How to Write a Resume:
A Step-by-Step Guide
Whether you’re networking, applying for an internal position, or searching for jobs online, you won’t get far without a professional resume. This step-by-step resume writing guide is designed to help you build a resume that stands out to recruiters and adequately communicates your skills and experience. Let’s get started.
1. Choose a resume format
There are three standard resume formats: chronological, functional, and hybrid (sometimes called a combination resume). For most job seekers, a hybrid resume format, which puts equal emphasis on skills and work experience, is the best choice. However, in some cases, a chronological or functional resume might work better.
2. Add your name and contact information
The top of your resume should include the following information:
Location (City, State, Zip Code)
LinkedIn profile URL
It might seem obvious, but job seekers sometimes forget a key piece of contact information in this section. Double check and make it as easy as possible for recruiters to contact you for a job interview.
Resume contact information tips:
Include a personal phone number, never a work number.
You don’t need to include your full address but do add your city, state, and zip code. Recruiters often search for local candidates first.
Use a professional sounding email address. Consider creating a free Gmail account for your job search if you currently use a more outdated email service like Hotmail or AOL.
Create a strong LinkedIn profile and be sure to include the URL on your resume.
3. Write a standout resume headline
A resume headline is a concise, one-line description of who you are as a candidate. A well-written headline can grab a recruiter’s attention and encourage them to take a more detailed look at your qualifications.
Your headline is a short but powerful addition to your resume, often the first thing a recruiter reads. Take advantage of the opportunity to make a strong first impression. It’s also another opportunity to include a specific job title or keyword that might be used to sort your resume in the ATS.
lightbulb Resume headline tips:
Include keywords from the job posting, ideally the job title.
Keep it short. Try to write under ten words.
Use title case (capitalize the first letter of each word) and use a bold or slightly larger font so the headline stands out visually.
4. Add your professional resume summary statement
A resume summary statement is a short paragraph or section of bullet points at the beginning of a resume that highlights your professional skills and experience. Your summary should expand on your headline and communicate to recruiters and hiring managers why you are a good fit for the job.
Summary statements are not ideal for all job seekers. If you don’t have much job experience or are changing careers, you might use the space to expand on your work history section, skills section, or write a strong resume objective statement instead.
Note: Career experts rarely recommend including a resume objective statement, but these summary alternatives can work in special circumstances such as in the case of career changes.
lightbulb Resume Summary tips:
Look for patterns in your work history and include a concise overview.
Include only your most important and relevant skills to the specific job.
Mention your most impressive achievements. Bonus points for using numbers and specifics.
Incorporate keywords from the job description.
5. Detail your work experience
The work experience section is the heart of your resume. Employers look at this section closely to determine whether your job history and prior accomplishments make you a promising candidate.
That’s why it’s important to detail not only your job responsibilities but also your competence in prior roles. The work experience section is your chance to show recruiters and hiring managers how you have added unique value to other companies.
The first things a recruiter looks for on your resume are the job titles you’ve held and the caliber of companies you’ve worked with. Make this information easy to find by sticking to a familiar format.
List each job in reverse-chronological order. Each job should have its own subheading that includes the following information:
Your job title
Work experience section tips:
Use a traditional section title, like “Work Experience,” “Professional Experience,” or “Job History.”
Include specific and measurable results where possible.
Include as many relevant skills and keywords from the job description as possible.
Tailor the information provided in this section to each job you apply to, emphasizing or deemphasizing roles and skills as needed.
6. List relevant skills and keywords
Resume keywords are important terms of interest that recruiters look for whether skimming a resume or searching within an applicant tracking system (ATS). The more role-specific keywords—often hard skills—your resume contains, the better optimized your resume is.
99 percent of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to sort, filter, and search applicants. Some ATS, like Taleo, can automatically rank your resume’s content against the job description, allowing recruiters to focus only on the “best” applicants. Recruiters often also search their applicant pool for important resume keywords, like “customer service,” “accounts receivable,” or “Adobe Photoshop.”
Where on your resume should you include important skills?
It’s crucial to incorporate important skills throughout your entire resume, beginning with your headline which should, when possible, include the most relevant keyword: the job title. You can also list skills in a dedicated skills section of your resume if using the hybrid resume format.
How do you find keywords to include in your resume?
Look in the job description to see which hard skills and soft skills are mentioned. Anything that is required or mentioned multiple times can be considered especially important to the role. You can also join over 1 million job seekers and use Jobscan to scan your resume against any job description. Jobscan helps optimize your resume in every way and often identifies keywords that are missing from the job description but likely still important to recruiters.
7. Add your education, certifications, and any other relevant information
There are other resume sections that may be worth adding, depending on both the job and your unique experience. These sections include things like education, awards and accolades, volunteer experience, and certifications. Keep in mind that your resume should always be showcasing your skills for that particular job, so anything in your history that doesn’t support the image of you being a perfect candidate for the role doesn’t need to be included.
It’s common to include your education on your resume, especially if you are applying to a job that requires a degree. If you’re a few years into your career, your resume’s education section can be minimized at the bottom of your resume. Unless you’re applying in a career that puts extra emphasis on education (like academia, law, or medicine), most job seekers can get away with providing only the following information on their resume:
Name of Institution
If you’ve recently graduated college, your education section goes above your work experience and includes more detail. Skills developed in school are real skills that have value in the professional world. Recent grads can include relevant coursework, societies, organizations, and extracurriculars that strengthen their candidacy.
Awards, Accolades, & Certifications
All three of the aforementioned things can be embedded in the work experience and skills sections of your resume. However, if you would like to highlight them, they could warrant a section of their own. Either way, relevant certifications, and honors will increase your credibility.
8. Tailor your resume and optimize for applicant tracking systems
It’s very easy these days to fire off your resume to dozens of jobs, but if you’ve tried this method, you may have been disappointed by your success rate. That’s because you didn’t take the time to customize your resume for each individual role—and recruiters can tell.
The most impactful thing you can do to improve your chances of getting interviews is tailor your resume to each and every job. Customized resumes that align with job requirements and include keywords from the job description will stand out to recruiters who often receive hundreds of resumes for each role.
When you tailor your resume to the job, you’re also optimizing for applicant tracking systems., because many ATS allow recruiters to filter and search by keyword. Want to see if your resume is well-tailored? Use Jobscan to see your match score and discover missing keywords.
9. Polish up your grammar and formatting
Resume writing is a unique style. It can be tricky to remember which tense to use or when (and why) to omit pronouns. How can you use language to tell a more compelling story? Which fonts and formats are ATS-friendly? Let’s take a look.
It’s important to use a font that is easy to read on screen, ATS-compatible, and commonly available. A few traditional resume fonts to consider include Helvetica, Garamond, or Georgia. Avoid using script fonts or custom fonts unless you are a designer. Don’t use a font size below 10.
Tense and Pronouns
Use past tense when talking about jobs in the past, and present tense when describing the work you are currently doing. Traditional resume writing leaves out personal pronouns (I) and gets right to the action. Ex. “Spearheaded a new email marketing initiative that increased revenue by 10 percent.”
Resume Action Words
Action verbs help liven up your writing, making your resume more readable for recruiters and hiring managers. Consider beginning each bullet point on your resume with an action verb and replacing generic verbs like “managed” or “led” with more engaging words like “mentored” or “accelerated.”