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Section 2: The Behavioral Resume



Section 2: The Behavioral Resume

The behavioral resume is one of the most important documents you will ever create.  It is your DNA, who you are, your mouthpiece, and your visa allowing you to move into any career you want.

It is a living, breathing document that should be viewed as a separate entity.  Basically, the behavioral resume has one purpose in life:

To shout from the hilltops about your great skills, education, experience, and personality!

Using the term Behavioral in the same breath as “resume” is very intentional. After we set some ground rules about your soon-to-be living, fire-breathing entity of truth and advocacy, this term will be explained. 

A Sword and a Shield?

Imagine a warrior.  What are his characteristics?  Usually, every warrior pictured has both a sword and a shield.  Throughout the remaining text, you will see numerous references to this sword-and-shield approach.

The Sword.  The sword is easy to think about.  When you are telling people good things about yourself, you are using a sword.  The sword attacks and is an offensive weapon.  Most people want to put sword-type items throughout their resume and they should.  However, just as a warrior with only a sword will be in peril, so is a job seeker.

The Shield.  The shield is all about deflecting judgment.  Humans are imperfect beings, and they tend to judge and discriminate based on the most absurd information. 

You should try to shield yourself from unfair judgment of your experience, education, and skills.  Even your age, young or old, can come into play.  Many times throughout this textbook, the term “shield” will be mentioned.

General rules about resume structure

Before we dig in and write your resume, it is important to discuss some general rules about resumes.

  1. First, never use the resume-building options included in many word-processing programs.  Too many people do this, and your resume ends up looking just like everyone else’s.
  2. A resume must contain your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address at the top.
  3. A line should separate your contact information and name from the body of the resume.
  4. In America, people read from top to bottom, left to right.  The most important information needs to be structured this way:  top to bottom, left to right.
  5. Your resume should be written in third person.  Example:
  6. a.   “I bagged groceries” is first person.
  7. b.   “We bagged groceries” is first person.
  8. c.   “Bagged groceries for busy retail store” is third


  1. It should be no longer than 1 page in length.
  2. Your resume should not contain reference information (this is typed on a separate page).
  3. It should be created with a maximum size-12 font and a minimum size-11 font.  10-12 size font may be used for non-heading information.
  4. Fancy fonts are generally unhelpful in getting your document read.
  5.  White space and density must be managed.  Too much text or too little can hurt the overall appearance of your resume.

Sections of a resume:

The resume has several sections to organize.  The following sections are nonnegotiable:

Section 1 Contact Information.  Your name, address, and phone number, with a line separating section 1 from section 2.

Section 2The Passion Statement.  This is a statement that summarizes your skills, abilities, values, and overall qualifications.  Note: this textbook does not use an objective section.

Other sections:

Other sections of a behavioral resume are going to vary based on your unique situation and qualifications.  Basic sections available include:

  1. Education
  2. Experience
  3. Skills
  1. Do you have 8 years of working experience, but no college degree? 
  2. Ø Then list experience first.
  1. Do you have a 4 year degree and only a few years of experience?
  2. Ø Then list education first.
  1. Do you have neither an education nor much experience?
  2. Ø Then list skills first.
  3. Ø

The following instruction page will help you figure out how to order your sections.  Once you know what order your sections should be in, you will then begin pumping life into this document. 

The order of your resume is crucial.  Managers have precious time on their hands to review dozens or even hundreds of resumes.  The few minutes they have to review yours could make or break whether your resume gets thrown into the “accept” or “reject” pile.

Since we read from top to bottom, left to right in this country, it is vital that your resume be structured with the most pertinent information on the top.  Thus, the least pertinent information (though still important) will be listed towards the bottom.

This exercise will help you determine the order of your resume.  Keep in mind, these focus questions are targeted for those in school about to graduate.

Skills first

List your skills first if the following applies:

  1. You are in college and about to graduate in the next year and you have less than 2 years experience in your target field.


  1. You have worked for at least 2 years in some fashion.

Education first

List your education first if the following applies:

  1. You have less than 2 years of actual work experience in any field.


  1. You are within 1 year of completing your degree, certificate, or other academic program.

Experience first

List your experience first if the following applies:

  1. You have over 2 years experience in your target career.


  1. You are waiting to complete your education.

These are just guides.  You might be in a profession that absolutely, positively requires a certificate or degree of some sorts.  Thus, you might put education first.

Important information about the skills section

One important aspect about the order is that the skills section should go either first or last.  Putting the skills section in the middle of a resume often results in creating poor visual appeal.

After thinking hard about your resume order, what have you decided?

Section 1  –    Name and Contact Information

Section 2  –    Passion Statement

Section 3  –   _________________________________________

Section 4  –   _________________________________________

Section 5  –   _________________________________________

Note: depending on your situation, you may only have room on your resume for 4 sections.


