What is a Professional Résumé?

By Debra Wheatman

On April 18, 2013

In General

About executive resume, resume formatting


What is a professional résumé? There are several critical fundamentals to a professional résumé.  If a candidate misses the mark on any of the fundamentals, it can diminish the results of the candidate’s job search campaign. The fundamentals are résumé structure, content, effective language, sophisticated style, and accuracy. 

Résumé Structure

The backbone of your résumé includes the proper categories. This will vary from one candidate to another.  All résumés should begin with a profile that provides an overview of the value that a candidate offers. Other categories include:  Professional experience, core competencies, education, publications, board seats, technical skills, language skills, certifications, and professional affiliations.  Each candidate should examine his experience and skills to determine which categories are relevant.


The detail under each of the categories is the résumé content. Under professional experience, the smart candidate mentions major responsibilities and accomplishments. One should select skills and experience that relate to the current career goal. Outdated skills or immaterial details of experience should be omitted from a professional résumé.

Effective Language Choices

Powerful active language engages readers. Delete fluff, language that is not substantial or superficial.  Fluff distracts from the valuable content. Start each line in the professional experience section with an action verb.  Use variety in language. Go beyond the job description and share achievements with measured results. Brainstorm to uncover accomplishments that directly impacted the employer’s bottom line.

Sophisticated Style

A résumé that looks as though it was typed on an IBM Selectric (IBM typewriter circa 1961) is a no-go when it comes to interview requests. Reach new level of sophistication by using a San Serif font, such as Calibri or Verdana. Use larger fonts and a graphical break for the category headings.  Keep the spacing consistent. Try an unobtrusive page border. There is no need to insert logos for certifications or companies. 


Proofread and then proofread again.  Make sure dates, degrees, employer names, and other details are correct. Check spelling and syntax carefully.  A trick for proofreading is to print the résumé on color paper (such as pink or yellow) and read the résumé backwards. 

Can you imagine baking a chocolate chip cookies and omitting the chocolate chips? Leave out the star ingredient and you may have an adequate cookie, but you won’t win an award for your chocolate chip cookie.  Fail on the fundamentals of a professional résumé and you will not win the interview. If you would like to read more on these topics, please check out these blog entries:

Average Résumés Don’t Get Job Offers

Creating a Compelling Profile

Order on the Résumé!

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