A resume is an essential professional document. Every job applicant needs a resume to apply for a job or change their career trajectory. Your resume must be up to date with all your education qualifications, work experience, and technical skills. Recruiters and hiring managers identify potential candidates based on the quality of their resumes.
An exceptional resume helps you stand out from the sea of candidates. It advertises your credentials and skills in the best light. Without an excellent overview, you will fail to attract the attention of companies and HRs. To make the best impression on your next employer, you must upgrade your resume writing skills, and we are here to help you with that.
As we all know, resume submission is a standard part of the recruitment process. Based on this resume, a company decides whether you are the right fit or not. Therefore, your resume must be optimized with the correct format to maximize your chances of landing a job interview.
In this article, we’ll discuss the key ingredients of excellent resume writing. We will guide you through how to write a resume, types of resumes, checklists for resume writing, resume layout, and more. You will have the know-how to create your very own custom resume by the end of this guide.
What is a resume?
A resume is a formal documentation that job candidates use to apply for a position. It is an itemized list of a job seeker’s academic credentials, professional experience, personal or professional achievements, and technical and non-technical skills. Traditionally, a resume is one to two pages in length. In many cases, job applicants attach a cover letter alongside their resumes.
While different resumes have distinct layouts, the categories or sections essentially remain the same. You can divide a particular resume into the following sections:
- Description of career objectives.
- Summary of skills and achievements.
- A detailed list of previous jobs.
- A list of degrees earned.
Resume and curriculum vitae are used interchangeably. However, they differ from one another in specific aspects. A resume is a shorter description of your academic and professional specifications, while a CV is a more detailed document. Additionally, they also differ in terms of layout and format.
As an applicant, you need to deliver what the employer expects from you. If the requirement is a CV, you need to submit a CV and not a resume. You should carefully analyze the requirements and tailor your CV or resume to fit the job specifications.
What are the different types of resumes?
Reverse chronological resume
In this resume format, you list your work experience in reverse chronology. You start with the most recent position and work backward. Professionals most widely use this resume format for their job applications. In reverse chronological style, the emphasis is on a steady employment tenure. When you use such a format, your highlights are the job titles, responsibilities, and length of service.
You must choose a reverse chronological resume format if you have enjoyed a steady career progression in the same domain. This format is unfit for those with gaps in employment or who had recently changed their area of specialization. The structure of this resume calls such discrepancy to attention.
A significant disadvantage of such a type of resume is that it obscures your skills and achievement. The primary focus is on the employment record rather than your abilities. Hence, you must use this format only when you have had stable career growth in the past without any disruptions.
Functional resumes are primarily skill-based. The focus of the functional style resume is on the skills and strengths of the employee. You highlight your expertise, technical or creative capabilities, and professionalism in this format. You don’t have to emphasize the duration of employment, work history, or previous employers.
Functional resumes are best suited for those with employment gaps or limited work experience. If you’re a fresher or returning to the job market after a sabbatical, a functional resume would work best for you. If the objective is to emphasize your career growth and development, a functional resume would not serve you adequately.
The advantage of the skill-based format is that it shines a spotlight on transferable skills. These skills are appealing to prospective employers. You don’t have to draw focus to your age, length of service, underemployment, or lack of career progression. However, this also makes functional resumes undesirable to employers. You should opt for this only if it’s necessary.
A combination resume merges the strength of both chronological and functional resumes. Its advantage is that this format shows your strong employment record, career progression, and transferable skills. Instead of merely focusing on job titles, you can display your upward mobility and growth throughout your career.
A combination-style resume is apt in situations where you are changing the domain. In this format, your previous employer’s name is not the highlight of your resume. What matters is your ability to upskill and adapt to the specific role. A combination resume offers you more flexibility than chronological and functional resumes.
The combination format is appropriate if you have expertise in 3 to 4 different professional fields and want to show it off in your resume. The structure of this resume allows you to describe your extensive, specialized skill sets eloquently. A combination-style summary features a chronological work history section where you can highlight all your skills and expertise in detail.
How to write a resume?
With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a resume for a job application. We will break down the nuances and provide the best writing tips that will help you create the perfect resume.
Select the correct type of resume
The first step of resume writing is selecting an appropriate format for your resume. You can choose a chronological, functional, or combination-style resume. As discussed earlier, each type of resume has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s best to consider the pros and cons before settling on one of these templates.
The standard format that applicants widely use is the reverse chronological template. It’s a good resume format because it’s easier to read and understand. Meanwhile, the functional design is well-suited for entry-level professionals with the right skills but no extensive work experience. Alternatively, the hybrid format is best suited for experienced professionals seeking a career change.
Pro Tip: The reverse chronological resume is the most suitable format for most job positions. Companies prefer chronological resumes over other forms.
Write a compelling headline
In such a competitive labor market, you need to advertise yourself adequately to land your dream job. You only get 5-7 seconds to impress the hiring managers. This is the average time a hiring manager spends scanning a resume and deciding if a candidate is worthy. A polished, crisp headline plays a critical role in attracting the attention of these recruiters. That’s why it is crucial to get the headline right.
