An hour of planning can save you ten hours of doing. That is precisely why you want to have a good resume outline before writing its content.
Creating a resume without any preparation beforehand can be tricky. You might easily forget to include some of the essential information or run out of space before adding everything important. That’s why it’s crucial to have a good blueprint, which will ensure you get the most out of your resume.
Do you want to know how to get it? Wait no more—read our handy guide and learn how to make the perfect outline for your resume without breaking a sweat!
So, let’s get started!
The five main sections of a resume include your contact information, resume summary or objective, your work experience, education, and skills.
If there’s room on your resume, you can include additional sections, such as languages, volunteer experience or awards and honors.
In case you lack a work history, use alternatives like internships, volunteering, freelance work, projects, etc. instead of the work experience section.
List hard and soft skills separately.
What is a Resume Outline?
In essence, a resume outline is a sketch that defines the structure of your resume. It’s the first version of your application that helps you organize the sections within your document. It’s crucial to have a general idea of what the final product will look like before you go into details, and the resume outline allows you to come up with it.
The best resume outline is a simple one. It consists of section headings and the information each section should contain. Instead of keeping all that information in your head with the risk of forgetting something along the way, you create a step-by-step guide for yourself to follow.
This allows you to visualize your application document and figure out the optimal way to approach its creation. By starting with a simple resume outline, you’ll avoid making mistakes in your resume. You’ll also ensure that your application is of the highest quality and that it features all the necessary information in a proper format.
Full Resume Outline with 6 Main Sections to Include in a Resume
The first step in creating a good resume outline in 2024 is knowing which sections to include in it. There are five essential parts that any resume should have, and they are:
6 Main Sections
Then, if there’s room left and more information to be included, there are additional sections that can help you complete your resume.
Let’s take a look at what each of those sections should have and what they should look like.
#1. Contact Information
Contact information is a self-explanatory part of a resume. It’s a resume header section that typically consists of your name, professional title, email, phone number, and location.
Although it has a clear-cut function, there are still several guidelines you should follow when adding it to your resume outline. It’s crucial to add enough information for recruiters to be able to contact you, but you don’t want to overdo it and include more than is required.
In the US, for example, adding a photo to your resume could get your application automatically discarded due to anti-discriminatory laws. For similar reasons, it’s also common practice not to add more than a city and state as your location. If you’re not sure what to include, it’s best to do research on how detailed this section should be before making a resume outline.
On the flip side, there are additional pieces of information you could add to this section.
You can include social media accounts, such as Instagram or Twitter handles, if they are relevant to the position you’re applying for. For example, LinkedIn is one of the most used social networking websites in the professional setting, so the employer may be interested in checking your profile there.
If you have a blog or a website that could be beneficial to your application, you can add it to the document as well. It's not unusual for designers to link to personal portfolio websites where they show off their creations or for content writers to link to blogs with their writing. It’s another way to display your work while giving hiring managers more options to get in touch with you.
Here’s an example of a clean and professional contact information section:
#2. Resume Objective or Summary
A resume objective or summary is a statement at the top of the document. It’s the first thing recruiters see, which is why it needs to be highly impactful and packed with relevant information.
Both the objective and the summary need to be brief—around two to four sentences long. In one paragraph, you need to present yourself as a strong candidate and entice the hiring manager to keep reading your resume.
A resume objective is perfect for candidates with no work experience. If you’re a student, a recent graduate, or a career changer, you can use it to highlight your skills and ambition.
Check out the following examples:
Correct Example #1
“Enthusiastic and organized marketing assistant looking for an entry-level position in ABC Company. Looking to leverage my proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite and copywriting to become a valuable member of your team and further develop my skills.”
Correct Example #2
“Detail-oriented virtual assistant with 3+ years of experience working with online businesses. Attentive and organized with impeccable time management. Proficient in Photoshop and Excel with moderate content writing skills. Looking to transition to the position of an executive assistant at ABC Company.”
If you have plenty of work experience to showcase, you’ll write a resume summary. A summary focuses on your professional history and recaps the whole resume, drawing recruiters’ attention to the most important parts.
Here are some examples:
Correct Example #3
“Senior account executive with 7+ years of experience helping companies structure and organize their data. Adept at marketing automation tools such as Pardot, Eloqua, Salesforce, and Marketo. Helped more than 150+ IT clients reduce their overhead costs by up to 35%.”
Correct Example #4
“Resourceful IT specialist with more than 5 years of experience working with databases and infrastructure maintenance. Proficient in training entry-level employees. Helped save 15% of overhead costs at a previous company by formulating a strategy and automating a series of complex operations.”
#3. Work Experience
The work experience section is often the most important one in a resume. It directly shows your workplace proficiency and is best at displaying your abilities and potential value to potential employers. That’s why you need to be thorough and make sure you've included all relevant professional endeavors in it.
