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Section Headings

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Headings are one of the major design elements of a resume. How you choose to divide sections determines the readability of your resume. Graphic lines and/or white space help define groups of similar information and draw the reader's eyes down the page.

One of the keys to a readable resume is the judicious use of white space, and consistent spacing in critical. You will notice throughout the samples in this book that more white space is used between major sections than within sections. This breaks the resume into easily digested chunks of information. The white space between these sections should be identical throughout the resume. Likewise, the smaller white space within sections should be the same throughout.

There are two basic positions for your headings. One is centered with or without lines, and the other is left justified . Which style you choose depends on what you find pleasing to your eye. There is no right or wrong way. If you like the design, then it is a good fit with your personality. Some of your options include:

  • All caps
  • First letter larger
  • Upper/lower case
  • All lower case
  • Very large fonts

Since people read from the top to the bottom and from left to right, begin your resume with the most important information. Then work your way down to less important information. The top half of your resume's first page should be packed with your strongest qualifications.

So, which section goes first? Should it be education or experience? Start with the section that contains your strongest qualifications for your target job. If you have had little experience in your prospective field but have a degree that qualifies you for a starting position in the industry, then by all means list your education first. Most people eventually move their education below their experience as they get further from their school days. If you change your career and go back to school, then the education will move to the top again and begin to gravitate to the bottom as you gain relevant experience.

The same idea goes for information within each section. For instance, if you went to an Ivy League school, you can list the school before the degree. Look at the difference in emphasis between these two methods:

HARVARD, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Master of Business Administration

MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
Little Known College, Backwoods, Idaho

The same principle applies to your experience. If your job title is more impressive than where you worked, then list it first.

VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING
Little Known Company, Boulder, Colorado

IBM CORPORATION, Boulder, Colorado
Assistant Export Coordinator

Avoid the use of underlining since it cuts into the descenders in lower case letters. For example, notice the "p" in:

Assistant Export Coordinator

It is acceptable to use underlining when the letters are all capitalized since there are no descenders:

ASSISTANT EXPORT COORDINATOR

Italics, bold, ALL CAPITALS, FIRST LETTER LARGER, or any combination of the four are all good ways to make certain information stand out within the text. However, these styles can be overdone very easily. To make them more effective, use these type treatments sparingly.


From Designing the Perfect Resume, by Pat Criscito.
Copyright 2000.  Reprinted by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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