How to Write an Effective Resume

What is a resume, and why do you need one when you are job searching? A resume is a written compilation of your education, work experience, credentials, and accomplishments. Most professional positions require applicants to submit a resume and cover letter as part of the application process.

In many cases, your resume is the first document a hiring manager will look at when reviewing your application, and therefore is a true “first impression.” Accordingly, it’s important to put time and effort into developing and maintaining an updated, accurate resume.

Whether you are writing your first resume, or you haven’t updated yours in a while and it needs refreshing, here is a step-by-step guide to writing a resume that will help you get the job you want.

Review the Purpose of a Resume

Think of a resume as “self-advertisement” that sums up your experience on one page. Your resume is one of the most important pieces of your job application. It gives the hiring manager an overview of the qualifications you have for the job for which you’re applying.

You should also familiarize yourself with the difference between a resume and a cover letter:

  • A resume is typically sent with a cover letter, which is a document that provides additional information on your skills and experience in letter form.
  • A resume is a concise, often bulleted summary, while a cover letter highlights and expands on certain traits or accomplishments that would be unique or ideal assets for the particular job.

Start by Doing a Brain Dump of Your Experience

An effective resume lays out a summary of qualifications that will push the hiring manager or employer to move forward and invite you to interview for the position.

As well as details on skills, education, and work history, resumes can also have optional sections, such as an objective, summary statement, skills, or career highlights. Those sections can be added after you’ve compiled all the factual information you need to list on your resume.

For many people, it can be helpful to sit down with a pen and paper, or a blank Word document, and jot down their work history from start to finish. Of course, if you have been in the workforce for many years, this is not going to be time-efficient, so you may choose to focus on your most prominent and relevant positions.

Make a List of Your Work Experience

No matter your approach, your goal will be to produce a chronological list of experience that is relevant to the jobs you’re applying to. Although this should focus on professional work experience, you can also include awards or accolades, volunteer or community experience, post-grad coursework, and skills, as well as your college education, which can move to the bottom of your resume once you get your first job after college.

When you’re working on your brain dump, make sure to include the name of the company, its location, dates of employment, and several bullet points describing your role and responsibilities for each position you list. Although you may need to expand on the bullet points later on, you’ll need this information at the minimum.

Focus on Your Achievements

When writing the descriptions for the jobs you’ve held, focus on what you accomplished in each position rather than what you did. Listing quantifiable achievements in a numerical manner (increased sales 20%, reduced expenses by 10%, for example) will help your resume stand out.

Be sure to match those accomplishments to the criteria the employer is seeking in the job posting.

If it’s challenging (and it can be!) to write resume descriptions that will catch the attention of the hiring manager, review these tips for how to make your resume employment history sound better – and get you picked for an interview.

What to Leave Off Your Resume

There are some things that don’t belong on a resume for a job. What you exclude is just as important as what you include. Ideally, your resume should reflect experience that is relevant to the job you are applying to, and typically no more than ten to fifteen years in the past. Since your resume should, if possible, be no longer than one or two pages, you may need to nix certain items.

For example, if you took a job and only stayed there for a month or so, you wouldn’t want to include that position. If you’ve been out of college for more than five years, it’s generally best to remove any internships you’ve had, assuming you have other professional work experience to fill the gap.

However, this is a case where you’ll want to use your common sense. If you went to college for marketing and had a marketing internship your senior year, then worked as a server for the next several years, you would want to include your marketing internship.

Ultimately, you want to try to strike a balance between including experience that is both timely and relevant.

Choose a Resume Style

There are several basic types of resumes used to apply for job openings. Before you spend time writing up all the details around each position you’ve had, you should decide what style of resume to use, as that can affect how you describe, organize, and list your experience, education, skills, qualifications, and other credentials for employment.

Your options include:

  • Chronological - The most common resume type, in which you list your work experience in reverse chronological order, from the most to the least recent.
  • Functional – A functional resume focuses on your skills and abilities rather than your work history.
    • Combination – This type of resume lists your skills and experience before your employment history.

    Which Resume Type is Right for You?

    Which resume type should you use for your job search? That depends on what you're trying to accomplish. The goal of any resume is to show a hiring manager the applicant's strengths, skills, and experience in as short a time as possible. According to one study, recruiters spend as little as six seconds reviewing a resume before moving on to the next, so it's in your best interests to put your finest qualities and accomplishments in a prominent position on the page.

