How to Write and Organize a Professional Resume in 2018

Is it time to update your resume to a more modern format? If so, here are some valuable tips to help you with the process. A resume has 5 important sections: the heading, summary, job details, education, and skills. The cover page and reference page are also important additions, but not necessarily part of the resume.


basic info

What to include in your heading:

  • Name - You should put your name at the top of the page or in a header. Including your middle name or initial is optional. Be certain to add your maiden name if it will be needed by some of your references to track your work history with them.
  • Address – Both your street address and the city/state are optional. Include these details if you wish as it is common practice.
  • Phone numbers – If you want someone to be able to connect with you by phone, do not fail to include the most relevant number(s) to call, in order of preference.
  • Email address – If you are okay with someone contacting you by email for brief pre-screening questions or for scheduling purposes, include a hyperlink for this.
  • LinkedIn – If you would like the potential employer to review your site, create a hyperlink for this as well. However, if your LinkedIn page is unimpressive or does not contain pertinent information to the job, do not include the link.
  • Facebook – Do not include a link to your Facebook page, but in today’s world, know that employers often do look at social media pictures and posts. It is highly encouraged that before you begin your job hunt, you should remove any inappropriate images and posts (including comments to other people's posts) which might deter someone from considering you as a candidate for the job you are pursuing.
  • Twitter – Include a link to your account only if it is relevant to the job for which you are applying.


Leave off the objective and include a summary instead. Either a "Summary of Qualifications" or "Competencies" label can be used for this section. The summary should not list every noble character trait you think you possess nor should it be a 2-page long list of skills and abilities. I’ve seen both, and neither are remotely impressive. Rather, the summary should be a brief but strong statement (or list) which will give your potential employer a quick overview of your skills, qualifications and job experience. Focus on relevant skills, achievements, character traits and career goals which are relevant to the job for which you are applying. This means that your summary may require subtle changes depending on each new job opportunity and its specific qualifications.

What you should include in your opening resume summary:

professional competency words
  • Words depicting the type of worker you are: Use descriptors such as motivated, highly professional, entry-level, or experienced, and include a job title when possible
  • What you have done - Include a few impressive achievements, general or specific in nature; make them relevant to the job for which you are applying if possible; can be accomplishments from school if you are a recent graduate or from past jobs
  • More of what you are and what type of job you are seeking - As applicable, utilize words like hard-working, creative, conscientious, loyal, knowledgeable, skilled, cutting edge, team player, focused, service-minded, detail-oriented, energetic, dynamic, organized, excellent communicator, etc. Do not exaggerate or lie. Be proud of who you are and of the strengths you will naturally bring to table if hired.

Start each phrase or sentence with a strong past-tense action verb. Select a few aptly-chosen words which many others would also use to describe you – those natural traits which make you unique. If you are entry-level but have a degree, focus on that, and include transferable and meaningful skills which you have learned in school or by doing other jobs.

With each job that you apply for, it is important to edit the type of job you are seeking so that the title or type of job matches the job that is available. Additionally, if you can edit your resume skills so that they honestly but effectively mirror the language used in the company's job description, it may be to your benefit as long as the mimicking is subtle. Generally, recruiters only look at a resume for about 6 seconds before deciding to read further or move on, so making these minor changes in your resume can make a difference!


resume format
  • Resume format – The format and style of the resume is up to you, but be certain that the font is highly legible and that the information is in easy-to-follow chronological order. More than likely, you will email your resume as an attachment. Some businesses prefer to receive these in MS Word format, and others are fine with a pdf version of the resume. Why not include both? 
  • Hyperlinks - Hyperlinks to your email address and to your references or work samples (blogs, designs, etc.) should be established to make things as simple as possible for the one screening your resume or attempting to contact you.
  • Overall Resume Presentation - You can make your resume visually engaging by adding an appropriate image (or two - but not your own picture), creating a unique design, or using a little color, but keep it to one page when possible. References should be included on a separate page. Do not include a cover page unless the information it contains is 100% relevant to the job for which you are applying.
  • Education - Recent college graduates should acknowledge their degree at the top of the resume below the summary. However, for all others, include your education towards the end of the resume unless the degree is emphasized in the job description. College GPA, foreign language studies, and awards should not be included unless they are directly related to the job itself. Dates of attendance or graduation are not needed, but make it clear if you did or did not graduate or receive a certificate. It is acceptable to convey that you are a current student or a recent graduate of a particular institution; however, do not ever say an educational pursuit is current when it is not. Keep your resume updated in this respect.
college graduate with diploma

