How to write a resume

A resume is one of the most important tools a job seeker has. It’s often your introduction to a hiring manager. And it could be the thing that lands you your dream job.

There’s a lot to remember when writing a professional resume. Knowing what to include and how to structure it can help you present your best self to a potential employer.

Key takeaways

  • A resume should make it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to understand why you’re a good fit for the role.
  • You may format your resume to emphasize your work history or your skills, depending on your experience or the specific job.
  • A resume typically includes contact information, a professional summary, work experience, education, hard skills, soft skills, volunteer experience and any awards or honors.

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What should a resume look like?

A resume is like a personal marketing document that describes your professional experience and any other qualities that may be relevant to the job you’re applying for. A well-formatted resume will provide recruiters and hiring managers with the most relevant or useful information upfront. This makes it easier for the hiring team to scan and evaluate your resume.

It’s typically recommended that a resume be no longer than two pages. This can be quite different from a CV, so make sure that before you apply for the job, you know the differences between a resume and a CV and which one you’re being asked to submit.

In order from the top, a resume should provide a recruiter or hiring manager with the following information:

  • How to contact you (email, phone number, professional networking profiles)
  • An overview of your professional history and accomplishments
  • An in-depth breakdown of your qualifications

But as you’ll see in this guide, the way you choose to provide this information depends on your professional experience and the type of positions you’re applying for. 

What are 3 types of resumes?

Depending on what works best for you and the job you’re applying for, you could also choose one of these formats to showcase your experience: 

  • Chronological resumes are formatted with professional experience in reverse chronological order—meaning they start with your most recent position. This is the way most resumes are formatted. The style makes it easy for hiring managers to see your career progression. 
  • Functional resumes prioritize skills and experience over particular job titles or dates of positions held. You might still include your work history, but it might be shorter and nearer the end of the resume. Resumes like this might work for people without a lot of career experience or those who have changed roles or industries, as you can emphasize transferable skills.
  • Combination resumes merge chronological and functional styles by keeping the comprehensive chronological job history but putting skills first. These resumes tend to be longer.

What to include in a resume

What you include in your resume might depend on your experience or the job you’re applying for. But here are some common elements you can consider when drafting your resume.

1. Contact information

Many resume formats put contact information at the top of the document. This makes it quick and easy for hiring managers or recruiters to contact you. You can include:

  • Your name
  • A professional-sounding email address
  • Your primary phone number

It’s a good idea to include your physical address, too. You may also want to add a link to your portfolio or LinkedIn account.

2. Professional summary

Professional summaries are a paragraph-long snapshot of who you are and what you can offer. They can emphasize your accomplishments and your skills and give the recruiter or hiring manager a good sense of what the rest of your resume contains. 

This section should go near the top of your resume. But consider writing it last. This can help you best summarize the resume’s main points and tailor your message to fit the job.

3. Work experience

For each position held, you can include the following information:

  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Years of experience at the company
  • Bullet points describing your responsibilities and accomplishments—try to describe specific actions you took and results you achieved

If you’re following the reverse chronological format, this section can go underneath the professional summary. If you’re using the functional or combined resume format, you can move it nearer the end.

4. Education

An education section is another key component. If you’re just breaking into the job market or you’re changing fields, it can be featured above your work experience. Consider including the following information:

  • Highest qualification awarded
  • Institution attended
  • The month and year your qualification was or will be conferred
  • Grade point average, including the scale

If you have a college degree, you may not need to include your high school information. But you can include any relevant courses taken and other certifications earned. 

5. Skills

The skills section is a chance to highlight the qualifications that are most important to the position you’re applying for. It can also be a good place to mention any requirements and skills listed in the job posting that might not otherwise be in your resume. 

If you’re following a functional resume format, you would put this section above the work and education sections.

Here are some ways you can make it easy for the hiring manager or recruiter to appreciate your skills:

  • Create a list of your skills, including software you’ve used.
  • Group skills under a topic or job type to highlight your proficiency in those areas.
  • List your skills and highlight each with one or more results in that area from previous positions.

6. Volunteer experience or professional organization memberships

Depending on your background, you could merge these two sections or keep them separate. The goal with both is to highlight experiences and skills not otherwise covered by your employment or educational background. 

7. Awards and recognition

This section should list any relevant awards or special recognition you have received during your career. If you’re just starting out, you could also include any awards and honors that you received in school.

How do you make a good resume?

A good resume makes it easy for a hiring manager to quickly understand what you’d bring to the role. Consider the following tips when resume writing:

  • Make the resume easy to read by using a traditional font style and a font size between nine and 12 points.
  • Add spacing between sections and use bullet points to make the document less intimidating to look at. But keep in mind the general recommendation to keep the length at one to two pages.
  • Save your resume as a Word document and as a PDF. Most people are able to open at least one of these document types.
  • Use action verbs and describe results—with specific statistics when possible.
  • Don’t forget to emphasize your soft skills as well as your hard skills.
  • Customize your resume for the job you’re applying to. Reflect the requirements listed in the job posting as closely as you can.
  • Limit personal information to your name and contact details.
  • If you have a long work history, consider only including your most relevant experience over the past 10-15 years.
  • Before you submit your resume, proofread it for typos and grammatical errors.
  • Supplement your resume with a cover letter customized to the specific job posting.

Final thoughts about how to write a resume

Resume writing in 2022 is about showcasing your years of experience in a clear and concise way. Your resume should show potential employers your professional experience, education and any other skills that can make you stand out from other candidates. 

If you’d like more help with your job search, you can read about how to get a job or how to write an effective cover letter next.

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