Rethinking the Default Resume Sections

PUBLISHED ON APR 13, 2022 : 715 words, 4 minute read — CAREER

A resume is supposed to showcase your skills, but in the default format, the most eye-catching information is the companies you worked for. Things you’ve done are clustered underneath each title, hoping to be viewed even for a moment by the busy person skimming it. If your goal is to showcase skills and experiences, rather than the pedigree of your past employers, the current format feels flawed —especially since company pedigree can get you 90% callbacks even with nonsense bullet points about STDs and coffee beans 🤮 . It’s time for an adjustment.

What’s wrong with the average resume

If you search for ‘resume’ or ‘resume examples’ and look at the results , you’ll start to notice a pattern emerging. There’s plenty of variation, but the average is roughly:


John Doe

Work Experience

  • Fancy Co, Aug 2013 - Sept 2025
    • my experience doing fancy things
    • increased fanciness by 400%
  • A Company, Aug 2009 - Sept 2012
    • leading a billion people with my skills
    • big time important work
    • increased fanciness by 150%
  • Previous, May 2001 - July 2009
    • Making it the best company ever
    • junior developer doing junior things

Education

  • College of the Impossible, 1990-2000

Skills/Highlights

  • SEO, Negotiation, Teamwork, Google Analytics

What is wrong with this format? First, the skills section is just terms relevant to the career, providing no actual information to the reader. Anyone can search around and find words to add to this section; it has no value. Some people get cute and add percentages or progress bars, but without a standard measure saying you are “65% - Google Analytics” means nothing.

The other problem is the emphasis on company name vs your experiences. Resumes are skimmed in just 7 seconds , and the human eye is drawn to the short, big, & bold company names, not your accomplishments. When reading articles online, are you drawn to the bold words and headings, or the paragraphs of text?

Improving the format

If a resume is really meant to show off your experience and not the pedigree of companies you’ve worked for, the standard format needs a change up. Here is one possible layout:


John Doe

Skills & Experience

  • Increase fanciness through leadership - at 2 companies, was able to make significant contributions to their fanciness by guiding high-performing teams, 150% and 400% respectively (A Company, Fancy Co)
  • Handle fast-paced work environment - shipped features every single day and had to keep up with tight client deadlines (Fancy Co)
  • Streamlined processes
    • Took an outdated client negotiation strategy, revamped it and saved hours along with increasing the percentage of potential clients converting to customers (Fancy Co)
    • Used knowledge of SEO & Google Analytics to create a process which saved hours each week at multiple employers (A Company, Previous)

Work Experience

  • Fancy Co, Aug 2013 - Sept 2025
  • A Company, Aug 2009 - Sept 2012
  • Previous, May 2001 - July 2009

Education

  • College of the Impossible, 1990-2000

The big change here is taking the Skills section, which previously offered little to no value, and combining it with the work experiences. Now when someone is skimming, instead of brushing off Skills as a cliché buzzword list, there is evidence to back them up. Soft skills such as ‘Leadership’ or ‘hard-working’ can be used without looking like a middle schooler. The best resumes tell a story , with this layout you can combine anecdotes from multiple experiences into a single narrative and tag the connected employers.

The Bad News

In full disclosure, I am not involved in HR or the hiring process at all, so it’s possible this is the worst idea ever. Most companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which parse your application, but deviating from the average format might screw the system up and cause your resume to get dropped. That said, shotgunning resumes to companies online has a terrible success rate compared to getting a referral. Making the ATS happy isn’t the outcome you want. I think of this as tailoring the resume for humans. The goal is not to appease robots to get through the front door, but to win over the person inside.


📢 If you’re involved in hiring I’d love to hear your thoughts - would this actually help qualified candidates stand out, or just more words you don’t have time to read?


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