Your resume is probably the most important piece of paper in your professional life. However, many people will find this document intimidating. Perhaps you're stumped as to how to fit all of your data into a single page. Maybe you're not sure how to format and write your resume properly. Maybe you don't even understand what a resume is!
Whatever your issue, we'll break down what you need to know about creating the ideal resume from the ground up.
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What Is a Resume?
A resume is a list of your professional experience, whether it is new or has been ongoing for some time. It showcases the jobs you've had and currently have, the roles you've taken on, the skills you've built, and the attributes you bring to the table as an employee, and it's about one page long (two pages only in special circumstances). All of these factors combine to make it simple for any hiring manager to assess your credentials and suitability for a role.
Despite the time and effort you put into writing one, hiring managers just look at your resume for a few seconds in certain instances. Despite this tragic reality, it's fair to say that putting together a decent resume (rather than slapping one together quickly) always matters.
You may be wondering if instead of writing a resume, you should depend on your LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Even if they look at your LinkedIn, most hiring managers always expect you to submit a resume. Even if you don't need a resume for the work you're applying for right now, you'll need one later on in your career—they're not going out of style anytime soon.As a result, it's best to always have one on hand in case an opportunity arises.
And, while LinkedIn has several advantages, a resume has one distinct advantage: Although your LinkedIn profile typically provides a broad overview of your career path, your resume allows you to customise your professional history to a particular position or organisation (more on that later).
Oh, and you've probably heard of a curriculum vitae (CV)? It's not quite the same as a resume, and it's more popular among academics and work seekers outside the United States.
What Are Employers Looking for in a Resume?
On your resume, hiring managers check for three things: "What did you do?" "How did you do it?" and "How did you do it?" What was your motivation for doing it? What was the outcome?”
The importance of clear, easy-to-understand language cannot be overstated. “The reality is that the majority of resumes are illogical. They're jam-packed with jargon, overly technical, and riddled with redundancies. If you try to read a resume that isn't yours, you'll notice that it looks like it was written by an alien,” McGovern adds. Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter who doesn't understand your job.—What steps would you take to make your resume more available to them?
The hiring manager is interested in more than just you and you alone; they are interested in how you relate to them. According to Yurovsky, “hiring managers want to see whether an applicant meets the requirements” of the position they're filling. “This should be portrayed in your resume so that the hiring manager understands not just what day-to-day duties you can handle, but also why you, bring importance to their company above others.”
How Do You Write a Resume?
Follow these steps to go from a blank page to a complete—and dare I say beautiful—document, if you've never written a resume before or need a good, detailed refresher on the process of creating one.
- Pick Your Format
Before you type a single word, you must first determine how you want your resume to look overall
This is where resume builders come in handy: they'll take all of your basic details and arrange it for you, saving you time and effort. You can also use a template, such as free Google Docs templates, to create an outline.
However, it's always safer to start with a blank slate and work your way up to a more advanced layout. (If you still need a place to jot down all of the pertinent details before you begin, see our resume outline.) This helps you to make course corrections, edit and re-edit your resume, and select the right resume format for your situation (after all, not everyone's career path is easily compartmentalised).
You'll almost certainly cover and/or include parts on the following:
- Your professional background
- Professional organisations, community engagement, or side projects are examples of non-work experience.
- qualifications and credentials
- interests and skills (especially hard skills
So, how do you organise and format all of that data?
Reverse chronological order is by far the most popular (and safest) choice if you're not sure which path to take. This ensures that you arrange your impressions in chronological order from most recent to least recent. As a result, your job experience will take precedence over your education, and your current role will take precedence over previous positions you've held. Of course, there are exceptions—perhaps you went back to school between jobs, or your most recent position is unrelated to the position you're applying for. As a result, depending on your case, the whole page might not be in reverse chronological order. It's just a suggestion.
A functional resume, also known as a skills-based resume, is another choice. This is often used for career changers and people with minimal or complicated job histories. It gets its name from the fact that it focuses on listing your talents rather than your experiences, and it puts them front and centre over your job history and education.
You may also use a hybrid resume, which combines the benefits of both a reverse chronological and a skills-based resume. It puts your skills front and centre at the top, but leaves plenty of space below for your work and school experience.
When choosing between these two formats, be cautious: “Combo and skills-based [resumes] can be difficult to follow because [they] force the reader to hunt for links between your skills and experience, and [don't] have the full background of your work,” Muse Career Coach Angela Smith, founder of Loft Consulting, explains
- Start With Your Basic Information
Often put your contact details at the top of your resume. You should include something that will help a recruiter contact you in this header. This usually entails including:
- Your complete name (preferably the name you use across the web)
- Your contact information
- Your email address is private.
