By Jesse Collier. Updated November 2017.
It’s never too late to learn how to write a resume! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, these tips are bound to help you in your job search efforts.
Having a clear, concise, and professional resume ensures that you’re not just another applicant on top of the stack. It acts as a testimony to your experience and skills as a person, and it also gives the employer a look at who you are and why they should hire you.
With a well-structured resume and cover letter, your chances of employment skyrocket because employers will appreciate the time you took to make your resume look polished and appealing.
Read on to discover how to write a resume the right way to maximize your chances of getting an interview.
What type of resume do I need?
There are 4 different types of resumes, and they all emphasize different qualities. Take some time to review this section. Choosing the right type of resume could make or break your chances of getting an interview.
- What is it? – Chronological resumes are the most widely used resume types. They structure work and volunteer experience in chronological order, starting with the most recent first. They’re also the most preferred type by employers because they provide a quick view of your experience and skills.
- Who should use it? – If you have consistent work experience that relates to the job you’re applying to, use this format.
- What is it? – Functional resumes focus on your skills and experience instead of chronological order. Work history is listed under you specific skills.
- Who should use it? – If you don’t have a lot of work history or have lapses in it, you have a lot of skills in various areas, or you’re switching your career to a new field, then this is the format for you.
- What is it? – A combination resume focuses on both your work history and skills in a chronological order. It emphasizes skills related to the job or field in which you’re applying.
- Who should use it? – If you have a lot of skills that relate to the job in question, a combination resume would be the best format. This type of resume highlights your abilities for your prospective employer.
- What is it? – A targeted resume tailors your skills and experience for each position. While this can be the most time-consuming type of resume, it ensures all of your relevant qualities are highlighted.
- Who should use it? – You should use a targeted resume if you have enough experience that relates to the position that you’re applying for. It’s recommended to mirror the job description with your skills and experience as much as possible.
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How to write a resume
Now that you’ve seen examples of the most common types of resumes, it’s up to you to pick one that best suits the position you’re applying for.
Once you’ve picked the right resume type, you should review examples of it. This could be from the samples we linked for you, or it could be from a quick Google search for your preferred resume type.
Try to model your resume as closely as possible to the sample. This will reduce typos, different fonts, and clarity issues.
Is there a “right” way to write a resume?
You may be told that there’s a “right” way to write a resume. But like we’ve said before, writing a resume entirely depends on its purpose and what you want it to convey.
Overall, your resume doesn’t have to list EVERYTHING in the following lists. You want to show the employer what you have to offer to the company, not detail the experience you made in the past. While having prior experience is key, the employer wants to see how you can use that experience to better the company and their team.
However there ARE some “soft guidelines” on points to include in your resume. These include:
- Contact information
- A summary of strengths
- Your education
- Relevant work experience
We recommend making sure these are in your resume, then you can expand it to include other topics, such as:
- Volunteer/additional experience
- Extra-curricular activities
- Club memberships
In total, your resume shouldn’t exceed about one and a half pages. After all, the employer probably has a stack of documents to go through, and writing a book will harm instead of help your chances of getting and interview.
If you can’t fit everything on your resume, don’t worry about it! It means that you can bring it up in the interview or even send a follow-up email later on if you feel something else is important.
Each of these sections should include a maximum of 3-5 points, which should have some detail, but not too much (it’s all about finding the right balance). You want the reader asking questions and wanting to know more.
Inform your reader
In each of the points for your sections, there’s a general formula to follow that will help you inform the reader as much as possible:
Verb (in past tense) + Work + Result
Here’s an example:
Software Engineer Intern
- Maintained, updated, and collaborated on a large scale client database in a 5+ year old company, optimizing system efficiency by 25%.
Putting your points in this form will allow the reader to see what you did in what field and environment, and the result that your efforts contributed towards.
Do some research
Are you still unsure what to put in your resume? If you’re gearing it for a specific position or field of study, then it’s worth it to do some research.
First, look at the job ad. It will tell you important information about:
- Company values
- Responsibilities in the position
- Work environment
- Required skills
Also check out other resources, such as:
- The company website
- Career fairs
All of these will help you get a more defined vision of the position and company that you’re applying to. Doing your research from these sources will allow you to structure your resume to help get it in the right hands (the hiring kind).
Definitely do NOT put false information on your resume, such as skills that you don’t have. In an interview, they may ask you about them, and later on in the job, the employer may ask you to demonstrate them.
Best tips for writing resumes
While learning how to write a resume is very much a task of trial and error, we thought we would give you our best tips to help you get that interview.
Don’t include identifying features
Obviously there’s some things that you need to include in your resume. These include your contact information, and your name.
A major mistake that some people make is to include identifying features. These include your weight, age, gender, citizenship, marital status and photos. While employers should be impartial, most times they are not, and may judge you (often unfavorably) if you include these characteristics.
Use a consistent style and font
You want your resume to be clear and well-spaced so it’s legible. Pick a font that isn’t fancy and is easily readable, such as Times New Roman. Also pick a font size that doesn’t take up too much space, but conveys your points. Using larger sizes to emphasize headers or sections will ensure your potential employer can differentiate your work history from your skills.
It’s alright to use bold text for headers, however don’t make too much use of it, and the same goes for italics, underlines, and bullets or numbers. Each section should be a succinct list of your qualifications, not a book detailing each skill.
Use a resume template
While reviewing resume samples is incredibly helpful, it can sometimes be easier to use a resume template instead. Then you can tailor the content to your skills and the position you’re applying for.
Make sure you download a template that uses the resume type you need, then tailor the filler content inside it with your own. Most templates will already have legible text and defined sections, so you won’t have to worry about readability.
Keywords, keywords, keywords
A lot of companies nowadays use keyword searching software that scans your resume for specific keywords that relate to the position.
If a lot of applications get sent in for a position, this means that having plenty of keywords in your resume lands it a higher chance of being seen by an actual person.
Having keywords in your resume will also let your employer see how well you would fit in the position and outlines your skills and expertise.
Get your resume checked
Being in school provides you with countless opportunities to get help with jobs. Most schools will have a career services department which will help you with everything from resume review to interview preparation.
Check with your school’s career services to see if they offer workshops to help you proofread your resume. They can also help you tailor resumes to specific positions and answer any other questions you might have.
Save your references
Another key rule when learning how to write a resume is to never include your references in the resume. Think of your references as your king in chess. If your potential employer already has your references from your resume before you even get an interview, you will be “checkmated” before you even get in the door.
A general rule of thumb is to write on the last line of your resume “references available upon request”. That way, you can protect your references’ privacy, and you don’t lay all your cards on the table.
Do you have more tips on how to write a resume that should be included in this article? Let us know in the comments!
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