Writing a resumé is often one of the first steps you take when starting a job search. A good resumé will get you in the door. A poor one might not even earn you a ‘No, thank you’ follow-up message.
Keep in mind that either a recruiter or a hiring software will quickly scan and screen your resumé. This means you must not only make sure it’s relevant to the role you’re applying for but also that it will stand out from the crowd.
We’re here to help you get started—here’s how to write your resumé in just five steps.
Step 1 – Prepare: Lay the Groundwork
Take some time to think back on your job experience so far. Write down all of your past roles. Under each one, write down:
- The time period you held the job
- The company you worked for
- A list of both your responsibilities and your achievements in the role
Whenever you can, quantify your impact, describe your value, and use action verbs and descriptive phrases. Include specific production rate benchmarks, the specific number of employees supervised, the achieved percentages of increased production, and the decreased costs resulting from your interventions. For instance, it’s more powerful to write “Routed approximately 30+ outbound shipments per hour, ensuring 100% accurate and on-time delivery than “Responsible for weekly product shipments.”
Once you are finished with your job experience, write down a list of all skills, certifications or licenses you hold—both professional and personal.
Finally, consider your best qualities and character traits (e.g., I am organized, I always follow through, I am prompt, etc.). Write them in a list.
Step 2 – Choose a Suitable Format
Now is the time to determine the best format for your resumé. Will it be chronological, hybrid or functional? Often the chronological resumé format is the most effective, but depending on your career, it may not be the perfect fit for you. Decide whether it is by looking at the trajectory of your past jobs and determining your goals.
Does one build upon the other? Is the previous work experience relevant to the position you are seeking? For instance, let’s say you started as a picker packer. Then you took on the role of foreman before being promoted to warehouse supervisor. If each of your roles has typically included a higher level of responsibility, and your targeted job search goals align with your previous industry or current primary job functions, then you’re safe choosing the chronological resumé format.
When you write the experience section of your resumé, start with your most recent job. Write your job title, the employer and the time period you held the position. Then list your responsibilities and achievements underneath. Follow this format for each of your past roles, listing them chronologically.
Chronological Resumé Example
If most of your positions are similar and on the same level, however, then you may think the functional resumé format is right for you. This format is often attractive to job seekers who are undergoing a career change or have gaps in their work history.
The Experience section of a functional resumé would list your core skills followed by a list of past employers.
Functional Resumé Example
Recruiters, however, favor what’s known as a hybrid resumé over a functional one.
The hybrid resumé format is a blend of the chronological and functional resumé format. Near the top, this format opens with a list of key skills and accomplishments. This makes it useful for career transitions, allowing job seekers to highlight any skills that will transfer into other occupations.
Hybrid Resumé Example
However, rather than simply listing past employers, the Work Experience section still follows the chronological format. Similar to the functional format, hybrid resumés highlight your skills rather than your job titles. They can also downplay gaps in your work history without emitting them altogether.
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Resume Formats: Chronological vs. Functional vs. Hybrid
Chronological resumés emphasize progression. This format is helpful when you’re ready to take the next step in a common career path. For many, this as the most effective resumé format.
Functional resumés emphasize skill sets. This format is helpful when you’re looking for a similar role or are planning to transition into a new type of career.
Hybrid resumés emphasize skills and accomplishments. As a blend of the chronological and functional resumés, this format shares the advantages of the functional format while avoiding work history emissions.
Step 3 – Determine the (First) Audience
Are you submitting your resumé directly to a person—a hiring manager, recruiter, or human resources professional? Or are you submitting your resumé through a hiring portal of some sort?
If, for instance, you’re applying to a job online, then your “audience” is likely an applicant tracking software. This means that a computer program screens your resume and scores relevancy based on job requirements and qualifications-skills, experience, and education before a human will get a chance to read it.
If your resumé will first go through a computer-supported screening, then it’s important to include key terms throughout your resumé. This will increase your chances that the software will flag your resumé and select it for the short list. The most important terms are likely included in the job description, especially under “requirements.”
As you tailor your resumé for a digital screening, make sure you use important nouns they’re likely to search for such as job titles, certifications, degrees, equipment, education levels, computer programs you’ve mastered, and key skills that are essential for the open position.
Step 4 – Select and Write the Appropriate Sections
Create an outline of which sections you plan to include on your resumé. Then use your lists from Step 1 to write each section. The most common resumé sections are:
- Contact Information – Include your full legal name, email address, phone number, and city/state.
- Be sure that your outgoing phone message is professional and courteous.
- Check your phone messages and email regularly.
Be sure to use an appropriate email address. Consider setting up a specific email address for professional use only. Keep in mind that email addresses like Kissyface23@email.com, TruPlaya4life@email.com and JennyandJim4eva@email.com are not appropriate professional emails to use in a job search.
- Professional Summary – Highlight your key strengths and skills with four to six bullet points. The summary should focus on the skills outlined in the job posting for which you are applying.
Examples of Professional Summary:
Highly motivated Technical Support professional:
- Strong verbal, listening and written skills.
- Comfortable in interacting with all levels of the organization and public.
