HOW TO WRITE A RESUME (STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE + EXAMPLES)

A resume is the most important document in your job search. With most hiring managers putting each resume through scanning software before deciding if a candidate is pre-qualified, you’d better be using the correct keywords so no one gets scraped by your applicant flow.

This article will provide actionable tips on how to craft a powerful resume that will land you more jobs.

Main Points:

  • A resume is a document that provides a glimpse of your past professional history and aims to show that you are the right person for the job by highlighting relevant skills and experience.
  • Resumes contain a few common formatting guidelines that hiring managers and recruiters expect to see, such as a summary section, a skills section, work experience, and education.
  • Highlight your work experience, skills, and educational background with relevant keywords in your resume to help get past the applicant tracking systems that recruiters use to filter candidates.

WHAT IS A RESUME? #

A resume or CV is a one or two-page summary of your educational background, professional skills, accomplishments, awards, and so on. In a nutshell, it’s your all-important first impression.

From a hiring manager’s perspective, having a great resume is one of the most important things.

No matter your background, keep reading if you want to craft a resume that will help you land your dream job. Even if you’ve been in the workforce for 20 years, with this guide you’ll be able to create a resume that’s undeniably attractive to any prospective employer and will get you one step closer to achieving your professional goals.

STEP 1: FORMAT YOUR RESUME #

First, make sure your resume is formatted correctly, using Word or Google Docs, and be sure to follow the standard formatting that is expected for resumes. Your resume should be clear, concise and include information about your strengths, and your previous work experience. Standard resume formatting calls for:

  • 0.5-1 inch margins
  • 10-12 point font
  • A professional, commonly-used font

Additionally, there are three resume formats that are commonly used. For most people, a chronological resume is most appropriate, but others may choose a combination resume (adding skills to work experience timeline) or a functional resume (only highlights specific relevant skills)..

STEP 2: WRITE A RESUME HEADER #

Every single resume should include an easy-to-find contact section. Don’t make hiring managers search for your email address! Every single resume should include the following contact information:

  • Your full name
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address 
  • Location
  • Your social media (optional)
  • Your job title

Resume Headers Samples:

  1. header-1
  2. header-2
  3. header-3

Tip: Never put your address and phone number in the header of your document; some applicant tracking systems might miss them.

STEP 3: RESUME INTRODUCTION #

You have four options for your resume introduction: a resume objective, summary statement, resume profile, or qualifications summary.

A resume is a highly structured document. And the sections you include should be properly organized. First, you should make a section for a personal summary. You can write your summary in either of two ways: A summary statement allows you to highlight your strongest qualifications by concisely stating your skills and capabilities in general terms. A targeted statement lets you apply your summary to a specific job or position.

RESUME OBJECTIVE #

A resume objective is the goal of your resumé to express to an employer that you have the skills that they desire. These goals should be customized to any job you apply for. This is what employers want to read.

In contrast, this is a good starting position for someone who is looking for an entry-level job or to change career paths. This should be a short summary of why you are motivated to apply for this position.

Entry-Level Resume Objective

Recent graduate with a bachelor’s in International Development from the University of Washington seeking an entry-level role in Monitoring and Evaluation. I possess extensive qualitative research experience and more than 2 years’ of experience producing reports.

Career Change Resume Objective

Eager to apply 7+ years of experience with M&E success management to make successful outbound B2B recommendations, deliver customized business solutions to new and existing customers, and provide expert product knowledge in the role of Senior Evaluation  Manager for the federal government.

Who should use a resume objective: Entry-level applicants, career-changers, and recent college graduates

RESUME SUMMARY #

This is the first line of many whose resumes make it to the hiring manager. A resume summary highlights the most noteworthy aspects of your work experience, giving prospective employers a quick look at what you have to offer.

It should include your current position, how many years of experience you have, some of your biggest achievements, and possibly your career goals. A 1-3-sentence spiel that clearly articulates your role as a candidate, and what skills, education, and experience make you the best candidate. Include some quantitative data supporting your claim that you can do the job quickly and successfully.

Who should use a resume summary: Most job seekers; anyone with quantifiable accomplishments to emphasize and a broad range of skills

QUALIFICATIONS SUMMARY #

A bullet point list of your skills, preferably a maximum of 4 points. It’s best suited for applying for jobs where the applicant’s performance is predictable. It’s a bit counterintuitive to say that this is not a good choice for entry-level applicants. What they need is experience, but if you’re just starting out, you might not have anything to show.

The first sentence in the qualification paragraph usually states the years of experience/expertise in a field. The next sentences are career highlights including the greatest/most impressive achievements and skills acquired over years of work.

An effective way to present your qualifications is to use action verbs at the beginning of sentences. Action verbs make it easy for the reader to evaluate matches between your skills and the job requirements.


