How to Make a Resume: Ultimate Resume Writing Guide
Crafting a compelling resume is a pivotal step in your journey toward securing that dream job. Whether you’re a seasoned professional looking to take the next career leap or a recent graduate taking your first steps into the professional world, mastering the art of resume writing is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of creating a standout resume that not only showcases your skills and experiences but also captures the attention of recruiters and hiring managers. From choosing the right format to highlighting your accomplishments and tailoring your resume to specific job postings, we’ll provide you with a roadmap to crafting a resume that effectively represents your unique qualifications and positions you as the ideal candidate for the opportunities ahead.
If you need further help with writing your resume, we have built a section with resume examples by profession »
How to Make a Job-Winning Resume:
- Select The Right Resume Format
- How to Add Contact Information and Personal Details in Your Resume
- Start With a Resume Summary or Resume Objective (Heading Statement)
- List Relevant Work Experience
- How to List Education Credentials in Resume
- How to List Certifications on a Resume
- What Skills to Put on a Resume
- Additional Resume Sections to Consider
Select The Right Resume Format
There are three main types of resume formats commonly used by job seekers:
- Chronological Resume: This is the most traditional and widely used resume format. It presents your work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job and going backward in time. It highlights your career progression and emphasizes your most recent accomplishments and responsibilities. This format is best suited for those with a stable work history and a clear career path.
- Functional Resume: The functional resume focuses on your skills, achievements, and qualifications rather than your work history. It groups your accomplishments under specific skill categories, allowing you to highlight your strengths and relevant abilities. This format is ideal if you’re changing careers, have employment gaps, or limited work experience. It helps you showcase your capabilities upfront without the focus on chronology.
- Combination Resume: As the name suggests, the combination resume blends elements of both the chronological and functional formats. It includes a skills section to highlight your abilities and a chronological work history section to showcase your career progression. This format enables you to showcase your skills while providing a solid overview of your work experience. It can be a good option for mid-career professionals with diverse skills and achievements.
Each format has its advantages, and the choice of which one to use depends on your specific circumstances, career history, and the job you are applying for. Remember to tailor your resume for each job application to make it more effective and relevant to the position you’re seeking.
When To Use Chronological Resume Format
Use the chronological resume format when you have a stable work history and want to showcase a clear career progression, as it effectively highlights your most recent experiences and achievements.
Pros: It’s easy for employers to read and understand, and it presents a consistent work timeline that demonstrates your growth and development within your field.
Cons: It can expose any employment gaps or frequent job changes, which may be a concern for some employers.
When To Use Functional Resume Format
Use the functional resume format when you want to emphasize your skills, accomplishments, and qualifications rather than your work history, especially if you’re changing careers, have employment gaps, or limited relevant experience.
Pros: It allows you to highlight your key strengths and abilities, making it beneficial for showcasing transferable skills and accomplishments in various roles or industries.
Cons: Some employers might find it suspicious or challenging to assess your work history and job stability since the focus is on skills and achievements rather than a chronological work timeline.
When To Use Combination Resume Format
Use the combination resume format when you want to showcase both your work history and skills in one document, providing a comprehensive overview of your qualifications and career progression.
Pros: It allows you to highlight your relevant skills and achievements while presenting a clear and organized employment history, making it suitable for mid-career professionals with diverse experiences.
Cons: If not structured well, it can become lengthy and might not be as concise as a chronological or functional resume format. Additionally, if not tailored properly for the job you’re applying for, it might not effectively emphasize the most relevant skills and experiences.
How to Create an Effective Resume Layout?
Creating an effective resume layout is crucial to present your information in a clear, organized, and visually appealing manner. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you design a standout resume layout:
- Choose a clean and readable font: Select a professional font (e.g., Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman) that’s easy to read both on-screen and in print. Use a font size between 10-12 points for body text and slightly larger for headings.
- Use clear headings: Divide your resume into sections such as “Contact Information”, “Professional Summary”, “Work Experience”, “Education”, “Skills”, and additional sections like “Certifications” or “Volunteer Work.” Use bold or slightly larger font for headings to distinguish them from the content.
