How to Write a Resume

Writing a resume is a crucial skill to have if you're anywhere near the job market. A shoddy resume can keep you working at McDonalds for so long that the stale smell of animal fat will never vacate your clothing. A resume provides an overview of your experience and skills and is your ticket to the interview round of a potential job. Spend the time needed to perfect your resume; it will be an investment in your future. 

We've got some resume writing tips on how to write a professional resume to get you on your way. A shockingly low number of adults know how to write a good resume—even fewer know how to write a great resume; these resume writing tips will put you at the head of that crowd. 

You can use our resume writing template for resume writing help, or take our suggestions on resume writing software. However, the true key to effective resume writing—the kind of resume writing that will get you a job this year—are playing up your strengths.

Tips

Generally, resumes should be kept to one page, as employers often ignore anything following page one. Consider creating a standard resume that you can tweak according to the jobs you wish to obtain. Customization can help you land a job by demonstrating that you are a "good fit" for the employer and position.

Be Honest

Lying on your resume might get you into an interview, but many employers require background and reference checks to land the job. And if you state you can perform a task or operate a program you don't know, your lie will eventually be exposed. It is also better to address any gaps in employment than to try to hide them.

Be Professional
If your email address is "funny" or unprofessional, it may turn off potential employers.c If necessary, create a new email address solely for resumes (and don't forget to check it for responses).

Be Concise
Write out everything you want to include on your resume, then trim it down to a single page later.c If you have more than 10 years of work experience that is integral to the application, a resume of two pages is acceptable.

Step 1: Before You Write Your Resume

Before you begin constructing a resume, take the time to think about your experience and what type of job you're looking for.
  • If you're re-entering the workforce, consider picking a different format than someone who's been working continuously.
  • A recent college graduate will most likely focus more on educational background, while an experienced worker would probably highlight his employment history.
  • If you're changing careers, you might opt for a different format than someone who is remaining in his current field.
Take a look at some sample resumes online. Boston College, the Wall Street Journal, Vault.com and the University of Florida have some good examples.

Determine if there's a style of resume often used in your desired field. Next, look at sample resumes from other people in your industry. Is there a section or format they're using?

Step 2: Write Your Resume's Objective Statement

An objective statement is the first thing listed after your personal information. It is a sentence or two that sums up your current career goals.c

An objective statement is not always a resume necessity, but it can be a helpful summary of what you're looking for in a position.

If you're starting your resume from scratch, write your objective statement first. This can help you decide what information to highlight on your resume, even if you ultimately decide not to include the statement.

Do not write a generic objective statement. It could turn off a potential employer. c
Example: My goal is to find a rewarding, well-paying job.

Your objective statement should relate to the job for which you are applying.
Example: An experienced public relations consultant, I now seek a position as an account manager where I can utilize my management skills.

Target your statement to the position. This is the first information on the page after your name and address, and it should make the case for you being the perfect person for the opening.c

Step 3: Choose a Resume Style

There are several types of resumesc:
  • Chronological
  • Skills
  • Functional
  • Combination
  • Video
You'll want to create the best resume for your experience and desired job.

Most recruiters want your resume to show your career progression.c Therefore, chronological or combination resumes (resumes that list your work history in chronological order, starting with your most recent job) are the most common types.

If you have no work history or have worked multiple jobs over a short period of time, an unconventional format may present your talents and abilities in a better light.

Pick the type of resume best suited to your work history and goals. If you're unsure what type fits best, try writing your resume in two or more formats, then ask for feedback from friends or relatives.

It is better to go to a second page than to leave out important information. Do not go to a second page for unimportant information, like personal hobbies, out-of-date skills and achievements from more than 10 years ago.

Chronological Resumes

This is the most common type of resume. It lists your work and educational history in reverse chronological order.

The general layout is as follows: 
  • Header with personal information (name, address, phone numbers, email).
  • Objective statement (optional).
  • Career and skills summary (optional).
  • Reverse chronological career listings (include employer names and locations).
  • Educational background (school name, location, graduation date and GPA).
Recent graduates might choose to place education before their career listings.
    List what you achieved in different positionsc, not what your job responsibilities were.

