3 key takeaways
- Why an organized resume matters
- Complete list of sections to consider including on your resume
- How Teal’s AI Resume Builder can help you put together a polished and well-arranged document
It’s tempting to think resumes are all about job titles and tenures. In reality, effective resumes have just as much to do with resume organization—the presentation and order of resume sections. A hiring manager can’t make sense of your skills, achievements, and experiences if they’re thrown together haphazardly with no hierarchy or flow.
For that reason, an impressive resume is also an organized resume. In this guide, you'll learn how to organize your resume in a way that emphasizes your qualifications rather than distracts from them.
This article covers the ideal order for all nine must-have resume sections:
- Contact Information
- Target title
- Professional summary
- Work experience
- Certifications and awards
- Hobbies and interests
Understanding resume organization: Why structure matters
In most cases, your resume is the first (and oftentimes the only) thing a recruiter or hiring manager will review before deciding whether or not to move you forward in the hiring process.
As it turns out, it doesn’t take long to make that decision. A typical hiring manager will spend just seven seconds looking over a resume before deciding whether or not to move a candidate forward.
A well-organized resume makes it easier and faster for potential employers to get the information they need from one page (or more) which increases your chances of landing a job interview. Plus, an orderly resume is more friendly for applicant tracking systems (ATS) that scan your document for certain keywords and essential sections.
Being thoughtful about how you organize your resume also demonstrates your interest in the company and role. When you tailor your resume to each job posting, you can adjust your resume order by putting the professional experience and skill set most relevant to the job near the top, where it’s less likely to be missed.
In short, how you organize your resume isn’t an afterthought—it’s a crucial part of making sure your best qualifications are noticed and understood.
9 essential resume sections
One of the biggest questions job seekers have when organizing a resume is about the order of sections. What resume sections should go where?
There are some general best practices to keep in mind, but remember, relevance trumps all other factors. The job description or your unique professional experience might alter how you organize your resume sections.
For example, if you’re making a career change, you might put a skills section ahead of your less-related work experience.
Ultimately, there isn’t one “correct order” for a resume and you have some room to play with your resume sections. As you do so, it’s helpful to understand the essential resume sections (as well as the optional sections you could include). Let’s take a closer look at the key sections to include on a resume.
1. Contact information
Out of any of the other sections listed here, this one is the biggest non-negotiable. Your resume should list your:
- First and last name
- City and state
- Email address
- Phone number
- Relevant links or social media accounts
Your resume contact information should live in the resume header, on the top of your document, with your name set in a thicker font than the other items
Resume header example
Teal’s AI Resume Builder makes sharing your contact information easy. All you need to do is add your details to the relevant fields and Teal will put them at the top of your resume.
Tips for writing an effective resume header
- Confirm that your email address is simple and professional. If you’re still using the snarky or punny email address you set up in high school, it’s time to set up a new one that uses your name.
- You need to list your city and state (important for companies that are only hiring in certain locations), but there’s no reason to include your full street address.
- If you choose to include links to your social media accounts or other websites, clean up the URLs so they’re shorter and more intuitive. Most platforms allow you to customize your link in your profile settings.
2. Target title
It might seem strange to include a job title on your resume when you’re applying for a job, but that’s exactly what your target title is: your resume objective.
Your title should go at the top of your resume, underneath your contact information but before your professional summary. It doesn’t have to be the title from your most recent position. Instead, as you come up with your target title, remember to:
- Review the job description for the role you’re applying for and use that job title as your target title
- Add a short line to your title that calls attention to your skills and experience
Resume target title example
Email Marketing Manager | Driving Conversions With Compelling Campaigns
3. Professional summary
Resumes can feel limiting—it’s mostly bullet points and sentence fragments. But your professional summary is where you can add a little more color and context to your career journey.
In most cases, your resume summary goes near the top of your document, underneath your contact information and target title. Think of this section as a short professional bio (you only need three to five sentences) that calls attention to some of the most relevant highlights from your career.
This is another opportunity for you to tailor your resume. Review the job description closely and pull out two to three skills or qualifications that are most relevant to you. Those are what you should highlight in your resume summary, along with their impact.