Other basic details, such as your LinkedIn or personal website URL, GitHub (for technical roles), social media profiles (if applicable to the job), or your address, may also be included. If you're searching for a position that requires relocation, you can leave your address blank or write "open to relocating" to increase your chances of having an interview.
The key is to make this section as straightforward as possible. There's no point in perfecting the rest of your resume if you can't get in touch with a hiring manager.
- Add in Your Work Experience
This section will almost certainly make up the majority of your resume. Employers want to see where you've served, what you've accomplished, and the effect of that job to get a sense of the experience and skills, even though you're changing professions.
Your "Work Experience" could be a single category, or you could divide it into "Relevant Experience" and "Additional Experience" to highlight the positions that hiring managers should pay attention to. In any case, you'll almost always want your most recent experience to be at the top and your older experience to be at the bottom.
Include each official job title, the organisation (and probably its location) you worked for, and the years you worked there in your work experience. Below that, provide two to four bullet points that describe what you did in that job, the skills you developed and practised, the techniques you used, and the outcomes of your work. Focus on the responsibilities that have the most effect or that you're most proud of, as well as the ones that better fit you with the position you're applying for, whether you achieved a lot during your time there (more on that in the following sections). It's important to have both quantitative and qualitative successes, if applicable.
If you're talking about previous employment, your resume bullets should be in the past tense, and if you're talking about current positions, they should be in the present tense. Furthermore, each bullet should begin with a strong action verb that best describes what you did. Also, if you have any examples of your work, consider referring to them here.
If you have a lot of experience and this section is getting too long (read: more than one page), consider excluding your oldest jobs unless they are extremely important to the work you're applying for or exceptionally outstanding in your profession
- Consider Including Volunteer Work or Other Experience
Anything you've done that isn't job experience—a side gig, volunteer work, or special projects, for example—can be organised into specifically labelled sections (such as "Volunteer Experience" or "Activities"). These items could be worth including depending on how extensive your work experience is, particularly if they've helped you improve your skill set or better fit you with your dream job. Plus, they give you a more well-rounded, passionate, and hardworking appearance.
If you're a new graduate, have a section for on-campus events like clubs, societies, and leadership experience. If you're lacking in the work department, this can be a perfect complement. You can format them like professional resumes, with your title, the name of the company, and bullets outlining your work and accomplishments.
- Don’t Forget Your Education
If you're still in school or have recently graduated, your education should be near the top of your resume; otherwise, it should be near the bottom. Most people list their school, graduation year (for those who have been out of school for less than a decade), major, and degree. New graduates can also include their GPA, honours and distinctions, study abroad, thesis, or other noteworthy accomplishments. However, keep this section short and sweet, as you don't want it to take up too much room in your resume.
It's likely that you have special educational experience, such as having completed an online course or obtaining a credential. Including it if you did it directly to help you advance in your field. List all in reverse chronological order, so a graduate degree comes before an undergraduate degree, and a more recent related online course comes after that.
- Top It Off With Some Skills and Interests
It's possible that you have unique educational qualifications, such as having completed an online course or earning a certification. If you did it specifically to help you succeed in your career, you should include it. List all in reverse chronological order, with a graduate degree preceding an undergraduate degree and a more recent associated online course following.
This section is usually found at the bottom of the resume, but in some cases—such as a skills-based resume or when someone is changing fields—it can be found higher up.
When it comes to filling up your expertise, be strategic. Don't list skills you can't do well (I'm looking at you, all of you who claim you're "perfect" at Excel), and leave off skills that are totally unrelated to the work you want. If you're applying for a design job, for example, you may not even need to use Excel unless it's specified as a prerequisite.
Maybe you're thinking to yourself, "I'm a great volleyball player," but that's not a "skill," is it? No, it isn't, but it is a pastime. Including a hobby section at the bottom of your resume is often overlooked, but it's a good idea. It can be a good conversation starter with a hiring manager, and it can demonstrate that you're a good cultural fit—or a culture addition—for the business.It's also a good way to incorporate some of your personality. Add a bullet point listing some of your hobbies, including hiking, rowing, or crafting (no more than five to seven work-appropriate verbs), and you're good to go
- Write a Resume Summary Statement (if Relevant)
A resume overview statement is something you may have heard about. They're not very popular, but if you're trying to add clarification or meaning to your resume, they can be useful to have near the top. If you're changing careers, a summary statement will help you understand your decision and connect your previous experience to your new course. If you're a more seasoned professional, a summary statement may be used to illustrate a theme that connects your career path.
