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Resume formats and samples

Your resume content is the important part. Guidance below is to help you format and present your content in a clean, concise way, for the benefit of the employer.

Page margins: 1/2 to 1 inch on all sides generally look fine.

Font style and size:

Choose a font that is easy to read by both the human eye and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that employers use to store and read resumes.

According to Resume-now.com: What is an ATS resume?, these are among recommended fonts:
- Times New Roman
- Calibri
- Arial
- Tahoma
- Garamond

Indeed.com recommends using sans serif fonts, and not serif fonts. Serifs are the short lines at the edges of letters; sans means "without" so sans serif fonts don't have those little lines; they are simpler fonts. Fonts recommended by Indeed.com.

Use a larger font size for your name. For the content, font sizes of 10, 11 or 12 generally look fine. Note that font sizes are not the same in each font style; e.g. Arial 12 is much larger than Times New Roman 12. If you are trying to get your content on one page, you can adjust your margins a bit and/or try a slightly smaller font style or size. Sometimes you can enter a half-size, such as 10.5, 11.5, etc.

Spacing:

Single spacing usually works best, with a blank line between each section of content. If you need to change your spacing in your version of Word and can't find how to do that, use the "Help" function in Word.

Heading:

Create your heading with your name, phone, email, and college and permanent addresses.
According to Resume-now.com: What is an ATS resume?, don't use the header or footer component in Word for essential content. If you are creating a C.V., or a federal resume that is expected to be longer than one page, a footer is great for your page numbers, because that information is for the human eye.

Full address? You can choose whether to include your street addresses (unless an employer specifically requires that  on a resume you submit to that employer). Some job seekers prefer not to give that level of detail especially when submitting your resume to sites where you might not know who has access to view it.

Resume heading example:
(first name) (middle name or initial if you wish) (last name)
540-123-4567  |  emailaddress@vt.edu
College address: Blacksburg, Virginia   |   Permanent address: Richmond, Virginia
OR
College address: 7891 Whatever Street, Apt. G, Blacksburg, VA 24060
Permanent address: 473 Whatever Drive, Richmond, VA 23221

Simple technique for content layout:

  • We used to recommend creating a table, with invisible borders, to format your resume; that advice no longer holds. It's fine for formatting for the human eye, but is not recommended for resumes that will be read by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which many employers use.
  • If you need to indent, use the text-indent features in Word. When you indent and use bulleted lists, be consistent with your indenting to keep it visually clean.
  • You can also align all content on the left, which is sometimes recommended for clean formatting that's good for Applicant Tracking Systems.
  • And the human eye appreciates a clean, simple layout.

Use Microsoft Word docx. Be cautious if you select a resume template. Some are too complicated in layout, have excessive shading, or other formatting features that are not recommended.

A risk with a template is choosing one with categories and headings that do not suit your background or best present your qualifications for the positions you are seeking.

The Muse.com: Should You Submit Your Resume as a PDF or Word Docx? 5 Rules to Follow.

  • Resumes should often be one page, but not always.
  • CVs are longer documents. 
  • See length of your resume or CV for complete information.

  • Large employers use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to store, read, and search for resumes; those simply read the text of your document.
  • Appropriate formatting and document type will help you present effective content and help your resume to be read correctly. That's why you'll see advice from us about formatting and content as relates to Applicant Tracking Systems. See Beat the Robots: How to Get Your Resume Past the System and Into Human Hands (the Muse.com)
  • History note: There is an old, out-of-date term that might create confusion: Before you could submit resumes online, the term "scannable resume" referred to a hard copy document that could be successfully scanned using technology (OCR=Optical Character Recognition; developed in the 1970s) that scanned the content of a paper document as a graphic image and then converted it back to text. This enabled employers to receive hard-copy resumes, get that resume information into a database (to handle the volume of resumes received), and retrieve the resume later.

Chronological format

  • The most common resume format is called "chronological" and is really reverse chronological, meaning most recent items first. 
  • Within each section [education, experience, activities, etc.] list entries with most recent items first. 
  • If you're uncertain what format to use, this is a good way to start a draft of your resume. 
  • Most of the samples are variations on the chronological format.

Skills format

  • A skills resume combines the skills you have from a variety of experiences — paid work, volunteer work, student activities, classroom work, projects, etc. — and groups these skills by category that relate to the kind of job you're seeking.
  • This format works best when a traditional resume just doesn't work to make you look like a good candidate even though you have relevant skills.
  • Use caution: many employers don't favor skills-format resumes. A Career and Professional Development advisor can look at your first resume draft and help you decide if a skills format, or maybe a mixed approach, might be the best to showcase your qualifications.

