Career blog

Professional Resume: Writing Guide, Layouts & Examples

3 minute read | Sep 13, 2023 | By: Maria Correa, Professional Resume Writer

Think of a professional resume as your ticket to job success. Prospective employers are looking for candidates with the right set of skills and experience, so it’s crucial that you put together a resume that grabs their attention and accurately portrays your best abilities. We’ll help you put your best foot forward with our professional resume layouts, as well as tips on how to create and format a resume that shows off your top attributes. Follow the advice on this page and you’ll have a polished, effective resume in no time.

Professional resume template

Creating a resume is easy when you choose a professional template. Our pre-designed resume templates have been created by experts who understand industry standards and the importance of having a layout that’s ATS-friendly. Get started on your resume by choosing your favorite template and editing it in our Resume Builder.

What do you write in a professional resume?

A resume is the first thing recruiters and hiring managers will see when you apply for a job, which means it’s essential you communicate the skills and qualifications you have that show you’re the right fit for the job you’ve applied for. Highlight important abilities, work achievements and any other relevant qualifications that match what the job posting is looking for.

Professional resumes should start with your contact information. Make sure the phone number and email address you include are correct — and professional (no silly email addresses here). Under the header, you’ll write a resume summary or resume objective, list your skills, detail your work experience and include details on your educational background. For an in-depth look at each section of your resume, visit our page How to Make a Resume.

You should also look up key qualifications and skills the job description lists, and use them as a guide for what to feature in your resume. These keywords and key phrases will help your resume pass applicant tracking systems and make it to the prospective employer’s desk.

What are the three types of professional resumes?

Now that we’ve told you what goes into a resume, let’s take a look at how it’s presented. Professional resumes will follow one of the three resume formats. These formats will determine how the sections in your resume are organized and how much information will be included. These formats aren’t interchangeable, so it’s important to choose the format that will best suit your professional needs.

Chronological resume format

The chronological resume format is most commonly used by job seekers with a decent amount of experience. This format places work experience front and center, so you should ask yourself whether you have enough professional background to properly fill a chronological resume.

Typically, traditional resumes that use the chronological format will have the following sections:

  1. Header with contact information
  2. Professional resume summary
  3. Work history
  4. Skills
  5. Education
  6. Additional sections for certifications or relevant training

Functional resume format

On the other end of the format spectrum is the functional resume. This format is ideal for job seekers creating a resume with no experience, high school resumes, people with large employment gaps and candidates who are changing careers.

Unlike the chronological format, the functional resume doesn’t focus on work history. Instead, it features several skills sections where you can highlight your knowledge and range of hard skills and soft skills, so you can convince hiring managers that you have what it takes to grow in their team.

A professional resume following the functional structure usually has these sections:

  1. Header with contact information
  2. Resume objective
  3. Summary of qualifications
  4. Relevant skills
  5. Professional skills
  6. Education with relevant coursework or training
  7. Work experience

Combination resume format

What about if you want to split your resume focus between experience and skills? That’s where the combination resume, also known as the hybrid resume, comes in. As the name implies, this format is a combination of the chronological and functional formats, giving equal emphasis to your work experience and skills. It’s ideal for job seekers with three to eight years of experience, as well as career changers with relevant professional experience and some transferable skills.

If you choose to write a professional combination resume, these are some of the sections you might have:

  1. Contact information
  2. Resume objective or summary
  3. Relevant skills
  4. Summary of qualifications
  5. Work experience
  6. Education

5 professional resume writing tips

The following tips are designed to give you an idea of how to start writing your resume. If you want more detailed advice and additional examples, check our article on How to Make a Resume.

1. Use a template that provides a polished layout.

Our resume designs help you avoid formatting guesswork, so you can focus on putting together your qualifications. At ResumeHelp, we have dozens of layouts appropriate for different industries. You can choose a modern resume template, a creative template, a simple template or dive into our free resume templates to find the one that best fits your needs.

2. Write an impactful resume summary.

Think of a professional summary for a resume as an elevator pitch where you summarize your top skills and relevant experience for hiring managers. In two to three sentences, you need to convince hiring managers to read through the rest of your resume, so focus on your most important skills and work experiences.

For example, take a look at this resume summary for an administrative assistant. Note that this candidate emphasizes her years of experience, the tasks she excels at, and important soft skills (i.e., “detail-oriented”):

Detail-oriented administrative assistant with six years of experience. Skilled at handling multiple tasks at the same time, keeping routine needs and making necessary arrangements. Expert-level Microsoft proficiency, developing and maintaining filing systems, and complex scheduling.

3. Tailor your resume to the job you want.

Every job is different, so even if you’re a graphic designer looking for a job in an advertising agency, you will come across job openings that require different skills and experience. Read the job description thoroughly and customize your professional resume with keywords and key phrases to match what the employer wants. For more on this topic, check out our page Tailoring Your Resume for Your Job Search.

4. Balance your skills.

Every resume should list at least 8-10 hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are abilities that are job-specific and learned through training (e.g. knowing how to use Photoshop, data analysis, bookkeeping). Soft skills are intangible traits that can be applied to any job (e.g. communication skills, time management, multitasking).

