Let’s face it. Writing a resume is a daunting task. While the resources providing writing tips are many, few actually provide a step by step process on how to write one. However if you want to write it on your own, we commend your courage and are here to guide you through the process.
Make a Resume in Minutes >>
Table of Contents
- Step 1: Choose From 3 Formats
- Step 2: How to Order your Information
- Step 3: How to Style your Resume
First, let’s review what a resume isn’t.
- It isn’t a log of your job history.
- It isn’t a summary of skills.
- It isn’t going to automatically get you a job.
Think of your resume this way: It’s an advertisement, and YOU are the product. Your goal is to get hiring managers to buy into what you’re selling – which means giving you an interview. To accomplish that, you need to see it as your marketing tool, your trusty belt buckle of tricks. Without it you are powerless. However, simply having a one isn’t enough to get you an interview.
When you finish with your resume, don’t forget to write a matching cover letter. Download one of our cover letter templates and get started.
Think about it — everyone has advertisements. Why should anyone buy into yours? Hiring managers have the difficult task of wading through the ads to find the right fit for their company.
Much like the flashing neon signs along the Vegas Strip, hiring managers are attracted to well-formatted resumes with attention-grabbing details. Studies show that, “8 out of 10 resumes are discarded with only a 10 second glance.” So in order stand out from the crowd it’s important that yours markets your skills in a way that demonstrates that you can successfully perform the duties of the job.
“A guiding principle of the résumé writing profession is that there are no hard and fast rules.”
To help you do this, we’ve written easy-to-follow steps on how to write a resume. Before we get into the steps it should be noted that there is no certified way to write one. There are some who insist otherwise, but even certified professional resume writers will admit that, “a guiding principle of the résumé writing profession is that there are no hard and fast rules.” With that being said, below are some tips and guidelines to help you write one that best presents your career goals.
Step 1: Choose From 3 Formats
So you are staring at a blank page on your computer wondering, “Where do I start?” Hundreds ask this same question every day and the reason is most likely due to the fact that there is no standard rule for formatting a resume.
Your formatting decision comes down to 3 choices: Reverse-Chronological, Functional, and Combination. Each format has their own advantages and disadvantages. Below, you will find which one is best for you.
This is the more traditional format and is what you are most likely to come across. Chronological format is flexible and can be used for applicants with any level of experience.
I should use if:
- I want to show a vertical career progression.
- I want to apply to a job in a similar field.
- I want to promote my upward career mobility
I shouldn’t use if:
- I have major gaps in my employment history.
- I am changing my career path.
- I change jobs every few months.
While chronological places emphasis on career progression, a functional format focuses on your abilities and skills. Since it heavily emphasizes the applicant’s qualifications, functional format is more suitable for those with an expert level of experience.
I should use if:
- I have gaps in my employment history.
- I am changing my career industry.
- I want to highlight a specific skill set.
I shouldn’t use if:
- I want to highlight my upward career mobility.
- I am an entry level candidate that lacks experience.
- I lack transferable skills
As you can probably guess the combination format merges bits and pieces from both chronological and functional formats. Like the functional format, it focuses on specific qualifications, yet the body of the document contains professional experience similar to chronological format. This format is generally reserved for those with a great deal of experience in a particular industry.
I should use if:
- I want to highlight a developed skill set within a specific career.
- I want to change my career path.
- I am a master of the subject I am applying to.
I shouldn’t use if:
- I want to highlight my education.
- I lack experience.
- I am an entry level candidate.
Step 2: The Order of Information
Before delving into what information you should add, it’s important to remember that the information you include will largely depend on the format you choose. With that being said, below is a general guide to what information you should add and the order in which you should add it.
I. Contact Information
The contact information section is pretty self-explanatory. This section does not require a label (Contact Information or Contact Details). When listing your contact details you should follow this order:
- Name (largest font on page, middle initial is optional)
- Mailing Address
- Telephone Number (Check that you have an appropriate voicemail message)
- Email Address (make sure it’s appropriate, don’t use your email@example.com account.)
- Link to online portfolio (optional, ensure it is relevant to the position)
- LinkedIn Profile
Here are 3 different examples of how you can format your contact information section (pay attention to the yellow highlights):
Also, be careful not to accidentally add the contact information in the header as applicant tracking systems may not be able to read it.
II. Choose a Resume Introduction
Like formats, job seekers have 3 choices for their resume introduction: a qualifications summary, career objective, and professional profile. The goal of all three are to gain the attention of an employer by highlighting your skills and experience that will help their company. However, the method through which each introduction achieves this goal differs. See below:
With regards to format, the qualifications summary is a bullet point list (ranging from 4 to 6 points) of your most outstanding career achievements. Avoid using generic statements and try to list your skills in a way reflects your unique voice.