- Create ample white space: Ensure your resume isn’t cluttered. Leave enough white space around each section and between lines to make it visually appealing and easy to navigate.
- Opt for consistent formatting: Keep formatting consistent throughout your resume. Use the same bullet point style, indentation, and font style for each section. Consistency enhances professionalism and readability.
- Highlight key information: Use bold or italics to emphasize important details such as your name, job titles, company names, and section headings. However, avoid excessive use to maintain a clean look.
- Utilize bullet points: Use bullet points to list your responsibilities and achievements under each job role or experience. Bullet points make it easier for recruiters to skim through your accomplishments.
- Incorporate subtle design elements: Add a touch of creativity with subtle design elements like horizontal lines, icons, or shading for section dividers. Ensure they enhance readability and don’t overpower the content.
- Keep length in check: Ideally, keep your resume to one page for entry-level to mid-level candidates. If you have extensive experience, a two-page resume is acceptable. However, ensure the most relevant information appears on the first page.
How to Add Contact Information and Personal Details in Your Resume
To add contact information and personal details to your resume, create a header at the top of the document containing your name, contact information, and relevant personal details such as your phone number, email address, and location.
Contact Information to include:
- Full Name (First and Last Name)
- Address (optional, City and State, or City and Country if applying internationally)
- Phone Number (ensure it has a professional voicemail)
- Email Address (use a professional email, avoid nicknames)
- LinkedIn Profile (optional, if relevant and up-to-date)
- Personal Website or Portfolio (optional, if applicable and professionally presented)
When creating your resume, it’s essential to be mindful of what contact information to leave out to protect your privacy and ensure a professional presentation:
Information to remove from your resume:
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Marital Status
- Gender or Pronouns
- Nationality or Citizenship (Only necessary in specific circumstances)
- Religious or Political Affiliations
- Salary Expectations
- References (Unless explicitly requested by the employer)
Professional Title for Resume
For your professional title you should use your current or most recent title. Using a brief and compelling professional title, such as “Financial Analyst” or “Marketing Strategist”.
If you are applying for a specific job, consider customizing your professional title to match the exact job title mentioned in the job listing. This helps your resume to pass through applicant tracking systems (ATS) and makes it more relevant to the employer’s needs. If your job title alone does not fully convey your level of experience or specialization, you can add qualifiers such as “Senior,” “Junior,” “Specialist,” or “Manager” to provide more clarity.
On the other hand, if you have established yourself as a recognized expert in your field with a strong online presence, you might opt for a more distinctive title like “Digital Marketing Maven” or “Data Analytics Guru”. Use this only when you know that your resume is directly read by a human, not an ATS.
Should I Add a Photo to a Resume?
The inclusion of a photo on a resume is a topic that varies across different employers. Some companies expressly discourage it, fearing potential discrimination claims, while others are more accepting. The majority of recruiters, however, tend to verify candidates through their LinkedIn profiles, which typically include a photo.
Startups and creative industries increasingly embrace video resumes or quick self-introduction videos in their application process, but traditional companies may still shy away from photo resumes. A Talent Inc survey found that 28% of HR executives consider a resume headshot a deal breaker.
Ultimately, the decision to include a picture in your resume rests with you and should be made based on the specific application requirements and industry norms.
Start With a Resume Summary or Resume Objective (Heading Statement)
To add a resume summary or resume objective to your resume, create a concise statement at the beginning of your resume that highlights your key qualifications, career goals, and what you can bring to the potential employer.
Other names used for the heading statement on a resume include:
- Professional Summary
- Career Summary
- Profile Statement
- Executive Summary
- Personal Statement
- Qualifications Summary
- Summary of Qualifications
- Career Objective
- Job Objective
- Career Profile
These alternative headings convey a similar purpose, which is to provide a brief overview of your qualifications, skills, and career goals to capture the attention of potential employers. The specific term used may vary based on regional preferences and industry norms.
Here we’ll focus on the 2 most commonly used heading statements: resume objective and resume summary.
