How to Write a Resume

Writing a resume is intimidating for everyone. What makes it difficult is knowing what to include, what not to, what to highlight, what to de-emphasize, etc. HR professionals and hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes for any given position, and on average, they will spend about 10-30 seconds on yours. Organizing information incorrectly could cost you a shot at an interview, and is a very common mistake made by job seekers.

Whether you want to advance in your chosen field or you're making a drastic career change, a resume is a job search necessity. It provides an overview of your experience and skills, and a great resume will help you get an interview for that job you really want. Spend the time to make your resume as good as it can be and you're making a truly worthwhile investment.

Before you begin constructing a resume, take the time to think about your experience and what type of job you're looking for.
  1. If you're re-entering the workforce, you may pick a different format than someone who's been working continuously.
  2. A recent college graduate will focus more on educational background than an experienced worker.
  3. If you're changing careers, you may opt for a different format than someone who is remaining in his current field.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you write or update your resume:
  • Be honest.
    1. It is better to address any gaps in employment than to try to hide them.
    2. Lying on your resume may get you into an interview, but you still have to go through a background and references check to land the job.
    3. If you state you can perform a task or operate a program you actually don't know, your lie will be exposed.
  • Be professional.
    1. If your email address is funny but unprofessional, it may turn off potential employers.
    2. If necessary, create a new email address solely for resumes (and don't forget to check it for responses!).
  • Be Concise.
    1. Write out everything you want to include on your resume. You can trim it down to one page later.
      • Note: If you have over 10 years of work experience that is important and needs to be included, a resume of two pages is acceptable.
    2. Use easy-to-read fonts (such as Times New Roman or Arial) and a clear design to make your resume more appealing.
Write Your Resume Objective Statement
  1. An objective statement is the first thing listed after your personal information.
  2. The objective statement is a sentence or two that sums up your current career goals.
  3. An objective statement is not always a resume necessity, but it can be a handy summary of what you're looking for in a position.
  4. If you're starting your resume from scratch, write your objective statement first. This can help you decide what information to highlight on your resume, even if you ultimately decide not to include an objective statement.
  5. Do not write a generic objective statement; it is more likely to turn off a prospective employer.
    • Example: My goal is to get a rewarding job that pays well.
  6. Your objective statement should relate to the job you are applying for.
    • Example: An experienced public relations consultant, I now seek a position as an account manager where I can utilize my management skills.
  7. Target this statement to the position you're interested in. This is the first information on the page after your name and address, and it should make the case for you being the perfect person for the job!
Choose a Resume Style
  1. There are several types of resumes:
  2. You want to think about your situation and create the best resume for your experience and desired job.
  3. Most recruiters want your resume to show your career progression. Therefore, chronological or combination resumes (resumes that list your work history in chronological order, starting with your most recent job) are the most common types.
  4. If you have no work history or have worked multiple jobs over a short period of time, an unconventional format may show you in a better light.
  5. Pick the the type of resume that is best suited to you and your goals.
  6. If you're unsure what type that is, try writing your resume in two or more formats, then ask for feedback from friends or relatives. An objective eye may tell you which format is best for you!
  7. Most resumes should fit on one page. However, if the information is truly important and necessary, two pages is acceptable.
    • If you have less than 10 years' work experience, you should only need a one page resume.
    • It is better to go onto a second page than to leave out important information.
    • Do not go onto a second page for unimportant information, like personal hobbies, out-of-date skills and achievements from over 10 years ago.
Make sure your resume will stand out in whatever field you want to work in!
  1. It is more and more common to have a resume tailored to each position you are applying for, instead of using a "one size fits all" model.
  2. Your resume should highlight why you are qualified for the position you're applying for.
  3. Remove extraneous information. Do not detail every job experience you have had if it does not relate to the job you're pursuing.
  4. Remember, you want your resume to be only one page (two if you have enough business experience that the extra information is important and relevant)!
  5. Applying to multiple industries and you want to list varied skills? Write different versions of your resume for each type of job. Just be careful not to send the wrong version out for a job, or you may pre-emptively disqualify yourself for that position!

Resume Keywords

  1. With online resume databases and thousands of resumes pouring in via email, many HR departments now perform keyword searches to weed through these submissions.
  2. This means you need to make sure your resume includes relevant keywords to the industry you're in or it may be overlooked.
  3. First, make sure you include the keywords from the job listing you're applying to!
  4. To find other appropriate keywords, study job postings for your field. Chances are the keywords you see cropping up in these ads are also what employers search for.
  5. Other sources for industry keywords:
    • Employer websites
    • Industry-affiliated websites
    • Messageboards and forums about your career sector
    • Government job descriptions like Occupational Outlook Handbook
  6. Only list keywords that apply to you.
  7. Only use words for skills you actually have.
  8. Do not load your resume with multiple keywords saying the same thing; it may help you make it through a database search, but when a human sees the keyword-loaded resume she will immediately put it in the garbage.

Resume Action Words

  1. Now examine the words you used to describe yourself and your job. Do you sound like a dynamic worker any company would be thrilled to have, or like a ho-hum employee?
  2. Action verbs like "built" and "led" are better than passive terms like "worked with" and "helped."
  3. For more verb ideas, check out Boston College's list of action verbs.
  4. Make your resume special by having it really describe who you are. Instead of generic resume words that are overused to the point of meaninglessness, use words and descriptions that are concise, easy-to-read and relate to who you are, what you've accomplished, and what you aspire to for the future. You want your resume to reflect the real you!
Now that you've entered your information and tailored it to your industry, it's time to polish your resume!
  1. Always check for typos and grammatical errors. Then check again. Then have a friend proofread. These types of mistakes are easy to fix, and make a big difference in whether or not an employer will consider you for a job!
  2. Do not use "I" or "me"; the reader already knows the resume is about your accomplishments.
  3. Employers often scan or upload resumes into electronic databases. For this reason, simpler formatting is the better route to take:
    • Try to avoid using tables.
    • Use spaces instead of tabs to separate sections.
    • Also avoid italics, underlining and shadowed text.
  4. On that note, perfumed paper, curlicue fonts, and pretty images are all no-nos. You want your resume to stand out, but not for these reasons!
  5. A simple left-justified resume is easiest to read.
  6. Test how your resume looks saved as an RTF file. If it isn't pretty, it needs to be simplified.
  7. Only include college and graduate school when listing your education. The fact that you won a spelling bee in first grade, though commendable, will not help you land a job interview!
  8. Do not include your height, weight or age; this information is not necessary and will only irritate potential employers.
  9. Remove out-of-date terms and technology. Being able to change typewriter ribbons is not a hot skill today.
  10. Unless specifically requested to do so by the job posting, do not include references on a resume. You can provide these later in the interview process.
Resume Writing Services
  1. The online site Emurse offers an online resume-building template. After registering (for free), you can input your personal information and the site will use a template to create a resume.
  2. Microsoft Word has resume templates and a resume writing wizard you can use. You can also find more resume templates online.
    • Be careful using these, as the formatting may make it difficult for companies to electronically scan your resume.
  3. Check out books about writing resumes, like Resumes for Dummies and The Elements of Resume Style
  4. Professional resume writing services can be useful if you're stuck on what to do. Perhaps one of these professional resume writers' groups will be able to help.
  • Congratulations! You now have a great resume. Though your new resume won't guarantee you a job interview, you've done everything you can to make sure you get the job you really want. Good luck!

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