Relevance of education refers to having taken classes appropriate to the job you are seeking, so stating that you are a college junior working on your accounting degree would be highly important. Having taken Accounting I and II, even from a community college, would also be very important to someone hiring for an accounting position, so always include important details like these when it could make a difference whether you get a call back or not!

Finally, also be sure to include information about your GED or high school diploma. Again, no dates required.


  • The Basics: Include dates of employment, company name (add city and state only if not local), job title, and job responsibilities (can be worded as accomplishments or managed tasks, as appropriate). Some people like to provide a short descriptive phrase of the company, especially if it is not well-known, but doing this for well-known employers like Wal-Mart or Fed Ex would be unnecessary.


  • The Job Descriptions: Knowing that you have a lot of competition and that hiring managers often make “yes, no, maybe” stacks of resumes after reviewing them for a mere 6-10 seconds, you should put forth every effort to make each section and word on your resume impressive, professional and true. Your detailed descriptions should reflect your knowledge of the business yet not be overly detailed or vague. Do not add “and other responsibilities as directed” to your descriptions unless it was a major part of your job.
man with special achievement trophy
  • Special Achievements: This section is optional and should list the most relevant accomplishments specific to the job you are pursuing. Examples might be overseeing a 12% increase in production or negotiating a 7% decrease in costs, creating new guidebooks or procedures, or exceeding specific company objectives, receiving awards or specialty training, etc. Other achievements might read like this: processed over 500 invoices weekly or created advanced Excel spreadsheets for our sales staff while meeting multiple deadlines.
  • Quantity of Jobs to Include: This is a tough one to address. See below for a good option in how to label multiple temp or retail jobs. Otherwise, keep your jobs limited to the last 10 years. If you insist on going beyond a decade, add the job under “Other Relevant Employment", but only include the dates, company name and job title – preferably no job descriptions. There is no need to list every single position you've held or each task you've performed beyond the 10-year cut-off - only those that are absolutely relevant to a potential employer. Going overboard in listing past job experiences on a resume is not to your advantage, but referring to these past learning experiences during an interview, if and when relevant, may be to your great advantage. Experience matters.


  • Dealing with Job Type Transitions: If your resume is all about accounting, but you now seek only administrative work, that needs to be strongly stated in your summary and backed up by listing the appropriate skills in the SKILLS section of your resume.


Below is one of the most impressive ways I’ve seen someone combine their retail skills together to document them on a resume:

Customer Service and Retail Experience – 2009 to 2017

retail cashier.png

Kirkland’s, Bath and Body, McAlister’s, Shoe Carnival, and Dillard’s

  • Provided excellent customer service and increased interpersonal skills
  • Worked closely with coworkers in a fast-paced environment
  • Utilized exemplary sales techniques
  • Gained cash handling experience up to $1500

You can also use this method when listing temporary jobs that you have held in the past.


Whatever you choose to list in this section does not need to be listed elsewhere on the resume. Hiring managers do not wish to read the same thing repeatedly.

Use bullets to list your skills, but do not bother providing detailed information regarding customized software or hardware that most people haven't heard of before - unless you know your experience to be an especially sought-after technical skill. Also try to label your computer software skill level(s) as beginner, intermediate or advanced.

A sample skill list might include the following:

  • MS Office: Word (interm), Excel (adv – including pivot tables and Vlookup), Access (beg), PowerPoint (adv), Publisher (interm) and Outlook (interm)
  • 10,000 kph
  • 65 wpm
  • CorelDRAW 2017 (beg)
  • Accounting software: QuickBooks Pro and Peachtree (adv)

Organizing and writing a professional resume is challenging work as there are numerous details to select, edit and incorporate into a one-page, well-worded document that won’t get relegated to the maybe or no stacks of the hiring managers with whom you are seeking to interview. But a good effort on your part and the editing abilities of a few good friends who have a professional eye for content, details, grammar, and spelling will be worth it all when you land a permanent job.

