Every job seeker needs a resume. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for part-time work, interested in volunteer jobs, or still in high school. Learning how to write a resume will help you. It’s an advertizement that should be designed to get you an interview. Even the process of writing a resume helps you clarify your career plans, strengths, weaknesses, and skills.
But what if you’re not sure how to write a resume? While each person’s resume must be unique, the following 7 strategies should be useful:
1. Put your name at the top and make it stand out.
Your resume is an advertisement for you, so your name should be the most noticeable thing on the page. You can pump up the font size, bold it, or center it; just make the hiring manager’s eye lands there first.
2. Include your contact information.
Your resume needs to include your contact information at the top. Write your full address, including the street, city, state or country, and zip code. If you have a local address, such as a dorm room, and a permanent address, such as your family home, you may want to include both. One attractive way to do this is to put one address on the left side and the other on the right.
Then, include one or two phone numbers you know will be answered between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. It’s fine if an answering machine picks up, as long as you check the messages. Cell phone numbers are fine. Be sure to include the area code. Next, include an e-mail address that you check frequently. Make sure it reflects a professional image. If you have a website, blog, or LinkedIn account that is used for business purposes, you can include the link.
3. Try starting the body of your resume with a summary.
Your summary should give an overview of the skills and qualifications you have that are relevant to the job for which you’re applying. To steal a line from former President John F. Kennedy, ask not what your future employer can do for you; ask what you can do for your future employer.
The answer should come in several compact sentences that zero in on your most marketable accomplishments, qualities, and abilities. Here’s an example that Lorain County Community College uses when teaching students to how to write a resume that includes a resume summary:
Highly motivated Technical Support professional. Strong verbal, listening and written skills. Comfortable in interacting with all levels of the organization and public. Able to negotiate and problem solve quickly, accurately, and efficiently. Adept at multitasking to achieve individual and team goals. Diverse background includes sales, customer service and supervision. Committed to quality and excellence.
This summary works because it shows the hiring manager what they can expect if they hire this support professional. You can still write a resume summary if you have no experience; it will just focus more on your natural abilities, education, and perhaps volunteerism.
4. If you’re writing a functional or combination resume, add the “Skills and Career Accomplishments” section next.
A functional resume highlights your attributes without including a list of companies you worked for or dates of employment. It can be a good choice for career changers or people returning to the workforce. A combination resume is a hybrid of a chronological resume and functional resume.
Either way, this section is similar to the summary section. You need to advertize the results of your efforts in past positions and tell what you’re particularly good at doing. Let your future employer know what you can offer them and how your experience and talents could benefit their company.
Use bullet points and place the skills or achievements the hiring manager will be most impressed by toward the top.
5. The “Experience” section usually comes next.
In a chronological resume, your experience usually comes after your summary. In a combination resume, it often comes after the “Skills and Accomplishments” section. If you’re writing a purely functional resume, this section isn’t needed.
If you’ve had an internship, served in the armed forces, or volunteered somewhere, you can include that. Just be sure to title this section “Experience” or “Professional Experience” and not “Work History” or “Employment.” That way, you aren’t misleading the hiring manager.
There are a few situations in which your education would come before your experience. The exceptions are if you…
- Just earned or are working toward a degree in a new field and that degree makes you more qualified for the job than your professional experience
- Are an undergraduate student
- Are a lawyer
- Just earned a prestigious degree from a top college or university, like a Ph.D. from Yale
In this section, list your positions in reverse chronological order. Focus on the jobs most applicable to the position you’re applying for, or the most recent. When thinking of your work history, are your job titles impressive, or are the names of the companies you’ve worked for more impressive? Pick whichever makes you look better and consistently start each listed job with it. Next, include the location of the company. This should be a city and state, or city and country, for foreign jobs. Finally, write the dates you worked in italic font at the end. You can use just years or years and months.
If you’re writing a chronological resume, jobs should be followed by a bulleted list of either your duties or, if possible, accomplishments at each position. Whenever you can, quantify your accomplishments.
Created and implemented a new mentoring program with 80% participation of residents.
That statement will catch the hiring manager’s eye because it proves the applicant did a great job. If you’re writing a combination resume, you may not need bulleted descriptions, if you were able to summarize your achievements in the “Skills and Career Accomplishments” section.
6. Always include an “Education” section.
Like your “Experience” section, your education should be listed in reverse chronological order. Degrees and licenses come first, then certificates or advanced training. Whatever is most impressive can go in bold. You should give the name of the school and the city and state—or foreign country—where the institution is located. Unless you graduated recently, you don’t need to put more than your major, distinctions or awards, and possibly minor. You can include the date you earned the degree, study abroad experiences, and relevant courses taken. You can include your GPA if it’s at least a 3.0.
7. Add sections for professional affiliations, awards, civic leadership, or anything else that would impress the hiring manager.
Remember, your resume isn’t your life story, it’s an ad. Include what the hiring manager wants to see. If you’ve won an Employee of the Year award or something similar, include that. If you’ve only won academic awards, add them to your “Education” section. Focus on professional affiliations that are up-to-date, related to the job, and prestigious. Also mention any leadership roles in your community that are relevant to the position.
This is a general road map for how to write a resume that’s one or two pages long. Your resume should be customized to advertise you in the most appealing way possible for each particular position. You’re an interesting person, so write an interesting resume!