I should use if:
- I am applying to a job that requires a rigid set of abilities.
- I have a wealth of experience in the industry.
- I possess multiple skill sets.
I shouldn’t use if:
- I lack experience.
- I am an entry level candidate that lacks specific skill sets.
- I lack measurable achievements.
A resume objective, also referred to as a career objective, is a 2-3 sentence statement that provides an overview of your skills and experience. This resume introduction is best for entry-level candidates.
I should use if:
- I am an entry-level applicant.
- I do not have in-depth experience in the industry.
- I am a recent college graduate.
I shouldn’t use if:
- I have a wealth of industry-specific skill sets.
- I am changing career paths.
- I am writing a cover letter.
The professional profile is a combination of both the career objective and qualifications summary. It is also the most flexible of the three styles as it can be formatted as short paragraph of bullet-point list.
I should use if:
- I have had major achievement in my past experience
- I am applying to a position in the same industry
- I have a special area of expertise in my field
I shouldn’t use if:
- I am an entry-level applicant
- I am recent college graduate
- I lack measurable of accomplishments
Finally, when deciding what skills to add to either of the two, try to target skills specific to the job you are applying for. Don’t just simply copy and paste skills right out of the job description, but instead try to use words common in the industry.
III. Professional Experience
The section is the core of your resume, where you are tasked with proving the skills you have listed in the qualifications summary or career objective. When it comes to labeling this section some use “Relevant Experience,” or “Work Experience” as an alternative to “Professional Experience.”
Remember to list your work experiences in reverse chronological order and only list experience that is relevant to the job you are applying for. For each company create a heading including the company’s name, city & state, your title, and the dates of employment (month and year). If you are still currently working at a company, you can simply write “month, year-Present” for the employment dates.
A general rule is that each experience have around 3-5 bullet points of your main duties and achievements.
3 Parts of a strong bullet point:
- 1st: Action Verb (should always be first)
- 2nd: Quantifiable Point
- 3rd: Specific and relevant job duty
Trained 5+ cashiers, managing their cash limits and guaranteeing quality customer service at all times.
Example #2:(Note that the Quantifiable Point does not need to come immediately after the action verb)
Spearheadedthe development of the first media kit amalgamation for all company projects, increasing national sales by 8%.
The above bullet points are great examples because they use action verbs to help to snatch the attention of hiring managers. Here is an endless list of action verbs to help get some inspiration. When writing your past experiences don’t forget to write your action verbs in past tense.
Having a solid education section helps to display the foundation of your knowledge and expertise. Depending on your professional experience, you may want to consider switching the order of the professional experience and education sections.
For instance, college or high school students that lack seasoned professional experience benefit from emphasizing their education by placing it before the professional experience section. In addition, if you possess a wealth of professional experience then it is appropriate to keep this section short and sweet.
Here are the main points to include in your education section:
- The names of your university, community college, or technical school(Don’t include high school unless you did not attend college)
- Location of the schools (city, state)
- Date of graduation (month, year)
- GPA (only include if your GPA is above 3.0, round up to the first decimal place , and use this format: GPA: 3.5/4.0)
Here are three examples of how you can format an education section (pay attention to the yellow highlighted areas):
V. Additional Sections
By now you’ve already added the nuts and bolts to your resume. Below are a few sections you may want to consider adding to help strengthen it.
The certifications section is the most important of the other sections you can include, but adding a certifications or licenses section is largely dependent on your industry. For example, the nursing field has strict licensing requirements while the customer service sector does not.
If your industry requires certifications the hiring manager will be intent on finding them in your application. Make sure to thoroughly research your industry to find any relevant certifications or licenses you may have missed.
Adding a publications sections is pertinent for graduate students who have published articles that are relevant to the job they are applying to. List your articles in reverse chronological order by publishing date. Choose the referencing style that is appropriate to your discipline. It also acceptable to add works that have yet to be published. You may label these as “Works in Progress” or “Submitted for Publication.” Here is an example of how a publications sections should be formatted.
This section adds another layer of customization to your resume by providing evidence of your abilities. Adding relevant awards and activities helps you stand out from your competition. If this section becomes too lengthy, feel free to break them up into smaller sections. Here are some items to consider adding:
- Academic Honors
- Volunteer positions
- Professional Affiliations
Never add a references section on your resume. If an employer requests them, send a properly-formatted Reference Page.
Some careers, such as those in the IT or Engineering fields, require specialized knowledge and hands-on skills. Within the IT industry, a software manager’s responsibilities will differ from company to company. A technical skills section is helpful in showcasing your knowledge of specific systems.
