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How to Write a Resume

How to Start Writing a Resume

A resume is a concise document that summarizes your most relevant skills, work experiences, and accomplishments. When applying for jobs, it is your first opportunity to make a positive impression on potential employers and show them what makes you a valuable candidate.

Most resumes are one to two pages long, depending on experience, and need to be concise and engaging. Many hiring managers spend very little time reading a resume, so your qualifications must quickly grab the reader’s attention.

That includes technology like applicant tracking systems (ATS), which automate much of the hiring process by scanning the document for keywords and metrics.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to write a resume that will impress applicant tracking systems and hiring managers.

Preparing to Write a Resume

To get started writing your resume, it’s important to do three key things:

Gather Personal and Professional Information

Start off by writing down your contact information, work history, educational background, skills, and any additional relevant information, such as certifications or volunteer work.

When in doubt, make a list of all your previous job experiences, including key skills, responsibilities, and achievements. Don’t worry if it’s too long, you’ll trim that down later.

Research the Job and Industry

The reason you will want to trim down your resume later is that you need to tailor your resume to the job description.

Understand the job requirements and the industry standards. This will help you write for the expectations of employers, who will be looking for someone clearly qualified, which leads into the next point.

Identify Keywords from Job Descriptions

Highlight key terms and phrases used in job listings so that you clearly show you are the best person for the job.

Hiring managers, and by extension ATS screenings, will be looking for specific keywords, such as relevant technical skills or years of experience, to quickly sort through applicants. Use this to your advantage when writing your resume by matching your word choice with what is found in the job description.

Check out these excellent resume examples for a teacher and software developer to get a better idea of what you can do to write a great resume.

Choose a Resume Format

Once your prep work is complete, you need to learn which resume format is the best fit for you. How you write your resume depends on your chosen format to highlight your best attributes.

        • Chronological: The chronological format focuses on the work experience section. This format is the most popular with recruiters and hiring managers due to its emphasis on experience, making it the most ATS-friendly. It most cases you should try to use the chronological format to demonstrate your qualifications in action.
        • Functional: The functional format focuses on skills, with less attention to work history. Multiple skill sections list the most relevant skills with detailed explanations. This resume format can be very useful for those with no experience, such as recent high school or college graduates.
        • Combination: When writing a combination resume, you place equal focus on both the work experience and skills sections. Relatively ATS-friendly, the combination resume can be a good choice for those who are changing careers or are coming back to work after an extended break.

Regardless of which format you choose, always make sure to tailor your resume to the job description so that readers quickly and easily understand your value.

Formatting a Resume

Regardless of which format you choose, creating a well-formatted resume is essential for making a positive first impression.

Here are some guidelines to consider:

          • Margins. Set your margins to 1 inch on all sides to ensure enough white space and a clean look. You can slightly reduce margins if necessary, but avoid going below 0.5 inches.
          • Font and Font Size. Use a professional font like Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, or Helvetica. Keep the main text between 10 and 12 points. Your name at the top can be 14 to 16 points to stand out.
          • Line Spacing. Use single or 1.15 line spacing for the text. Add extra space between sections for clarity and readability.
          • Section Headings. Distinguish section headings by using bold or slightly larger fonts. This helps guide the reader through your resume.
          • Bullet Points. List responsibilities, achievements, and skills using bullet points. This format allows employers to quickly scan your resume.
          • Alignment. Align text to the left for readability. Keep dates and important details consistently aligned.
          • Consistent Formatting. Maintain uniform formatting throughout. Use the same font, size, and style for similar sections to ensure consistency.
          • Use of Bold and Italics. Bold your name, section headings, and job titles to make them stand out. Use italics sparingly for emphasis, like project names.

 

Writing Your Resume

After your prep work, it is time to make your resume shine. To write a great resume, you will want to follow six simple steps:

sections-of-CV
  • Contact Information
  • Profile
  • Work History
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Additional Information

Contact Information

Your resume contact information goes in the header of your document, which includes:

        • Your full name.
        • Your location (city and state/country).
        • Your phone number.
        • Your professional email address (preferably something that has your name in it).
        • Your LinkedIn profile and/or any other professional social media.
        • If relevant to your field (e.g., design, writing, programming), include links to your online portfolio or personal website.

Make sure your contact information stands out and is easy to read without taking up too much valuable space. The reader should be able quickly gather all that they need.

For example:

John Doe
555-555-5555
john.doe@fake.example.com
fake.linkedin.com/in/johndoe
fake.johndoeportfolio.com

Resume Profile (Summary or Objective)

A resume profile, also known as a resume heading or headline, is a brief statement (one to three sentences long) that provides an overview of who you are and why you are qualified for the job.

There are two types of resume headlines you can choose:

        • Resume summary: A resume summary discusses your past work experiences and the most relevant skills or achievements for the job. It is a good choice for those who have the experience and want it to be made clear right away.
        • Resume objective: A resume objective reveals why you are applying and what transferable skills and experiences you have to offer. Due to this, a resume objective can be used if you don’t have a lot of professional experience or are changing careers.

In both cases, you can also include what value you offer and wish to gain from employment.

Pro Tip: This is a great place to tailor your resume to the job description and make ATS-friendly by using keywords.

Do your best to address your qualifications and the employer’s needs. A well-written resume profile can help entice the reader to want to learn more about you, increasing your chances of getting a job interview.

Here is an example of what a good resume summary can look like:

“Dynamic marketing specialist with over six years of experience in digital marketing, social media strategy, and content creation. Proven track record of increasing website traffic by 50% and enhancing brand engagement. Skilled in SEO, PPC, and data-driven marketing strategies.”

And here is how you might write a resume objective:

“Motivated recent graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science seeking a software development position. Eager to apply strong programming skills and problem-solving abilities to contribute to innovative projects at ABC Tech.”

Work Experience

Your work experience section should clearly and concisely present your employment history. Remember, this is what most hiring managers want to know, so make it easy for them to quickly understand your qualifications.

Include the following when writing the work experience section of your resume:

          • Job History: For each job, list your job title, company name, location, and dates of employment.
          • Responsibilities and Achievements: Use bullet points to outline your key responsibilities and achievements.
          • Use Action Verbs and Quantify: Start each bullet point with a strong action verb and include quantifiable results when possible.
          • Tailor Your Experience to the Job: Highlight the most relevant experiences and skills that match the job description. Even if you have the skills and experience, if you don’t match the job description’s wording, the ATS or reader may not make the connection.

Pro Tip: When possible, demonstrate your value by using the format “[quantifiable responsibility]” lead to “[quantifiable achievement]”, such as “Managed 10 member analyst team that offered 4 solutions, saving the company 35% in revenue.” This will clearly communicate your impact at previous positions and adds excellent context and credibility to your qualifications.

Together, these key points will help keep your resume ATS-friendly and easy to read. The recruiter or hiring manager who reads your resume will only be interested in information that shows off your value, so everything should be relevant and stand out from the page.

Most readers will skim your resume quickly, so give them a reason to pause and consider you further.

For example:

Marketing Specialist, ABC Corp, New York, NY (Jan 2020 – Present)

          • Developed and executed social media campaigns that increased engagement by 30%
          • Analyzed website traffic using Google Analytics, leading to a 15% increase in organic traffic
          • Collaborated with the content team to produce SEO-optimized blog posts, boosting search engine rankings

Sales Associate, XYZ Retail, Boston, MA (Jun 2017 – Dec 2019)

          • Achieved 120% of sales targets consistently for three consecutive quarters
          • Provided exceptional customer service, resulting in a 95% customer satisfaction rate
          • Trained and mentored new staff, improving team productivity by 20%

Skills

Although most employers value work history, the skills section is still an important component of your resume. It allows you to highlight your most relevant abilities, which is especially useful for applicant tracking systems.

On your resume, you can divide your skills into two different categories:

        • Hard skills: Hard skills relate to specific abilities and are quantifiable. They generally result from specific types of job experiences. Hard skills stand out on resumes, so include your most relevant ones. Examples include technical skills, programming languages, project management software, other computer skills, or certified procedures.
        • Soft skills: Soft skills are transferable interpersonal skills. They are harder to quantify, which means they are harder to prove on a resume. Therefore, save most of your soft skills for the job interview. Examples include communication, time management, and empathy.

When you choose which of your skills to list, focus on the ones the job description asks for. It is recommended to list between six to ten skills that help you tailor your resume.

Don’t go too overboard on the detail; save that for the job description and the cover letter. However, don’t skimp out either, make sure it’s obvious that your skills are perfectly aligned for the position.

For example, the skills section of your resume may look like:

          • Programming languages: Java, Python, C++
          • Data Analytics: Google Analytics, Excel
          • Graphic Design: Adobe Creative Suite, PaintShop Pro
          • Project Management: Trello, Jira
          • Communication: Written, Verbal, Customer Service, Conflict Resolution

Education

The education section should include your academic background and any relevant achievements. It will contain:

        • Name of the institution.
        • Location (city, state/country).
        • Type of degree.
        • Area of focus.
        • Years attended or graduated (optional)
        • Honors (optional)
        • Relevant coursework or projects (optional)
        • GPA (if notable)

Generally, you will want to keep this section short. However, if you lack professional experience, you can use the education part of your resume to showcase relevant qualifications, such as coursework or projects.

For example:

Bachelor of Science in Marketing, University of XYZ, May 2019

          • Relevant Coursework: Digital Marketing, Consumer Behavior, Marketing Research
          • Honors: Dean’s List (2017-2019)
          • Extracurricular Activities: Marketing Club President, Student Government Representative

Additional Sections

Sometimes you may need to include additional sections to your resume to showcase your qualifications better. Such sections include:

          • Certifications and Licenses: List any relevant certifications and licenses that enhance your qualifications.
          • Volunteer Work and Internships: Include volunteer positions and internships that provide valuable experience.
          • Languages, Technical Skills, and Professional Affiliations: Mention language proficiencies, technical skills, and memberships in professional organizations.

Only add additional sections if you can justify their relevance. Otherwise, any information should be placed in the work experience section or skills section of your resume. You don’t want to take up valuable space on your resume unnecessarily!

Example:

Certifications and Licenses

          • Certified Digital Marketing Professional (CDMP), Digital Marketing Institute, 2020
          • Google Analytics Certified, 2019

Volunteer Work and Internships

Marketing Intern, XYZ Non-Profit, Summer 2018

          • Assisted in creating marketing materials for fundraising events
          • Managed social media accounts, increasing follower count by 20%

Languages, Technical Skills, and Professional Affiliations

          • Languages: Fluent in Spanish and French
          • Technical Skills: Proficient in HTML/CSS, WordPress, MS Office Suite
          • Professional Affiliations: Member of the American Marketing Association (AMA)

Resume Examples To Help You Write

Writing a resume can be made easier with the help of some examples. Listed below are some of our most popular: Pharmaceutical, Caregiver, and Data Analyst.

Check out our entire collection of free and premium resume examples for even more options.

Common Resume Mistakes

Writing is not the only part of building a great resume. Reviewing your work and making edits is equally important to ensuring your application has the best chance with employers.

Therefore, keep an eye of for these common mistakes:

Spelling and Grammar Errors

Carefully proofread your resume to eliminate any spelling or grammatical errors. Use tools like Grammarly for additional checks, and have someone proofread it if possible.

Including Irrelevant Information

Focus on information that is relevant to the job you are applying for. Avoid including personal details such as age, marital status, or hobbies unless they are directly related to the job. This will help keep your resume concise and clear to the reader.

Using an Unprofessional Email Address

Use a professional email address, ideally one that includes your name. Avoid using nicknames or non-professional email services that will turn hiring managers away.

Lying or Exaggerating Qualifications

Be honest about your experience and qualifications. If you misrepresent your skills or experience, you could face serious consequences if you’re discovered. Even if you’re not caught, you might find yourself in a job that is beyond your abilities, leading to unnecessary stress.

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13 Resume Writing Tips

Crafting a standout resume involves more than just listing your work history and skills. Follow these tips to create a resume that captures attention and lands interviews.

          1. Tailor Your Resume for Each Job. We cannot stress this enough. Customize your resume for each job application. This is key to making your resume the best it can be. Highlight the skills and experiences most relevant to the job description, and incorporate keywords to pass through applicant tracking systems (ATS) and get the attention of hiring managers.
          2. Use Action Verbs. Start your bullet points with strong action verbs such as “developed,” “managed,” “led,” “created,” and “achieved.” This makes your accomplishments more dynamic and impactful.
          3. Quantify Your Achievements. Whenever possible, use numbers to quantify your accomplishments. For example, instead of saying “improved sales,” say “increased sales by 20%.” This provides concrete evidence of your contributions.
          4. Keep It Concise. Aim for a one-page resume if you have less than 10 years of experience. For more experienced professionals, two pages are acceptable, but avoid exceeding this length. Be concise and focus on the most relevant information.
          5. Choose a Professional Format. Select a clean, basic, and professional resume format. Use a consistent font, such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman, in 10-12 point size. Ensure your margins are set to 1 inch on all sides and use consistent spacing.
          6. Highlight Relevant Skills. Include both hard and soft skills that match the job description. Hard skills are technical abilities specific to the job, while soft skills are interpersonal attributes that help you succeed in any role.
          7. Proofread Thoroughly. Carefully proofread your resume to catch any spelling or grammar errors. Consider using tools like Grammarly and ask a friend or mentor to review your resume for additional feedback.
          8. Avoid Common Mistakes. Steer clear of common resume mistakes such as using an unprofessional email address, including irrelevant information, or lying about your qualifications. Be honest and focus on presenting your best self.
          9. Use a Professional Email Address. Ensure your email address is professional, ideally one that includes your name. Avoid using nicknames or non-professional email services.
          10. Incorporate Keywords. Incorporate keywords from the job description into your resume. This not only helps with ATS but also shows the employer that you have the specific skills and experience they are looking for.
          11. Showcase Your Achievements. Focus on your achievements rather than just listing job duties. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to describe how you handled specific tasks and what results you achieved.
          12. Include Relevant Additional Sections. Enhance your resume by including relevant additional sections such as certifications, volunteer work, technical skills, and professional affiliations. These sections can provide a more complete picture of your qualifications.
          13. Update Your Resume Regularly. Keep your resume up to date by adding new experiences, skills, and achievements as they occur. This ensures you are always ready to apply for new opportunities.

