Writing a great resume
Regardless of whether you’re updating your resume after spending a few years in the same job, re-entering the work force after taking a few years off, or looking for your first job, creating a resume can be intimidating. It doesn’t have to be, though—by following the steps and tips below, you can write a great resume that presents your professional accomplishments with ease.
Three types of resumes
- The first step is to decide what kind of resume you want to create. There are three types of resumes: chronological, functional, and combination.
A chronological resume presents your work history and responsibilities, starting with your most recent position and going backwards. In this format, you’ll provide your title, the name of the company you worked for, and the years you worked at the company for your current or most recent job; this information is followed by a brief list of your responsibilities in that role. Then, you’ll provide the same information for the job you held before that, and so on.
In a functional resume, you will list your skills and achievements in order of importance or relevance. This format allows you to highlight specific areas of skill and draw attention to the achievements you feel are most important. Your employment history, including your titles, company names, and dates, is included in a separate section at the end of the document.
The combination format allows you to highlight your work history and your skills and achievements. As with the chronological format, you will list your employment history beginning with your most recent position; however, under each position, you will provide subheadings focusing on specific skills. You can list the achievements and skills you want to showcase under these subheadings.
The most widely used format is the chronological format, and most employers prefer that format. However, a functional resume can be useful if you are making a career change to a vastly different field from that in which you are working now or if you are re-entering the work force after a long period of unemployment. The combination format is useful if you want to make a career change and you want to list your transferable skills.
Gather all the information necessary
- Once you decide which format to use, you’ll need to gather all the information necessary for your resume.
You’ll need your current contact information, details from your employment history (i.e., titles; company names; dates of employment; and your responsibilities, skills, and achievements for each position), educational information (i.e., degrees, the names of the educational institutions you attended, and graduation dates), and any other skills you want to include.
Write your great resume
- Now it’s time to write your resume. Your contact information, including your name, mailing address, phone number, and email address, should be located at the beginning of the document. Next, you can include a summary statement or professional objective to highlight your skills and abilities and describe what kind of position you are looking for.
If you are a recent college graduate or if you are entering the workforce for the first time, it’s best to list your educational experience next. Provide details for the degrees you have completed, the educational institutions you attended, and your date of graduation (or your expected date of graduation). If you are not a recent graduate, you’ll list this educational information after your work experience.
As noted above, your work experience section should begin with your current or most recent position and go in reverse chronological order from there.
If you’ve been in the workforce for a long time, it’s not necessary to list every job you’ve ever had. You can either list your current position and other positions that are relevant to the job you’re applying for or list your experience for the last 10 years.
After you provide your job title, the name of the company, and your dates of employment, provide three to five bullet points listing your most important responsibilities. Remember to list responsibilities and achievements that relate to the job for which you are applying. You want to show a prospective employer that you have the skills needed for the open position.
After you list your professional experience, you can list other information, such as memberships in professional organizations, committee work, publications, certifications, licenses, awards, and other related skills and proficiencies.
Resume hints and tips
- Remember that you want to present a professional demeanor to prospective employers. Therefore, remember to use formal business language. In addition, don’t use highly stylized fonts that are hard to read or that don’t look professional, such as script fonts or Comic Sans. The best options are simple, easy-to-read fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, or Helvetica. Furthermore, you should use the same font size throughout the document. You may wish to use a slightly larger font size for your name, but the rest of the document should be in 10- or 12-point font. Use bold and italic fonts sparingly, e.g., for headings and subheadings. Single space your text and include one blank line between each section or job listing.
- It’s generally considered inappropriate to include information such as age, marital status, family status, and gender on a resume. Employers should not base employment decisions on this information, so it’s not necessary to include it on a resume. You want your resume to focus on your skills and abilities in relation to a job, not personal information. Likewise, avoid including information on skills and hobbies that don’t relate directly to the position for which you are applying. While you may love hiking, it doesn’t directly affect your ability to work as an accountant; however, if you’re applying for a job as a park ranger, that information might be useful.
- You can download resume templates online, and some word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word and Pages for Mac, include pre-made templates that you can simply fill in.
- Always proofread your resume before you submit it; you may even want to have someone else go over it for you to check for incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation and to check your formatting. Even if you have the experience and skills needed for a position, nothing makes an employer discard a resume faster than typos and spelling errors.
Now that you know what information to include and how to format your resume, it’s time to get started creating yours!