Answered by Bryan, Hiring Expert at IBM Corporation, on Wednesday, April 1, 2015
A candidate seeking to create a resume (or have it revised) is likely to get as many opinions as the number of people that they ask. There is not a “best way” to format a resume; what matters most is that the one submitting a resume feels comfortable with the document they are submitting as the best representation of their background and skills to the marketplace. There are some common socially accepted features in resumes today, and a general rule candidates should follow is to always highlight the most important characteristics about their background and work down the page in order of significance. Hiring managers and recruiters spend very little time skimming through numerous resumes, and it is important to have the most important information in a prominent position on the page couched in adequate “white space”. As a college student, there are staple sections potential employers are looking for - education, work experience, and special skills are very common. Leadership, in the form of “volunteer activities” and or “student organizational involvement”, is often an omitted or underrepresented section of a resume by many and can help supplement the lack of substantial or practical work experience. In the event student organization leadership or operational activities has practical relevance to ones’ desired career path, it should be expounded upon in similar fashion to work history. A more professional candidate with more work experience would put that section ahead of education the further removed they are from their last obtained degree.
To show the details of a candidates’ work history, a common practice to follow is to succinctly outline situations that arose while they held a position, tasks the individual was charged to complete, actions they took to complete the task/resolve a situation, and the resulting outcome of those actions. By staying consistent and focusing on the situation, task, action, and result (using a format aptly named the STAR method), it allows employers to employ behavioral screening techniques to ones’ background and help them stand out from the field. Finally, to help maintain consistency with formatting, the most common way to outline any section of a resume is keeping the information in reverse chronological order. This technique keeps current experience in a primary position regardless of what section so a potential employer can easily discern your current (or most recent) degree/aspect of work history/leadership position held/ obtained skill quickly and help them gauge where your career may be trending. This is especially helpful for individuals pursuing advanced degrees or shifting career paths (or industries) as it helps to show a clean break from dated and potentially impractical information.