Here are examples:
Accomplished, Achieved, Improved, Affected, Delivered, Changed, Adapted, Adjusted, Advanced, Coached, Assigned, Awarded, Contacted, Exceeded, Executed, Completed, Decreased, Increased, Reduced, Enhanced, Enlarged, Established, Influenced, Initiated, Innovated, Inspired, Proved, Reached, Succeeded, Motivated, Originated.

Action Verbs for management and leadership:
Arranged, Managed, Lead, Balanced, Conducted, Aspired, Decided, Carried Out, Directed, Coordinated, Handled, Supervised, Hired, Activated, Active In, Acted, Launched, Utilized, Took Over, Planed, Forecast, Guided, Motivated, Originated

Action Verbs for researchers, solving skills, analytical skills, and development:
Defined, Analyzed, Assessed, Diagnosed, Evaluated, Built, Developed, Designed, Combined, Adapted, Adjusted, Created, Produced, Converted, Corrected, Fixed,  Examined, Installed, Programmed, Provided, Solved

Action Verbs for analysts:
Consulted, Advised, Diagnosed, Analyzed, Evaluated, Examined, Identified, Suggested, and Validated

Who should use a qualifications summary: Those applying to a job with requirements for certain skills and job-seekers who have a lot of experience in their industry and/or field

RESUME PROFILE #

A resume profile is a written statement that outlines your key skills and experience in brief. It usually appears right at the top of your resume and is slightly longer than the usual objective or summary statement. It has a more comprehensive description of your goals and achievements. Think of a resume profile as a section that pulls all the best parts of your work experience section into one place.

Who should use a resume profile: Anyone with significant accomplishments under their belt, expertise in a niche field, or applying to a job in the same industry that they have lots of experience in

RESUME HEADLINE #

Resume headlines aren’t necessary, but you can include one alongside any of the four types of resume introduction listed above. A resume headline comes between your contact information and the resume introduction of your choice.

Headlines can be used by entry-level applicants and experienced job-seekers alike. The important point is that your headline should be short and to the point. Additionally, you should use title case when writing your reusme headline (capitalize words as you would for a book title).

Who should use a resume headline: Any job-seeker who wants to showcase their experience or unique value right off the bat

STEP 4: WORK EXPERIENCE #

Your work experience section is the place for you to brag about your relevant experience and the skills you possess.

Your work experience section follows your resume objective/summary if you have the chronological resume format, but precedes your skills section if you have the functional layout. Either way, list your work experience in reverse chronological order, with the most recent job at the top.

You can title your work experience section “Work Experience,” “Professional Experience,” “Relevant Experience,” or even just “Experience.”

When listing your professional experience, it should include the following details:

  • Job Title: Share the titles you had at your previous jobs and show your hiring manager where you fit in. These unique qualifications will help convince them you’re the person for the position.
  • Company Info: List the name of the employer where you were employed and your place of work; Provide some information about the business.
  • Dates Employed: The best way to format a date depends on the industry and specific company to which you apply. If you aren’t sure which format to use, though, I recommend the MM/YYYY format. Whichever you choose, be consistent and thoughtful. Make sure your resume looks sharp.
  • Job Description: When writing your résumé, don’t just list your duties and responsibilities. Hiring managers and recruiters already know what your job is. They want to know what you achieved at your previous jobs. So, instead of listing your day-to-day tasks, you should focus on your most impressive achievements. When deciding which of your accomplishments to include, you should look at the job posting. Which of your accomplishments are the most relevant for the position? Each position should have 3-5 bullet points.

Tailor your resume to match the position you’re applying for. The more specific you are, the better chance you have of getting a callback.

Here are sample resume work experience sections:

  1. sample resume work experience section

STEP 5: EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND #

In most cases, it’s recommended to list your work experience and education in reverse-chronological order. However, if you’re a recent college graduate with little or no work experience, or someone with a gap in their employment, you might consider putting your educational achievements first. As you gain more experience, you may consider putting your education section after your skills section.

Like your section on professional history, educational experiences should come in reverse-chronological order, with your highest level of education at the top. If you have a college degree, you don’t need to add any information about your high school experience. If you didn’t finish college, it’s okay to give a list of what credits you did complete.

Each educational course can be formatted in the following way:

Degree/Program Name
College/University Name
Dates attended

STEP 6: SKILLS SECTION #

Skills can be broken down into two categories: 1) Technical or hard skills – e.g. programming languages or software packages, 2) Soft skills – e.g. communication or creative thinking, and the best ones to include are the ones that would compliment what you currently do.s:

  • Hard skills are skills you learn through training and indicate expertise with a technical ability or job-specific responsibility.
  • Soft skills are your personality traits, interpersonal abilities, and intangible qualities that make you more effective at your job.