    Quantifyc your on-the-job accomplishments.
    • Instead of writing that you improved customer relations, state that customer satisfaction increased by 40 percent while you were in charge.
    • Explain the size of the company you worked for, the number of people you supervised and the size of any budgets you managed.
    Condense unimportant information. There is no need to list every job you've had since college. You can include a quick summary of those early positions in a section labeled "early career."
    • If you were recognized or honored for work you accomplished, include it if it's relevant to the position.
    If you've been in the workforce for several years, your educational background becomes less important. Trimming this section to the basics will leave more room for employment history.

    Skills Resumes

    Skills resumes allow you to group your work history by skills, not by dates or places of employment.c

    This form of resume allows you to highlight the skills you think are most important as you can present your most relevant experience first, rather than your most recent position.

    This resume style can be particularly useful for someone who is re-entering the workforce, entering the workforce for the first time or doesn't have useful recent work experience. It is also well-suited for career changes, as you can list skills relevant to the job you want to obtain.

    Write a clear objective statement that ties your skills to the job you seek. Include a career summary that explains why you are changing careers or re-entering the workforce.

    The general layout is as follows:
    • Header with personal information (name, address, phone numbers, email).
    • Objective statement.
    • Career summary.
    • Skills groupings.
    • List of places of employment (include employer names, locations and dates of employment).
    • Educational background (school name, location, graduation year and GPA).
    Recent graduates may place education ahead of their skill groupings.

    Functional Resumes

    A functional resume is similar in style to a skill-based resume, and can be helpful for recent graduates or people re-entering the workplace.c

    If you've held many jobs over a short period, a functional resume can help you avoid being pegged as a job-hopper.c

    More and more people work in temporary and contract positions these days; a functional resume is another way to highlight the skills you used in these positions.c

    This style lets you tell employers how your previous work or educational experience has provided you with the appropriate background for the job they are trying to fill.

    You do not need to list your jobs in chronological order. Place the most relevant jobs first.c There is no need to list every job you have held in the career listing section. Only list relevant jobs.

    List all your employers in the short employment history section.c Include an objective statement that ties the disparate resume elements together.

    The general layout is as follows: 
    • Header with personal information (name, address, phone numbers, email).
    • Objective statement.
    • Career and skills summary.
    • Career listings, by relevancy to desired position.
    • Employment history (list all employers and dates of employment).
    • Educational background (school name, location, graduation year and GPA).
    Recent graduates might choose to place education before their career listings.

    Combination Resumes

    A combination resume combines the chronological, functional and skills formats.c It's another format used by career-changers and those new to the job market, and allows you to show why you fulfill the needs of the new position. It can be used by older workers to highlight their strongest credentials.

    This resume format allows applicants with employment gaps to focus on what they have achieved, not on the times they were not working.c

    The general layout is as follows: 
    • Header with personal information (name, address, phone numbers, email).
    • Objective statement.
    • Career summary (optional).
    • Skills summary.
    • Reverse chronological career listing, with a focus on skills relevant to the job you're applying for.
    • Educational background (school name, location, graduation year and GPA).
    Recent graduates might choose to place education before their skills summary.

      Video Resumes

      Some job listing sites like Jobster and Vault.com let applicants post video resumes online.

      Video resumes are becoming more popular, but some H.R. departments are reluctant to accept them for fear of accusations of bias. Make sure you can use your video resume before making one.c

      Just like paper resumes, a tailored resume is best.c You want this resume to explain why you're qualified to work in a specific position or industry. An elaborate but unrelated production will not be appreciated.c

      To make your video resume:
      • Dress as if for a job interview.
      • Speak clearly.
      • Do not make distracting motions.
      1. Begin with your first and last name. You can mention more detailed contact information, but be cautious if the video will appear on a public site. Then list your educational background.

      2. Next discuss your qualifications, either work-related or educational, for the position (or for the industry) you're applying for.

      3. You can mention any special skills you have, if they relate to the job you're applying for. End by re-stating your name and thank the watcher for his time.c

      Step 4: Tailor Your Resume

      It is advisable to have a resume tailored to each position you are applying for, instead of using a "one size fits all" model.c Your resume should highlight why you are qualified for the position.

      Remove extraneous information. Do not detail every job experience you have had if it does not relate to the job you're pursuing.