For starters, you should use the reverse-chronological order. It’s a proven method that works best with recruiters and gives you the highest chance of passing the ATS scan. Such a format highlights your latest and most important employment while also giving potential employers insight into your career progression.
It’s also crucial to keep everything relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re trying to land a position in any type of IT industry, a few months of table-waiting probably won’t be of much interest to recruiters.
You should start this section by adding your job title. Continue with the name and location of the company, and state the period of your employment in the mm/yyyy format.
Once you’ve outlined the essential information, use bullet points to describe the responsibilities you had and the results and achievements you obtained in each position. That will give recruiters deeper insight into your abilities and the potential value you can bring to their company.
Here’s what a work experience section looks like in practice:
Don’t be afraid to use action verbs and power words in combination with exact numbers. These will make you stand out from other candidates who all use similar terms. On the other hand, exact numbers and percentages give your work another layer of authenticity and make this section stronger.
What to Put Instead of Experience
We already mentioned that some candidates might not have an employment history. Nevertheless, we have good news. There are plenty of viable alternatives to include in your resume.
You could leverage your internships and add them to your resume the same way you would include your work experience if you had it. List your professional title, the company’s name, and internship dates, and add responsibilities and accomplishments in bullet points. Do this part properly, and it will look just as clean and professional as a solid work experience section.
You can do the same with volunteering, projects, freelance work, and similar activities. As long as your endeavors are related to the job posting and show your skills and ambition, they are a good fit for your resume.
If you have at least some professional experience, you could consider using a functional resume format. A functional resume focuses on your skills over your work history. When creating the work experience section in such cases, you can list your best skills and expand on each with bullet points, showcasing your proudest achievements.
Here’s how a high school student with no experience created a professional and impactful alternative to their work history section:
Here, the candidate also used action verbs like "drive," "pitched," and "researched" along with numbers and percentages to create a bigger impact.
#4. Education Section
The education section might not be as crucial as the work section, but it’s still an important part that you should focus on when making a resume outline.
The recruiters are usually interested in the candidate’s academic background. Not only does it speak about your skills and knowledge, but it also shows your drive and potential, so it’s a perfect way to supplement your work history.
First off, it’s important to start with your latest and highest degree. List the name of the degree, the name of the institution that issued it, its location, and the years attended. If you’re still in college, you can mark the graduation date as expected or define your studies as ongoing.
On the other hand, if you have several degrees or diplomas, you should consider the job listing and figure out whether to include them or not. For example, if you’ve already listed your bachelor’s degree, there’s no need to include a high school diploma.
There is also optional information that you can add to this section as long as it’s relevant to the job posting. Your minor, courses you've taken, exchange programs you've been on, and honors can all be useful things to put on your resume. You can also mention your GPA if it’s above 3.5.
Here’s an example of a simple and effective education section:
#5. Skills Section
To create a captivating resume, you should try and highlight your skills as much as possible in various sections. Your resume summary/objective should feature a couple of them, as should your work experience section. That way, you’re constantly reminding recruiters of your proficiency. Plus, skills also act as keywords for ATS and help you pass the scan easily.
Nonetheless, they are so important that they should also have their own section as well. It’s a place where you’ll list only the skills that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. This gives hiring managers a complete insight into your abilities, should they just skim your job application.
There are two types of skills every resume should have, and your resume outline should feature both. These are:
2 Types of Skils
Hard skills give you technical know-how and allow you to perform well in the workplace. These skills are generally obtained in universities, through courses, certified instructors, credible sources, etc.
Since hard skills are often career-specific, they vary a lot between different professions. An IT specialist might feature some of the following hard skills in their resume:
IT Speclialist Hard Skills Examples
However, writers will have a completely different skill set. They could list:
Writer Hard Skills Examples
On the flip side, soft skills are highly transferable between professions and applicable in many different settings. They make you better at interpersonal relationships and communication, more productive and organized, and so on.
Some of the most sought-after soft skills by recruiters are:
Soft Skills Examples
Due to the different nature of these two types of skills, it’s best to include them separately in a resume. Here’s how to do that:
#6. Other Sections to Add to a Resume Outline
Unless you’re a seasoned veteran with decades of professional experience, your resume should be one page long. Even then, you might end up with some room left after adding all the essential sections to your resume outline.
In that case, your resume might benefit from including additional sections. Instead of increasing your font size and spacing or leaving your resume half-empty, add your proficiency in foreign languages or talk about your hobbies and interests. That way, you get to further highlight your competence or make your resume more memorable by adding a personal touch.
Knowledge of foreign languages is becoming increasingly important. Depending on the job posting, this section could even be mandatory. With more companies taking their businesses to international markets, the ability to communicate in more than one language is invaluable.