Your resume should have a healthy mix of hard and soft skills, as both are essential to job performance. However, since soft skills are harder to prove in the context of a resume, we recommend leaning more toward hard skills. Additionally, whenever you list a soft skill, make sure that it has a correlating item in your work experience section.

For example, if you say you are skilled in collaboration, you should mention a time when a team project was a major success somewhere in your work experience section.

Examples of hard skills include:

POS systemsCRM Software
Microsoft OfficeTecnical writing
HTML/CSSAuditing
Coding languagesA/B Testing
Agile softwareCloud computing
SEO/SEMAdWords
Google AnalyticsCMS like WordPress
Data modelingMicrosoft Visual Basic
Adobe Creative SuiteData mining
UX DesignVideo production

Examples of soft skills include:

LeadershipProblem-solving
OrganizationDecision-making
CommunicationWork ethic
Active listeningNegotiation
Time managementInnovation
CreativityPatience
CollaborationCritical thinking
ReliabilityEmpathy
AdaptabilityAttention to detail
Conflict resolutionIntegrity

Here’s more information on how to incorporate skills into your resume:

STEP 7: OPTIONAL SECTIONS #

If you still have space left or there’s more you want to show off that doesn’t quite fit in any of the above sections, you may consider adding an additional section covering one or more of the below categories:

  • Language: Being bilingual is always impressive, and can be included on a resume for any company. Highlight this more if your position involves liaising with international distributors and/or clients. Don’t lie about your proficiency level. But also consider skipping if you’re just a basic speaker who can, like, totally understand most of what goes on in Narcos without subtitles.
  • Volunteer experience: Always a good thing to include. It shows you’re a team player who behaves in a way that promotes the greater good, without thought of personal gain. Especially good for entry-level candidates and those applying for jobs at a non-profit. If you have gaps in your work history, you can also consider including volunteer experiences in your work history section instead.
  • Personal projects: A personal blog, published works, or a portfolio of your past projects are all good things to include. They show you take initiative, enjoy and take pride in your work, and that you can handle the responsibilities of the job, if relevant.
  • Certifications/Licenses: If you didn’t include these in your education section, this is another good place to list relevant certifications or licenses that you have.
  • Interests: Kind of just a space-filler if your resume is light in other areas. But hey, if you and the interviewer share some hobbies, that can’t hurt, right?

If you have several seemingly random items that are valuable, but don’t warrant creating a whole separate section for, you can also make a section called “Additional Experience.” Here you can include all of the above categories in one place. Just make sure that each item is clear and easy for readers to understand.

More on additional resume sections:

RESUME SAMPLES #

Now that we have a good idea of how to write a resume, let’s take a look at some example resumes:

