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The Top-to-Bottom Resume Guide for Chronological Resumes

There are countless resume styles and designs, but our experience shows that a simple, straightforward resume works every time. Perfection is the name of the game, so be sure to follow these step-by-step guidelines:

Objective or Professional Summary

One of the problems with some resumes is the absence of a clear objective. Way too many otherwise smart people plug in the old stand-by: “Seeking a position with a multi-faceted company that will put my talents to good use while enhancing my skills.” Huh? That’s a bunch of nonsense that does not impress recruiters. Use this valuable space to convey your key capabilities and how you’re ideally looking to apply them.

Narrow it Down

The recruiter wants an idea of what you want to do; be specific and indicate what you’re seeking. Don’t be scared of being pigeonholed into a dead-end job. You can target the industry, the specific job title, or both.

Bad Example: ” A position in a corporation solving complex tasks.”

Good Example: ” A position in accounting.”

Great Example: ” A position in accounting focusing on internal audit.”

A Very Specific Example: ” A position in accounting focusing on internal audit in the entertainment industry.”

Bad Example: “A position in a non-profit that helps children.”

Good Example: “A marketing role in a child-focused non-profit organization.”

Great Example: “A strategic marketing role in a child welfare agency.”

A Very Specific Example: “A strategic marketing role in a government-funded child welfare agency.”

Don’t be Obvious

If you’re applying for an advertised position, don’t make it obvious that you changed your objective just for that job. Don’t include company names of the exact job title.

Wrong Objective: “A position as Master of Creativity at CompuMedia Design.”

Right Objective: “A position as website designer in a media design firm.”

Why Bother at All?

The main point to an objective is to show your future employer that you know where your career is headed (at least for now). Recruiters will rarely help a wishy-washy candidate make career decisions at an interview. Furthermore, if your experience or education aren’t ideal matches for the position, an objective can help reassure the recruiter you did indeed mean to apply for that job.

Changing Objectives

It is okay – in fact, encouraged – to have different objectives and even different resumes depending on the job for which you are applying. It’s very common – even expected and encouraged – to promote different skills to different companies depending on the positions for which you’re applying. That’s how smart people operate. Remember, this is a sales pitch and you want to offer the right product to each potential buyer.

An alternative to specifying an objective is to provide a summary of your professional accomplishments This is especially effective if you have depth of knowledge in one or two key skills within an industry. It’s also a good format to provide when networking. However, you don’t want to be limited by a too narrowly focused objective statement.


This section is at the top of your resume if you’re a student or recent graduate. If you have more than a year of work experience since graduating, move your education at he end of your resume. List your most recent degree(s) first. Leave off the date of graduation if you have concerns about revealing your age. List honors, exceptional course work, majors, minors – anything that enables you to demonstrate your acquired knowledge. If you’re in college or have earned a degree, eliminate references to high school. List the dates and relevant coursework if you have attended college, but have not graduated.


You don’t have to list every single responsibility you’ve ever had. Emphasize the most recent and most relevant. Describe your responsibilities with action verbs. For instance, rather than saying you were “responsible for in-store promotions,” tell employers that you “planned, executed, and managed in-store promotions.” Always keep it to the point. Pare it down by asking yourself, “Will this statement help me get the job?” If the answer is “no,” ditch it. And use the present tense for your current job, past tense for all previous employment.

Turn Responsibilities into Accomplishments

Too often resumes read like a rehash of a job description instead of a celebration of successes. Include the results that you achieved, not just the work you handled. “Pitched media stories generating 100 news articles per month” is much better than “Wrote and distributed press releases.”

Be direct and concise. “Supervised staff of five” is better than “was responsible for supervision of five staff members.”

Demonstrate how you have found solutions to organizational challenges. Think of your accomplishments in terms of the problem faced, the action you took and the results you achieved. Recruiters like to see the progression from Problem to Action to Results.

Quantify whenever possible. “Increased sales by 12 percent,” “Generated 1 million dollars of new business,” or “Repeatedly exceeded monthly quotas.” Numbers are impressive, but be sure your references will confirm the figures if asked.

Research job listings to see what skills are asked for. Match your vocabulary to the employers’. Use buzzwords specific to an industry. This is especially important when resumes are submitted online as many recruiters search resumes by keyword. If your resume mentions “Internship at ABC, freelance production work for HBO and various commercials for key cable clients” but never mentions simple words like “television” or “broadcasting,” your resume may never appear in an online search performed by a busy TV station’s HR manager.

In temp situations, list the name of the company where you worked, not the temp agency, although be sure to specify that your position was in fact a temporary assignment. One note of caution: when completing employment applications, include the name of the temp agency as well. Do not imply that you were on staff directly at the company.

Keywords include industries, companies, products, software programs that prove how qualified you are for a particular position. You must let employers know you possess the right stuff, which often includes very specific, name-brand knowledge or qualifications such as SQL, JAVA, or Series 7.

Tailor each resume to the particular job you’re after by including keywords directly from the job description. This gives you a better chance of being an ideal match.

Use brand names wherever possible. Perhaps you worked for a small, relatively unknown public relations agency, but worked on major accounts. List the big clients or products you were involved with.

Give a one-sentence description of any company or organization where you have worked, unless they were major corporations. Do not assume that anyone knows what Purple People, Inc. actually is.

Extra activities and associations are especially key to the resumes of career changers. If you are switching into IT sales after 10 years in pharmaceutical sales, you?ll need to demonstrate your seriousness about the IT industry. Listing an IT industry association affiliation or adult education certification in that field proves you are serious about the change. Remember to include any activities or honors that show your affiliation with your industry.

Read our guide on functional resume here.