Building a Resume from the Ground Up

Hello again! I hope everyone is doing well, and that you have jobs that you enjoy (and that pay you fairly). If not, well, you know your friends at Resume to Interviews are always here to help.

This month, I thought I’d take a step back and address how resumes should be constructed on a section and formatting level.  Recently, I’ve been writing about word choice and phrasing, which is incredibly important. But think about it like a building: it doesn’t matter how pretty the rooms are if the sky lights are on the first floor and the garage is on the third, because they are just pretty rooms in a bad building.

So if you think about a resume as a series of sections, usually work, education, and skills sections, then the question is what is the best way to order and construct those sections to create a functional, well designed document that grabs the reader’s attention and holds it while unfolding logically? How do you create a good building?  Glad you asked.

How to Order Your Resume 

1. Start with A Summary of Qualifications. Usually.

First of all, you need a summary of qualifications, unless of course you don’t. I’ll explain, but what you never need is an “objective.” This is usually the place where people say what kind of job they are looking for. A lot of people recommend this. But an “objective” is silly and redundant. The person who is reading your resume is reading it because they have a job to fill. They know you are applying for that job. Putting an objective doesn’t do anything to help you, but it actually could hurt you if they situation you are describing doesn’t match the job you are applying for. So never, ever, use an objective.  Instead summarize your qualifications and strengths as they relate to the position. That being said, sometimes you don’t need a summary. Administrative positions usually don’t require one. Academic CV’s don’t require one. And if you don’t have much job experience that relates to the job you are applying for, and trying to summarize your experience relative to the job just sounds sort of ridiculous, you might want to think about skipping the summary as well.

2. Next is the Most Important Thing….

The next section should be the most important thing. And by that I mean either work experience or education. If you are relatively new to the work force or still in school, then your education needs to go first. And it needs to say “graduated (month and year)” if you graduated, because if you just put a date range people might think you didn’t actually graduate, because people who didn’t graduate do that all the time.

If you’ve been in the work force for a few years and have some real accomplishments, then start with your work history. If you’ve been in the work force for a few decades, then your education should be at the very bottom of the resume, even under volunteerism or education. That being said, if you graduated with a B.A. fifteen years ago, but recently got your master’s, you should put education first. If you are a PhD, then your education should go first no matter how long ago it was. The idea is to put the most impressive thing about you first. If that’s your education do that. If not, use work history.

That being said, if you are in school or a recent college graduate it doesn’t matter how impressive your internships were or your first job out of school is. Your education is ALWAYS first.

3. How to Order the Parts That Aren’t Work History or Education

Next should be the next most important thing, which is pretty obvious. But it’s worth mentioning that the next most important thing is not necessarily education or work history. If you are in school, something like “Volunteerism,” “Associations,” or “Academic Projects” might be more important than work history, and that should go after education and before work. If you have been in the work force for a long time, then “Volunteerism,” “Associations,” and “Independent Projects” might go before education.

Continue to order the sections in terms of importance. Remember to always put months and years for dates and to put hours, either per, week, month, year or a total amount, next to any volunteerism. The reason for this is that people will volunteer a few hours every year and then show a date range, so it looks much more impressive than it is. And people who read resumes know this. So by putting hours volunteered you are communicating that your volunteerism was substantial and meaningful.

4. End with Technical Skills

End the resume with technical skills. This serves as a sort of word bank for all of the skills, software, tools, processes, and equipment you know and know how to use. This is great for resume scanning software, and great for human beings who are scanning your resume to make sure you have some specific piece of knowledge they are looking for. Feel free to repeat info from the bullet points in this section.

You should create categories for the skills and group them accordingly. This should not have sentences or experience or skill levels. All those descriptions are what the bullet points are for.  Instead of “Six years of experience designing websites with HTML and PHP” it should just be “Web Design: HTML, PHP”…and whatever other web design skills and tools you are familiar with.

5. And Never End with…

“references are available upon request.” Everyone knows this. No one is going to refrain from requesting references from you because you didn’t put that on your resume.

That’s pretty much it. Obviously, this is a very simple way of looking at it, but it can certainly get you started.  I hope it helps. Of course, if you wanted to take all of the guesswork out and have this done for you by the best professionals in the business, you could always buy a resume creation package from We will make sure that skylight is on the roof and that garage is on the road.


  • Article Name
  • Building a Resume from the Ground Up
  • Author
  • Jason B.
  • Description
  • When building a resume think series of sections, usually work, education, and skills, then what is the best way to order and construct those sections.

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