After reading the previous pages, you may be thinking that some sections have been left out.  Yes, it is true; the sections mentioned below are not recommended for your resume: 

§ Volunteer
§ Organizations
§ Hobbies/Interests
§ Awards

The main reason these sections are not encouraged is that hiring managers just don’t care about these things.

It does not mean they are not interested in the fact that you were captain of the football team, or that they don’t care that you served in a soup kitchen.  It simply means, to move you to the next step of hiring, they need to know if you have the skills, education, and experience needed to work for their organization.  These are foremost on the hiring manager’s mind. 

Perhaps later on, in the interview, you can mention the information within these omitted sections.

Exceptions to the exclusions

There are always exceptions to rules when writing a behavioral resume. 

  1. If you are in a veterinary program, it may be helpful to list 4H activities.
  2. If you are applying for a social services job, volunteer and service projects may be helpful.

The best advice may be to call someone in the field and ask.

Now that you have your order selected, it is time for guidance on each section.  We will start the American way: top to bottom.


Below is a hot-list of bullet-point items to quickly help guide your efforts in each section.  Refer to the sample resume for examples of each of the bullets below.

SECTION 1: Name and contact information


  1. Name should be large in comparison to other text; 22 or 24 font size is recommended
  2. The name can have a different font style than the rest of the document
  3. Use your full name with a middle initial
  4. Avoid nicknames, or short names like “Sammy” or “Jimmy”

E-mail etiquette

  1. E-mail address must be present
  2. Avoid goofy e-mails such as:


  1. Instead, have a professional e-mail with your first and/or last name such as:

By the way, the above e-mail addresses appeared on actual resumes.  While they are fun to have, generally they have the tendency to look immature and, well, goofy.  The following page of information will help to shield your efforts.

Address etiquette

  1. Full address should be listed in regular size text (12-14)
  2. Remember your zip code
  3. Some people fear interviewing those in a different city or state.  Remove this needless fear by finding an address in the city for interviewees to send correspondence to you. 

Phone number tips

  1. Be sure to include your area code
  2. Feel free to include a fax number, but this is not necessary.  You will save on space if you just include your e-mail address.
  3. If you have a mobile phone, include its number as the only phone number on your resume. This also helps with space issues in section 1.

Personal website

  1. Put your personal website here if you have one
  2. Have the site hyper-linked in your resume in case you e-mail it to a potential employer
  3. Talk to your instructor about free, professional websites available in your state



Now, before you go running for the hills, realize this text book is not about to get touchy-feely.  The term “passion statement” simply refers to a new way of starting off your resume.  The passion statement is the same thing as a summary of qualifications.

Now, we have talked about the importance of organizing your resume top to bottom, left to right.  And, now that the address, name, and phone number are out of the way, the next section is the passion statement.

Think of this section as perhaps the most important section you will have in your resume.  Think of it as your Super Bowl section.

Why the Super Bowl?  Think back to the last Super Bowl you watched.  What happened after the kickoff?  Do you remember?

What happens after the Super Bowl kickoff:

  1. People are heard saying “shhhhh”
  2. Heads turn
  3. The room grows quiet
  4. Chewing-mouths pause
  5. 80 million eyes glare at the screen
  6. Why?


Because the first commercial is about to start!

There is a reason companies pay $2 million for one 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl.  People are watching and waiting for a funny, moving, unusual, awesome commercial.

The Kickoff: Your name, address, and phone number.

The Super Bowl Commercial: Your passion statement, or qualifications.

Hiring managers will start at the top with your name, and then move right down to a statement that details your skills, abilities, and personality.  You need to make this expensive commercial about yourself worthwhile.

Note the absence of the term objective.  This term should not be used for many reasons.

Reasons “objective” should not be used:

  1. It is ineffective
  2. It will not set your resume apart
  3. The cover letter addresses the objective
  4. Hiring managers know why you are applying

Example 1 — passion statement:

Note: this statement may not be correct grammatically.  Often times a passion statement is a fragment.  That is okay, as you are looking for a power-packed statement that quickly summarizes your skills and abilities.

Also, note that soft skills that are present here.  In two sentences, this person has listed technical skills such as “.word processing, Excel.”, as well as many soft skills such as loyalty, dedication, punctuality, and organization.

If you can create a powerful qualifications statement, the chance of a hiring manager reading your entire document increases greatly.

Example 2 — passion statement:

Note here that the author of this statement does not get specific but broadly refers to his “.technical skills.”  This is okay!  Also note that soft skills are involved again.  Creativity, thoroughness, strong values, and integrity are all shining from this statement.

Now, pretend you are comparing the following two resumes as a hiring manager.  You start at the top of each and eventually get down to section 2.

Which applicant stands out more?

Applicant 1

Applicant 2




The choice is obvious!