To prevent this section from taking up too much space, try breaking up this section into categories and list your skills within each. For example:
- Software: Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite, Visio, and Oracle
- Programming Languages: Excel at HTML, C++, and Python
Including an additional skills section may be worth considering. An additional skills section is a short and concise list of skills relevant to your industry. This section is similar a technical skills, but is often used for industries that do not specifically require advanced skills. Check out the yellow-highlighted additional skills section in the image to your right.
What to include:
- Fluency in a second language
- Knowledge of computer applications (ie Photoshop, Illustrator)
- Ability to operate heavy machinery
What not to include:
- Generic statements (Customer Service Skills)
- Run of the mill skills
- Unrelated skills
Even if you have already added skills to your career objective or qualifications summary, it never hurts to add more abilities. For instance, someone like an IT manager who works with a wide array of programs and techniques will in turn have a wide range of skills to fill both a qualifications summary and additional skills section.
Step 3: How to Style your Resume
Whew! So the hard part is over. You have all your content typed up and you are feeling confident about getting that interview. Now for the finishing touches. It’s time to give it some personality.
I. # of Pages
This is the most argued point of resume writing. Some professionals vigorously discourage applicants from going over one page, while others argue that in some instances it is acceptable. The bottom line is this: if you have information that is highly relevant to the position you are applying for then go ahead and add an extra page. However, if you are just adding fluff for the sake of adding pages, then your resume will suffer.
II. Font and Sizing Dos and Don’ts
Font style and size is largely dependent on your preference. You can never be sure what the hiring manager prefers so you have to go with your gut. However there are some Dos and Don’ts when it comes to choosing your font and sizes.
- Choose easy-to-read fonts
- Use the same font throughout
- Change sizes in descending order for your name, headers, and bullet points
- Choose a font that fits with the text sizes you’ve chosen
- Don’t choose small sizes to fit everything on one page
- Don’t pick wacky fonts (for heavens sake not Wing Dings!)
- Don’t have one uniform text size throughout
- Don’t go below 9pt
- Don’t spend too much time on choosing a font
For sizing, many resumes follow a 24, 12, 10 format. This means that the name is 24pt, the body headers are 12pt, and the bullet points are 10pt.
If the hiring manager needs to put on their glasses just to make out your experience, then your application will be on one-way trip to the trash can.
This is by no means a rule, but rather a guideline to consider following. Just remember to keep the readability in mind when choosing sizes. If the hiring manager needs to put on their glasses just to make out your experience, then your application will be on one-way trip to the trash can.
When choosing your font, the choice will come down to a “Serif” style or a “Sans Serif” style. The major difference is that Serif fonts have small lines on the ends of their letters, while the Sans Serif does not. Again, the choice is based on your preference of what you think will be the easiest for a potential employer to read.
It’s worth noting whether your resume is a paper version or an electronic version. For a paper version it’s better to use Serif fonts, while electronic versions look better in Sans Serif fonts. Below are some popular font choices.
|Serif Fonts:||San Serif Fonts:|
Lines are great to use to help break up the resume and allow potential employers to better process the information. Line breaks commonly begin after the career objective or qualifications summary. From there, they are used to break each subsequent section. How you divide it is up to you, but just don’t go page break crazy for every bit of information. Too many page breaks will ruin its readability.
Below are some line styles for you to consider (see the yellow highlights):
Margins are the first thing a potential employer will notice about your resume, so it’s important that they are appropriately set. One inch margins are the safe bet for applicants that lack experience. If you have a wealth of experience that you are trying to fit to one page then it is acceptable to reduce to the margins. Be cautious when reducing the margins. If they are too small, your pages will look overcrowded. To be safe it is recommended not to go below .5.”
You’ve made it! Give yourself a pat on the back. Hopefully by now you are well on your way to writing an outstanding resume. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment below. Our experts will get back to you as soon as possible.
Does all of this sound a little bit too demanding? If so, let our free resume builder software do all of the hard work for you.
As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.
Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.
“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”
'I felt guilty when I got my results': your stories of buying essays | Guardian readers and Sarah Marsh
The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.
“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”
But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.
“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?
“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”
Critique your own arguments
Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.
“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”
Applying to university? It's time to narrow your choices down to two
Fine, use Wikipedia then
The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.
“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”
Focus your reading
Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.
Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.
You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.
“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”
There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.
Essays for sale: the booming online industry in writing academic work to order
Look beyond the reading list
“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”
And finally, the introduction
The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.
“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”
Keep up with the latest on Guardian Students: follow us on Twitter at @GdnStudents – and become a member to receive exclusive benefits and our weekly newsletter.