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How to Write a Resume

Jobscan's Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Resume

1. Brainstorm

The first step in writing your resume is to conduct a brainstorming session. Think of this step as an informal phase to organize your thoughts for the framework of your resume. On a piece of paper, write down every single job you’ve had--do not edit these jobs yet. Include internships, paid and unpaid, and summer jobs.

Now, add accomplishments to this list. Think of any awards or accolades you’ve been given throughout your professional life. These accomplishments should be measureable and include percentages or dollar amounts. Again, don’t be picky while brainstorming. You will edit this list later, but for now, the task is simply to get every part of your work history in front of you.

Thirdly, jot down any skills you have. Think software you’ve mastered, any personal skills you believe are strong and anything you’ve been complimented on my a manager or coworker. Some examples are Wordpress, computer programming, problem-solving, team leadership and Photoshop.

Lastly, jot down your education--including dates of attendance--as well as your contact information. This part is just to make sure you don’t leave any important information out later.

2. Choose a Format

Let’s talk a little bit more about resume formats. There are three main types of resume formats from which to choose: chronological, functional and hybrid. The majority of job seekers will choose a chronological format, and for good reason. The chronological resume format highlights past work experience. It is ideal for the job seeker on a traditional career path.

The functional resume highlights skills and accomplishments more than work experience. It is a good option for anyone changing careers or entering into the workforce for the first time. This format shows the hiring manager the hard, practical skills you’ve gained in your life that can be applied to the new field that you are hoping to break into.

If neither of these formats sounds just right, consider a hybrid resume format. The hybrid resume is exactly how it sounds, a hybrid between the chronological and functional resume formats. It highlights skills and work experience equally, without putting too much emphasis on either one. This resume format is good for someone who has notable gaps in employment.

Check out this graphic below to help you decide which format is best for you. Remember, when in doubt, the chronological resume format is usually a good option.

2. Be selective

We told you there would be a chance to edit! Now that you have a complete list of your professional history, it is time to determine which parts are relevant for your current job search. “Relevance” is a term you should remind yourself of often throughout this process. It is not important to list every single job you’ve had. In fact, most often, we’d advise against it. You should only include information on your resume that relates to the job for which you are applying.

Relevance applies to every section of your resume. You could go down the list with a highlighter, but Jobscan is a quick and efficient tool to narrow down information. For example, if you worked in Human Resources for five years at the beginning of your career, but now you work in sales, opt to include your first sales position, even though it was a lower level position, rather than the HR position. The hiring manager wants to see what experience you’ve had in your current field, not overall. The interview will be your opportunity to explain your career change.

When you get to the skills section of your list, highlight only hard skills. Hard skills are provable, experience-based skills. Soft skills, like “hard-working” or “driven”, are objective. Those are the skills you can prove once you’ve gotten the job, but don’t help you out much on your resume. The list below shows examples of hard skills. When you add your skills to your resume, you should also list your level of competency within those skills.

Skills Skill Level
JavaScript Intermediate, 2 years
HTML/CSS Intermediate, 3 years
Python Beginner, 6 months

If you are someone who is changing careers, in which case you might choose a functional or hybrid style resume, the editing process works a little differently. You will focus on your skills and achievements, and include a couple of past positions in your industry farther down your resume.

After going down the whole list with your highlighter, highlight the last section of contact information (full name, address, zip code and phone number including area code), as well as your education.

4. Organize

You now have all of the information you need, and you have chosen a format to use to put it all together. Congratulations! You’ve gotten through the hardest steps. Next, you need to organize all of the information you chose into the format you decided upon.

The typical resume includes contact information, work experience, education, skills and accomplishments (not necessarily in that order). For a new grad, list your education at the top of the resume. If you have three or more years of experience, education should be placed at the bottom.

Even though you know what needs to be included, it can still be a little tricky putting it all together. It can be helpful to use a resume template or resume builder to guide you along the way. Plus, many of them are free to use.

Once you’ve constructed your resume, make sure it feels right. If the format you chose isn’t highlighting your best attributes, move things around. It isn’t hard to change resume formats. As we mentioned earlier, think of your resume as a living document. It should change and grow as your career changes and grows. Creating a solid foundation to work with will save you lots of time and energy in the coming years.

5. Proofread

This step might seem like one you can skip over, but we highly advise you not to. Hiring managers will not be impressed with a typo, or several typos, on your resume, and resume screeners (also known as applicant tracking systems) do not recognize misspelled words. The bottom line is, your resume is not complete until it has been thoroughly proofread.

How should you go about the proofreading process? Good question! To start, read it over for spelling and grammar, and run your resume through a simple spell check. Then, use Grammarly, or a similar site, to catch anything you may have missed. Lastly, have a friend or mentor read it over and make suggestions for spelling and grammar changes.

6. Tailor

This is the part of the resume writing process where you should focus on getting through applicant tracking systems. Learn everything there is to know about ATS here. For the purposes of tailoring your resume, the biggest thing you need to know about ATS is how search works. When you submit your resume through an applicant tracking system, which you usually are when applying for a job online, the pieces of your resume are parsed into a candidate profile. Then, the hiring manager searches by keyword to find potential employees.

What does this mean for you? It means you must anticipate the keywords that the hiring manager will use to search the ATS. Most often, those keywords will be the same keywords used in the job posting. For every job you apply to, your resume should be tailored using the keywords in each job posting. Use a resume scanner, like Jobscan, to find out exactly what keywords need to be included for each job.

If you’re having trouble making your skills fit naturally into your resume, you can create a “skills” section as a last resort. Then, for each job you apply to, you just switch out the terms in that section. Plus, your resume will flow much better than if you try to slip keywords into it randomly. When listing your skills, remember to include your level of competency beside each skill.

7. Export & Save

Believe it or not, the format in which you export your resume can make a difference. Some ATS have trouble parsing the sections of certain files, like PDFs. If you don’t know which ATS you are applying through, export your resume as a .docx to be safe.

It is a great idea to save your resume as a few different file types to have on hand when you are applying to jobs. You can apply for jobs more correctly and faster by keeping these different files up to date and organized. Jobscan’s scan history feature is one way to keep your different resumes organized and up to date.



Screenshot of Jobscan’s scan history feature

The resume writing process seems long and grueling before you begin. However, when you break it down step-by-step, it becomes much easier to understand. When you go through the process following our steps, you’ll be left with a resume that will last a long time.



Jobscan Learning Center The Jobscan How To Learning Series

Part 1: How to Find a Job
Jobscan's Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Landing a Job
Part 2: How to Write a Cover Letter
Jobscan’s Step-by-Step Guide for Writing an Effective Cover Letter
Part 3: How to Write a Resume
Jobscan’s Step-by-Step Guide for Writing a Resume
Part 4: How to Prepare for a Job Interview
Jobscan’s Step-by-Step Guide to Job Interview Preparation

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