    In addition, functional or combination resumes may also be useful if you're trying to draw the reader's attention away from something – namely, large gaps in your work history or detours into unrelated fields.

    Start Compiling Your Resume

    Once you’ve decided on a resume type, it’s time to start writing your resume. You don’t have to start from scratch. First, review examples of the resume type you’ve selected. Then, choose a template which you can copy and paste into a document, and then fill in with your own work history.

    Regardless of the type of resume you choose, aim to tailor your resume to the job you are applying to. While it's perfectly acceptable to use a resume template, which you adapt to fit each job description, it's a bad idea to send the same exact resume to multiple openings, even within the same field.

    Your goal should be to write your resume with both robots and humans in mind. Many organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems to sort and vet resumes, before hiring managers ever take a look at them. This means that you could have the best experience and qualifications in a whole field of candidates, and a pretty decent resume besides, but your information will fall through the cracks if your resume doesn't contain the right keywords. Good keywords will refer not only to your experience but to the job description in the posting as well.

    Format Your Resume

    Once you have written and organized your information according to the type of resume you have chosen, be sure to format it according to typical professional standards. You should use consistent spacing throughout, and evenly sized margins on all sides if possible. It’s generally best to stick to your word processor’s default settings, but in some cases, if you shrink the margins on the left, right, top and bottom, this can help buy more space to fit your resume on one page.

    Although visual or infographic resumes have become trendy in some industries, it is always a safe bet to stick with traditional formatting: white page, black text, readable font. Choose a basic font such as Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, Helvetica, or Georgia. Ideally, your font size should be no larger than 12 and no smaller than 10.5.

    Even if you are only sending in copies digitally, it is a good idea to print your resume (as it’s possible that hiring managers may be doing so) to be sure it prints on a single page, and is easy to read in printed form. Reading over a printed copy of your resume will also help you ensure that there is plenty of white space on the page and it looks professional.

    Proofread, Proofread, and Proofread Again

    Not even professional proofreaders can easily proofread their own work. Once you've made a typo, it's hard to catch it yourself. For that reason, it's a good idea to have one or two trusted friends take a look at your resume before you send it in for consideration. Use this resume proofreading checklist first, then ask someone else to give it a final review to be sure it’s perfect before you click send or upload to apply for a job.

    Think of Your Resume as a Living Document

    In the short term, you should tweak your resume based on each job you apply to. For example, if one position you’re applying to seems to weigh a certain responsibility or focus over another, you should be sure your resume conveys your expertise in this area.

    At the same time, you should be updating your resume with your experience as it develops, adding any new skills you’ve learned, courses you’ve taken or awards you won.

    It is much easier to update your resume periodically than all at once, so even when you’re employed, set a reminder to refresh your resume every three months, while the information is still fresh in your head. This will make your next job search much easier, should you decide to switch companies or careers in the future.

    Use these seven simple steps to build a resume to keep yours current and ready to send if you get a call from a recruiter, or find a job that you’d love to be hired for and want to apply for it right away.

