Some basic formatting guidelines include using classic fonts like Times New Roman or Arial in sizes 10-12, black and white only, printed on white or ivory quality resume paper. Although it seems counterintuitive for getting noticed, simple is better.
At the top, you need to state your full name and contact information, including mailing address, phone, and email.
When you are applying for a specific job, and the hiring committee already knows exactly what position your resume is for, an objective is redundant. It is better to leave it off, and free up some room to detail your work experience.
However, when posting your resume on a job site, or submitting it to a company or organization without a specific position opening, include an objective. Some people advise against including this, claiming it looks dull and "juvenile." I disagree. It is important to explicitly state what job you are applying for.
Objective: To obtain a position as an Office Assistant at Company X.
Then put your education history. Start with your most recent degree or certification. Include the name of the school, the specific degree and major, and the dates attended.
Starting with your most recent job, list your relevant work experience. Include your title, company or organization name, location, dates started and ended, and a bullet point or two outlining your major duties. You want to keep the resume to one page, so if you are waffling between which jobs to list, cut the ones that aren't pertinent to the position you are applying for.
In other words, if you are applying to be a bank teller, mention that you worked as a customer service representative at a retail store but omit that you worked at a frozen yogurt shop.
However, if there is a believable way to spin seemingly unrelated work experience into relevant past experience, go for it.
Do you speak a foreign language? Are you a computer genius? Refer back to the job description and highlight which of your skills fits the company's needs.
Here list three past employers, their title, place of employment, and contact information. In some cases you can leave this off and the company will ask for them. Usually a job posting will state whether or not they want references listed. Do not write "References upon request."
Putting It Together
Whatever you do, don't lie or even overembellish. Do not put you are fluent in Japanese if you only know a few words or phrases. It's better to be up front about your abilities. Even if someone doesn't test you in the interview, you still might end up in a position that you are not, in fact, qualified for, and will be overwhelmed.
However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try for positions that seem difficult to obtain. If you believe you are a good candidate and capable of doing excellent work, follow the guidelines I outlined and submit your resume with confidence.
For those already in the working world, I am working on a post that details how to improve your existing resume.
One final (and important!) note: for any student applying to graduate school, a professional resume is not the same as a Curriculum Vitae, or CV. A future post will cover how to write an academic CV.