A resume objective is a short statement that outlines the candidate’s career goals, intended job position, and the value they aim to bring to the employer.
Resume objectives are particularly suitable for entry-level candidates, recent graduates, or those looking to change careers, as they help to focus the resume on the applicant’s aspirations and how their skills align with the desired job role. More experienced job seekers should use resume summary.
Here’s an example of a resume objective for an entry-level candidate applying for a marketing assistant position:
“Highly motivated and results-driven recent graduate with a degree in Marketing, seeking a Marketing Assistant role to leverage creativity and analytical skills to support campaign development and drive brand awareness for [Company Name]. Eager to contribute to a dynamic marketing team and gain hands-on experience in digital marketing strategies.”
Here’s what not to do:
“I’m looking for a job in marketing to earn some money and gain experience, willing to do anything related to marketing.”
This example of a bad resume objective lacks focus and professionalism. It does not clearly state the candidate’s specific career goals or how they can contribute value to the company. It also comes across as vague and doesn’t showcase any specific skills or qualifications that would make the candidate a strong fit for the marketing assistant position. You should also avoid writing in first person.
A resume summary is a concise paragraph that highlights your key skills, accomplishments, and experience relevant to the job you’re applying for, providing a quick overview of your qualifications.
Resume summaries are particularly effective for experienced professionals with a proven track record in their field, as it allows them to showcase their expertise, achievements, and the value they can bring to a potential employer, helping to capture the attention of hiring managers and stand out in competitive job markets. Additionally, individuals with a consistent work history and a clear career path can benefit from a resume summary to present their accomplishments and expertise in a succinct manner.
Here’s an example of an effective resume summary for a Senior Marketing Manager:
“Highly accomplished marketing leader with over 10 years of experience in developing and executing successful marketing strategies for global consumer brands. Proven track record of driving revenue growth, leading cross-functional teams, and implementing innovative digital marketing campaigns. Demonstrated expertise in market analysis, brand positioning, and customer engagement. Adept at building strong partnerships and driving marketing initiatives that deliver measurable results.”
Here’s what not to do:
“Looking for a marketing job. I have some experience in social media and graphic design. Also, I’m a fast learner and can work well in a team.”
This is an example of a bad resume summary because it is too generic, lacks specific accomplishments or skills, and doesn’t provide any value proposition to the employer. It does not showcase any unique qualifications or achievements that would make the candidate stand out among other applicants. The language used is also informal and doesn’t demonstrate a professional tone. A strong resume summary should be concise, focused, and tailored to the job, emphasizing the candidate’s strengths and how they can contribute to the company.
List Relevant Work Experience & Key Achievements
When listing your work experience in the “Work Experience” section of your resume, include the following elements in the order they should appear:
- Job Title: Mention the specific job title you held for each position.
- Company/Organization: Provide the name of the company or organization where you worked.
- Location: Include the city and state/country of the company’s location (optional).
- Employment Dates: Clearly state the period (month and year) you worked in each position.
- Job Description/Accomplishments: Describe your key responsibilities, duties, and notable achievements in each role. Use bullet points to make it concise and easy to read.
Organizing your work experience in this structured format allows recruiters and hiring managers to quickly understand your job history, roles, and the impact you made in each position. Always use reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job and working backward in time.
When formatting the work experience entries in your resume, follow these guidelines to make them impactful and easy to read:
- Use Past Tense: Use present tense to write about your current position. Write about your previous roles in the past tense to show that they are past experiences.
Example: “Led a team of sales representatives.”
- Active Voice: Use the active voice to make your statements more direct and engaging.
Example: “Managed a team of designers” (active) instead of “A team of designers was managed by me” (passive).
- Start with Strong Action Verbs: Begin each bullet point with a powerful action verb to convey your achievements effectively.
Example: “Implemented”, “Generated”, “Optimized”, “Coordinated”, “Achieved”, etc.
- Quantify Achievements: Whenever possible, include quantifiable achievements and metrics to showcase your impact and success in similar roles.
Example: “Increased sales revenue by 25%,” “Managed a budget of $500,000,” “Generated 500 leads per month,” etc.