What follows are a few details about the cover letter and reference page. To view a sample resume, simply scroll to the bottom of this article. 



I love a good cover letter but hate wasting paper to print it once I realize it contains no truly valuable information.

Here are a few tips to remember when working on your cover letter:

cover letter writer

1. Put a date on it.

2. Include the title of each job for which you would like to be considered. Companies often have more than one position open. Simplify the hiring manager’s job by stating your exact interest.

3. Briefly convey your current job situation: in school and needing part-time work, one of unemployment, working but needing more of a challenge, money-motivated and looking for a more financially rewarding position, wanting a permanent job rather than a temporary one, or it may be due to a move or recent transfer, etc. Be careful how you word this part of the letter, but give an idea of what is important to you. Know that what you write may remove you as a candidate or cause the hiring manager to give you an immediate call. It could go either way, but it’s all a part of the screening process.

4. Make a professional closing statement that offers both your email address and your primary contact number.

5. Unless there is something else of primary importance to share, do not go over 4 or 5 sentences. Briefly state whatever is not on your resume that could help you get an interview or at least consideration for a future opportunity with the company. If your presentation is solid and impressive, the latter does occasionally happen.



The reference page is not part of your resume and should be kept separate. However, it should be included every time you submit a resume. It shows professionalism and automatically makes you a maybe – in my book, anyway. The inclusion of references shows initiative and conveys the assumption that you were well-liked by your former associates. Here are a few tips to consider:

1. Keep it to one page.

2. List the references in order of preference.

3. Include work references rather than personal references OR at least separate them. You need a minimum of 3 work references, yet more is acceptable. These should primarily consist of managers and immediate supervisors although other associates and co-workers may be able to at least confirm your employment with the company if former managers have moved on.

4. Give the best-known and most accurate contact information for each reference – be it email, cell phone or company number and extension. Check the numbers and addresses for accuracy before sending them to a potential employer. This is your job - not the employer’s.

5 thumbs up

5. If you have difficulty with the references, remember this for future efforts. Build good relationships at work and connect with your co-workers and supervisors on LinkedIn. This is a great way to keep track of folks.

6. Think references are not a big deal? Then think again. I’ve seen people lose out on good paying jobs simply because they could not provide 3 good references. So, obtain good contact info from supervisors, co-workers and the HR Department (ask for names and direct numbers) when you leave a company and find a way to stay in touch with your references as the years go by. You want them to give you a solid thumb's up reference when they receive a call from a potential employer.

For additional insight regarding your references, check out this recent blog post from Brannon Professionals.


Beyond these resume, cover page, and reference tips, if BRANNON PROFESSIONALS can be of service to you during your job search, please check out our website for a list of jobs that are currently available or email us your resume at your convenience.



Lisa Y. Burlissen

4248 Xcaret Drive - Memphis, TN 38103

Preferred contact number/Secondary contact number

Email hyperlink - LinkedIn hyperlink


Recent college graduate seeks entry-level staff accountant position. Interned with both FedEx and Still & Jernigan for approximately 3 months each. Motivated, hard-working, skilled and conscientious team player hopes for a career opportunity with a Memphis firm.


University of Mississippi, B.S. in Accounting, Graduated cum laude

UM Activities: Fraternity Treasurer, MAPA member since 2015


Summer 2017           FedEx – Accounts Payable Clerk

  • Responsible for processing 80+ invoices daily

Summer 2016           Still & Jernigan – Bookkeeper

  • Maintained accounts for several small and medium-sized companies
  • Paid bills
  • Managed bank reconciliations

2011-2015                 McAlister’s and Dillard’s - Retail Experience

  • Provided excellent customer service and increased interpersonal skills
  • Worked closely with coworkers in a fast-paced environment
  • Utilized exemplary sales techniques
  • Gained cash handling experience up to $1500


  • MS Office: Word (interm), Excel (adv – including pivot tables and Vlookup), Access (beg), PowerPoint (adv), Publisher (interm) and Outlook (interm)
  • 10,000 kph
  • 45 wpm
  • Accounting software: QuickBooks Pro, SAP and Peachtree