Include both types of skills in your skills section and show hiring managers that you are a well-balanced professional. For example:

  • Organizational skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Microsoft Word and Excel
  • Time management
  • Collaboration
  • QuickBooks
  • Oracle NetSuite
  • Attention to detail

5. Focus on work accomplishments.

You might be tempted to talk about your daily responsibilities in the work history section but we highly recommend focusing instead on accomplishments. Were you assigned a big project that resulted in an increase in revenue? Did you provide customer service to more clients than your coworkers? Did you organize yourself to deliver assignments before the deadline? Think about professional achievements that may impress hiring managers and speak to your abilities as an employee.

For example, a cook might write:

  • Reinvented over 60 recipes, assembled, combined and cooked while maintaining a sanitary kitchen environment.
  • Reduced waste by 24% by properly operating mixers, slicers and food grinders.
  • Managed a team of seven line cooks and assistants.

Formatting tips for a professional resume

Ensure your resume looks professional by using the formatting tips below as a guideline.

Use the right font.

A job application isn’t the place to use fonts like Comic Sans or Papyrus. Stick to industry standards by using a professional font like Times New Roman, Helvetica or Arial. These fonts will not only enhance how your resume looks but will make it easier for applicant tracking systems (ATS) and employers to read your resume.

Keep the margins consistent.

Your professional resume should have 1-inch margins all around. You can take them down to half an inch if you need more space to include your information.

Title your headings correctly.

Avoid getting creative with how you title the section headings. Instead of writing “My Work Experience,” stick to the professional title, “Work History.” Likewise, instead of writing “My Skills,” leave it as “Skills” or “Relevant Skills.”

Don’t clutter your resume with graphics.

Including graphics in your resume might hinder your performance with ATS, so it’s best to avoid them. If you’re applying for creative fields that value out-of-the-box thinking and designs, try not to make it too big so it doesn’t occupy too much space.

Professional resumes by job title

Check our library with hundreds of resume examples to find inspiration to craft your professional resume. We have free resume samples for different industries and a wide range of job titles ready to guide you through your resume writing process.

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FAQ: Professional resume

Have questions? We’re here to help.

What are 5 things that should be included on a resume?

A strong professional resume should include the following sections:

  1. Header: In the header, write your name, phone number and professional email address. You can include your LinkedIn handle or a link to your portfolio if it applies.
  2. Resume summary or resume objective: This two-to-three-sentence paragraph is a brief introduction to your professional background. An effective resume summary will feature the notable skills and experience most relevant to the job you want.
  3. Work history: Write your work experience in reverse-chronological order. For each job title, include the company name, dates of employment and three to five bullet points that briefly explain a work accomplishment. Start each phrase with an action verb.
  4. Skills: List skills that relate to the job. Make sure it’s a well-balanced mixture of hard and soft skills.
  5. Education: Include your academic achievements. You don’t have to write your graduation date if you graduated more than 10 years ago.

What format should a professional resume be in?

The resume format you should use for your resume will depend on your years of experience. There are three standard resume formats: chronological, combination and functional. Each of them is targeted at different job seekers, so choose the one that works best for you:

  • The chronological format is ideal for people who have more than nine years of experience.
  • The functional format is best for candidates with little to no experience.
  • The combination resume works best for job seekers who have three to eight years of experience.

How much does it cost for a professional resume?

Professional resume writers have grown in popularity over the years. However, paying hundreds — at times thousands — of dollars for resume writing services might not be feasible for everyone. That’s why a professional resume builder is a great option for people who want help making a resume but don’t want to spend a lot of money.

As an alternative, consider our Resume Builder. You can edit your document with resume writing suggestions on how to fill each section and download a text version for free, with the option of downloading in other popular formats such as PDF and MS Word. You can build a resume online in just a few minutes, for a fraction of the cost for a professional resume service.

What is the best resume format for 2023?

The chronological resume is the most popular format but it might not work for everyone. If you don’t have a lot of experience, writing a chronological resume in a way that leaves no white space might seem like a daunting task, so we recommend checking out the other formats.

The functional format is a great option for people with little to no experience, as it features additional sections for your skills. You can write a resume that looks full and impresses potential employers with your abilities even if you lack experience.

The combination resume might be your best option if you have a few years of experience. It gives equal focus to the work experience and skills section, so you can feature a little bit of both without compromising space.

How long should a professional resume be?

A resume should typically be one-page long but if you’re a seasoned professional with a lot of experience, it’s OK to have a two-page resume. For more information, read our tips on resume length.

What is the best way to get a professional resume?

Our templates and professional Resume Builder offer an easy, fuss-free alternative to writing a professional resume from scratch. Our pre-formatted designs will help your resume make it past applicant tracking systems. Choose a free template, a modern template, a minimalistic template or a traditional template for your resume layout.

With our Resume Builder, you can make a resume in minutes by following our step-by-step instructions. We will give you advice on how to fill each section, provide expert phrases and give you a spell-checking tool to point out any typos.

Start by choosing a resume template and we’ll guide you through the rest of the process.

What is the best resume for someone with no experience?

You can write a professional resume with no experience by using the functional format. Also known as the skills-based resume, this format features additional sections where you can detail your skills and abilities. If you look at our functional examples, you’ll see that they have sections titled “Summary of Qualifications” or “Professional Skills” and provide detailed information on how these skills have been used in the past. Note also that a functional resume’s work experience section is more concise than the traditional resume and lists previous jobs and work experiences without getting into detail.

We also highly recommend redefining what “work experience” means to you. Maybe you haven’t worked a standard job but if you’ve taken part in extracurricular activities, like government club, where you learned important skills, or did volunteer work where you gained valuable experience and skills, they can mentioned in your resume, and applied to your dream job.

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