Resume Tips

Resume Sections: How To Organize Them

how to organize resume sections

Resume writing and the feeling of overwhelm come hand in hand. What information should go first? What are the correct resume section titles? Which font do I use?! 

Whether you’re making your first resume or updating an old one, here’s a quick refresher on how to best organize resume sections to appease the HRs and applicant tracking software.  

What Sections Should Be on a Resume?

The three main sections of a resume are:

  1. Resume header 
  2. Work experience 
  3. Education 

The header area always comes first, and the resume order of other sections — work experience and education — can differ depending on the resume format

A chronological resume (the most-used format) puts work experience first, with all entries listed from the most recent job to the earliest one. The education section is at the bottom, followed by optional resume sections like hobbies, references, and interesting facts about you (if you have space left). 

Sample Chronological Resume Sections

A functional resume has a slightly different format. It opens with a resume objective statement, followed by a list of skills or accomplishments, listed without any job affiliation. An abbreviated work history follows next, and the resume closes with an education section. 

A chronological resume emphasizes your work experience, while a functional resume format makes your core competencies the focal point.  

Sample Functional Resume Sections 

functional resume format

What Should Go First on a Resume?

A resume header section always goes first on a resume. At a minimum, a resume header has to list your full name and contact details. You can also choose to include a headshot and a professional tagline. 

However, a better practice is to create a resume summary — a two-sentence introduction of your skillset and professional credentials. It’s a “why you should hire me” elevator pitch, designed to capture the reader’s attention.  

Sample Resume Header With A Professional Summary 

resume header

An alternative option is to place an objective statement first on your resume. 

Unlike a resume summary, a resume objective summarizes your career goals and explains what you can bring to the table. Think of it as a mini-mission statement aligned with your desired job.

Using a resume objective, rather than a resume summary, makes sense for an internship resume,  if you’re changing careers, or after a job in a different field than your degree

How to Organize a Resume?

A resume well-organized resume has between three to five sections, presented on one page. Having a two-page resume only makes sense if 1) You’ve raked up over 10 years of experience; 2) Going after a scientific position, where you need to list research publications 3) Or want to showcase extra projects portfolio-style. 

In all other cases, you’ll need to organize your resume on one page — and here’s how to do this. 

Create Resume Header 

A resume header is the topmost area of the page, where you list your full name and contact details, plus a photo (optional). 

custom resume header

From the Contrast resume template

But since a header is the first thing an employer will see you can make a bigger impact by expanding the resume header with extra details.

For example, you can also include:

  • A professional tagline — a one-liner explaining what you do e.g. Award-winning publicist for authors. Former clients include Torrey Peters, Rachel Yoder, and Tove Ditlevsen.
  • A resume objective statement — a longer paragraph explaining what you would like to achieve in this position. This option is more suitable for recent graduates or people working in academia. 
  • A resume summary — similar in length to an objective, a resume summary provides a snapshot of your core competencies and intriguing accomplishments. 

The resume header should be visually separated from other resume sections. You can use an accent color like on this modern resume template or experiment with a different font as the Hello resume template does.  The goal is to make the top part stand out for the reader to better remember your name and your face. 

Learn more about structuring a resume header section

Add A Work Experience Section 

A resume work experience section is the linchpin of your entire document. It pulls together the bulk of your professional experience into a short, polished synopsis — one that a busy HR can skim through to understand your levels of qualifications. 

Use a plain section title: Work Experience. Don’t invent your wording as that will confuse most hiring managers. Next, organize your work experience section with readability in mind, using bullet points, bold highlights, and sufficient spacing for styling. 

How to format the work experience section on a resume: 

  1. Employer name goes first. Include only the most recent positions and the most relevant positions to keep your resume compact. 
  1. Add employment dates. Typically, you have to add a “month-year”. But if you have some employment gaps to cover up, just list the years. 
  1. Put down your job titles. If your company used some specific internal naming titles (like L4 Software Engineer), go for a wider known term e.g. Junior Software Engineer to prevent confusion. 
  1. List your competencies. No need to recount all of your job duties. Add the ones that best demonstrate your hard and soft skills
  1. Add achievements, promotions, and other recognitions. For each job entry, try to highlight several achievements that showcase your expertise. As a rule of thumb, you should aim for five bullet points for each work entry. For each squeeze in one-two accomplishment and use the rest for duties.

To better understand how to write an impactful work experience section, browse our immense collection of resume examples. We have most career levels covered  — from entry-level to executive — across an array of industries and professions! 

Round-Up With An Education Section 

Unless you are a recent graduate keep your resume education section minimal. List the last degree you’ve obtained, your major/minor, and your graduation year.

