How to Write a Resume

No single resume format is perfect for everyone. We each have our own levels of experience. Our unique skills have mixed importance. Some may have more education than others do. Even though no one format works for all, the combination resume is an effective and broad tool for job seekers. In fact, it's quickly becoming the chosen format for many. There are several reasons why.

The combination resume borrows the best features of other resume formats. It uses the flexibility of a functional format. It borrows the ordered work experience of a chronological format. It allows you to present your best skills early in the document. You can arrange the order of the sections to suit your personal needs. In addition, hiring managers will like the ordered work history.  A combination resume accomplishes quite a few goals.


Change Your Thinking

The old way to prepare a resume is to look at your work history and then select the skills, experiences and achievements that stem from it. Times are changing and the job market is more competitive than ever. Because of this, it's important to prove your worth to employers. Not every task or skill in your work history is relevant. Know your skills and know the value of each. Ask yourself if your skills are relevant to the job you're seeking and how they can contribute.

Identify Your Job Target

Identify your job target. Know what you want to do. At least know the type of job you'd like to have. Once you do, you'll be able to create a resume that has direction and purpose. If you're applying to an ad posting, the job in the ad will be your target. Consider how your strengths will help you function effectively in that role. It's a prevailing theme in today's best resumes, especially when noting one's skills.

In the current economic climate, jobs are fewer and the competition's fierce. Many of us are eager to accept any job that comes along. If you find yourself in this position, you may want to create a resume for each type of job you're qualified to do. In each resume, highlight the skills that are relevant to the job type.

Gather Your Facts

Before you begin writing, gather your facts. Later you'll need to provide the details of your work history. The process is easier if you have these details handy before you begin. Refer to any records you have from former jobs. New-hire forms and evaluations are great sources of information.

If you are uncertain of dates you worked, call your previous employer. Speak with an HR manager and confirm the dates. You can also ask what types of information they give during the employment verification process.

Take the time to confirm the correct names of your professional organizations. Don't identify them by using an acronym in your resume if you don't know the formal name. It could prove to be embarrassing during an interview, if asked.

You've changed your thinking. Your job target has been identified. The facts are gathered—what next? Now you can begin the process of writing an effective combination resume.


The heading is the first section of your resume. It includes your name, address, telephone number and email address. Employers will need this in order to contact you.


This piece of information may seem obvious. Because your name may be the first item a reader sees, don't use a nickname. There are some exceptions to this rule, though. If your name is difficult to pronounce, make it easier for employers to contact you by adding a nickname, as long as the nickname sounds professional.

If your name is unisex, you can ease the minds of would-be callers by using Mr. or Ms. in the heading.


Don't abbreviate street names in your address. Spell out the words Street, Avenue and Boulevard.

Spell out your state name as well, unless you're running short on space. If you must abbreviate the state, use the two-letter postal abbreviation. Always include your zip code.

Consider asking a friend or relative for permission to use their address if you know you'll be moving during your job search. It can take days or weeks for forwarded mail to arrive.

Telephone Number

Employers are most likely to contact you by telephone or by email. Provide your telephone number and area code. Do not give your current work number.

Answer your calls professionally during your job search.

Check your outgoing voice mail message. Be sure it sounds professional and makes a good first impression.

Email Address

Include an email address in your heading, but not your current work email address. You should have an email address dedicated to your job search. If you don't, obtain a free one at, or Choose an email address that sounds professional as you set up your account.

Check your voice mail and email often during your job search. Don't miss an opportunity for an interview!

Targeted Job Title

To make your resume effective and compelling, give a targeted job title just after the heading. The job title tells readers what will come. It gives the document purpose and direction. It also functions as your job objective, but uses less space. You can edit your job title for each resume submission.

Consider the job or type of job you'd like to have. If the job has several similar titles, use the most common names. You can also choose a broader title. 

Example 1:
Administrative Assistant | Administrative Coordinator | Office Manager
Administrative Professional
Example 2:
Software Developer - Database Programmer - IT Project Manager
IT Professional

Your resume should prove your ability to perform the target job. Your skills and experiences will provide this proof.

If you're not in a position to state a targeted job title, proceed to the next section.

Professional Profile

The professional profile describes you. It tells what you have to offer. It sums up your most relevant skills, experiences and qualities.

The professional profile comes after the job title. Choose a title for the section, then complete the steps that follow.

Possible Titles
Professional Profile
Executive Summary
Career Summary
Performance Profile
Executive Profile

Step 1. Create a list of your professional traits. You can list your abilities, experiences or skills.