How to choose a format

  • Start with content and sections of your resume. Write out everything you have in your background, even if it is initially too much information. Edit from there.
  • Do look at many samples, and the features of each. Choose the combination of features that matches your background.
  • Don't look just at samples, because no one sample includes all possible resume content. You might need content not included in the samples you view.
  • Don't choose a resume format simply because the fictional student in a sample has your major. Major doesn't dictate the format of your resume; use the format that best showcases your qualifications which are not limited to major.
  • You can choose any format regardless of the type of employment you are seeking, whether internship, co-op, or post-graduation employment.
  • Do choose a format which best shows how your individual credentials support your objective.
  • If you are unsure, start with a chronological style, have your resume reviewed, and revise your resume as needed.
  • Creative, non-traditional resumes can be appropriate if you're in a creative field.
  • But if you copy someone else's creative template, does that show your creativity? (You might just be following a new, non-creative norm.)
  • Some resumes labelled creative include elements (photos, graphics) and layouts that are not compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that most large employers use. Be aware.
    Creative Resume Formats: What You Need to Know on JobScan.com addresses this topic.
  • You will need to provide your resume in the format requested or required by the employer. That might or might not allow room for something creative, depending on format, files type, etc. It's possible you could develop a creative-format resume to show and/or send employers, but you might also need a more traditional format to meet employer requirements, such as for their Applicant Tracking System.
  • Examples of creative resumes:
    Weare.guru: examples of creative resumes.
    Not for copying. Be original.
    Remember if you pay someone to do this for you, that says nothing about your creativity.
    And remember not all employers want to see/receive these.

Should you create a video resume?

This topic rears its head over the years; like 2006 and 2021.

There are problems with the concept, including: quality; the need for employers to be consistent in how they consider applicants; videos can be time-consuming to view; potential for allegations of bias; and sometimes the job-seeker looks foolish.

Even if you create one, and do it well, it's not really a resume, and it doesn't replace the resume. It's more like a pitch or an intro. And it won't meet the needs of employers' Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

And a video resume is not the same as a video work sample that you might include in a portfolio if you were applying for a video production or broadcasting job.

If someone says to create a video resume, look at why: often they are trying to sell you something.

More about video resumes:

Names are fictional. Each sample is one page unless otherwise noted.
Each sample is a docx; you can download these and use the formats to draft your own resume content, if you find formats or layouts useful to you.
Again, we caution you not to look at just one sample and copy it! You are unique and your resume will not look exactly like anyone else's. You might combine components of different samples. The samples are to show you some variety and give you ideas.

  1. Resume samples for applying for federal internships and jobs are in federal internship and job search
  2. Silva
    Undergraduate first-year or second-year student working toward B.S.
    Seeking experience (co-op).
    Is earning and financing 50% of college education expenses.
    Doesn't yet have career-related experience; has/had jobs to earn money for college.
    Because early in college, some high school activities are included.
  3. Gimble
    Student working toward a B.A.
    Seeking an internship or summer job.
    Has experience, volunteer work and student leadership related to career field of interest; these are detailed.
    "Other" experience section; one line per job; detail is not needed.
  4. McWellen
    Working toward B.S. with sciene major and minor.
    Extensive list of coursework and lab skills to show specialty and focus (not basic courses taken by anyone in the same major)
    Multiple research experiences.
  5. Pasha
    B.A. English major, Spanish minor, with computer science coursework.
    Objective blends writing and computer skills.
    Skills and experience show both writing and computer.
    Language skills.
    Seeking internship.
    Relevant campus job and student media experience.
  6. Billings
    B.S. student seeking post-grad job.
    International coursework, study abroad, and other international experience related to career goals.
    Language skills.
  7. Matthews
    Bachelor's degree; seeking job at graduation.
    Study abroad in education section.
    Design skills section. Portfolio link.
    Palatino Linotype 10 font.
  8. Neilson
    Bachelor's degree, seeking job at graduation.
    Completing degree in August (indicate your real completion month/year, not when you "walk")
    Goes by middle-name/nickname; shown in heading.
    Course project detailed.
    GPA shown to 100th decimal place because close to next 10th decimal place; rounding up would be inaccurate and could appear dishonest.
    Traditional font choice: Times New Roman 11.
  9. Barbour
    Bachelor's degree, double major and minor.
    Study abroad and Washington Semester in education section.
    Language skills related to objective.
    "Related" and "other" experience.
    Details on colleges activity involving organizational skills.
    Book Antiqua 10 font.
  10. Constantine
    Earning two bachelor's degrees (distinct from double major)
    University Registrar FAQs: What is the difference between and double major and a second degree?
    Details on student leadership role.
    Calibri 11 font.
  11. Sorvino
    B.S. degree being completed, seeking job at graduation.
    Related and other experience categories.
    Selective bolding helps key items stand out.
    Tahoma 10 font.
  12. Kelly
    Skills resume. Summarizes skills from a variety of sources: work, class projects, student activities. Seek advice if you take this approach; some employers do not favor skills resumes; but these can be effective tools for some job seekers.
    Garamond 11.5 font.
  13. Alvarez
    M.S. in progress. Seeking position at completion.
    B.S. completed.
    Both degrees from Virginia Tech.
    Related and "other" experience separate sections. Details on related experience; no details needed for other experience.
    Verdana 9.5 font.
  14. Benjamin
    Ph.D. candidate
    Curriculum vitae; multiple pages expected.