Key Takeaways

  • Tailor your resume to the job description so that hiring managers and applicant tracking systems can easily see that you are qualified for the position.
  • Your resume will consist of five main sections: contact information, profile, work experience, skills, and education. You can also provide additional sections as long as they are relevant and you have the space for them.
  • Quantify your work history as much as possible to demonstrate tangible value.
  • Most hiring managers and ATS screenings prefer the chronological resume format.
Pro Tip:

Make your resume as ATS-friendly as possible by using specific keywords found in the job description, quantifying your work experience, and using a simple, chronological layout.

Resume Writing FAQ

Updated: July 02, 2024

Ideally, your resume should be one page if you have less than 10 years of experience. More experienced professionals can extend to two pages, but avoid going beyond this unless absolutely necessary. Focus on including the most relevant information that highlights your qualifications for the job.

Use a professional font such as Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, or Helvetica. Stick to a font size between 10 and 12 points for the main text. Your name at the top can be slightly larger, typically between 14 and 16 points, to make it stand out.

In most cases, it’s best to avoid including a photo on your resume. Photos can introduce bias and are generally not necessary unless you are applying for a job in a country or industry where photos are specifically requested.

Be honest about gaps in your employment history. You can address gaps by including a brief explanation within your work experience section or in a cover letter. Focus on how you stayed productive during those periods, such as through volunteering, freelancing, or further education.

Your professional summary should be a brief, compelling statement that highlights your key qualifications, skills, and career achievements.

It should be tailored to the specific job you are applying for. An objective statement should clearly outline your career goals and how you plan to contribute to the company.

Example Professional Summary:

“Dynamic marketing specialist with over six years of experience in digital marketing, social media strategy, and content creation. Proven track record of increasing website traffic by 50% and enhancing brand engagement. Skilled in SEO, PPC, and data-driven marketing strategies.”

Example Objective Statement:

“Motivated recent graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science seeking a software development position. Eager to apply strong programming skills and problem-solving abilities to contribute to innovative projects at ABC Tech.”

Use bullet points to list your responsibilities and achievements for each job. Start each bullet point with a strong action verb and include quantifiable results whenever possible.

Tailor your descriptions to highlight the experiences and skills most relevant to the job you are applying for.

Example:

“Developed and executed social media campaigns that increased engagement by 30%.”

Include both hard and soft skills relevant to the job. Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities such as programming or graphic design, while soft skills are interpersonal attributes like communication and teamwork. Match your skills to those listed in the job description.

It’s not necessary to include references on your resume. Instead, prepare a separate list of references to provide upon request. This saves space on your resume and allows you to keep your references’ contact information private until needed.

Use a clean, simple layout with consistent formatting. Set your margins to 1 inch on all sides, choose a professional font, and use bullet points for easy reading. Make sure your headings are clearly distinguished using bold or slightly larger fonts.

Update your resume regularly, especially when you gain new skills, experiences, or achievements. Keeping your resume current ensures that you are always prepared for new opportunities.

Yes, using a resume template can help ensure your resume is well-organized and visually appealing. Hloom offers a variety of professional resume templates that you can customize to fit your needs. Just make sure to tailor the content to reflect your unique qualifications and experiences.

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are software used by employers to filter resumes based on specific keywords and criteria. To optimize your resume for ATS, use keywords from the job description, maintain a simple layout without excessive formatting, and include relevant skills and experiences. Avoid using graphics, tables, and unusual fonts that might not be parsed correctly by the ATS.

Include your GPA if it is above 3.5 and you are a recent graduate with limited work experience. If you have significant work experience, your GPA is less important, and you can omit it from your resume.

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Conor McMahon, CPRW
Conor McMahon, CPRW
Content Writer

Conor is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) for Hloom.com. He has over three years of professional writing experience as well as experience in professional development training. As a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches (PARWCC) Conor has written on career development topics ranging from resume and cover letter best practices, employer/employee communication, job seeking help, and more. He received his degree in Music Industry at Northeastern University and plays guitar in his free time.

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