First and foremost, the skills section should be bullets only.

Here is an example of a skills section in a resume:

Note: using bullets graphically highlights the different skills. 

This not only helps the reader differentiate between varying skills, but it also lends a more attractive look and feel to your resume.

In addition, note the interchanging of soft skills and technical skills.  Not only can this person work on a computer, but he also can listen, train, organize a team, and write instructions. 

Working on a computer and using programs such as CL, C++, and PLX are technical skills.  However, human relations or interpersonal skills are soft skills.

Many people forget soft skills in this section because they focus on specific skills required for a job. 

Look at the sample resume on the CD for examples on skill section design, placement, and organization.  Consult your help menu in any word processing software under the term “bullet”, and you will have help in creating this section.


Now we will discuss the most crucial section of your resume.  Regardless of which order you place education, experience, or skills, experience is always key to getting an interview. 


Before the term “behavioral” is discussed, there are some formatting issues to talk about.

The Table

Note the use of tables on the resume (Sample Resume A) provided in this textbook.  Tables are an excellent method to graphically highlight different areas of experience.  Sample Resume B does not use tables, and is also a good example of formatting.

You don’t have to use a table.  But using tables looks clean and sharp and helps organize the experience section nicely.  Below is an example of table placement.



Any city, AB

National Bank of America

March 1995 – July 2000


  1. Table is centered on the page
  2. Text is left justified on the left side, and right justified on the right side
  3. There is no bold or italics in text boxes to avoid graphically overwhelming the reader

Truly, you can put whatever you want in each quadrant.  Using the top to bottom mind-set, this example positions the title on the top,
followed by the company second.  Then, moving to the right (left to right), is the city followed by the years served.

Job Titles – You don’t have to abide by your official job title at your company.  For instance, if you are an Asset Manager II at a large financial company you would never put this on a resume.  Instead, you might use the label, “Database Administrator”, which more accurately describes your job.

Length of Employment – Some of you are job hoppers, meaning you have held several positions in your career for two years or less. 

Consider putting the industry where you worked in the lower left quadrant.  This way you can prevent hiring managers from judging you on length of service at previous jobs.  Here is an example:


Any City, AB

Banking and Finance Industry

March 1999 – July 2003

Instead of listing several finance companies, this person chose to put “Banking and Finance Industry” in the company quadrant.  This saves space on the resume and shields the applicant from being unfairly judged because of job hopping.

Ordering and behaviors

There is a strategy involved for placing behavioral bullets under each area of experience:

  1. List related experience first, regardless of when you worked there
  2. Do not list experience where you were terminated for poor job performance

In addition to the actual order of your experience, you will also need to have a strategy for adding behavioral bullets

Behavioral bullets

Note the difference between tasks performed and behaviors developed:

Tasks performed:  General duties such as cleaning break-rooms, serving customers, processing reports, wiring houses, answering phones, shampooing hair, and so on.

Behaviors developed: These are soft skills, attitudes, and action-words defining how you performed a task.  Basically, what kind of behavior do you show when you work?

When completing the experience section of your resume, place yourself in the position of a hiring manager to be in the best possible mind-set. 

What a Manager wants

Hiring managers choose individuals using a certain criteria.  Regardless the criteria’s complexity, it usually follows the order below. 

  1. Someone who is a good fit to the organization or department
  2. Someone who will exhibit good behavior on the job
  3. Someone who can perform the required tasks for the job
  4. Someone who has the proper training

Before you practice finding your behaviors, see the examples below to help you focus on this activity.

Are these behavioral bullets?

  1. Bagged groceries for city’s largest department store
  2. Provided customer service to patrons
  3. Stocked shelves
  4. Operated cash register


Look at the worthless set of bullets above.  Pretend you are a hiring manager trying to decide who to interview.  What does this list of bullets tell you about the person?  Refer back to the list of the top 4 reasons a hiring manager chooses to hire a person (page 42). 

This applicant would miss out on qualifying for being a good fit or showing good behavior on the job because the bullets do not include the applicant’s behavior.

View the next example to see how regular task-based bullets can be transformed into behavioral bullets.

(Example of task-based bullets)

(Example of behavioral bullets)

Discussing the difference

Do you see the difference?  Can you identify the behavioral changes between the two resumes?  Now this person appears to not only knows how to bag groceries, manage a cash register, and stock shelves, but she exhibits the following qualities:

  1. Carefulness
  2. Efficiency
  3. Award winning customer service
  4. Flexibility
  5. Accuracy
  6. Quick study, fast learner

More behaviors

Along with powering-up your task-based bullets with behaviors, you can also add standard behaviors to each job on your resume.  See the example below.

Is this the best customer service employee you have ever seen?  Not only is she careful, accurate, flexible, and efficient, but she is also:

  1. Going to come to work on time
  2. Willing to work outside the schedule if needed at short-notice

There are many behavioral bullets like the above two that you can add to your resume.  This is especially helpful if you are having trouble filling up the white space of your resume. 