- Able to negotiate and problem solve quickly, accurately, and efficiently.
- Adept at multitasking to achieve individual and team goals.
- Committed to quality and excellence.
Highly experienced Customer Service professional with the ability to handle a high volume of customer calls in a fast-paced environment:
- Ability to work with minimal supervision while maintaining an emphasis on the highest quality of consumer service.
- Excellent listening skills, verbal and written communications.
- Comfortable in interacting with all levels of the organization and public.
- Excellent problem solving.
Professional summaries can also take the following forms:
- Branding Statement: A short headline that describes you as a professional. This sets the tone and helps employers remember you.
- Elevator Pitch: A short statement that highlights your most impressive skills and accomplishments. This should directly relate your skills and experience to the position to which you’re applying.
- Qualifications – Share three to five key facts about your track record that show how you’re a great fit for the role. Consider what you’re proud of and what most relates to the job you’re applying to, including years of experience and specific ways you have contributed to success in past roles.
Some Examples of Qualifications:
- Presented with Dependability Award for 30 years perfect attendance
- Improved customer service and reduced turn-around time through mentoring colleagues
- Streamlined accounting process through spreadsheet monitoring
- Increased sales to $6.3 M from $5.4 M through market development
- Work Experience – This is where you will use either the chronological, functional, or hybrid format. In whichever format best serves your experience, include information related to your past roles and employers. This includes your responsibilities and indicators of positive performance on the job. As a general rule, focus mainly on positions you’ve held within the past 10 years.
- Education – List the degrees, diplomas or certifications that you hold and where you earned them. If you earned any awards or honors, a high GPA, or a notable spot in a school-related group or organization, include this information in a sentence or bullet point under the appropriate school or program. However you write this section, use consistent formatting.
A note on hobbies and volunteering: Only include these on your resumé if they are relevant to the company, its core values or the open position. For example, if you are an avid model airplane builder, and you are applying at Boeing to design airplanes, you may want to consider it.
Also, if you know that the company emphasizes community involvement and you have been a Red Cross volunteer for years, include that information.
Step 5 – Edit and Tailor Your Resumé
Proofread your resumé twice — and read it aloud to yourself. Sometimes doing so can help you catch things you didn’t the first time around. Look for misspelled words and inconsistent formatting. Regardless of the audience, your resume should always abide by these general rules:
- Use relevant keywords based on job description.
- Align your background skills with what the employer is looking for in their job posting.
- Avoid fluffy words like “team player,” “creative” and “motivated” unless you can quantify them.
- Use strong action verbs like “analyzed,” “created” and “mastered” when explaining your experience and accomplishments.
- Don’t use footers/headers that applicant tracking systems (ATS) can’t read.
- Use clean fonts and a simple resume design. Clean fonts include: Times New Roman, Arial and Helvetica.
- Make your resumé scanning-friendly by using consistent headers and short bullet points. Do not include anything in italics and leave out special characters.
- Maintain neat formatting rules. Use consistent punctuation and capitalization throughout. Make your name stand out in your contact section and bold your headings or make them a larger font to help them stand out. Use normal margins.
- In the Work Experience section, make sure all verbs in the description of your current position are present tense. For past roles, use past-tense verbs and write a shorter description for each position as you go further back.
- Do not include personal information (age, height, weight, religion, marital status, etc.) or your reasons for having left past employers.
Before submitting your resumé, use this editing checklist:
- Did you include punctuation throughout?
- Did you capitalize each header in “Title Case” or “Sentence case?”
- Is each header bolded and the same size as the others?
- Does every bullet point in Work Experience start with a verb?
Once you’re satisfied, ask someone else to take a look. Consider submitting your resume to your Vocational Case Manager, who will be able to provide additional feedback and recommendations. They may see a typo or mistake that you glazed over during your own review.
Finally, before submitting your resumé to any open role, read the job description carefully and consider how you can tailor your resumé to best match up. Are there key words you should include or specific skills to highlight?
More Tips on How To Make a Resumé
We hope you now have a good plan for how to create your resumé. Before you open up a fresh, blank file to get started, we’ll leave you with these final tips:
- When it comes to the ideal resumé length, there are no hard and fast rules—but there are general guidelines. If you have less than 10 years of work experience, try to keep your resumé to one page. If you have more than 10 years’ experience or work in a highly technical field, however, it’s acceptable to use two pages.
- Keep a long master resumé that includes everything related to your career. Each time you apply to a new role, save a new version of that file and tailor it to the position and company, removing or rearranging as needed.
- As you customize your resumé to apply for an open job, consider how to match the position’s requirements with your proven results. Include these strong examples to paint yourself as the ideal candidate.
The Next Step: Cover Letter
The purpose of a cover letter is to express your interest in an organization and to request an interview. The cover letter should be used to highlight specific examples not covered in the resume and/or to stimulate conversation with the recruiter or hiring manager regarding the skills you have that would make you qualified for the position you seek. It generally consists of three parts:
- Introduction or opening paragraph
- Development paragraph
- Concluding paragraph
Read our cover letter guide for an overview of the steps.