When you’re staring at a blank screen thinking about writing your resume, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Or, perhaps you’re not anxious about it; you’re just unsure where to start. After all, a resume is unlike any other job application document you create.
While you certainly want to take your time building an effective resume, you can easily wrangle it if you take it step by step and one section at a time.
Why not schedule some time now? Turn off your notifications and focus on drafting and polishing your resume. This guide will help you learn how to create a resume that conveys your professional journey in a way that sets you apart from the competition.
Understanding Your Resume: What It Is and What It Isn’t
Before you sit down to start brainstorming your resume, it’s a good idea to ensure you understand the scope of the document.
As a refresher, your resume is a one-to-two-page document that offers the hiring manager a snapshot of your career. Think of it as the synopsis you read to decide whether to watch a movie or keep scrolling.
As job searches become increasingly digital, your resume should be a concise overview of your professional life as it relates to the role you’re applying to. Often, this is the first time a hiring manager will learn your name.
Your goal should be to showcase your skills, experience, and achievements. With the right structure and content, your resume can help the hiring manager begin to visualize you on their team.
Resume Formats: Choosing the Right One
Your resume format is going to be dictated by two factors. The first factor is the career stage you’re in. For example, if you’re working on a career change, you’ll choose a different format than if your career has had clear continuity for many years.
Beyond your career, you’ll generally factor in your skill set and experience for a specific role. You might use the traditional chronological format if your skills don’t align in obvious ways. Instead, you could choose a functional resume where your transferable skills are front and center.
There are three main resume formats to consider:
- Chronological resume: The classic choice, this format lists your work experience in reverse chronological order. It’s great if you have a solid work history and want to showcase your career progression.
- Functional resume: A bit of a wild card, a functional resume can make a bold statement if done well. This format focuses on your skills and accomplishments, rather than your work history. It’s handy if you have gaps in employment, are changing careers, or are new to the workforce. But beware that recruiters and hiring managers aren’t always fond of functional resumes. They’re hard to read, and the recruiter knows it’s easier to hide gaps in work history and career progression with this format.
- Combination resume: Just like it sounds, a combination resume merges the chronological and functional formats, highlighting your skills and your work history. They aren’t always the perfect solution, but they’re worth a second glance if you struggle to make a chronological resume work for you.
So, which resume design is right for you? You can dive deeper into each one with our detailed articles here:
- Chronological Resume Guide: Formatting, Tips, and Tricks
- Functional Resume Guide: Formatting, Pros, and Cons
- Combination and Hybrid Resume Guide
Writing Your Resume: A Step-by-Step Guide
Regardless of the format you choose, every resume needs a clear structure. Not only can you help guide the hiring manager down your career path, but there are certain sections the hiring manager will be looking for. The harder they have to work to gather the information they need, the more likely your resume will end up in the recycling bin.
Your resume should be consistent and easy to follow. You’ll need to include the sections outlined below.
Right at the top is your contact information—your digital business card. At a minimum, your contact information should include your first and last name, professional title, phone number, professional email address, and location.
You can also include your LinkedIn profile, professional social media profiles, and a personal website or portfolio if you have one. Modern resume formats sometimes use a small sidebar for the contact information, which also looks appealing.
Just as important is what not to include on your resume. Take a moment to ensure that your email highlights your professionalism. Ideally, you’ll have one dedicated to your job search to ensure you never lose an email because it got pushed down in your inbox.
It’s easy to create a professional email address with Gmail. You can keep it simple with your first and last names, or some variation of your names. Never use your current work email address, and leave off your full street address. Your city and state will do.
If you’re looking for a bit more detail on how to make your resume contact section stand out, read one of these posts for more tips:
- How to Create an Effective Resume Header (Examples)
- How to Write a Resume Headline (Examples)
- How to Write a Resume Headline
Summary or Objective
Think of your resume summary as your career elevator pitch. This concise paragraph highlights your skills and experience related to the specific role.
Resume Summary Example 1
Highly creative and multitalented marketing specialist with 5+ years of experience developing impactful branding strategies and digital campaigns. Proven track record of improving SEO while increasing customer engagement through carefully orchestrated social media campaigns.
Resume Summary Example 2
Analytical and detail-oriented financial analyst with 10+ years of experience in financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting. Skilled in analyzing financial statements, conducting market research, and utilizing data-driven insights to drive financial improvement and implement strategic decisions.
On the other hand, if you’re a recent graduate or career changer, you’ll likely need to create a more objective-based summary highlighting your transferable skills. Depending on your experience, you might need to connect the dots for the hiring manager—help them understand your career pivot because it won’t be evident from your experience and work history.
