No one could ever use the word ‘boring’ to describe our explanation for the oh-so-important resume law of sections!
Importance of Organization
Imagine that you walk into a large store to buy milk. You know that milk is usually kept at the back of grocery stores, so that’s where you start walking to. As you trot towards your destination, you notice something odd about this particular store; there are no isles. Large piles of merchandise containing Nerf guns, eggs, orange juice, and sweatshirts lie strewn at your feet.
When you arrive at the back of the store, all you find are more piles.
Partially out of disgust and partially out of frustration, you walk out of the store having purchased nothing despite the many piles of merchandise waiting to be acquired.
Resumes are no different than supermarkets when it comes to organization. Important items that are disorganized in a resume will only be found by accident. Even if those items are found, the reader may throw away the resume anyway; partially out of disgust and partially out of frustration.
To follow the proving value principle, resumes must be organized into sections.
Law of Sections
Resumes should contain sections, items, and components to present well-organized statements of value. (Please understand that not every item will have components. If I wanted to purchase a nerf ball, I wouldn’t count each molecule of foam as a component.)
To go back to the grocery store example: the isle is the section, the carton of eggs is the item, and all the eggs within the carton are components.
Look at this resume:
It contains four sections: Summary, Relevant Skills & Qualifications, Experience, and Education.
Within these sections are items and components.
In the Summary Section, we have a paragraph (item) summarizing Sean’s body of work with logically persuading sentences (components).
In the Relevant Skills & Qualifications section, we have different skill and qualification bullet points that serve as items.
In the Experience Section, there are different jobs that Sean has had (items). Within each item, there are logically persuasive bullet points (components).
In the Education Section, there’s a school listed (item) with a bullet point underneath it (component).
Organization within Sections
Items within Experience and Education sections should appear in reverse chronological order. This makes it easy for the reader to track the writer’s career progress from his most recent job to his least recent job.
Although this is standard resume practice, I believe that reverse chronological order may become less important in the future as innovation pushes forward, but for now, it provides expected organization and structure to the resume.
In some situations, professionals have done jobs in the past that are more relevant to the position they are currently applying to than the job they have done most recently. Please see my article about the best things first resume principle to learn how to deal creatively with reverse chronological order.