Use the extra space to mention other relevant professional certifications you have. Now that doesn’t mean listing every online course you’ve consumed over the past months. Be selective and mention training that is relevant to the position you are after. 

For example, if you are after a project management position it’s cool to say that you are a Certified Scrum Master or Agile Coach. But don’t include a Product Management seminar you’ve attended when the advertised position mentions nothing about that. It is a bit you can keep for your cover letter or a job interview

Now, what if you are fresh out of college and don’t have that jumbo-sized work experience section? 

Then, by all means, do provide more details about your education. As long as your coursework and extracurricular activities are relevant to the position you are after, do bring up the extras like:

For example, if you are a recent Media Studies graduate, working on a resume for a PR position, you can format your education section in the following way:


Hudson University (June 2021)
Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies
Emphasis: Public Relations
GPA: 3.8

Research paper study: “The Role of Influencer Marketing in Shaping Public Perception of Beauty Brands: Quantitative Study”

Courses taken:

  • Journalism and Media Relationships 
  • Digital Marketing: Basic and Advanced Studies 
  • Global digital cultures studies 
  • Fact-checking and fake news analysis 

Extracurricular activities:

  • Worked as a social media coordinator and media assistant for the Admissions Office 
  • Associate Editor of “Hudson’s Literary Digest” magazine. 

Consider Optional Resume Sections

Resume summary, work experience, and education are the must-have sections. 

Once you are done, give your document another look. Do I have extra space left? Will expanding my work history make things repetitive? Did I miss any requirements from the job ad? 

If you said “Yes” to either of the above, you’d probably benefit from adding one of the following extra sections to your resume. 


If you’ve decided against having a resume summary of your main skills in the header, but now realize that you didn’t list all your “hireable” qualities, fit those into a dedicated skills section in the sidebar.

skills section in a resume

From the Colors and Shapes Creative Resume Template

Here are several types of soft and hard skills you should have on your resume:

Hobbies and Interests

The debate continues on whether to list hobbies and interests on a resume. Or take: if you are applying to a less formal organization and have some space left, go for it! Sharing personal tidbits helps the reader better understand what type of a person you are and whether you’ll be a good cultural fit with the rest of the team. 

Your hobbies can also be complementary to your core competencies and appear as extra keywords for your resume. For example, if you are applying to work as a Sales Manager at a company selling hiking gear, mentioning that you are a keen climber yourself will win you some brownie points. 

References And Recommendations

For some professions, personal and professional references go a long way. These include many academic positions, jobs in the medical field, and employment propositions in regulated industries such as defense or security. 

So if the job ad explicitly asked to prove a certain number of references, add them to your resume.  We have a separate guide explaining how to list references on a resume. Check it out!  

Work Authorization And Security Clearance

Likewise, some private sector and federal jobs require you to possess a special work authorization and/or security clearance. 

This is a frequent requirement for independent contractors and consultants, hired by government agencies. But this may be also the case for anyone looking into judicial positions, working in the police units, or, in some cases, employment with telecom companies. 

If you have been asked to provide special work authorization and security clearance for your current position, chances are that your next employer may also want to know your status. So mention that briefly at the end of your resume. 

Still Struggling? Grab A Free Resume Template 

Nailing your resume section structure isn’t easy. Especially, if you aim to fit everything into one page. So rather than starting with a blank page, try one of our free resume templates for Word. If you don’t have Microsoft Word installed, try our set of optimized resume templates for Google Docs instead. 

Each resume design has all the main resume sections fleshed out with readability in mind.
You can also choose among an array of options like templates with a sidebar or full-page ones; without or with extra space for fitting a resume summary. With all necessary resume sections predesigned, all you are left to do is fill in the blanks.  

FAQs About Resume Sections 

Here are several other common questions about sections for resumes with answers to them. 

What Is The Best Resume Layout?

The best resume layout is a chronological resume, opening with a header section, followed by a resume or skills summary (optional), then a work experience section, and education. The layout itself can be full-page or with a sidebar. Both options are viewed favorably by employers. 

What Is The Most Important Part Of A Resume?

The most important section of your resume is the work experience section since it provides the most context about how you’ve acquired different skills and qualifications. It also helps the employer understand which industries you’ve worked for in the past. So do spend the most time on writing it out. For each position, mention both your duties and accomplishments. Quantify the results whenever you can to show just how much of an impact you can achieve in the organization you’d join.  

What Are Four Things A Great Resume Shows Employers?

A stellar resume communicates the following four things to the employer:

  1. Your level of seniority
  2. Your technical core competencies and most marketable skills
  3. The results and impacts you’ve made in the past roles
  4. Personal traits and qualities, reflected by your soft skills.


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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