What is the best resume format? | Coursera Community

What is the best resume format?

  • 6 January 2021
  • 3 replies

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This week, we asked our learners on Twitter to vote for a question they would like to have answered by our Career Coaching team. They chose What is the best resume format? Read our answer below!

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The role of your resume is to effectively describe you to a potential employer in a relevant way. Your resume needs to include the information the employer expects to see, highlight your most valuable selling points, and be easy to read for a human being and an applicant tracking system (ATS).

What the employer expects to see. Any resume should include the following sections: contact information, summary statement, skills, professional experience (described in reverse chronological order), and education.

Highlight the most important information about your candidacy. In addition to the primary sections mentioned above, you can include your projects, volunteer work, certifications, publications, professional development, and other relevant information. Just remember that more is not better and you should only include information that will be relevant to the employer. Placing the most important sections towards the top of your resume will help highlight them. For example, most resumes list education at the bottom but recent graduates should highlight that section by placing it at the top.

Easy-to-read format. In order to ensure that any applicant tracking system can properly parse your resume, it is best to keep to simple text and avoid images, tables, infographics, and other decorative elements. Exporting your resume as a .PDF or Microsoft Word document should ensure any system can process your document. 

Remember that a recruiter might spend just a few seconds looking at your resume before making a decision. To help them gather all the relevant info in that short time, keep your resume to a single page (exception: you can have up to two pages if you have over 10 years of relevant work experience). Clearly label sections, use the same professional font across the document, leave at least 1-inch margins, and space out your paragraph to ensure ease of reading.

Learn more about writing an effective resume in this Coursera Resume Guide.


The main reason you need a resume is to get the potential employer interested in your candidacy in 20 seconds or less. As a person who has been a hiring manager and participated in screening candidates for other hiring managers, I can tell you that only about 10% of applicants get a follow up in the best case. So when you start working on your resume - keep in mind that you have to capture your potential employer’s attention immediately in your opening summary.

Here are few tips to get you going, but if you’d like a more in-depth session with me - please ping me separately and we can talk about an upgrade package.

  • Instead of having an objective, write a brief summary of why you are a dream candidate - summarize your accomplishments, career highlights, and certifications in one short paragraph 

  • Update your resume with the latest experience and education, making it full of keywords that your dream job would have in the description.

  • In every line or bullet point try to include what you did, how you did it, and what result you achieved. For example, instead of saying “implemented lead nurture program”, you could say “Developed and implemented lead nurture engagement program in Marketo that reached 857K leads and resulted in $1.2M in sales pipeline.

  • Don’t forget to include a summary of your publications and professional certifications if you have any. 

  • I also like to list the names and titles of my references at the bottom with “Contact information available upon request”

And here is an article with more resume writing recommendations: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/dream-job-refresh-your-resume-2059431


Agree with above points. Based on the hiring manager experience for IT jobs, my two cents:

1.  2 pages max for the resume

2. Amount of details for positions older than five years should decrease drastically comparing to more recent ones.

3. Avoid words like “participated in” and  “was part of the team”, unless it follows with details of what exactly your part was.

4. Keywords matter, first two people to look are likely going to be reading across scanning for things they need.