New Graduate Resume Objective Example
Motivated computer science graduate with strong problem-solving skills and a solid foundation in programming principles acquired through rigorous academic training. Experience gained through hands-on university projects has fostered Java, Python, and database management skills. Eager to apply these skills in an entry-level software development role at [XYZ Company], aiming to contribute fresh insights and grow professionally.
Career Change Resume Objective Example
Dedicated professional transitioning from 10+ years in hospitality management to a human resources career. Exceptional people skills developed from managing diverse teams and providing top-notch customer service. Proven track record in conflict resolution, team coordination, and employee training. Seeking to leverage these transferable skills in a human resources role to improve employee satisfaction and drive productivity.
To dig a bit deeper into crafting your resume summary, check out this article:
- How to Craft a Winning Resume Summary (Examples)
- How to Write a Powerful Resume Summary (Examples)
- How to Write a Resume Summary of Qualifications (Examples)
While every aspect of your resume should be considered, you should spend most of your efforts polishing this section. Why? Well, the work experience section of your resume is likely where the hiring manager will spend the most time. Your work history is your best chance at getting them to picture you in the position.
List your jobs chronologically, starting with your current or most recent position. For each role, include the job title, company name, dates of employment, and a list of responsibilities and achievements.
Let’s unpack that a bit further.
- Job title: While you should never be misleading on your resume, you have some leeway when updating your title if the last company was creative in their monikers. For example, you might update “social media ninja” to “social media specialist.” The common title will be more effective as long as your duties correspond.
- Company: Use the company’s name, and you might also note their location if it’s relevant to the industry or your remote work experience.
- Dates employed: You won’t need specific dates. In fact, this is a great way to avoid drawing attention to any short employment gaps. Use the (MM/YY) format, and if you can’t remember when you started several years back, a guess that puts you within a month or so won’t cause any significant alarm for the hiring manager.
- Responsibilities and achievements: This is where you’ll focus the bulk of your energy and is one of the best sections to tailor when submitting applications to multiple companies. You’ll want each line to contain a number that highlights tangible, data-driven results whenever possible.
Ensure you’re only including relevant experience if you’re working on moving forward in your career from a role directly related to your target.
On the other hand, if you’re a first-time job seeker or career changer, you want to fill up the page. Fill it out with student organizations or other roles, and highlight your transferable skills.
Use the following articles to dive deeper into effectively communicating your work experience:
- How to Format a Resume: Ways to Outline Your Experience
- How to Demonstrate Relevant Experience on Your Resume
- How to Make a Resume When You Have Little or No Experience
Here’s where you showcase your academic accomplishments. List your degrees in reverse chronological order, including each institution’s name, field of study, and year of completion. If you’ve recently graduated or your degree is relevant to the role, you can include other information, such as your GPA and notable achievements.
Use your skills section to bring your resume to life in a vibrant way. Use a mix of hard skills and soft skills, and lean heavily into this section if you’re changing careers. However, avoid including basic skills that everyone takes for granted. For example, skills like basic email and phone usage are considered standard.
Certifications and Additional Sections
Bulk up your resume with additional information that might interest the hiring manager. Make sure anything you include is relevant in some way to the role or your career objectives. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s seat for a moment. If it doesn’t enhance their perception of how you’ll fit the role or the team, it’s unnecessary.
Depending on the role, that might include the following categories:
- Volunteer Experience
Tying It All Together
Your resume should be as unique as your professional journey.
Unfortunately, an effective resume isn’t a one-and-done sort of document. Rather, your resume is a personalized greeting to each hiring manager. Just as you don’t pay as much attention to generic advertising, the hiring manager won’t either. Tailoring your resume to each role might initially seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Start with a base resume that fits the roles you’re applying for. You might find that you have several iterations of your resume that support slightly different job titles, such as one for a career coaching role and another for a human resources role. In that scenario, you’re likely qualified for either, but the verbiage and focus will be a bit different for each one.
To learn more about tailoring your resume, explore these articles:
- How to Tailor Your Resume to the Job: 7 Tips
- Resume Keywords: What They Are and How to Use Them
- How to Optimize Your Resume for an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
Build a Resume That Stands Out
Your resume is one of the most important documents in your professional life. But if you allow it to, the anxiety and pressure over crafting that document can hold you back from gaining the professional growth you desire.
To avoid this, block out uninterrupted time and build your resume one section at a time. Remember, there’s always room for improvement and tweaking, regardless of how much time you spend on it.
Don't forget to share this article with friends!