My Professional Attributes
Very organized
Good customer service skills
Good attention to detail
Great writing skills
MS Office
Good with people
Typing speed: 65 wpm, no errors
Great verbal communication skills
Able to prioritize
Five years experience
Able to juggle several tasks at once
Can work well with all levels of staff

Step 2. List the requirements of the job target. If you don't know what they are, search the job on one of the many Internet job boards. You'll quickly learn which skills and abilities are required.


Targeted Job Requirements
Excellent written communication skills
Excellent interpersonal skills
Ability to multitask
Ability to shift priorities quickly
Microsoft Office Suite
Ability to anticipate the needs of others
Organizational skills

Step 3. Study both lists. Do your abilities match the needs of the job? If so, use these items in your professional profile. You don't need to include all the skills required by the targeted job. Grab the reader's attention. Use keyword-dense content. Limit yourself to four or five lines of text.


Targeted Job Title: Administrative Assistant

Professional Profile
Detail-oriented, adaptable and highly organized administrative professional with five years experience as an executive administrative assistant. Outstanding interpersonal and communication skills, with the ability to communicate effectively with all levels of employees. Able to adapt, remain flexible, multitask and change priorities to meet the needs of executive management. Highly skilled in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook.


The skills section of your resume is a list of skills that might help your job search. They prove your ability to perform the targeted job. These are not the same skills included in your professional profile. Decide carefully which skills to list. Make every word count.
The skills section gives added proof that you're worthy of the job. It also enhances the keyword density of your resume.

Begin by selecting a title.

Possible Titles
Core Competencies
Key Competencies
Core Skills
Areas of Qualification
Areas of Strength
Relevant Skills

Now compile a list of your skills. The skills section for a human resources and payroll employee might read:

Core Competencies
Human Resources
New Hire On-boarding
Succession Planning
New Hire Processing
Incentive Planning
Payroll Processing Compensation
Fluent in Spanish
Fluent in German

Work Experience

The work experience section gives your employment history. It lists former employers, locations, dates and the jobs you held. You'll also add your duties and achievements. Take great care in listing your work experience. Employers pay attention to it.

Select a title for the section.

Possible Titles
Work Experience
Professional Experience
Employment History
Employment Summary   

Now give the details.

Company Name and Location

List your employers, beginning with the most recent and working your way backward.

You can abbreviate some words in company names if you need to save space.

Corp.     Corporation
Ltd.        Limited
LLC         Limited Liability Corporation
Inc.         Incorporated
Co.         Company

When stating the location of each company, do not give an exact address. City and state or city and province will do. You may abbreviate the state name to save space.

For example:
Acme Fencing, LLC; Atlanta, GA
Uptown Brewery (Manhattan, KS)
Tapestry Nation, Inc. - Portland, Oregon


It's very important to give accurate dates of employment in your resume. Companies are likely to confirm these dates with your former employers. If you have a strong work history with no gaps in employment, you may give these dates in months, days and years. If you have short gaps in employment, consider giving months and years only. Minimize longer gaps by giving only the years.


Acme Fencing, LLC; Atlanta, GA (April 2000 - August 2008)
Uptown Brewery (Manhattan, KS); January 18, 2006 - present
Tapestry Nation, Inc. - Portland, Oregon (2004 - 2007)
Stay consistent in your format.


State your major duties, special projects, achievements and promotions. Use action words to describe your successes. Show the results of your efforts. Use numbers and percentages if you can.


Kitchens International—Orlando, FL (2004 to 2007)
Marketing Strategist, Southeastern Division
Conducted market research and analysis on topics of brand recognition, customer satisfaction and value perception. Established pricing strategies, sales performance strategies and marketing effectiveness.

  • Promoted to Senior Marketing Strategist within first year.
  • Created branding strategy that enabled sales crew to penetrate new market.
  • Increased sales performance 320 percent within two months of rollout.
  • Wrote training and development guides for new sales personnel and decreased the average training period by 75 percent

When listing details of previous jobs, pay attention to how the skills you used relate to your targeted job. If the skills are relevant, emphasize them. If they're not, leave them out.

Military Experience (optional)

List your military experience. Include your branch of service, highest rank and job duties. Use language that's easy to understand. Don't use military jargon or acronyms.

U.S. Army, Sergeant (E-5)—Satellite Communications Support, 2004-2008
U.S. Marines, Captain (1994-2002)

Find a match between your skills and the job requirements. Everyone appreciates leadership skills. The ability to manage processes or inventories is valued too.

Include training, courses, awards or honors. Make sure the items support your job search. Don't give classified information. Don't give references to combat or casualties.