Resume summary example
As an enthusiastic customer success specialist with over three years of experience in SaaS, I’m committed to nurturing relationships with customers to improve loyalty, retention, and the company's reputation. My empathetic and proactive approach has contributed to a 25% decrease in customer churn and a 10% increase in customer NPS at my current organization. I take pride in my ability to listen to customers, collaborate with my team, and deliver engagement and retention strategies that make a meaningful impact.
Pro tip: If you need some inspiration, check out this long list of other resume summary examples.
4. Work experience
When most people think of a resume, this is what immediately comes to mind. Your resume work experience section is where you list your previous positions, along with your related responsibilities and achievements.
Resume work experience section example
Dunder Mifflin Paper Company • Scranton, PA Feb 2021 - Dec 2023
Social Media Manager
- Increased social media following by 47% in 12 months across Facebook, X, and Instagram, contributing to a 20% increase in sales for the year.
- Created and launched a TikTok account and strategy, growing from zero followers to 24,000 followers in three months.
- Developed and maintained a content calendar to ensure consistent delivery of high-quality content on all accounts, leading to a 40% increase in organic reach.
Where the work experience section lands on your CV depends on the resume format. Here are a few resume formats to consider:
A chronological resume format is the most standard and traditional approach. In this format work experience sits directly below your resume summary and previous positions are listed in reverse chronological order, with your most recent role at the top.
A functional resume, or skills-based resume, is an alternative to a chronological resume. This resume format prioritizes your competencies over your previous work experience. While this can be a popular choice for career changers, this format isn’t as intuitive or accepted among hiring managers. For that reason, chronological resumes, or combination resumes, are usually the better choices over the functional resume format.
Tips for writing an effective work experience section
- Use action verbs to make your resume more dynamic and mix up your verbs to prevent your resume from becoming repetitive.
- Quantify achievements and experiences where you can for added impact (for example, “Grew email subscribers by 118% between Q1 and Q3 of 2022”).
- Focus on relevant experience—you don’t need to write down everything you did in that job.
The education section on a resume seems like another easy freebie. All you need to do is write down your degree, along with where and when you got it.
Resume education section example
Pawnee University | Pawnee, IN
Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics, May 2017
The information itself is self-explanatory, but figuring out where to put it feels murky. The “default” approach is to place your education section directly under your work experience. However, you can adjust that as you see fit.
As you tailor your resume, pay attention to how much emphasis the potential employer places on education. Are they asking for a specific degree in their required qualifications? Your degree is probably a prerequisite to being considered, so you might want to put it ahead of your work experience. But if the employer doesn’t prioritize higher education—or doesn’t mention a degree at all—then you’re probably safe placing your education section closer to the bottom.
Your education and professional work experience matter. But ultimately, potential employers care more about what you took away from those experiences in the form of relevant skills. That’s where your resume skills section comes in. It bullets out the key skills that you’ll bring to the position.
This section should include both hard skills (your more technical competencies, like proficiency with a certain type of software) and soft skills (your non-technical and interpersonal competencies, like problem-solving). Aim to include a healthy mix of both types and list 10-15 of them in this section in a bulleted list.
Resume skills section example
- Java, Python, C++
- Agile methodology
- Full-stack development
- AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud
- Time management
- Software security
- Data structures and algorithms
- Continuous learning
Much like with some of the other resume sections, where you place your objective skills on your document will depend on your unique circumstances. You can put your skills toward the bottom of your resume underneath your education. Or, if you’re making a career change and most of your work experience is irrelevant, place your skills above your work experience to call more attention to your transferable skills.
While you want to highlight your strongest skills, remember to only feature relevant skills. Return to the job description, pull out any skills the employer mentions, and incorporate them into your skills section (provided you honestly possess them, of course). It’s one of the simplest ways to tailor your resume.
7. Certifications and awards
There are certain resume sections everybody includes, like education and work experience. However, certificates and awards are optional resume sections that can help separate you from the competition.
If you’ve obtained any certifications or awards that are relevant to the role you’re applying for, it’s worth including them. When it comes to listing your certifications and awards on a resume, you might be able to include them with an existing section (in your education section if you achieved those accolades while in school or in your work experience section if you were recognized by a previous employer).
