How to Write a Resume

Purpose of a resume

Your resume is a record of your education, your job experience, and your pertinent skills, as well as your contact information. When you are applying for a job, this is the single most important document you will provide. Resumes can also hold a great deal of other information, such as objectives for your job search, publications, keynote addresses, teaching positions or courses you’ve taken, certifications and licenses, references, and other experience such as volunteer or leadership experience that might show how you are a good fit for the job you are applying to. Your resume is an advertisement that grabs attention and proves why you are the perfect candidate.

How to write a resume

  1. Contact information: This is a basic, yet extremely important section of your resume. You’ll provide your name, your address, the phone numbers at which you can be contacted, and an email address. This can be an email address from your workplace, university, or a personal one with a standard carrier. Make sure that this email address sounds professional—if you’re still using an email address like “[email protected],” it’s time to update to something with just your name. You can also provide a link to your professional blog or website in this section.
  2. Resume objective: Remember, this is optional. In this short, descriptive paragraph, provide a quick branding statement that delivers a powerful snapshot of what you will bring to a new employer. This should contain keywords that are specific to the job posting.
  3. Professional experience: This is the meat of your resume. In this section you will list the jobs you’ve held that are relevant to your prospective employer. You’ll want to include the title of your position, the name of the company, the dates of your employment, and a bulleted list of the duties you had in the job. Note that you can also include professional experience like relevant internships, temporary jobs, and unpaid work in this section so long as it’s relevant. Some job-seekers also choose to include two sections of professional experience. These sections include one that’s specific to the new job, and a second section that provides other examples of recently held jobs. For example, a teacher might include “Teaching experience” as a section as well as “Other experience.” You might want to include this is your relevant experience is from longer ago than more recent jobs, but you want to show proof of what you have been working on recently.
  4. Education: You’ll want to list your undergraduate degree and any graduate degrees. List the name of the university and its location, the years during which you attended, the degree you achieved, and any special merits you were awarded. You can also include professional certifications and licenses in this section. If you are a recent graduate from university with relevant coursework to the job you are applying, you may include this. You may also include a particularly high GPA. However, if you attended school more than 5 years previously, this will probably not interest an employer very much.
  5. Skills: In this short section, you can include special skills, such as any languages you speak, computer or other technical skills you have, or other pertinent abilities. Computer skills might include things such as “QuickBooks,” “Microsoft Office,” or “Adobe Photoshop.” If you include a language, you can self-assess whether you are “proficient,” “conversational,” “fluent,” or “mother tongue.” You may also want to include “soft skills” that the employer is looking for, such as “team building” or “public speaking.” You will need to make sure that you only include skills the employer is directly looking for, and not ones that simply are of interest. Make sure not to include any hobbies which are not at all relevant to the job you are seeking.

Types of resumes

You will probably be able to find templates for resumes in any word processing application on a computer. However, there are different formats available. It is helpful to know which one best suits you and the job you are applying for, though this can be a subjective decision. The main types are called “Reverse Chronological” and “Functional.”

  • Reverse Chronological: This is the most common type of resume. You will provide your most recent job history first, then the job before that, and so on. You should use this if you want to show progression in your field, and you are applying to this same field. Don’t use this method if you have obvious gaps in employment history, or if you are changing your career field.
  • Functional: Instead of showing your job progression, a functional resume highlights your abilities and skills, both hard and soft. This is suitable for someone with either an expert level of skills or for someone who wants to change career fields. In the case of someone changing career fields, the functional resume shows how they can transfer their skills. This is not an ideal format for someone who is an entry-level worker.
  • CV: Some jobs request a document called a CV. This is short for Curriculum Vitae, and are most commonly used in fields such as academia, when there is an expectation of publication history, and honors received. CVs are atypical in the United States for anything besides academia or artistic professions. A CV is longer than a resume, and provides a record of research and teaching experience, grants and fellowships, professional associations, awards, and so on.

What you resume should not do

Now that you know more about what to include in your resume, let’s look at a quick checklist of what not to include:

  • Don’t list every job you’ve ever had. Some (perhaps many) will not be applicable to the position you are applying for. Don’t include fluff just to make your resume longer.
  • Don’t just summarize your skills. Show how these skills are relevant.
  • Don’t provide an objective just because your computer’s template gives you space for one. Make sure that this is really something that is necessary and will catch a hiring manager’s attention. Also, if you do write an objective, don’t state what you want to get out of a job. Instead, write what you will bring to the job and to the employer.
  • Don’t go over one page (in general). There are some cases where you can extend to a second page, especially if the job is higher up. You might also extend your resume if you are giving evidence of publications, lectures, and so on. However, this document should always be easy to scan and read in just a minute or two.
  • Don’t use the word “I.” This document is all about you. You’re wasting valuable space if you start sentences with “I.” For example, don’t write, “In this role, I initiated target research into new markets and I strategized how to reach out to these new markets.” Instead, write, “Researched and strategized outreach to new markets.”

Tips on how to write a resume

  • Customize your resume to the job you are applying to. You might have experience in more than one field; highlight only the experience from the field in which you are now applying. Alternately, highlight different aspects of your previous jobs for different employers. One employer might be more interested in how you fundraised for your company. Another might be interested in the strategic planning you did as part of the same role.
  • Use bullet points. This makes everything easier to read.
  • Use keywords. Find out which keywords a hiring manager would be looking for in your field, and target your resume toward those words.
  • Leave plenty of white space. This includes choosing an attractive, legible font.
  • Be consistent in your formatting, and don’t overdo the use of bolds, italics, and underlines.
  • Proofread. Edit. Ask for a second look from a trusted friend or colleague.