A compelling resume headline paints an ideal picture of your candidature. As the headline sits at the top of the page, it gains the most eye time. You must use the headline to highlight your key strengths and skills briefly. A good headline will help convince HR to keep reading ahead.
Here are the different types of headlines that are commonly used in resumes today:
- Resume Summary Statement:
It is also known as a professional summary. When applying for a position where you have prior experience, a resume summary is quite helpful. It describes your qualifications and talents for the job.
- Resume Objective Statement:
A resume objective or career objective is applicable when you don’t have prior or relevant work experience. You can use this statement for entry-level positions, career transitions, or fresher jobs.
- Qualifications Summary Statement:
If you have multiple years of experience in the same industry, a qualifications summary is the best introduction to your resume. This statement places your most relevant qualifications, skills, and accomplishments at the top of the resume. Thus, ensuring that it’s the first thing the recruiters notice about you.
- Resume Profile Statement:
A resume profile statement provides hiring managers with a concise summary of the candidate’s qualifications, professional skills, and achievements. This statement is ideal for LinkedIn profiles or job search sites.
- Resume Personal Statement:
A personal statement usually goes last in the resume. It includes your professional title, most relevant accomplishments, skill-based keywords, and work ethic. A personal account allows you to express how you will bring value to the new company.
Add contact information and personal details:
Every resume has a contact information section that includes your personal details. When the employer wants to reach you, they will refer to this contact information. The necessary information that you must add to your resume is as follows:
- Telephone number.
- Email address.
- Link to LinkedIn profile.
- Link to online portfolio (if it’s relevant to the position).
Below is a list of optional details that you may include in the resume:
- Home address (only if it’s indispensable).
- Resume title.
- Personal website.
- Social media handle (applicable for social media-related positions).
Given below is the list of contact information that you should avoid putting in the resume:
- Date of birth.
- Secondary email address or phone number.
- Photo or headshot.
Include relevant work experience and achievements
The next step in writing the perfect resume is to add relevant work history and past achievements. Remember that this section is the most critical part of the job application. The experience section represents your evolution from a career perspective. You should highlight how you have excelled in your current and previous jobs.
You must know how to format your work experience in the resume. It’s essential to make this section presentable, logical, and informative. Preferably, your resume should include no more than 10-15 years of experience. Any resume should not be more than two pages. So, only include pertinent information that fits on these two pages.
For every job position you have held in the past, you must include the following information:
- Job title.
- Organization name.
- Organization location.
- Employment date and duration.
- Key responsibilities.
- Key achievements.
For your reference, we have included a checklist to help you organize the information on your resume:
- Place all your past work experience on the right-hand side of the page.
- Add an appropriate heading to the section such as ‘Work Experience’ or ‘Employment History.’
- Add the job history chronologically from the most recent to the oldest.
- Include quantifiable results you have achieved in your previous jobs.
- Call attention to your problem-solving and other skills.
- Organize your work history in bullet points.
- Keep the number of bullet points for each job title at 3-5 points.
- Use active voice, action verbs, and industry keywords.
When composing your resume, constantly tailor the content to fit the job requirement. Nowadays, companies are increasingly relying on ATS (applicant tracking system) to scan thousands of resumes. You have to ensure that your resume is ATS compliant. If it’s not ATS compliant, your resume will not get through the initial screening process.
To customize your resume, use skill-related keywords that match the job you are applying for. You can scatter these keywords through the text. You must advertise yourself as the perfect candidate for the job.
Pro Tip: Draw focus to your upward growth and skill development. You should emphasize what you did in your previous position rather than talking about the job description.
List the educational background
Your resume should contain a clear education section. It’s an integral part of the structure. An education section is vital if you are fresher straight out of college. If you have minimum experience, your educational background plays a vital role in the selection process. You must create a detailed description of your academic accomplishments.
Below is an example of how you should organize your academic history:
- The name of the college or university.
- Location of the institutions.
- Date of graduation.
- Name of degrees earned.
- Add relevant coursework, certifications, awards, or honors.
- Any extracurricular activities.
Additional resume tips that you should keep in mind:
- Use your high school diploma only if you don’t have a college degree.
- Mention your final GPA only if you are a graduate with no work experience.
- Skip adding your GPA if it’s below 3.0.
- Always add your highest degree first and work backward.
- Add the education section beneath the work experience section.
Add work skills that are relevant to the job posting
Hiring managers and recruiters pay special attention to job-specific skills. They judge your suitability for the job based on whether you possess the right expertise. That’s why you should aptly highlight your soft and hard skills.
When you talk about soft skills, it refers to self-developed attributes. Soft skills include character traits, social abilities, communication skills, and adaptability. Meanwhile, hard skills refer to quantifiable, job-specific skills. It includes language, technical, and operational skills that are learned through on-job experience.
While creating the skill section, you must follow a chronological section. Here is how you should include relevant skills in your resume:
- If you have special abilities that are not relevant to the job, it’s better to skip them. To keep your resume crisp and concise, you must include job-specific competencies. For example, if you’re applying for a graphic designer position, your accounting skills are not relevant to this position.
