If you’re like most people, the thought of writing a resume makes you nervous. Few people enjoy writing, much less writing about themselves, much less writing when so much is at stake.
To make the resume writing process easier, start by taking a deep breath. Now, think of writing your resume as compiling information, not creative writing. Finally, let go of the notion that everything is riding on your performance. The resume is part of the job hunting process, not the beginning and not the end. The purpose of a resume is to get you an interview, not to change your life.
Be proud of what you’ve done, and now get ready to tell other people about your work experience, qualifications, accomplishments, and education.
How to write a resume, broken down step by step.
Gather All The Facts For Your Resume
Get your facts in order, before you start writing a resume. Decide what contact information you’ll include. Compile your work history (companies, dates, job titles, and responsibilities). Gather information on your education (continuing education, classes, training, certifications, and degrees).
Determine Which Type Of Resume You’ll Need
Once you have all your facts in order, you’ll need to decide which of the different types of resumes you’ll be writing. The three main types of resumes are: functional resume, chronological resume, and combination resume.
Decide Whether You’ll Use A Resume Builder
If you’re going to use a resume builder, (some of which offer free resume building services), choose one that will work best for the type of resume you want to create. Resume builders can be a great tool, because they offer a structured, a “fill-in-the-blank” approach. The drawback to resume builders is that they can be expensive (despite their “free” claims”) and they tend to generate “generic” resumes.
Start Writing Your Resume
Assuming you’re not going to use a resume builder, once you’ve settled on the type of resume you want, start writing. Don’t worry if everything isn’t perfect the first time around, just get the information down on paper or put into a computer.
Edit Your Resume For Consistency
Now, take the rough draft of your resume and edit it for consistency. For example, if you’re writing in the first person without pronouns, stick with that style. “Managed a five-person team” and “Implemented a more efficient process that saved the company $1.5 million over five years.”
Double-Check Your Resume For Accuracy
Once you’ve edited your resume, go back and double-check everything for accuracy, particularly dates.
Consider This Your “Master” Resume
Once you’ve finalized your resume, consider this your “master” resume, and take the time to customize it (if only slightly) each time you apply for a job. Rewrite the objective to better suit the job opening. Reorganize your skills and qualifications to match what an employer is looking for in an applicant. Do whatever it takes to make it seem as if the resume you’ve just created has been written specifically for that job position, with that company.
Hire A Professional Resume Writer
If all of the tasks above seem too overwhelming, consider hiring a professional resume writer. The investment in professional writing services will be well worth the money spent if it helps you land a job you otherwise would have missed because of a poorly written resume.
Types Of Resumes
There are different types of resumes and styles, and before you can begin to write a resume, you need to choose one.
Which resume style will work best for you? That depends on the type of job you’re applying for and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
These are three main types of resumes:
Here's a summary of each one and why they might work for you.
If you want to highlight the skill sets, qualifications, and strengths you could offer an employer, you’ll want to write your resume in a functional resume format.
Most free resume builders offer functional resume format options, which can save you time when you’re writing your resume.
What Is A Functional Resume
A functional resume format is a resume that lists qualifications, strengths, assets, and skills at the top of the resume, followed by a job history (which may not even include dates or company names) and education.
When Should You Use A Functional Resume
Because a functional resume highlights qualifications, skills, and experience, it’s good to use if:
•you’re changing careers
•you have gaps in your work history
•you’ve had a lot of jobs in a short amount of time
•your education is stronger than your work experience
A chronological resume is the most common type of resume, and the easiest one to write.
In a chronological resume, you’ll list your work history first, which makes it easy for employers to instantly spot where you’ve worked and how long you’ve held various positions.
Most free resume builders offer chronological resume format options, which can save you time when you’re writing your resume.
What Is A Chronological Resume Format
A chronological resume format is a resume that’s organized by the dates of your employment, starting with your most recent job.
When Should You Use A Chronological Resume Format
Because a chronological resume brings your work history to the forefront, you should use a chronological resume if:
•you have a strong work history that shows stability at jobs
•you’ve worked for prestigious companies and/or held prestigious positions
Typically, a combination resume combines the best of a functional resume with elements of a chronological resume, but it could also include features of a narration resume.
Most free resume builders offer combination resume format options, which can save you time when you’re writing your resume.
What Is A Combination Resume Format
A combination resume format generally starts out as a functional resume (with skills, qualifications, strengths, and abilities listed at the top) and then folds in elements of a chronological resume (straightforward job history, in reverse chronological order, with company names and dates of employment).
