NC State :: Jenkins MBA   the Competitive Edge

with Wendy Enelow & Louise Kursmark

Format is the structure and layout of your resume. It is how you organize and present the information so that employers can easily understand who you are, what you do, where you've done it and most important consideration of all, how you can help them.


Structure is the foundation. It is the first part of the project to be completed. It supports everything else that you do.

2 Resume Structures:
1. Chronological
2. Functional

Chronological - Work experience and education in date order (most recent to past)

Functional - Front-and-center grouping of skills, achievements, and qualifications and expertise separate from the chronology from when and where all of those things occurred

Chronological is advantageous for most people. It's what employers and recruiters prefer because it's easy for them to determine what you did, when and where. It also provides a great history of your career and easily digestible.

Functional - When done well, is extremely effective and powerful. It can be helpful for those with special circumstances.

Bottom line: Before you start writing your resume, think about the structure—the foundation that will work best for you based on the diversity of your experiences, knowledge, education and other qualifications. Don't hesitate to include qualifications that's unique about you.


Readers will first power browse your resume in just a few seconds to determine if you might have what they're looking for: the specific skills, credentials, experience and other qualifications for a particular job. How you format your resume makes a huge difference in what they'll learn about you in that first quick review.

- Avoid dense text. Limit your paragraphs to 2-3 lines.
- Avoid a long list of bullet points.
- Add white space as that allows readers to absorb information that they're skimming.
- Consider using bold type to accentuate the really important information in a paragraph for a bullet point.

Use sub-headings to introduce small bites of information. If you have 6 bullet points in your current job, write them into 2 groups and add bold sub-headings to display keywords that are critical to your career objective.

Careful formatting combined with tight writing and thoughtful editing will ensure your readers grasp the key points the first time and every time they review your resume.


In many cases your resume will be scanned by electronic eyes as a first pass review. If your qualifications match the job requirements, you will be considered. If not, you're out. That match is based on keyword scan for specific qualifications, degrees, experiences and other factors as determined by the hiring authority.

It's unfortunate that the job search has evolved to such a level that keywords can make or break you. But it is the reality of today's modern world. And you must consider it when crafting your resume.

- Electronic scan-based on keyword match
- Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) constantly evolving

Tips for ATS Success:

  1. Include keywords in every section. Keywords or terms that define what you know and what you have done. The words of your profession. Include them in summary, experience and education sections.
  2. Match resume language to job posting language. Review job posting to determine all the possible keywords that a hiring manager may be using and embed those exact terms in your resume as appropriate to you and your experience. Use a simple, straightforward design so as to not confuse the ATS. If you wish to use a designer resume, make sure you save a version in a much simpler format and use that when uploading a resume in response to a job posting. Just to be certain that all of the essential information will be saved by the ATS.

Your resume will ultimately be viewed by human eyes. And humans are the ones making the hiring decisions. Never forget that the content, format and design must appeal to those readers as well as electronic scanners. In these situations, where you email your resume to an individual or sharing it in a meeting, use your designer resume for maximum impact.

Expert BIO
with Wendy Enelow & Louise Kursmark

Best-selling authors Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark have written over 30 books on resumes, cover letters, hiring and career management – including the recently released Modernize Your Resume — during decades-long careers in resume writing and coaching for job seekers worldwide. Both Wendy and Louise are Master Resume Writers (MRW), Job & Career Transition Coaches (JCTC) and Certified Professional Resume Writers (CPRW).