This next exercise will give you practice in transforming routine task-based bullets into powerful behavioral bullets.

Take the task-based bullets below and change them into behaviors.  Note that this person’s experience is based at a restaurant.

After reviewing the above, rewrite each bullet to transform it into a powerful behavioral bullet.
Think about the organizations where you have worked.  You may not get to all of them for space reasons, but list 3-4 places you have worked and the order you plan to present them on your resume.

List the tasks you have performed; then use the work space provided to develop powerful behavioral bullets to type on your resume.

Organization 1

Name/Industry: _____________________________________

City:                _____________________________________

Job title:         _____________________________________

Employment dates:      _____________      to    ________________


Tasks              _____________________________________



Behaviors:      _____________________________________




Organization 2

Name/Industry: _____________________________________

City:                _____________________________________

Job title:         _____________________________________

Employment dates:      _____________      to    ________________


Tasks              _____________________________________



Behaviors:      _____________________________________




Organization 3

Name/Industry: _____________________________________

City:                _____________________________________

Job title:         _____________________________________

Employment dates:      _____________      to    ________________


Tasks              _____________________________________



Behaviors:      _____________________________________



Organization 4

Name/Industry: _____________________________________

City:                _____________________________________

Job title:         _____________________________________

Employment dates:      _____________      to    ________________


Tasks              _____________________________________



Behaviors:      _____________________________________





You now have 4 organizations mapped out, complete the behavioral bullets.  Check with your instructor, if applicable, to ensure your behavioral bullets are indeed powerful.

Now, save this data for entering information on your resume.  It will help you be efficient and organized when it is time to word process your behavioral resume.


Depending on your strategy, education may be listed first, second, or third on your resume.  The difference between this section and all of the other sections is that education may be listed by itself, without behavioral bullets.

However, if you have too much white space, you need to add more behavioral bullets.  Thus, the education section is a good place to start if you have exhausted all of the information from your Skill and Experience sections.

See the sample resumes on the CD for an example of education sections with and without behavioral bullets.  Depending on the amount of white space on your resume, you may need to add additional behavioral bullets. 

General Rules

High school is not allowed.  Listing your high school in the education section may cause people to think about high school.  This does not bring mature, experienced thoughts to a hiring manager.  Thus, not listing high school is another shield against judgment.

If you are in college, list your anticipated graduation date you’re your current program.  Here is an example:

Northwestern University

Any City, AB

BS Marketing

March 2007

Note the date of graduation is listed as March of 2007.  Any hiring manager will view this and realize that this person is currently in college and will graduate in 2007. 

Another shield-tactic is to not list your graduation date.  Some of you may have graduated 20 years ago and don’t wish for a hiring manager to think you are too old or that your education has become irrelevant.  Again, stand against judgment and organize your resume with shield-tactics in mind. 

Instead of putting your graduation date in the lower right quadrant, you list your degree minor or an area of emphasis.

Another strategy for listing education would be to have only two columns of information.  The first column would be the name of the institution and the second would be your degree.  See below:

Northwestern University

BS Marketing

Broward Technical College

Networking, Technology

First of all, let it be known that the above person never finished his/her degree at Broward Technical College.

Despite this, notice how he is able to avoid possible judgment and still list his educational merits including Broward Technical.

Again, keep in mind, a resume is not an application or a background check.  It is a living entity that vouches for your education, experience, and skills.  Putting coursework (as this person has done) is absolutely fine, because the hiring manager can easily call you or ask you to clarify details on your resume in an interview.

For example, the person in the above example would most likely get a call from someone saying, “Yes, we are clarifying your educational merits and are wondering if you have a certificate or degree in networking from Broward Technical.”  You would then answer, “Actually no, I am 6 credits short of a degree, but I did have extensive coursework in the subjects with a grade point average of 3.2.”  You may then, if appropriate, choose to clarify why you left the school.

This is an opportunity for you to clarify and talk to a potential employer.

Bulleting items

As mentioned before, feel free to create behavioral bullets relating to your education.  This is not recommended if you have other behavioral bullets in the Skills and Experience item.  Only use behavioral bullets after education if you have trouble filling white space on your resume.

If you choose to bullet your education section, here is some advice:

  1. Don’t list your GPA if it is less than 3.5  *Shield*


  1. List your educational organizations in order of importance based on the job for which you are applying *Top to Bottom*
  1. Leave off educational organizations  where you failed or dropped out *Shield*


If you read and complete this section entirely, you will create a powerful behavioral resume that will be set apart from other candidates.

Having a resume that is structured strategically with behavioral bullets will allow your entire resume package to flourish. 

Now that you have the foundation and strategy down, it is time to word process your resume.