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How to Format a Resume

We often hear from our private clients and workshop participants that creating an eye-catching, well-formatted resume is just as difficult as culling together the content of the resume itself. Particularly for career changers and veterans transitioning from the military to civilian professional realms, this is the first time they've put together a resume in quite some time!

We have a great whitepaper that explains what to put in your resume, but this blog post is all about formatting and creating the actual document.

Step One: Choose Your Favorite Document Editing Program

If you're a PC user, you probably use Microsoft Word. If you're on a Mac, you may have the option of choosing between Microsoft Word and Pages. The important thing is to choose the program that you are most comfortable with. You don't want small mistakes to appear on your resume because you weren't familiar or comfortable with the program.

Step Two: Browse the Default Templates

Both Pages and Word come with great default resume templates. These templates will give you a huge head start when it comes to understanding common formats for your resume. If you're still drafting the content for your resume, these default templates will also give you a good idea of common sections of a resume.

Step Three: Explore Other Templates + Choose Your Favorite

Microsoft Word, in particular, has a great FREE library of additional templates. Explore resources like this to find a resume that fits you. Make sure the "look" of your template fits with your personality and work industry. While a graphic designer or new media manager might choose a bold/loud template, a customer service specialist will probably go with something more traditional.

When choosing the format of your resume, don't worry if some of the section titles don't match your needs one-to-one. You can easily edit and change those to create the resume format that's perfect for you.

Step Four: Enter Your Content into the Template + Save

Next, take the content you've drafted for your resume and enter it into the template. Replace section headers with the ones that best fit you and bullet any necessary lists. Make sure your resume is easy to read "at a glance." That is, how you have formatted your resume makes it easy for the human resources recruiter to quickly skim, review and see important buzzwords related to your professional history. Also, as with any important document, be sure to save often!

Step Five: Proofread + Pass to a Friend

Before sending out your resume, make sure you have read it numerous times and also passed it to a friend for review. If at all possible, print out your resume and proofread it on paper. You might be amazed what errors pop up when you aren't reading on a computer screen!

Step Six: Export Your Document to PDF

Most application systems these days are 100% online/digital. Additionally, nearly all application systems allow you to upload PDF files. We encourage this. A PDF file means that your resume arrives exactly in the format/layout that you intended with no mark-ups from the editing program. A Word (.doc) file, on the other hand, when opened may present some of these issues. To export a file to PDF, go to File > Print. You may see a PDF drop-down option from this screen or it may appear as "Print To." In newer versions of Word, you may have an option to "Save As" a PDF (see image to left). Explore your version of Word or Pages to discover how to save/export as a PDF.

In Conclusion

A well-formatted resume is nice to look at, easy to read and conveys an certaine extra something about you. That being said, stay away from any template or format that uses trendy and/or hard-to-read fonts, such as scripts or decorative text. When it comes to font selection and formatting your resume, tried and true favorites such as Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman and Georgia are excellent (and safe!) choices.

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    How to Format a Resume - Find me a career, what is a career - Expert military employment transition and veteran to civilian resume writing advice, information and resources.
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    How to Format a Resume - Find me a career, what is a career - Expert military employment transition and veteran to civilian resume writing advice, information and resources.
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    How to Format a Resume - Find me a career, what is a career - Expert military employment transition and veteran to civilian resume writing advice, information and resources.
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    How to Format a Resume - Find me a career, what is a career - Expert military employment transition and veteran to civilian resume writing advice, information and resources.
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How to Format a Resume
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Our editors explain the resume formatting process
A piece of paper is sitting on a black backdrop. The paper is showing proper resume format.
Make a positive first impression with a professionally
formatted resume from

In our article "How to Write a Resume," we explained that the style of your resume will depend on your individual purpose. However, there are certain components that are the basis of any resume format. We have broken down the main resume format tips, which can be used in most resume styles.
Tips to a great resume format

Once you've read our resume formatting tips, take a look at our example resume to see exactly how each of these components can be formatted in a standard resume.

For all styles, always list your contact information at the top of the first page. Begin with your full name. Use either the full spelling of a middle name or simply the initial (if you have one). Next, supply your current, complete mailing address, followed by your home and cell phone numbers, and/or a fax line, and your e-mail address (optional). The amount of information you provide in this section will determine how readily an employer will be able to contact you.

This is an optional heading and is used primarily in the Functional and Combination styles of resume writing. It can be used in the other styles, but we recommend including it only if it adds important, new information. Here, in a maximum of two sentences, you will describe your goals and point out how these specific goals mesh with those described in the job advertisement. The aim here is to make your resume stand out from the competition.
Career highlights and qualifications

This is also an optional section, and it serves two purposes: First, it points out your key achievements, skills, and qualifications as they pertain to those described in the job advertisement. Second, it shows the employer you have made an extra effort to point out your particular accomplishments as they relate to that specific application.
Work experience

In this section, list your work history in chronological, reverse date order. For each position you have held, begin by stating the specific period you worked at a location (usually by month and year), and the position(s) or title(s) you held. Describe your key duties and responsibilities for that position in a point-form list.

Be careful when listing your key duties and responsibilities, as this can sometimes read like a job description. Instead, include action statements. For example, instead of saying, "Duties included providing customer service," try something like "Provided customer service through resolution of problems, and explanation of invoices and statements, resulting in greater customer satisfaction."

In this portion of your resume, list the schools you have attended, the degrees or diplomas you have received, and any other honors or awards you may have earned. Again, these should be listed in reverse chronological order. Time periods at a given school can be listed by the span of years in attendance (i.e., 2003 – 2007), since the school year is generally accepted as running with the same semester schedule almost everywhere.

If you have not listed them already (in section 3, for example), list your skills at the end of your resume. This section should point out your talents that are specific to the job application, such as language or computer skills.
Hobbies or extracurricular activities

Job seekers should exercise caution when considering a section with this heading. Unless the hobbies or activities are directly related to the job for which you are applying, do not include them. This section may also be referred to as "Too Much Information," as often this type of personal information is irrelevant to the application. For example, if you are applying for a technical position, listing the fact that you enjoy reading fantasy or science fiction novels will not increase your odds of being hired as a technical person. There is nothing wrong with liking to read science fiction, but it is irrelevant to your ability to perform the advertised job.

As well, nothing that could be construed as specifically political, religious, or oriented to particular social groups should be included in a resume. As an exception, volunteer work for well-known and publically well-received organizations, such as the Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity, can be included. Again, however, use common sense and discretion here. Listing an affiliation with Greenpeace protesters, for example, may be seen as indicating a confrontational personality trait, which is not in your best interest for getting a job offer.

Listing specific sports involvement—such as being the captain of your school's badminton team or football squad—is appropriate in most circumstances. This indicates teamwork, organization, and leadership qualities, all of which are commendable in a prospective employee.
Some final thoughts...

Regardless of what style you decide to use, remember to customize your resume to fit your specific needs. Promoting yourself as the ideal match to the job description is the ultimate goal of a good resume. For extra help writing, editing, or formatting your resume, submit your draft to one of our resume editors.

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterResume Templates

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