      Resume Keywords

      With online resume databases and thousands of resumes pouring in via email, many HR departments now perform keyword searches to weed through submissions.c

      Ensure your resume includes relevant keywords to the industry you're in or it may be overlooked. Include the keywords from the job listing. Find other appropriate keywords by reviewing job postings for your field. Chances are the keywords you see cropping up in these ads are used in resume searches.

      Other sources for industry keywords:
      • Employer websites
      • Industry-affiliated websites
      • Messageboards and forums about your career sector
      • Government job descriptions like Occupational Outlook Handbookc
      Only list keywords that apply to you, and only use words for skills you actually have.

      Do not load your resume with multiple keywords saying the same thing; it may help you make it through a database search, but when an actual human reviews your keyword-loaded resume, he will put it in the garbage.

      Resume Action Words

      Now examine the words you used to describe yourself and your job. Do you sound like a dynamic worker any company would be thrilled to have or a ho-hum employee?

      Action verbs like "built" and "led" are better than passive terms like "worked with" and "helped." For more verb ideas, check out Boston College's list of action verbs.c

      Use concise, easy-to-read wording that illustrates your true skills, talents and accomplishments. Your resume should reflect the real you.c

        Step 5: Polish Your Resume

        Always check for typos and grammatical errors. Then check again and have a friend proofread it. These types of mistakes make a big difference in whether or not an employer will consider you for a job.

        Do not use "I" or "me"—the reader already knows the resume is about your accomplishments.c

        Employers often scan or upload resumes into electronic databases.c For this reason, simpler formatting is the better route to take:
        • Try to avoid using tables.
        • Use spaces instead of tabs to separate sections.
        • Avoid italics, underlining and shadowed text.
        On that note, perfumed paper, curlicue fonts and pretty images are all no-nos. You want your resume to stand out to the reader, not assault him.c

        A simple, left-justifiedc resume is easiest to read. Test how your resume looks saved as an RTF file. If it isn't pretty, it needs to be simplified.c

        Only include college and graduate school when listing your education. The fact that you won a spelling bee in first grade will not help you land a job interview.

        Do not include your height, weight or age; this information is not necessary and will only irritate potential employers.c Remove out-of-date terms and technology. Being able to change typewriter ribbons won't help you in most employment sectors.

        Unless specifically requested to do so by the job posting, do not include references on a resume. You can provide these later during the interview process.c

        Resume Writing Services

        The website Emurse offers an online resume-building templatec. After registering (for free), you can input your personal information and the site will use a template to create a resume.

        Microsoft Word has resume templates and a resume-writing wizard you can use. You can also find more resume templates online.c
        • Be careful using these, as the formatting may make it difficult for companies to electronically scan your resume.c
        Check out books about writing resumes, like Resumes for Dummies and The Elements of Resume Stylec

        Professional resume writing services can be useful if you're still stuck on what to do.c Perhaps one of these professional resume writers' groups will be able to help.c

        Conclusion

        Congratulations! You are now ready to write a great resume. Though your new resume won't guarantee you a job interview, you know how to highlight your best attributes. Another useful tool is to write a great cover letter. You can learn more about that at the Mahalo page How To Write a Cover Letter. Good luck!

        References

        Upload a picture from your computer

        You can upload a JPG, GIF or PNG file. Do not upload pictures containing celebrities, nudity, artwork, or copyrighted images).

        Specify an image URL

        Image URL

        Search

        Type the image URL in the text field above and click 'Search'. Large images may take awhile to process.

        Please remember that using others' images on the web without their permission is not very nice.

        Crop this picture

        Just click and drag on the image below to start cropping! Use the handles on the crop box to resize it.

        Preview

        Upload a picture from your computer

        You can upload a JPG, GIF or PNG file. Do not upload pictures containing celebrities, nudity, artwork, or copyrighted images).

        Specify an image URL

        Image URL

        Search

        Type the image URL in the text field above and click 'Search'. Large images may take awhile to process.

        Please remember that using others' images on the web without their permission is not very nice.

        Crop this picture

        Just click and drag on the image below to start cropping! Use the handles on the crop box to resize it.

        Small Medium Large Full

        Preview

        Hotkeys