Frequently Asked Resume Questions… Answered!

Jaime from The Prepary has written another amazing post tackling a HUGE topic… resumes. With the new year here and February coming right up, I know there are some readers out there thinking of starting the search for a new job or starting the application process for an internship. (I do think it’s always valuable to have an up-to-date resume on hand whether or not you are looking! You never know what opportunities might come up out of the blue.)
Jaime is a true expert in all things resume and career related (she has worked in fashion and finance industries as a recruiter and talent manager). She has seen it all!!! This is a great jumping off point to get you started on organizing and updating your resume and Jaime is available for personalized consulting, too.
Frequently Asked Resume Questions… Answered!
Guest post by Jaime from The Prepary

So excited to be back in the New Year answering your career questions. Last post, we covered cover letters (check it out if you missed it) and today, we’re going to tackle the resume. If I had to guess I’d say I’ve screened over 100,000 resumes over the course of my career, and have helped at least 100 clients turn their resumes from good to great (more info on working with me here). 
There were a few common questions on this topic: how the resume should be organized, if it should be creative or designed, and how customized the resume should be for specific jobs.  GREAT questions… let’s get started.
Resume organization:
I generally recommend four main sections on resumes which may vary slightly depending on whether you’re a student, recent grad, or someone who has been working for a few years already.
They are:
1. Education details– if you are a student, this can be at the top of your resume and if you’ve had at least one post-grad job under your belt this can move to the bottom just above the skills section.
2. Work Experience (it’s called work experience but think of it more as “relevant experience”)– this section should be reserved for your most relevant work and/or internship experience. Any “side jobs” that don’t relate to what you want to do next can go in the additional experience section if it makes more sense there.
3. Additional Experience & Volunteer Activities– this would be reserved for campus activities, extracurriculars, and volunteer work. The only exception would be any of those things directly relate to what you’re trying to do next, in which case you might want to put it in the section above.
4. Skills & Interests– Interests are optional but I strongly recommend skills. Any programs (i.e. Excel, Photoshop) you have experience with and/or technical skills should be listed here.
Creative resumes:
Next up, a lot of people wonder how “designed” resumes should be since it’s becoming a trend to have infographic resumes, use lots of colors, and show a bit of personality. Not to be a downer, but I rarely seen these done well and when they’re not done well, they do more harm than good. 
If you’re a graphic designer and showing off high level work (or paid for a high quality template) go for it, but make sure you never sacrifice the actual content and bullets describing what you’ve done. For the majority of roles, the people screening your resume care about the content of your resume, not how pretty it is… and most attempts I’ve seen at the “pretty” resume fall a bit short and are tough to follow.
So if you want to use an accent color, stick with one. Don’t go crazy on fonts. Keep it simple and clean. If you do go with a designed resume, make sure you have a word version as well. Usually the systems you apply through try to convert the resumes to plain text (so they can crawl them for keywords) so you’ll want a plain version for systems and a designed one for emailing and bringing with you in person.
To customize or not to customize:
Another great question was about the degree to which you should customize your resume for different roles. Customizing can be a fantastic thing to do. One way to do this is changing up what’s in the “Work Experience” section and putting the most relevant items there, while placing the others in “Additional Experience.” This ensures that the top of your resume (valuable real estate!) is dedicated to what the reader will find most impressive.
Another way to customize is by adding bullets that feel relevant to the job you’re applying to. For example, maybe you planned a small event over the summer – but since it wasn’t part of your core responsibilities it’s not on your standard resume. If you’re applying for an events assistant role, you’re definitely going to want to add it back in! 
Bottom line: no need to go crazy with customization (especially when you’re early on in your career) but think about it logically, and if you know a few tweaks will make you seem like a stronger candidate, make them.
Hope this post answered your questions about resumes. If you have others, I’ll do this best I can to answer them by responding to your comments. There are also some helpful resume related posts in this section of The Prepary. Looking forward to tackling the next group of questions next month!

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Great tips! I think with creating a resume, simplicity is key. I'm currently looking for a new job because I'm not getting enough ours at my current job. I'll totally keep your advice in mind when I go to edit my resume!

Taylor Schuhmacher

Hi Jaime!
I was wondering how you recommend formatting things in the resume. For example, Experience and Skills. Should these things be listed with bullet points, or listed in paragraph form?
Also, what if there is no relevant, or any, work experience to display?


Jaime Petkanics

Hi Taylor, Great questions! I recommend bullets because they are easier for you reader to digest quickly. Recruiters and hiring managers scan resumes in seconds, so bullets are great to keep things organized and succinct!

In terms of not having relevant experience yet, everyone has to start somewhere and every resume starts with zero relevant experience and builds from there.

If you don't yet have relevant internships, you can also join clubs, volunteer, or do project based work that somehow relate to your internship or industry of interest. It will go a long way and help you land that first relevant internship or job!


Fabulous tips! Getting all of these materials down on paper is half the battle, and then reorganizing for roles you're applying to is a breeze. I was happy to learn that now I am graduated and have a post grad job in the future my education will move to the bottom versus the top. I always title my "Work Experience" as "Relevant Experience." I hope that's ok!

Warm Regards,

Emily Penner

I appreciate these tips.

While not a "design" element per say but something for added interest, I used to add a QR code to the corner of my resume which linked to my LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately they're not as exciting or widely used now, but many commented on how it captured their interest – even those just passing by their desk and seeing my resume.

I think it's still something to consider 🙂

Emily – The Rossetto Blog

Hillary Oneslager

One thing I would add to this list is how important it is to know the industry that you are applying for and how your resume fits in that niche.

You don't have to be a graphic designer to "design" your resume but I definitely agree with Jaime that embellishments need to be done well. Any sort of agency, startup or tech job will be much more accepting of designed resumes than a firm on wall street. I shows that you understand the company culture and have done your homework! I work for a market agency and applied with a design resume and was told repeatedly that it set me apart. I'm sure that a plain word document would have been ok but the extra mile showed that I understood the culture of the company. If you create the document in InDesign you can export it was a PDF and the computers can still scan it.

Maegan Ayre

I'm finishing up my master's this spring and starting to apply for "grown up" jobs – I'm definitely bookmarking this post for future reference!

Erin Murphy

Hi Jamie,

I'm a recent grad looking for my first job in my field of study.
Currently, none of my previous jobs have related directly to my field, although I did gain generic valuable skills from them (customer service, time management, working in a team etc).

However, most of my volunteer experience is directly related to the type of job I am seeking. Would it be better to list these ahead of my work experiences?

Thanks for this post, definitely bookmarking.

Champagne Star

Great advice! I think the most important thing is to only highlight experience relevant to the positions you are applying for, especially when you have a few years of work experience. It took me a long time to get this point, and it's not something that advisors and counselors really tell you in college.

Mallory Ann

Great post! I work in a creative field (film marketing) and still find it inappropriate to have an overly creative resume. Maybe a fun top layout with your name and address but the bottom is strictly business!

xx Mal @ Bad Wolf Brunch

Jahirul Islam

Thank you for your great post regarding resume writing. Writing a great resume does not necessarily mean you should follow the rules you hear through the grapevine. It does not have to be one page or follow a specific resume format. Every resume is a one-of-a-kind marketing communication. It should be appropriate to your situation and do exactly what you want it to do. Look at other sample resumes to get Inspritation, and share your own to get feedback.

Rashida Begum

Recently, I've done my MBA program and now I am looking for a quality resume services. But, I am very confused about my resume format. Can you told me which kind of resume format will best for me? Also I found this student nurse resume very helpful. student nurse resume