If not, you can create a designated section toward the bottom of your document underneath your skills. Keep in mind that listing awards and certifications on a resume doesn’t need to take up a ton of space. Each one should only need a single line to explain what certification or award you received and when you achieved it.
Resume awards and certifications section example
AWARDS & CERTIFICATIONS
Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification | March 2021
Outstanding Project Management Professional Award | February 2022
Certain industries—like academia, science, and healthcare—value seeing publications on a resume as a way to confirm your credibility and expertise. If you’ve published any relevant research or insights, you can include them on your resume. Doing so is like when you’d put together a bibliography for a paper in high school.
What to include in the publications section of your resume
- Your name
- Article title
- Where it was published (not just the publication name, but also any necessary volumes or page numbers)
- When it was published
Where to include publications on your resume
Much like with awards and certifications, you can integrate your publications with your education or work experience sections. But if that isn’t a natural fit, you can also create a designated publications section. Most people choose to place this toward the bottom of the document, but again, move it up if you think it’s particularly relevant to the position.
Resume publications section example
Scott, Michael. The Dunder Mifflin Way: Delivering Limitless Paper in a Paperless World. Electric City Press, 2020.
9. Hobbies or interests
What about a hobbies section? Is that worth precious resume real estate? It depends on who you ask.
Some experts argue that your personal interests have no place in a professional document. However, if you have the space, including a few of your hobbies and interests on a resume can humanize you, offer an additional connection point with recruiters, and even provide some talking points for interviews.
That’s especially true if your interests are related to the company you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a role at Fitbit and you’re an avid marathon runner, that could help set you apart.
Regardless, this section shouldn’t take center stage. Reserve it for the bottom of your document so it doesn’t distract from the other more essential resume sections, and keep it brief. Your passions are interesting, but ultimately option sections.
Hobbies and interests for a resume section example
HOBBIES & INTERESTS
- Marathon running: Train for and complete two marathons each year
- Running club: Co-organizer of a local running club for marathoners to train together
How to order your resume with Teal’s Resume Section Manager
We’ve covered all of the sections—both the key sections and the optional sections—to consider including on your resume, as well as where they’re typically placed on the document.
When you’re ready to put it all together, you don’t need to waste time copying, pasting, backspacing, and cursing at a Word document while you try to move sections where you want them.
Within Teal’s AI Resume Builder, you’ll find space to include all of the above sections and even more (like projects or volunteer work). If you don’t want something listed on your document, uncheck the box and it’ll disappear from your resume.
Plus, the Resume Section Manager makes organizing your resume easy. Just drag and drop your resume sections in the order you want them and watch as they automatically update on your document.
Tips for organizing different types of resumes
Sure, most resumes have a lot of the same basic elements. But it’s up to you to create a document that’s representative of your skills, experiences, and qualifications.
Let’s look at a few situations when you might want to take some creative license with the standard resume format.
Recent graduate: Without a lot of work experience under your belt, you can emphasize other experiences. Use a resume projects section to call attention to some of the relevant things you’ve produced, a coursework section to highlight what you’ve learned, or an extracurricular activities section to emphasize your involvement. In your skills section, focus more on hard skills to ensure you get your most impressive competencies front and center.
Senior executive: You have no shortage of experience to showcase, which means a dedicated skills section will likely be redundant and unnecessary. Instead, focus on providing more detail about your relevant previous positions, particularly the quantifiable impact you made in those roles.
Career changer: When your work history doesn’t quite support your career goals, it’s smart to move your skills section higher on your document (underneath your summary and ahead of your work experience) to add more emphasis to your qualifications.
Career breaks: If you took time off from the workforce and are worried it will raise red flags with employers, you can address it directly on your document—either by weaving it into your resume summary or integrating it into your work experience section with the timeframe and a description of why you were out of the workforce (like caring for a newborn or family member, pursuing education, or taking a sabbatical).
Organize your best resume with Teal
It’s easy to overlook the importance of organizing your resume. But ordering your document isn’t an afterthought—it’s a crucial step in putting together a resume that makes the right impression.
Fortunately, getting everything right where you want it doesn’t have to be a painstaking process. With Teal’s AI Resume Builder, you can move your sections with just a few simple clicks and take hiring managers on a confusion-free journey through your skills and achievements.
Ready to create your best resume? Sign up for Teal for free today.