  1. resume example zippia resume builderChronological Resume ExampleJACK PILGRIMWashington, DC 14015 – (555) 444-3333 – jackpilgrim@gmail.com – www.linkedin.com/jpilgrimRESUME SUMMARYGraphic designer with 3+ years of experience creating and implementing promotional materials and social media graphics. Worked with sales and marketing teams to increase inbound calls by 23% YoY through compelling digital media. Adept at planning, managing, and prioritizing multiple deadlines at once, and thrives in fast-paced work environment.WORK EXPERIENCECreative Designs | Washington, DC
    Lead Graphic Designer | June 2018-Present
    • Worked with sales and marketing teams to create landing pages, sales proposals, and supporting media elements to drive sales by over $250,000 per quarter
    • Trained, managed, and mentored team of 4 junior designers to fulfill 40+ project orders on a weekly basis
    • Conducted UX research through surveys, usability testing, and data analysis to plan content marketing strategy, driving organic search traffic by 12%
    • Presented proposals, results, and status updates to set of 4-7 clients, ensuring customer satisfaction at or above 95% for 3 years straight
    Happy Place | Alexandria, VA
    Junior Graphic Designer | July 2016-May 2018
    • Translated client needs and branding strategies into design and content strategy, increasing client retention by 22%
    • Reduced project turnaround time by 8% by Utilizing web-based ticket system for completing and archiving finalized pieces
    • Posted digital artwork to network IPTV using web interface to produce high-end infographics and other materials
    Happy Place | Alexandria, VA
    Marketing Intern | September 2015-July 2016
    • Assisted marketing team with data collection, analysis, and presentation using Google Analytics
    • Drew up storyboards for new marketing campaigns alongside sales team, increasing brand awareness through social media
    • Wrote 500-1000 word articles to pair with graphical elements on page, leading to a 40% boost in engagement on company website
    EDUCATIONSavannah College of Art and Design | Savannah, Georgia
    May 2016
    Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic DesignSKILLS
    • Adobe Creative Suite
    • Typography
    • HTML/CSS
    • WordPress
    • Collaboration
    • Organization
  2. Functional Resume ExampleALLISON NEEDERLYChicago, Illinois, 60007 | (333) 222-1111 | jackpilgrim@gmail.com | www.linkedin.com/allison.neederlyRESUME SUMMARYDedicated customer service representative with 4+ years experience resolving customers’ needs in-person, online, and over the phone. Top achiever at XYZ Inc. with a 100% customer satisfaction rate for Q1 of 2020. Friendly personable, and knowledgable about company’s products and services.RELEVANT SKILLSCustomer Service
    • Responded to upwards of 200 customer queries daily with XYZ Inc., reducing the average wait time by 56% and increasing customer satsifaction rates by 13%
    • Ability to resolve conflict and create a positive atmosphere for shopping for both new and existing customers through technical proficiency
    • Expert product knowledge and communication skills, and experience training and mentoring new customer service staff
    Web Chat and Phone
    • Skilled in 3 web chat platforms for helping online customers resolve their queries quickly and accurately
    • Achieved fastest call resolution rate at XYZ Inc., with an average resolution time of under 5 minutes per customer
    • Performed outbound calls for customer satisfaction surveys, as well as writing web-based surveys for 10,000+ customers
    Troubleshooting
    • Detailed product knowledge allowed for customer technical issues to be resolved at rate within top 5% of all customer service associates at XYZ Inc.
    • Created manual for step-by-step directions for troubleshooting that was implemented for team of 100+ customer service reps
    • Positive attitude took average tech-related negative response from 1/5 stars to 4/5 stars, increasing trust in brands and services
    WORK EXPERIENCEXYZ Inc. | Philadelphia, PA
    Customer Service Associate
    New Look Global | Burlington, VT
    Junior Customer Service Representative
    L.L. Bean | Burlington, VT
    Sales AssociateEDUCATIONUniversity of Vermont | Burlington, VT
    May 2012
    Bachelor of Arts in Humanities
  3. Combination Resume ExamplePRIYA LAGHARINew York, NY | (222) 111-0000 | priya.laghari@gmail.com | www.priyabizdev.comRESUME PROFILE
    • Strategy Development: Grew John Deere’s international sales by 13% by tapping into underserved countries in Southeast Asia
    • Management: Oversaw a team of managers representing marketing, sales, and product teams. Streamlined collaborative, cross-functional communications through agile and scrum management system
    • CRM: Developed, customized, and implemented new custmer relationship management database for accounts totalling over $10M in value
    WORK EXPERIENCEBusiness Development Manager
    01/2015-Present
    Microsoft | Redmond, WA
    • Developed product strategies and roadmap for Google AdWords, increasing inbound traffic by 26% YoY
    • Reduced time training on new software by 50% for new and existing employees by implement e-learning programs
    • Spearheaded digital marketing campaign worth $1M that saw a return of 200% in first year by qualifying leads earlier in the sales funnel
    Regional Sales Manager
    11/2012-01/2015
    Big Things Inc. | St. Louis, MO
    • Managed territory encompassing 29 regional locations with an annual revenue of approx. $55M
    • Worked with C-level executives to plan business strategies, resulting in 20% reduction in overhead costs
    • Increased client retention by 12% in first year by implementing a CRM approach based on accouunt profiling and elevating levels of relationship selling
    Account Manager
    02/2009-11/2012
    Solutions Corp. | Chicago, IL
    • Implemented and developed CRM strategic plans, increasing retention of long-term clients by 22%
    • Maintained 50+ accounts totaling over $35M in value
    • Generated leads through one-on-one consultation via phone inquiries, online check-ins, and meeting office walk-ins
    RELEVANT SKILLS
    • CRM: Proficient with Salesforce, Zoho, and HubSpot; some experience with Keap. Used various CRM software over a decade to successfully manage customer relatinos and quick to adapt to new software and tools that aid in quality of customer experience.
    • Salesmanship: Negotiated and closed over several deals worth $1M+ and skilled in upselling and cross-selling. Adept at working closely with marketing and product teams to maximize the efficiency of the sales funnel for both inbound and outbound traffic.
    • Presentation: Represented Microsoft Northwest Region at quarterly board meetings, ensuring all stakeholders were kept abreast of new developments and opportunities. Also deliver monthly presentations to big clients and vendors to maintain positive relationship.
    • Data analytics. Expert at integrating data from various analytics platforms, inclding Google, Microsoft Power BI, and SAP BusinessObjects
    EDUCATIONColgate University | May 2008
    MBAFordham University | May 2006
    Bachelor’s Degree in BusinessFor more resume examples and templates: