How to Write a Great Resume | Resume Writing Guide

The average job opening receives over 100 applications or more. In competitive cities, it can receive over 1,000. Most companies are so overwhelmed that the average hiring manager spends no more than 7 or so seconds on each resume before deciding whether to move on.

That is why when it comes to resume writing, there is no room for mistakes. It is critical that you create a resume that is better than every other applicant. But resume writing can be tough. That’s why the following is our resume writing guide, to help you determine the best way to write your resume.

First: The Importance of an Excellent Resume

Before writing your resume it is important to understand what a resume truly is. Resumes are not just papers that talk about your work history and education. They are also not just an opportunity to learn a bit more about you. Resumes are much more than that.

Resumes are advertisements for yourself.

In this case, you are a product. You are something you are hoping that the employer will “buy.” Your resume should be written with the idea that companies looking to hire people have their choice of “products,” and you want to convince them in a limited amount of space that you are the one they should be putting their money on.

This is why resumes are so important, and why they are so much more than just a place to list your work history. Those that take the time to write a great resume that is capable of “selling” themselves to the employer are the ones that are going to get hired.

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First: The Importance of an Excellent Resume

Before writing your resume it is important to understand what a resume truly is. Resumes are not just papers that talk about your work history and education. They are also not just an opportunity to learn a bit more about you. Resumes are much more than that.

Resumes are advertisements for yourself.

In this case, you are a product. You are something you are hoping that the employer will “buy.” Your resume should be written with the idea that companies looking to hire people have their choice of “products,” and you want to convince them in a limited amount of space that you are the one they should be putting their money on.

This is why resumes are so important, and why they are so much more than just a place to list your work history. Those that take the time to write a great resume that is capable of “selling” themselves to the employer are the ones that are going to get hired.

5 most important things to remember about writing a resume

The Rules of the Resume

Now that you understand what resumes really are, let’s talk about how to write the best resume.

There are no strict resume rules. However, hiring managers do look at resumes with expectations. If you create a resume that is too “out of the box” or doesn’t abide by common resume writing techniques, the hiring manager may quickly throw your resume away.

So, at least in the beginning, expect to follow some clear resume guidelines. These include:

  • Use a Reverse Chronological or Combination Template – There are other types of resumes, such as the functional resume. But it is best to start with a clean resume template that isn’t flashy or distracting. This will help guide the information you put on your resume.
  • Limit to One Page for Most Jobs – There is a belief that you should always limit your resume to one page. This is not true. Many experienced workers have far too much information to stick on only one page. That said, you should only stretch it to two pages if you have a lot of incredible achievements and detailed work histories. Do not stretch it to more than one page without a very good reason.
  • Stick to the Basics – Every resume should have a mission statement or professional summary, a work history, an education section, and possibly a skills section and/or volunteer section. Most of the time the work history should be before the education section unless your education section is stronger than your work history.
  • Use Bullet Points – Nearly all resumes should have bullet points. Bullet points are easy for the eye to follow. When a hiring manager goes through dozens of resumes in only a few minutes, well written bullet points are going to be critical for maintaining their attention.
  • Make Your Name and Information Visible – At the top, share your name, your phone number, and possibly your home address, email address, and LinkedIn profile if any. Don’t forget to use a professional email address. If your email address is “loldudewherzmycar@hotmail.com” you are not creating a strong first impression.

If you pick a great template, like the ones at Online Resume Builders, the space to put your information will be there for you.

Remember, there is a way to create a resume that doesn’t conform to the above standards. However, until you’ve mastered traditional resume writing, it is often best to stick to what is more widely accepted.

 

the keys of the resume writing process

Keys to Great Resume Writing

So resume writing has a very specific format that most people should follow. But following a format doesn’t necessarily make a resume great. Luckily, there are some very specific strategies that you can take that will make your resume better than your competitors. We’ll provide more of a specific writing guide for each section later on in this writing guide, but consider the following critical tips:

  • Use Hard Evidence – Not Cliché

The best thing you can do for your resume is use specifics and numbers, rather than using clichés. What this means is that it is better to say “Organized 3,500 files” than it is to say “Hard worker with filing experience.” It is also better to say “Presented yearly revenue at annual meetings” than it is to say “Great communication skills.”

With every item you put in your resume, ask yourself – can ANYONE write the same thing? Because anyone can say they are a hard worker, or have great communication skills, or have a willingness to learn. But the best resumes have information that proves it.

  • Write About Only Your Best

Imagine that you are in a hurry and you need to buy a pen as fast as you can. You need a blue pen and you want one that is comfortable.

There are two pens. One pen says “clear blue ink, feels comfortable in the hand.” The other says “6.5 inches long, has a cap, clear blue ink, comes in a pack of 1, feels comfortable in the hand, also comes in black ink.”

You’re in a hurry. You’re going to buy the first pen, because it has the features you are looking for. The second pen has those features too, but they are hidden in a bunch of other features you didn’t need or care about.

The same is true with resumes. Only put the information that is going to make a hiring manager go “this is someone I want to hire.” It is tempting to want to put every single experience you have ever had, but unless it is crucial for the job, stick to only your best features. Let your best features sell yourself.

  • Omit Irrelevant Jobs from Long Ago

For young applicants and those that do not have a rich work history, you may need to list all of the jobs you’ve had in the past. But for those that have been working a long time, try to avoid any temptation to list jobs from a long time ago that have nothing to do with the job you’re applying for.

For example, if you are applying to a job in marketing, and you had two great jobs at a marketing company and one job from a long time ago at a grocery store, there’s no reason to list the grocery store. Employers only care about your most recent and most relevant work.

Remember, resumes are marketing tools. They are not contracts that require you to list every job you’ve ever held. Any jobs you held in the distant past should only be listed if they are thoroughly relevant to the job or you don’t have a strong work history without it.

  • Strongly Consider the Professional Summary

In the past, resumes had a mission statement. This would read something like “to grow professionally and be an asset to your organization.”

Some of the best resumes have switched to what’s known as a “professional summary.” These are small paragraphs of about 5 to 6 sentences that talk about your best features and highlight why you are a good fit for the job. These tend to do a much better job selling your experience and abilities than a mission statement.

However, mission statements are still valuable for entry level employees, those without a strong job history, and volunteer/non-profit jobs. Consider the professional summary, but choose what works best for you.

  • Write to the Job

Two identical positions for identical companies may still require different skills and have different qualifications. That is why the best resumes are written for each job. If you want to truly impress employers, you have to make sure you address what their needs are. See what they ask for in the job description, review the company, and make sure that you are writing a resume that appeals to the specific needs of that job.

  • Use Unique, Interesting, Job Specific Action Verbs

Finally, part of writing a resume means choosing action verbs. These are the words that go after the bullet points in your work history. Rather than write full sentences like “I worked on project XYZ,” action verbs get straight to the point, using terms like “managed,” “programmed,” and “presented” to show employers what you did.

But it’s not enough to choose any action verbs. The best resumes choose job specific action verbs. For example, an accountant may use action verbs such as: “assessed,” “budgeted,” “distributed” and “forecasted” while someone working in a warehouse may use words like “dispatched,” “monitored,” or “implemented.”

Job specific, unique action verbs are valuable because they help the person reading the resume visualize you in the role.

Always Ask Yourself: Will This Get Me The Job?

Keep those tips in mind as you write the resume, and ask yourself frequently – will what I’m writing help me get the job, or am I only writing it because I think I have to? The more you think of your resume as an advertisement for yourself, the easier it will be to determine what works best.

Additional Consideration – The Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Remember, resumes do follow a very common, very specific format. Diverting from this format is risky. You’ll often see articles online about someone’s amazing “outside of the box” resume got them the job, and certainly there are times when something unique can get you hired.

But for every one report of a unique resume getting someone hired, there are thousands of other resumes that are ignored or thrown away because they did not match the format. Similarly, many companies have switched to what’s known as “Applicant Tracking Systems.”

Applicant tracking systems are a type of database that employers now use to store and analyze resumes. These databases allow companies to review applicants in one of two ways:

  • Giving a “Score” – Some databases use an algorithm that analyzes resumes for specific key terms and data, and then gives each applicant a “score” based on those results. Only those applicants with the highest scores are reviewed by the employer.
  • Search – Some databases store resumes until they are found in a search by the hiring manager, similar to a Google search. The hiring manager searches for a key word or phrase related to the job, and those that have that information come up for review.

As many as 50% of Fortune 500 companies use some type of Applicant Tracking System, and many more smaller companies are integrating it into their recruitment practices.

These applicant tracking systems affect your resume writing in a few ways:

  • Keywords – It requires you to consider key words and key phrases when you write your resume. In the job advertisement, as well as in the work you do, there are going to be examples of specific needs, such as software you have worked with or experience you need to have. It is recommended that you put as many of these keywords as you can in your resume without affecting the quality of your content.
  • Format – Applicant tracking systems are also the reason that proper format is important. This type of software is programmed to read resumes in their expected format. If you try to do something too fancy, it may not be able to read your resume correctly and could reject your resume.

Applicant tracking systems have made proper format even more important, and why it is expected that you will have the same sections, layout, and style as other resumes.

How to Write a Resume – Section by Section

Now that you understand how to write an amazing resume, it is time to go over how to write each section. Below, we’ll review the sections of the resume and give background and tips for crafting your own.

5 commandments of a good resume writing process

Header – Name, Address, etc.

Before you have started on the meat of your resume, you have to first start with the header. The header is on the very top of your resume, and it is the first thing that hiring managers see when they receive your application.

On the header of every page of your resume there should be contact information. This information includes:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Professional Email Address

You also have the option of including the link to your LinkedIn profile, an online portfolio, and/or your professional website. Do not include your website or social media profile unless it is ready for the hiring manager to see. If you are applying to an entry level job, these details may not be necessary.

Your name is the most important part of your header. That is why on the average resume template, your name will be in a very large font. You want your name to be seen and remembered, and that often requires a very large and visible font. If you want to know more about the best resume font to us click here.

The other details on the resume, such as your address and phone number, should be in a smaller font and not distract from your name on the resume.

Objective Statement/Professional Summary

Beneath the header is where you put either an objective statement or professional summary – although not both. Objective statements are very brief statements about your goals. Professional summaries are longer paragraphs that talk about your background and skills.

Objective statements are best for:

  • Entry Level Job Seekers
  • Volunteer Jobs
  • Non-Profit Jobs

The objective statement is between one and three sentences. It should state why you are seeking the job and what you believe it will provide. It is meant to be your opportunity to show your professional goals. For example:

“To secure a position in an exciting startup that utilizes my background in sales and marketing, and provides opportunities for continued professional growth.”

Avoid mentioning professional goals outside of the job you’re applying for. For example, your objective statement should not say “to build my resume so that I can get into a 4 year college.” Most companies want to believe you may stay with them.

The other option is a relatively new one, and it is one that is quickly becoming more common in resumes due to its sales potential.

If objective statements are for entry level employees and non-profit applicants, professional summaries are best for everyone else:

  • Experienced Job Seekers
  • Applicants with Experience that Doesn’t Fit in Work History
  • Those With Strong Work Histories But Few Achievements

A professional summary is a 4 to 6 sentence paragraph or 6 to 8 item list that is used in place of the objective statement. Professional summaries allow you to put some of your best qualifications right up at the top of the resume. It should not be used to simply repeat your work history. Rather, you should consider the features that you have that may not fit directly underneath a job responsibility. For example:

Resourceful accountant with experience in both the private and public sector. Capable of adapting to new situations, with strong problem solving skills and commitment to accuracy. Trained in Acumatica, NetSuite Onworld, and Sage 300c. Consistent track record in identifying potential tax deductions and opportunities for growth.

Professional summaries are also a great place to target the needs of the job, before discussing achievements in the work history. They are also a great way to start selling yourself and your skills right away, and integrating keywords that may not have had a place in your resume otherwise. Some professional summaries are also written in list format.

Skills List: Optional

All resumes start with either an objective statement or professional summary. But like the professional summary, some resumes are adding a skills section to give you even more opportunities to share information that wouldn’t otherwise be in your resume.

If a skills list is included, you are likely using a “combination” style resume. In “Combination” style resumes, you can also put a list of skills beneath the professional summary (paragraph only – if you chose a list style professional summary, do not also have a skills list). These lists usually contain 3 to 5 lines, and are often used to share the specific knowledge you have with the employer. For example, a secretary may have a skills list that includes:

  • Types at 100 WPM.
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite
  • Experienced with Cold Calling

While someone that works in graphic design may have a skills list that includes:

  • Developed branded campaigns in both digital and hard copy format.
  • Designed marketing collateral for large scale advertising campaigns.
  • Experienced in typography, layout, and journalistic design principals.
  • Familiar with HTML coding, JOOMLA, and WordPress.

The reason these go in a skills list and not beneath a job in the work history is because ideally your work history should be about specific experiences and achievements. For example, you may not have worked with JOOMLA at your last job, but if you know JOOMLA and it is relevant for the job, it is worth listing.

Resumes that have skill lists are considered “Combination” style resumes. Without these lists, they are called “Chronological” or “Reverse Chronological” resumes.

Work History

The next step is writing your work history. Your work history is the most important part of your resume. It is where you list the activities and achievements that you completed at your previous jobs. This is where all hiring managers are looking when they review your resume, and it is where you should share your absolute best information.

The work history section should be in reverse chronological order, with your current/last job first, followed by the job that came before it, followed by the job that came before that.

As discussed in the “Keys to Great Resume Writing” section above, remember to share achievements and specific experience/knowledge. Avoid clichés. The rule of thumb is “show, don’t tell.” Numbers, specific software, specific achievements – these are what will help you get the job.

Every job you list on your work history should start with the following:

  • Title
  • Place Worked
  • City, State
  • Dates Employed

If still employed, put “Present” or “Current” as the end year, such as “2014 – Present”

Underneath each job should be 3 to 5 bullet points. These bullet points are where you put your achievements, the work you completed, the projects you worked on, and anything that will help you get the job. Each one should be written for the job you’re applying for. Every single bullet point should be as impressive as you can come up with, and each one should have a purpose.

What this means is that you have to think back to your history and figure out what you did in your past jobs that is most impressive to the employer. For some it is going to be the results – such as “Sold $500,000 in products.” For others, it may be the task, such as “Prioritized shipping order for departure.” Numbers and achievements are ALWAYS preferable over tasks, but tasks are useful when no achievements or numbers are available.

Writing each bullet point should be done from scratch with the hiring manager in mind. Bullet points start with an action verb. They should then have a number, if possible, or go into specific details about what you achieved. For example:

  • “Catalogued 10,000 product varieties in CRM database.”
  • “Implemented new sales funnel strategy that yielded 27% excess revenue.”

These bullet points have a great action verb, talk about a specific achievement, and then give a number to put context to that achievement.

If you don’t have numbers to support your argument, it is still important to use specifics. For example, listing all of the advanced software you worked with is still more impressive than writing vague generalities like “trained in marketing software.” Employers want to know what marketing software and, if possible, what you managed to complete with it.

Don’t forget to check for spelling and grammar. This section is the most important part of your resume, so it should be as perfect as possible.

Your work history section also does not need to be that long. Remember that a resume is not a background check. It is not there for you to list every job you have ever held, or share every task you have ever completed. Your resume is a sales sheet, so you choose what goes on the resume as long as it is true.

It is considered a best practice to list no more than your last 3 jobs on the resume, with a minimum of 3 bullet points each. Some applicants with extensive work histories only list their last two jobs, simply because the third job is not always relevant. You do not have to list jobs from years back that are no longer relevant to the position, especially if you have better, more recent work histories available.

Education SectionHow to Write Education Section

Another important part of the resume is the education section. Education sections are written in a similar style to work histories. If you are a recent graduate without much work history, they can also go before the work history section in order to draw more attention to your educational background.

But for all other applicants, they should be beneath the work history section. If your work history is extensive, you can also make this part of your resume a bit shorter, because your education may not be as relevant.

Details are listed in a similar way. Start with the following at the top:

  • Name of College
  • Location
  • Degree
  • Graduation

It is not advisable to list GPA unless it was exemplary and you do not have a strong work history. You should also not list your high school if you have any college experience.

Some applicants also add bullet points underneath their education, similar to their work history. This is unnecessary if you have a strong professional background. However, for recent graduates, it may be the best way to show your background. If you do decide to put bullets, only put the following:

  • Honor Societies
  • Extracurricular Activities of Professional Value
  • Research Experience

Your basic classes, GPA, and other experiences should only be listed if there is reason to believe that the employer is interested.

Additional Sections

Finally, some resumes may also include additional sections at the bottom. Volunteer experience is useful for those without an extensive work history, or those applying to non-profits. Awards (professional only), publications, and licenses may also be valuable – especially for those that have advanced their careers or work in the research field. These should have a title, such as “Certifications” with the details in list format underneath.

Resume Length

In most cases, you want to limit your resume to one page. However, this is not a firm rule, it is just a best practice. Some hiring managers do not like to look at extensive resumes, and most long resumes (more than one page) are filled with unimportant information. Remember:

  • Only your most important or impressive information should be shared.
  • Only your most recent jobs are relevant for most applications.

If you have two or three page resumes, it’s likely that you are including a lot of information that isn’t that impressive to the hiring manager. But some people do have extensive resumes with a considerable number of achievements. If that’s the case, then going beyond one page is acceptable, because your resume will make an impact with each and every line/word.

With that in mind, try to keep your resume to one page unless you have a very good reason for extending your resume beyond that.

Writing an Impressive Resume

The more time you spend writing a great resume, the more likely you are to stand out and get the job. In many ways this is only the beginning. But the more you develop your resume, tailor it to the job, and make sure that you’re following the advice in this resume writing guide, the better your prospects will be.

If you are ready to create an incredible resume that will stand out from the competition, sign up with Online Resume Builders, today.

If you are ready to create an incredible resume that will stand out from the competition, sign up with Online Resume Builders today.

build a beautiful resume using our beautiful template builder