- Be Concise: Keep your bullet points brief and to the point. Use clear and succinct language to convey your impact.
Example: “Developed and executed marketing campaigns to boost brand visibility.”
- Use Industry-Specific Keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords and phrases from the job description to align your experiences with the employer’s requirements.
Here’s an example of a work experience entry following these guidelines:
Digital Marketing Manager
ABC Marketing Solutions Inc. | New York, NY | May 2021 – August 2023
- Implemented and managed digital marketing campaigns, resulting in a 30% increase in online sales.
- Optimized SEO strategies, leading to a 40% rise in organic website traffic.
- Coordinated social media efforts and grew the company’s following by 50% within six months.
How to Tailor Work History Entries to a Job Description
Tailoring your work history entries to a job description involves customizing the content to closely align with the specific requirements and responsibilities of the job you’re applying for. Here’s how you can do it effectively:
- Review the job description: Carefully read the job posting to understand the skills, qualifications, and job duties sought by the employer.
- Identify relevant keywords: Highlight the keywords and phrases used in the job description, such as specific skills, software, or industry-related terms.
- Prioritize relevant experiences: Focus on your work experiences that closely match the requirements of the job. Highlight accomplishments and responsibilities that demonstrate your expertise in areas mentioned in the job description.
- Use the same language: Whenever possible, use the exact language used in the job description to describe your experiences and skills. This demonstrates that you have the desired qualifications and can speak the same professional language as the employer.
- Adapt your job titles: If your previous job titles differ from the one in the job description, consider using a similar or more relevant title that aligns with the position you’re applying for.
- Showcase transferable skills: Even if your work history isn’t a perfect match, highlight transferable skills that can be valuable in the new role.
- Cut irrelevant information: Omit or minimize experiences that are not directly relevant to the job you’re applying for, especially if you have limited space on your resume.
Tailoring your work history entries doesn’t mean fabricating information. Be truthful and accurate while presenting your experiences in a way that highlights your most relevant skills and achievements for the targeted position. By doing so, you demonstrate that you are a strong fit for the job and increase your chances of catching the employer’s attention.
Resume Writing Tips For Specific Occasions
- Career change: How To Write A Career Change Resume
- Gap in work history: How to Explain Gaps in Work History (With Examples)
- Executive resume: A Recruiter’s Advice on the Do’s and Don’ts of an Executive Resume
- No experience/entry-level: How To Write A Hirable Resume Without Any Experience
- Over 50: How to Write a Resume If You’re an Older Worker
How to List Education Credentials in Resume
When listing education credentials on your resume, follow these guidelines for a clear and professional presentation:
- Order and Format: List your education credentials in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent degree or qualification first.
- Degree and Major: State the degree earned (e.g., Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts) and your major or field of study.
- University/Institution: Mention the name of the university or institution where you obtained your degree.
- Location and Date: Include the city and state/country of the university’s location and the graduation date (month and year) or expected graduation date (if you are currently pursuing the degree).
- Honors and Awards (Optional): If you received any honors, awards, or distinctions during your studies, you can include them after your degree information.
Here’s an example of how to list education credentials on a resume:
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
XYZ University, New York, NY | May 2023
- Dean’s List, Fall 2021
- summa cum laude
Keep your education entries concise and relevant, providing enough information to showcase your qualifications without overwhelming the reader. If you have additional certifications, licenses, or relevant coursework, you can include them under a separate section titled “Certifications” or “Professional Development.” Tailor the presentation of your education credentials based on your career level and the relevance to the job you’re applying for.
How to List Certifications on a Resume
When listing certifications on a resume, follow these guidelines to showcase your qualifications effectively:
- Certifications section heading: Create a separate section titled “Certifications” or “Professional Certifications” after the “Education” section, if applicable.
- Order and format: List your certifications in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent certification first.
- Certification name: Clearly state the name of the certification you earned.
- Issuing organization: Mention the name of the organization or institution that issued the certification.
- Date obtained: Include the date you obtained the certification (month and year).