The more languages you know, the better. However, it’s important to be honest and not overestimate your abilities. Be accurate when describing your proficiency since that’s something recruiters could easily check.
Here’s a great way to add the language section to your resume:
Awards and Honors
Any awards and honors obtained during your academic and professional career go a long way in portraying you as a driven and active candidate. They show that you’re not only competent in your endeavors but that you excel at them.
Awards and honors directly related to your work or education should usually be listed in those respective categories as bullet points we’ve talked about. However, there are always highly impactful and relevant accolades that don’t fall under any of those categories. In that case, you want to list them in a section of their own.
Here’s an example:
Volunteer experience is another way to show yourself as a person who has the initiative and motivation and always strives to make a difference.
If you don't have much work experience, you'll probably use volunteer work instead, which makes this information essential, not optional. Volunteer work relevant to the position should also be included in the work history bullet points.
However, if you already have a rich employment history and there’s room left in your resume outline, you should include even some unrelated volunteer endeavors. It will be a small but important detail that shows your willingness to go the extra mile for a specific cause.
Here’s an example:
Much like volunteer experience, projects can replace your work history, be a part of it, or end up in their own section. The difference is that volunteer experience is often about soft skills, while projects are more about your hard skills.
In today’s gig economy, freelance workers could have years of professional history made up of projects alone. In that case, they’ll be a crucial part of your work history section. Similarly, you might have some projects to add to your education section.
Nevertheless, there are many projects that aren’t an essential part of your employment history but can be used to supplement it. In that case, they belong to a section of their own, like in the following example:
Hobbies and Interests
At first glance, hobbies and interests might not seem interesting or relevant enough to include in your resume. Still, if your resume outline shows there’s some space left, don’t be afraid to “geek out."
Talking about your hobbies and the topics you’re interested in is the perfect way to show that there’s a real person behind a resume. It’s also a good option if you want to give your resume a healthy dose of charm and personality.
There’s no need to go in-depth about your favorite video game, but a short list of the things you’re most passionate about will do just fine. It might even spark a friendly conversation with the interviewer down the road.
Here’s what that could look like:
Resume Outline You Can Copy and Paste
We’ve prepared a free resume outline to get you started. You can adjust it to suit your needs or just copy and paste the whole template.
You can create a resume outline in Word, opt for a Google Docs resume outline, or choose another editing software altogether. Simply put your information in the blanks, and you'll have a professional resume in no time.
Here’s the template:
Resume Outline Template
[City and state]
[Additional contact information: the link to your LinkedIn profile, social media profiles, etc.]
[Start and end date of employment]
[A bullet point list containing the crucial responsibilities and achievements within the role]
[Degree/Name of the program]
[Date of attendance—start and end date]
[Additional information: relevant courses, achievements, awards, etc.]
[A bullet point list containing your most prominent soft and hard skills]
[A bullet point list of languages you speak along with proficiency levels]
Awards and Honors
[A bullet point list containing all relevant awards and honors]
[Your role in the volunteering program]
[Start and end date of volunteering]
[A short bullet point list containing the crucial achievements and contributions within the role]
[Your role in the project]
[Company/Organization/Project name] [Location]
[Start and end date of a project]
[A short bullet point list containing the crucial achievements and contributions within the role]
Hobbies and Interests
[A short sentence or a bullet point list containing hobbies and interests you’re passionate about]
Resume Outline FAQ
If you still have questions about resume outlines, we've answered the most common ones here.
#1. What are the 5 main parts of a resume?
There are five crucial sections that any resume should have. They are:
5 Main Parts of a Resume
If, after finishing your resume outline, you still have some room left, there are several additional sections you can include. These are:
Awards and honors
Hobbies and interests
#2. Is a resume outline the same as a resume template?
While they seem similar, a resume outline and a resume template are two different things.
A resume outline is a plan for a resume. It states which sections go where and what content they should feature. You still need to make a resume from scratch.
A resume template, on the other hand, is a blank form. It’s an almost complete document where you need to insert your information.
#3. What is a good outline for a resume?
A good outline for a resume features relevant information that is arranged and shown in a clear way. It lets you plan ahead, ensures that your application has all the important parts, and lets you know if there’s room to include additional information.
#4. What is the best resume format?
In most cases, the best resume format is reverse-chronological. It emphasizes work history and showcases your latest and most important employment and degree first. It also shows hiring managers how you've progressed in your academic and professional careers before they pay attention to other, less important endeavors on the list.
#5. What should you not put on a resume?
Don’t put irrelevant or sensitive personal information on your resume. Depending on the country you’re applying for a job in, including a personal photo might get you disqualified from the start. There’s also no need to add a personal Instagram page or Twitter account unless they are crucial for the job.
Similarly, don’t list any job or project you worked on if it's completely unrelated to the position you’re applying for. The same goes for your high school diploma if you’ve already listed a higher degree on your resume.