing for interviews. During your interview, the interviewer is less interested in what you did (your job description) than how well you did (your achievements). Your resume is more than a piece of paper, it is a valuable asset for your career search, it is your mission plan.
First name Last Name, Jr.
City, State Zip
Mobile Phone Number
Personal Email Address
Current/Previous Job Title, Employer, City, State month/year – month/year
One paragraph which includes no more than three or four sentences of relevant, high level duties. Do not list additional duties, unless they directly relate to your primary duties.
- Achievement One
- Achievement Two
- Achievement Three
- Achievement Four
College or University, Degree Type and Name, GPA (if 3.0 and over) Year Degree Obtained
Additional Based on Relevancy:
Military Awards and Military Education