What is a Resume?
The word ‘resume’ is also sometimes spelled ‘résumé,’ and means ‘summary’ in French. The name is fitting, since a resume is a professional document that summarizes your qualifications for a job. A resume is usually paired with a cover letter, which both serve to convince potential employers that you are qualified for the position and a good fit for their company.
What To Put on a Resume
The exact information that goes on your resume will vary a little bit based on the position that you are applying for, but in general, this is the bare minimum of what to put on your resume:
- Your name and contact details
- Your work experience
- Your education history
- Your hard and soft skills
- Other relevant abilities and accomplishments
The Purpose of Resumes
A resume should be no longer than one page if you have less than 15 years of experience in your field, and no more than two pages if you have more than 15 years of relevant experience. As such, your resume will not be a comprehensive life history, since that would likely involve way too much information.
Instead, your resume should be essentially a highlight reel of your relevant accomplishments and experience. The purpose of a resume is simply to persuade employers to invite you in for an interview. Then, you can impress the hiring manager in person with your personality, soft skills (also called people skills), and more details about your professional history in order to convince them to hire you.
How to Make a Resume: 10 Simple Steps
Now, here’s how to make a resume that will maximize your chances of getting called in for an interview:
1. Choose a Resume Layout
There are three different resume layout options: reverse chronological, functional, and combination. For the vast majority of people, a reverse chronological resume will be the best option, but some situations may call for a different layout.
Reverse Chronological Resume
A reverse chronological resume is the most commonly used, and it highlights your work experience most prominently. Your work experience section should be placed just under your introduction, and it should include all of your relevant past positions, listed with your current or most recent position at the top.
Under each position, use bullet points to outline your accomplishments and skills that you gained or honed. Focus on quantifiable achievements over duties and responsibilities.
Again, this type of resume is suitable for the vast majority of candidates, as long as you have at least some work experience to list.
If you have no professional work experience or you want to gloss over gaps in your employment history, you may wish to use a functional resume layout instead. A functional or skill-based resume focuses on your skills and abilities over your work experience.
In this layout, your skills summary section will follow your resume summary or objective. Highlight up to five skills that are most relevant to the job that you are applying for, and use bullet points under each one to share examples and metrics to back up your skills.
Your work experience section will come after your skills, and it is typical to list your past roles without including dates of employment in a functional resume.
A combination resume uses elements of both the previous formats, which is often achieved by using two columns: one with hard skills, work experience, and education details and the other with personal information, soft skills, languages, and so on.
A combination resume is the hardest to create successfully, so it’s best used only if you are targeting a very niche position or if you have plenty of experience in your field but significant gaps in your employment history. Unless either of those situations apply to you, you’ll likely want to stick with a reverse chronological or functional resume.
2. Enter Your Name and Contact Information
Your first and last name should be prominently placed at the top of your resume. Underneath, include your phone number, email address, LinkedIn URL, and your mailing address (or at least your city and state). If you have an online portfolio of your work, you may also include that URL in your resume header.
3. Add a Resume Summary or Resume Objective
Your introduction should be placed immediately below your contact information. Start with a resume headline that distills your resume down into a single sentence. Then, depending on how much experience you have, add either a resume summary or a resume objective.
Use a resume summary if you have at least some professional work experience, since it will describe your relevant employment history and applicable skills. If you have limited or no professional experience (such as if you are a student or recent graduate), opt for a resume objective, which explains your career goals.
4. List Your Work Experience
If you have opted for a reverse chronological resume format, your work experience section will come next. As outlined above, include all your relevant jobs starting with your current or most recent position and working back from there.
For each position, include your job title, the company you worked for, the location of the company, and the dates that you worked there (months and years or years only are both acceptable date formats). Under each heading, use bullet points to explain your accomplishments in the position and highlight any skills you gained. Be succinct, quantify your achievements whenever possible, and use action verbs like ‘drove,’ ‘managed,’ and ‘implemented’ to maximize the impact of your bullet points.
5. Outline Your Education
Next, add your education section. Listing details about your education can be especially valuable if you are a student or a recent graduate, or if you are making a career change to a new industry and have recently taken courses to facilitate the switch.
If you are applying to mid- or high-level positions, you may want to include only the name of the school, the dates you attended, and your specialty or degree. This will leave you with more room to elaborate on your work experience and skills.
However, if you have less experience or are applying to entry level positions, you may wish to expand your education section by including details like:
- Your GPA (if it’s above a 3.5)
- Awards and achievements (honor roll, honor society membership, scholarships, etc.)
- Relevant coursework
- Clubs or organizations
- Leadership positions you held
If you hold an undergraduate degree or higher, it’s generally not necessary to include your high school details.
You can also include certifications or licenses that you have earned in your education section, if you have space on your resume and they are relevant to the target position.
6. Add a Skills Section
If you are using a functional resume layout, your skill summary section should be placed above your education and work experience sections. However, you can also include a skills section on a reverse chronological resume if you have enough space.
Include both hard skills (technical abilities and knowledge) as well as soft skills (people skills). You can also highlight transferable skills if you are switching industries. List skills that are mentioned in the job description first, since they’ll be the most relevant and important to potential employers.
7. Consider Adding Optional Resume Sections
If you’ve added all of the above information and you still have blank space on your resume, consider including some optional resume sections, like hobbies and interests, achievements, languages, and so forth. Ensure that any optional sections that you add support your professional goals and are relevant to the position.
8. Target Your Resume
Target your resume to each job that you apply for to help your application stand out from the rest. Taking the time to tailor it each time will help your resume pass an applicant tracking system (ATS) scan and it’ll show employers that you carefully read the job description and are taking the job application process seriously.
9. Format Your Resume Carefully
Make sure that your resume is formatted professionally by following these guidelines:
- Choose a professional font like Arial, Helvetica, or something similar
- Use 10 or 12 point font size
- Set your page margins to 1 inch all the way around
- Make your name the most prominent text on the page
- Make sections headings stand out by making the text bold and slightly larger than the normal text (14 point font is typical for headings)
- Use bullet points to allow potential employers to quickly scan your information and to give your resume a clean look
10. Proofread Your Resume
Finally, be sure to proofread your resume carefully. Nothing is more unprofessional than spelling or grammar mistakes on your resume, so check it thoroughly. Do not rely only on a computer program spellcheck - read through it yourself or enlist the help of a friend or family member if proofreading isn’t your forte.
A resume is a professional document that is created expressly for the purpose of convincing a potential employer to give you an interview. It summarizes your work experience, education details, skills, and other pertinent information as succinctly as possible.
If you need additional help creating a polished, professional resume, check out Jobseeker’s resume creation tool. Simply enter your details and then you can test out various layouts, fonts, color schemes, and more with just a few clicks. Once you are satisfied, you can download your resume instantly and get started applying for jobs right away!