Education (optional)

You may want to move the education section between the skills and work experience sections if any of the following applies to you:

  • You're a recent high school graduate.
  • You're a recent college graduate.
  • You have strong academic training with little work experience.
  • Education is important in your job search.

For new graduates, education is important. It carries less weight as we gain experience.

List your highest level of academic achievement. Include the school name, city, state or province, graduation date and degree. You can include scholarships, awards, honors or school activities if they support your job search.

Bachelor of Arts—Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism (2009)
Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

If you're enrolled in a degree program, give details (school, location, courses of study and the anticipated date of graduation).

Clifton Bluff Community College, Middletown, OH (2009 - Present)
Currently taking courses to complete an associate degree in accounting.

If you didn't finish college, say that you attended. List the school name, location, relevant courses you took and the dates you attended.

Central Community College, Austin, TX (2005-2006)
Completed classes in accounting, taxation and organizational development.

Omit the education section if don't have formal training but do have strong work experience in your career.

Certifications and Licenses (optional)

Some jobs call for certification or licensing. If your career does, move this section to a place where it can be easily seen. List anything required for your field. This may include license numbers and effective dates.

New York State Certificate of Qualifications (Secondary Education Social Studies), 2004
Red Cross First Aid Certification for CPR Coaching—2005

Professional Development (optional)

When you take classes to help you in your career, employers notice. It tells them that you are committed. List classes, courses or seminars you've taken, if they relate to your job target. Include the dates of completion. If you prefer, include these items in the education section.

Certificate of Achievement in Advanced Esthetics and Therapies, January 2009
Diversity Training for Human Resources Management—2007

Professional Organizations (optional)

List your professional memberships if it helps your job search. Include the offices you've held. Tell how your activities made a positive.  

New York State Bar Association
Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA)

Awards and Recognition (optional)

If you've received formal awards or honors that support your job search, list them. If you have two or more awards, list them in this section. If you have less than two, include the items in another appropriate section.

Restaurateur of the Year, 2006
Highest Performing Franchise—2004, 2005 and 2007

Personal Information (optional)

List only interests or hobbies that support your target. Keep it brief. Don't list anything that's dangerous or risky.


Combination resumes are as flexible as you want them to be. Move sections within the body of the resume to make them more visible. This will help you emphasize what's important. If education is important, move it to a visible spot. You can also relocate your certificates and licenses, if need be.

Don't be afraid to experiment with the layout.

Finishing Touches

Your resume isn't complete until it's polished. Limit your resume to one or two pages. If your resume does run into two pages, staple the pages in the upper left hand corner. Be sure you leave plenty of white space.

Font Styles

Keep your resume easy to read by employers. Don't use more than two font types. It makes your resume difficult to read. Script fonts and capitalized text are also straining to the eyes. It's best to stick with the more common fonts and those generally recognized in business. The most commonly accepted fonts are listed below. Once you choose a font—two at most—remain consistent in your document. You may choose one font for headings and titles and another for the body if you wish.


New York
Times New Roman


Proofread your resume thoroughly. Look for typographical errors. Check your punctuation. Be sure your use of bold or italicized text is consistent throughout the document. Most word processing programs have a built-in feature to check your grammar and spelling. Take advantage of this. If a grammar check shows that you've used a passive voice, correct it.

When you think your resume's perfect, give it to a second pair of eyes and have them proofread it as well. Nothing will doom your resume quicker than errors. Make sure yours is perfect!


If you are submitting your resume in response to an ad, you may need to print your document. Use letter-sized paper and a good quality paper. Many stores sell resume paper. Look for a white or cream paper, between 20 and 25-pound weight. Make sure your cover letter and envelope match your resume.

Final Checklist

  • Do you have all the necessary information in your heading? If so, is it correct?
  • Does the performance profile describe you in terms of being a strong candidate for the target job?
  • Is your performance limited to five lines of text or less?
  • Are the skills you listed accurate? Can you describe or demonstrate them?
  • Are there any other skills you need to add?
  • Is your most recent work experience listed first?
  • Does your resume contain references to reasons for leaving or desired salary? If so, remove them.
  • Is your writing clear?
  • Do the items in your resume prove your merit of the job target?
  • Have you used action words to describe your duties, responsibilities and achievements?
  • Is your resume two pages or less in length?
  • Have you limited yourself to two fonts only?
  • Are your margins adequate?

With an effective combination resume, you're ready for success in the job hunt. The skills you've learned are valuable and may be used many times over. Your resume must not only represent you, it must compete in a fiercely competitive market. Know your skills and understand how they relate to the job you want. Tailor your resume to every ad by editing your job title and professional profile. Show employers that you have what they need. Doing this will dramatically increase your odds of success.