- Additional information (optional): If relevant, you can include additional details such as the expiration date of the certification, the credential ID, or any relevant coursework associated with the certification.
Only list certifications that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you have a substantial number of certifications, you can group them under subheadings based on their relevance, such as “Marketing Certifications,” “IT Certifications,” etc. Tailor the presentation of your certifications to highlight your most significant and valuable credentials for the specific job you seek.
Here’s an example of how to list certifications on a resume:
Certified Project Management Professional (PMP)
Project Management Institute (PMI) | July 2022
What Skills to Put on a Resume
When listing skills on a resume, it’s essential to include a combination of hard skills and soft skills relevant to the job you’re applying for. Here are some categories of skills to consider:
Hard Skills: These are specific technical or job-related skills that can be easily measured and validated:
- Technical Skills: Programming languages, software proficiency, data analysis, graphic design, etc.
- Industry-Specific Skills: Knowledge of industry-specific tools, regulations, and practices.
- Language Proficiency: Fluency in multiple languages, especially if the job requires communication with diverse populations.
Soft Skills: These are personal qualities and attributes that demonstrate your work ethic, communication, and collaboration abilities:
- Communication: Verbal and written communication skills, active listening, and presentation skills.
- Problem-Solving: Analytical thinking, critical reasoning, and creativity in finding solutions.
- Teamwork: Collaboration, conflict resolution, and the ability to work effectively in a team.
- Time Management: Prioritization, meeting deadlines, and managing tasks efficiently.
- Leadership: Supervisory skills, mentoring, and ability to motivate and guide others.
- Organization: Keeping records, managing files, and maintaining order in your work.
- Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change and challenging situations.
When selecting skills to include on your resume, make sure they align with the job description and are relevant to the specific position you’re applying for. Use concise bullet points to showcase your skills and provide concrete examples of how you’ve used them in previous roles to add more credibility to your resume. Additionally, use industry-specific keywords to enhance your resume’s chances of getting through applicant tracking systems (ATS) used by many employers for initial screening.
How to List Skills on a Resume
Create a dedicated skills section on your resume to showcase your skills. You can title it “Skills”, “Core Competencies”, or “Technical Proficiencies”. Arrange your skills in order of importance or relevance to the job. Place the most critical skills at the top.
Group related skills together under appropriate categories. For example, technical skills, soft skills, language proficiency, or industry-specific skills.
Here’s an example of how to list skills on a resume:
- Technical Skills: Python, Microsoft Excel, Google Analytics
- Project Management: Agile methodologies, Scrum, JIRA
- Communication: Excellent written and verbal communication
- Data Analysis: Data visualization, statistical analysis
- Leadership: Team management, mentoring, conflict resolution
- Language Proficiency: Fluent in Spanish, Basic proficiency in French
Additional Resume Sections to Consider
When deciding which additional sections to include, consider their relevance to the job and industry. If you have limited work experience, highlighting relevant volunteer work, language proficiency, or notable awards can be particularly beneficial to showcase your skills and potential as a candidate.
Including volunteer experience in a resume not only demonstrates a candidate’s commitment to community engagement but also aligns with an emerging trend among companies that prioritize social responsibility in their missions. An increasing number of organizations now place “giving back” at the core of their company values, actively seeking employees who share their aspirations for creating a positive impact. In fact, a notable 1 in 4 companies in the US offers paid time off to employees, encouraging them to engage in volunteer work and showcasing the growing importance of community involvement in the modern workplace.
By highlighting your volunteer work, you can showcase essential qualities like leadership, teamwork, and dedication to making a meaningful difference, positioning yourself as ideal fit for companies that value corporate social responsibility and community impact.
Hobbies & Interests
Each employer boasts a distinct work culture, with some seeking creative and playful candidates, while others value exceptional team players. By showcasing hobbies such as sports, arts, or other unique activities on your resume, you can demonstrate to employers that you align with their team’s dynamics and are a perfect “fit” for their organization.
Mentioning your language proficiency can be valuable, especially if the job requires communication with diverse populations or if you’re applying for an international position.
