Resume Format Guidelines

The most acceptable and readily used resume format for college students is the one-page reverse chronological resume in which one’s most recent experience is first. The goal is to create a well-organized and professional resume that best highlights your experiences, strengths, and skills, tailored to the position you are applying for. How you choose to construct your resume in terms of style is up to you. For example, placing dates on the left or right, or whether your contact information should be centered or on the left-hand side is your choice. Remember that formatting consistency throughout your resume is critical. Always check spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Employers prefer resume formats that are minimal and easy to read.

  • Your resume, CV, or cover letter may be screened with an Applicant Tracking System software (ATS) by HR professionals. These systems manage high volumes of job applications. For recruiters, it streamlines the recruiting/hiring process and helps to identify quality applicants. ATS will electronically scan your Resume or CV, score your qualifications based on the description for that position, and rank your application. Be sure to use key words from the job description and industry terms in your resume to highlight your experiences.
  • ATS does not recognize the following format types: columns, graphic resumes, photos, or fancy fonts. It is recommended that you use a MS Word document or PDF (converted from Word) instead of any other software.
  • In the U.S., one-page resumes are standard practice. A two-page resume is acceptable for 10+ years of work experience. Sections typically include education, work experience, involvement/leadership experience, and skills. A curriculum vitae (CV) refers to a summary of qualifications and education. It is usually more than one page and is used when applying to academic/faculty or research-related positions. A CV can additionally include research, teaching, and presentation experience.
  • Personal information such as birthdate is omitted to protect candidates from age discrimination as prohibited by Federal laws. Minimize the use of personal information including birthdate, picture, height, and country of origin.
  • Omit pronouns and instead focus on using action-oriented verbs to describe your experiences.
  • When describing your experiences, think in terms of accomplishments instead of duties. Quantify in data and numbers, when appropriate.
  • Share only relevant information. You do not need to list every experience you have had if not directly relevant to the position you are applying for.
  • Times New Roman or Arial, 11-12 point font (headings can be larger), and 1 inch margins are recommended. You do not want a resume that looks cluttered or is difficult to read.
  • For more formatting information and our resume checklist view our Effective Resumes, CVs, Cover Letters and LinkedIn Profiles Guide.

Looking for 24/7 Resume or CV Assistance?

  • Want to know if your Resume or CV has the critical components for employers?
  • Wondering how your resume might compete with other resumes in the industry?

Receive tailored constructive feedback on your resume through the USC VMock website, under Smart Resume. Log in with your ten-digit USC Student ID, select the potential industry you might be interested in, upload your resume, and receive customized feedback per your industry of choice within seconds. Smart Resume is a very specialized resource tailored for USC students that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to support students in a 24/7 customized manner.