- Organize your skills into categories such as soft skills, computer skills, languages, job-specific know-how, etc. The must-have skills should always come first, followed by other capabilities.
- Include universal skills to add more value and versatility to your candidature. Universal soft and hard skills are beneficial in any domain. Some common skills that you can add to your resume are:
- Critical thinking
- Time management
- Microsoft Office Suite proficiency
- Photoshop, etc.
Include optional sections in the resume
You can add an optional section to display your entire spectrum of skills and expertise. In this section, you can highlight your achievements. It’s a way of letting your prospective employers know more about you.
Here are some optional sections that you can include in your resume structure:
- Hobbies and interests
This is a fantastic method to showcase your individuality. Putting on a show about your hobbies and interests might help them get to know you better. Additionally, listing your likes and interests indicates your capacity to work well in a team.
- Volunteer work
Volunteer experience is a desirable quality for job seekers. It is a well-known fact that volunteering can help boost employability. This is because volunteer work showcases devotion, commitment, and loyalty. If you have such experience, do mention it in your resume.
You can boost your chances of landing a job if you have published work in journals, newspapers, or online publications. If you are a published author, you can create a short bibliography in an appropriate referencing style. You can also develop an online portfolio to include your written work.
- Certifications and awards
Employers would be happy to know if you have earned certifications and awards as a student or a professional. You can highlight achievements in the optional section to help your resume shine. Add a dedicated section to your resume to specify all the awards you have achieved in chronological order.
Speaking a foreign language is a boon to your employment. Linguistic skills are well sought after by multinational corporations. Thus, knowing more languages works in your favor. You must include the languages you speak, followed by the international variations and fluency levels.
- Internship experience
Having internship experience lets the recruits know that you have real-life experience. This section is only applicable if you’re an entry-level employee with less than three years of experience. Also, if you are a student looking for your first job, this section is a must.
Complete the resume with a cover letter
Cover letters are an indispensable part of your job-search toolkit. It allows you to provide better context to your resume. These letters showcase your personality and exhibit enthusiasm for the position. Cover letters help your prospective employer learn more about your professional journey and future objectives.
You should personalize the cover letter to match your resume. Furthermore, you need to ensure that there is visual consistency between both. Ultimately, writing a cover letter increases your chances of being selected.
Here is a format you can use for your cover letter:
- Start with a stellar introduction
Do a brief introduction of yourself and your work history. The introduction should be concise and engaging.
- Express your enthusiasm
Mention why you’re interested in working for a particular company or position. Also, you may feature your top 2 or 3 professional skills to show that you are competent to handle the job.
- Market your capabilities
Talk about why you are the right fit for the job and how you plan to take on the roles and responsibilities of the position. You can dedicate one section to talking about the skill set that will help you fulfill the job requirements.
- Sign off with thank you
End your cover letter with a thank you note to the hiring manager. You can propose the next step and include your contact details. That way, if they want to get in touch with you for further discussion, they know how to contact you.
Proofread the finished resume
The concluding step of the resume writing process is to proofread your resume. It’s easy to make mistakes when writing a resume. Leaving behind silly mistakes and errors in a resume calls your professionalism into question. That’s why you must proofread the entire resume once it’s completed. You need to make sure that there are no grammatical errors or typos in the content.
Once you are done composing the document, read every section thoroughly. To get the best result, ensure that the resume has no spelling or formatting errors. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting rejected by the ATS or hiring managers.
Here is a helpful checklist to help you make a perfect resume:
- Check that your contact information is correct.
- Ensure the resume is easy to read.
- Check that the number of pages does not exceed 2.
- Verify that all the essential sections are included.
- Inspect if your resume is tailored to the requirements of the position.
- Scan for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.
- Assess the layout and ensure that it is appropriate for the job.
- Ascertain that the resume looks professional and well-formatted.
Tips to keep in mind when you are writing a resume in 2023
We are jotting down additional tips that will help you polish your resume and make it look presentable.
- Use an easy-to-read font such as Arial, Cambria, Calibri, Times New Roman, or Helvetica.
- Keep the font size of the headings between 14pt-16pt. And for the text, keep the size at 11pt-12pt.
- Choose single-line spacing rather than double-line.
- Opt for one-inch margins as that is the standard for most applications.
- Use bold, italics, or underlining to bring attention to particular keywords or phrases.
- Make use of a modern template to upgrade the resume.
- Save and download your resume in both PDF and Microsoft doc.
- Always include action verbs such as ideated, initiated, amplified, or spearheaded in the resume.
- Add your remote work skills and expertise to work management tools like Asana, Trello, etc.
- Remove outdated phrases and replace them with industry-specific keywords.
- Format the resume properly to ensure it is ATS compliant.
A great resume can open the gates to new opportunities and possibilities. Your resume is the very first introduction to your future employer. Hence, you need to perfect your resume to make a lasting impression on your prospective manager.
We hope that our writing tips will help you improve your resume writing skills. You can follow these tips and guidelines to create an updated resume for 2021. When equipped with an excellent resume, you are one step closer to getting your dream job.