    Learn More About Resumes

    best times of year to buy a car cost of living international calculator weight of bushel of corn best stainless steel cleaner for appliances irs child tax credit calculator check my credit score without a credit card banks with credit cards for bad credit songs from daughter to father how much is unemployment benefit how many years to become a doctor in usa how to calculate federal exemptions how many weeks in a year are there christmas gift exchange games for large groups what job should i do test where is my tax amendment bow tie movie theatre richmond va salary of a doctor in usa how much i make a year corporate taxation examples and explanations is the minimum wage going up in texas how to make furniture out of pallets how does one become a doctor cost of living differences between cities hair styles for women with short hair how much should you put down on a house chase credit card with no credit history will i get my tax refund best outlets in southern california baby animals for baby shower best stainless steel cleaner for appliances how much money do i need to buy a house bank of america rewards credit card review get all three credit scores free without credit card songs for mother son wedding dance christian country with the highest gdp salary for real estate agent well paid jobs for college students steps to become a physician what is one pound in cups how are unemployment benefits calculated father daughter country wedding dance songs how to avoid penalties for early 401k withdrawal how many week in a year father daughter country wedding dance songs how to become an actress at 14 with no experience how many exemptions to claim on w4 how many weeks r in a year disney free games for kids download music and burn to cd who has the best deals on tires free audio stories online listen new red box movies this week how many pay weeks in a year what is the capital gain tax rate for 2014 do you need physics for nursing how much do you get for unemployment in texas 3 credit scores free no credit card free games for pre k how to set up business facebook what is corporate tax rate in us baby shower games to buy how can you get rid of fruit flies 10 dollars an hour 40 hours a week how to find rate of return federal poverty level by state where to get free audiobooks online what to do to become a nurse practitioner toddler learning games free online songs from daughter to father how long are us postal money orders good for what movies are at the redbox girl party games for 10 year olds what is best to clean stainless steel thanks for coming to my baby shower how can you buy a house with bad credit how to file for unemployment in virginia 403 b withdrawals before retirement how to find profit percentage debt to income calculator for mortgage harkins theatre yuma az movie times how to calculate federal poverty level can i get a home loan what should i do for a career test calculate rate of return in excel us ten year bond rate harkins theater san tan mall download music directly to phone irs phone number california live person how to become an actress at 14 with no experience how to make a roach credit cards to help build bad credit child tax credit and earned income credit what do employee background checks include free books on tape downloads how to catch fruit flies in house what is minimum wage in oklahoma 2014 internal revenue service austin texas phone number how much is the down payment on a house how much does a bushel of shelled corn weigh what is one ounce of gold worth how many week in a year debt to income ratio mortgage cheetah print baby shower themes father daughter country wedding dance songs how much does publix charge to cash checks what is the powerplay option in powerball how much should you put down on a house free career tests for adults home depot store hours holiday audio books for free online pdf to word converter for windows short haircut styles for women how to calculate federal poverty level what clothes to wear with short hair styles additional child tax credit form how long does it take to become a pharmacists christian party games for adults down hairstyles for short hair iphone apps to watch tv shows free how many dependents do i claim home for sale by owner owl baby shower decoration ideas how long does it take to become a us citizen how are long term capital gains taxed how many years does it take to become a pharmacist how much is child tax credit debt to income ratio mortgage calculator poverty level in new york city new red box movies this week how does redbox movies work places that buy used cell phones getting a house with bad credit earned income tax credit form where can i download old albums for free where is my tax amendment state of alabama minimum wage is there any substitute for baking powder what is long term capital gains how long do i cook a ham for ice breaker games for parties for sale by owner sign kit average salary for a doctor what can be used instead of baking soda capital gains tax rate by year how to build patio furniture out of wood hairstyles for medium length hair free printable math worksheets 5th grade best product for cleaning stainless steel appliances salary jobs without college degree how to make a pallet cooler indoor party ideas for kids how to write a baby shower thank you note Five Free Wedding Planning Websites Traditional IRA Withdrawal Rules and Regulations Careers in a Police Department Reasons a Tenant Can Legally Break a Lease Animal Nutrition Internships: A Guide
    Businessman standing on a pedestrian crossingNew Construction Projects Share Accounts: Credit Union Savings & Checking What to do if you are in AWOL or Desertion Status The Evolution of the Home Affordable Refinance Program COLA - Social Security and Cost of Living Adjustments Point of View Writing Exercises Hair Stylist Cover Letter and Resume Examples How to Keep Company and Employee Information Safe How to Make a Monthly Budget That Works hours the stores will open Nordstrom's Retail Management Internship Program Project Management Insights and Career Advice VA Loans - Benefits, Requirements and Mortgage Rates What Is a Music Promo And Do You Need One? Best Android Apps for Tracking Your Savings 2014 Social Media Mastery for Nonprofits Using 3 Venues How to Define a Good Internship? Travel Agent / Coordinator Skills List What Does it Take to be a Successful Entrepreneur? What You Can Do When You Can't Make a Loan Payment How Much Should Parents Help With College Applications? How to Become a Judge - Career Information 4 Tips to Create a Positive Impact with Negative Feedback The Pros and Cons of Working from Home Rookie Mistakes in Trying to Start a Media Career Highest Paying Jobs in Criminology and Criminal Justice Music Promotion - Email Samples Bands Can Use What Does a Marketer Do? Self-Publishing Services Round-Up Hospital Administrator Career Overview Sheplers - $10,000 Cash Giveaway Sweepstakes How Do You Ask for a Raise 9 Free TV Stand Plans You Can DIY Right Now ATM Card vs. Credit Card - Identity Theft Precautions Max Out Your Savings at Costco Certified Financial Planner, Identifying Opportunity in New Potential Markets How to Open a Fine Dining Restaurant What Does an IT Recruiter Do and How Do I Become One? The 10 Biggest Cobalt Producers 2014 Tips to Help Choose a Short Sale Agent The Pros and Cons of Bonds and Bond Funds Reserve Primary Fund: Money Market Run Sample Reference Letter to Recommend an Employee What You Should Know About Becoming a Military Police How Nonprofits Can Get Started with Facebook Live Today 10 Tips for a First Time Home Seller Article 121 - Larceny and Wrongful Appropriation What to Do If Your Identity is Stolen Who Should Not Convert to Roth IRA? Investing in China - Types of Chinese Stocks A Teenager's Guide to Car Insurance House Doctors and House Medic Project-Based Resumes for Tech Contractors Favorite Money Apps Employment Verification and Sample Policy Business Name - About Business Names Use Economic Order Quantity to Lower Inventory Costs 7 Printable Thanksgiving Centerpieces for Your Table Frugal Hobbies that Save Money Missile and Space Facilities (2M0X3) Ranch Manager 10 Things to Know About Restaurant Management Are the Holidays a Good Time to Start a Business? How to Find Unclaimed Money Yourself How Stock Trading Works - Basic Steps Asking for a Job Back - Letter Example and Tips Before You Buy a Digital Voice Recorder APY - Definition, Calculations, and Compare to APR Ways To Do Better Work Today How to Return an eBay Purchase Price to Book Ratio - How to calculate P/B Uber For Business Travel 5 Best Accounting Apps For Independent Contractors Globe Life and Accident Insurance Company Review Mistakes that Delay Retirement from Public Service Top Art Biennales From Around the World How Climate Change Is Already Affecting Your Net Worth Employee Referral Program Imagery Analysis Specialist Marine Corps Job Definition of Periodic Tenancy in Real Estate Profit From Food & Beverage Product & Flavor Trends Ways to Get Paid and How to Bill a Customer 74D CBRN Specialist Job Description and Requirements Selling to Friends and Family Nursing Careers - Get a Nursing Job About the Criminal Justice Information Services Installment Loans for Business Financing Can You Afford to Buy an Airplane? Top 15 Kids' Dream Jobs Depreciation and Amortization on the Income Statement Jobs at Primerica Common Job Interview Questions for Writers and Editors How to Close an Estate After the Loss of a Loved One Mighty Distributing System ToysRUs - Geoffrey's Birthday Club Sweepstakes (9/30) (Expired) Netflix Careers and Opportunities Black Friday Sales at Outlet Malls in New Jersey What Is a Notice to Quit- Tenant Eviction City Council Understanding Music Royalties: Terms You Need to Know 200 ok text/html redir 5 1 00:01.199 utf-8 Get Rid of Roaches Naturally - Homemade Roach Killer Premium Outlets in Gilroy, California Juvenile Justice Officer - Career Profile marshals What are the Steps to Apply for FAFSA? You Think Your Car Insurance Provider Made a Mistake Retail Management Cover Letter Example Recycling Bin Purchase Tips Should I Get a Second Mortgage? Quiz: Should You Become an Audio Engineer? The Most Common Forms of City Government Steps to Building a Complete Financial Portfolio What is a Roth Individual Retirement Account (Roth IRA) 5 Things Construction Managers Should Know About Construction Robotics The History of the American Dream Beat the Stock Market in 3 Easy Steps Customer Service Jobs in Healthcare What Laws Make Discrimination in Employment Illegal? Jill Harshbarger Closing a Sale Using a Customer Ally How Do I Feel Happy With No Money? How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan for Home Business If Someone Borrows My Car, Are They Insured? Creative Resume Pros and Cons 3 Ways Email Marketing Can Extend the Life of Your Blog Posts What's the Minimum Legal Working Age in Hawaii? Tax Benefits of West Virginia's 529 College Savings Plan Inspirational Quotes About Work Key Tips to Audit Manager Effectiveness What Does Paul Walker's Will Say? Description of Kitchen Stations in a Restaurant Data Management The Advertising Definition for Headline Delegation Definition and Examples in Small Businesses Tips for a Successful Video Job Interview Job Interview Questions About Your Career Goals How to Sell a Price Increase to Your Customers How to Make Money Online Book Review 200 ok image/jpeg 46366 Manager explaining assignment to office worker 4 2 Thumbor/6.0.1 00:00.105 utf-8 few different places Want to Make Teleworking Work? Review of eBay's Seller Hub Home-Based Child Care Business Pros and Cons Cloud Computing Skills Crafting a Programmer Analyst Cover Letter The Challenger Sale: A Fresh Approach to Sales Bounced Check - Definition and Explanation