If you have any published work, such as research papers, articles, or books, you can create a section to list them. This is particularly important if you’re applying for academic or research-oriented positions.
Industry Awards & Accolades
This section allows you to highlight any recognition or awards you’ve received for your work. Industry-specific accolades can demonstrate your expertise and excellence in your field.
It’s generally not necessary to include references on your resume. Instead, you can mention that references are available upon request. If an employer is interested in your candidacy, they will likely request references separately.
Nonetheless, certain employers in academia, government, and public sectors still place value on including references on a resume. If the job listing explicitly requests them, it is advisable to prepare a separate reference page and submit it alongside your resume. When creating a resume reference page, be sure to incorporate the following elements:
- Provide a descriptive title (Reference)
- List the full name, position, and contact information of each referee
- Clearly indicate your relationship and/or affiliation with each individual
Resume Writing FAQ
How do I add volunteer experience to my resume?
Create a “Volunteer Work” section after your work experience. Include the organization’s name, your role, dates, and a brief description of your responsibilities and accomplishments. Highlight skills gained that align with the job you’re applying for.
Where should certifications go on a resume?
Certifications can be included in a separate section titled “Certifications” after your education or in the “Skills” section. Mention the certification name, issuing organization, and date obtained. Prioritize certifications relevant to the job.
Should you put your address on a resume?
In many cases, you can omit your full address to protect privacy. Including just your city and state can indicate your location without revealing too much personal information.
Should you put your location on a resume?
Including your city and state is beneficial, especially if you’re applying for local positions. It can show you’re geographically suitable for the job and may be considered a local candidate.
What should a resume have?
A resume should have your contact information, a professional summary or objective, work experience, education, skills, and relevant additional sections (e.g., certifications, volunteer work). Tailor each section to match the job you’re applying for.
How can I make my resume interesting?
Use action verbs to describe your accomplishments, quantify your achievements, and focus on relevant skills. Incorporate keywords from the job description and highlight your unique experiences and contributions.
What should a resume look like?
A resume should have a clean and professional layout. Use a readable font, clear headings, and consistent formatting. Utilize bullet points for easy readability and add subtle design elements to enhance visual appeal.
What’s the most suitable resume format for my experience level?
The appropriate format depends on your experience. Entry-level candidates may benefit from a functional or combination format, while those with a consistent work history can opt for a chronological format. Choose the format that best highlights your strengths and aligns with the job you’re applying for.
How do I tailor my resume to a specific job posting?
Review the job description and identify key skills and qualifications sought by the employer. Modify your resume to include relevant keywords and experiences that match the job requirements. This demonstrates your suitability for the role and increases your chances of getting noticed.
Should I include hobbies on my resume?
Including hobbies can provide insights into your personality and interests. It’s recommended if your hobbies align with the job or showcase skills like teamwork, leadership, or creativity. However, avoid irrelevant or controversial hobbies.
Is a photo necessary on a resume?
In many regions, including a photo is not required and might even lead to bias. Focus on presenting your qualifications, skills, and experiences instead. If the industry or country norm dictates a photo, ensure it’s professional and appropriate.
How do I address employment gaps on my resume?
Be honest but strategic. If the gap was due to personal reasons, you can keep the explanation brief or address it in the cover letter. If you were upskilling, freelancing, or volunteering, highlight the relevant experiences and skills gained during that time.
Can I use a resume template?
Absolutely. Templates can provide a structured layout and design. However, personalize the template with your information, and ensure it’s clean, easy to read, and aligned with your industry. Avoid overly complex or flashy designs that may distract from your content.
How far back should my work experience go?
Generally, focus on the last 10-15 years of your work history. If older experiences are highly relevant or showcase significant accomplishments, you can include them. For early-career candidates, internships or relevant part-time roles can be included even if they’re beyond this timeframe.
How can I make my resume stand out visually?
Use a clean and professional design with consistent fonts and formatting. Utilize bullet points, headings, and white space to improve readability. Incorporate relevant icons or subtle colors, but ensure they enhance rather than distract from your content.