When Should You Use A Combination Resume Format
Because a combination resume format spotlights your abilities, you should use a combination resume if:
•your qualifications and strengths outweigh your job history
•you’re changing careers
•you want to customize your resume for a specific job opening or position
10 Tips to a Successful Resume
Cover The Basics In Your Resume
As odd as this sounds, one of the best steps you can take when writing a resume is to include the basics, (although not necessarily in this exact order):
•objective / what you’re looking for
•qualifications / strengths / skills / proficiencies
•work experience / job history
•education / continuing education / training / certifications
•professional associations (optional)
•hobbies and interests (optional)
Customize Each Resume
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a “generic” resume – one document that will work for a variety of job openings and companies, at least not one that works. As time consuming and tedious as it can be, you’re going to have to customize your resume every time you apply for a job. From the job listing and job description, try to determine what’s most important to the employer and tailor your resume to fit that criteria.
Play To Your Strengths In Your Resume
When you’re writing a resume, play to your strengths. If you have lots of education and little practical experience, position education at the top of your resume. If you have large gaps in your employment history, don’t use a chronological resume. If your greatest strengths are your technical skills, list them at the beginning of the resume. Factor in your background and history, as well as the type of job you’re applying for, before you choose the type of resume you’ll write.
Focus On Achievements And Unique Skills In Your Resume
Gone are the days when resumes that were built on facts netted jobs. In today’s competitive job market, employers have their pick of qualified candidates. To get to the interview phase, your resume better sing your praises and clearly convey what separates you from the pack. It’s important to be explicit about how and why a company would benefit from hiring you.
Include Keywords In Your Resume
One of the keys to creating an effective resume in today’s job hunting world is to include keywords. Keywords are important to edit into all types of resumes, but they become vital if you’re submitting an online resume. The presence (or absence) of keywords in your resume will determine if you make it to the next level. Keywords are primary words and phrases that describe your skills, background, and education. For example, if the job you’re applying for requires a familiarity with Microsoft Excel, the words “Microsoft Excel” better be on your resume. If your potential employer wants “managerial skills,” you have to have those words on your resume, too.
Get Rid Of The Pronouns In Your Resume
For some reason, even though your resume is all about you, it looks unseemly if the word “I” is sprinkled throughout the copy. Skip it, and instead use phrases such as “managed a team of ten software engineers” or “completed the project on time and on budget.”
Be Specific In Your Resume
Be as specific as you can, wherever you can, in your resume. For example, a sentence such as “increased sales” means nothing. Whereas “increased sales by 54% in a six-month period” is a concrete demonstration of an accomplishment.
Pay Attention To Formatting In Your Resume
Formatting and design matters in resumes. Split your information into “bite-size” chunks by using bullet-points, lists, short sentences, short paragraphs, and plenty of white space.
Keep Your Resume Brief
No matter how much you’ve accomplished, where you’ve worked, or which degrees you’ve earned, keep your resume to one page. No one needs to read more than that to determine if they want to interview you. The more you say, the more it looks like filler. Make every sentence and achievement count.
Proofread Your Resume
You absolutely, positively cannot have errors in your resume. Not one mistake! To ensure that you’re sending out a perfect resume:
•proof your resume several times
•reread your resume aloud
•read your resume backwards (start with sentences at the bottom of the page and work your way up)
•have a friend, colleague, or family member double check your work
Adding References To Your Resume
Lastly, before you send out a resume, make sure you include job references, either at the bottom of the resume or on a separate page.
At the very least, state in your resume or cover letter that “References Are Available Upon Request.”
Ideally, you should include 3-5 references, representing a cross-section of your work history and abilities.
The resume references should include:
•Company / organization
•Contact Information (phone, e-mail, street address)
•A line or two that describes how you know the person and what your relationship is
•A snippet of their reference comments, if you have them (no more than 50-100 words per reference)
Before you include someone on your resume reference list, call or e-mail them first and ask if they’re willing to provide a positive reference. The key here is “positive.” If you think that someone might be inclined to divulge negative information about your job history, work habits, relationships with co-workers, or reasons for leaving the company, leave them off your reference list.
Your reference list should only include people who could be considered “raving fans” – people who think that you walk on water!
Resume writing is a bit of an art but it can be simplified using the tips provided above. Remember, keep it simple, use key details to get your message across and follow a known resume style. Doing so will ensure you create the best opportunity to get yourself in front of a prospective hiring manager.