- Tailor It to the Job (and the ATS)
If you've written your resume—you've broken down your work experience, added some activities and extra experiences, and listed your skills—critical it's to go back to the job description (or several job descriptions, if you're applying for many similar jobs) and double-check that what you've written matches wha your resume says matches up with the kind of candidate the employers are looking for. In other words, tailor it.
Let's go over this in more detail. You can start by tackling the ATS. This entails combing through the job description to see if specific terms and phrases match. What are the qualities they're looking for, and have you mentioned them (assuming you have them)? What words do they use to describe their ideal candidate, and do you use words like that in your resume?
Take a bird's-eye view next. Where on your resume would you focus your attention if you were the hiring manager for the position? And what exactly will you be on the lookout for? Make sure whatever you think the recruiter would care about is at the top of your resume or otherwise highlighted.
Finally, look into the job's position and responsibilities. Do you have similar experience on your resume? Is there any way you can make it seem like you're capable of doing the job (and doing it well) if that's not the case?
- Edit and Refine It
While hiring managers might not spend hours looking through it, one thing that stands out above all else is a conspicuous typo.
What is the most effective strategy? Write a rough draught, then leave it for a while and return with fresh eyes to edit it.
Cover the essentials: Is your contact details up to date and correct? Are you using the correct tenses for your verbs? In terms of spelling and grammar, does anything seem to be clear and correct?
Then, if your resume is very long, make some cuts. It's no longer a hard-and-fast rule that all resumes must be one page long, but it's still a good rule of thumb for most applicants, particularly if you have less than 10 years of experience.The only exception is if you're a senior or well-established professional; in this case, a two-page resume isn't entirely out of the question. Everyone else should read this article for tips on how to slim down your resume.
When it comes to formatting, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, what font are you using, and is it readable (by both humans and robots)? When in doubt, opt for one of these straightforward yet stylish options: Arial, Arial Narrow, Calibri, Cambria, Garamond, or Helvetica are some examples of fonts.
Second, can you save it as a Word or PDF document? Although neither choice is incorrect, a PDF ensures that the formatting is preserved regardless of the type of device the hiring manager uses to open the document.
It could be worth sending it to a friend or colleague (or even a career coach) for a second opinion after you've given it a few good looks. Don't just make them proofread it for spelling and grammar; have them go over your bullet points and give you input about whether or not your resume is portraying you in the best light possible (it's a good idea to also submit them the job description to compare it to).
What Are Some Examples of a Good Resume?
Here's the thing: your resume will never look exactly like someone else's, and it shouldn't. A number of variables, including your occupation, the job you're applying for, the organisation where you'll be employed, and more, influence how you plan it, organise your material, and talk about personal experiences.
As a result, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to resume writing. There are, however, a few recurrent trends. To give you an idea of how your resume could look, here are three examples of different types of resumes
The Most Popular: A Reverse Chronological Resume
As previously said, many coaches and HR experts prefer a reverse chronological resume because it is extremely readable. It's simple to skim and much simpler to draw connections between interactions when all is in order.
Who it's good for: Almost all, from students looking for internships to senior-level executives (with an optional resume summary statement)
The Unorthodox Route: A Functional or Skills-Based Resume
A functional or skills-based resume has bullet points that represent how each of your skills is illustrated by the work you've done over the course of your career, rather than listing your experience in reverse chronological order. Anything else, such as your education, work experience, professional accomplishments, community participation, and other technical skills, will be listed at the bottom. If you have a bit of a disorganised job history and want to bring it together, this is a good choice.
Who it's ideal for: Career changers with a lot of temporary jobs or gaps in their work histories, as well as individuals with a lot of temporary jobs or gaps in their work histories
The Creative Angle: An Infographic Resume or Resume Website
The visual format of this resume category distinguishes it from others. To organise your content, you can use a reverse chronological order or a skills-based style, but you can also use graphics, colours, unique fonts, and even multimedia elements to make it stand out. Keep in mind that any inventive resume would almost certainly be subjected to an applicant tracking system (ATS), and some elements will be unreadable by a computer.So just go this path if you know your resume would be read by a person (and that said human might enjoy it).
Who it's good for: People looking for creative work (for example, designers, editors, authors, marketers, and video producers), entrepreneurs, or fun businesses, or jobs where a creative resume is encouraged but not necessary.
It's important to remember that your resume is a living, breathing text. Although you won't go through this whole process every time you apply for a position, you can consider all of these factors when you update your resume for the next phase in your career. Later on, you may decide to change the order, delete or add items, or even get imaginative and try out a whole new format. If you're not getting the calls you want, it's perfectly fine to abandon the project and start over.