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How to Write a Resume:
A Step-by-Step Guide

Whether you’re networking, applying for an internal position, or searching for jobs online, you won’t get far without a professional resume. This step-by-step resume writing guide is designed to help you build a resume that stands out to recruiters and adequately communicates your skills and experience. Let’s get started.

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How to Write a Resume

    1. Choose a resume format

    There are three standard resume formats: chronological, functional, and hybrid (sometimes called a combination resume). For most job seekers, a hybrid resume format, which puts equal emphasis on skills and work experience, is the best choice. However, in some cases, a chronological or functional resume might work better.

    See below to determine which resume format is right for you.

    resume_on_side1open

    Chronological

    Pros:
    • Familiar to recruiters.
    • Highlights career advancements.
    • Emphasizes relevant job experience.
    Cons:
    • Shows gaps in employment.
    • Doesn’t emphasize skills & abilities.
    Best for:
    • Job seekers with highly relevant work.
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    Functional

    Pros:
    • Focuses on your skills and abilities.
    • Minimizes work experience.
    Cons:
    • Not preferred by recruiters.
    • Leaves out work experience.
    Best for:
    • Jobs seekers with no relevant work experience.
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    Hybrid

    Pros:
    • Puts equal emphasis on skills and experience.
    • Provides a lot of space for resume keywords.
    • Combines best elements of chronological and functional formats.
    Cons:
    • Cannot hide resume gaps.
    Best for:
    • Most job seekers.
    build your free, custom resume Read more about resume formats

    2. Add your name and contact information

    The top of your resume should include the following information:

    • Name
    • Phone number
    • Location (City, State, Zip Code)
    • Email Address
    • LinkedIn profile URL

    It might seem obvious, but job seekers sometimes forget a key piece of contact information in this section. Double check and make it as easy as possible for recruiters to contact you for a job interview.

    resume-writing-guide

    lightbulbResume contact information tips:

    • Include a personal phone number, never a work number.
    • You don’t need to include your full address but do add your city, state, and zip code. Recruiters often search for local candidates first.
    • Use a professional sounding email address. Consider creating a free Gmail account for your job search if you currently use a more outdated email service like Hotmail or AOL.
    • Create a strong LinkedIn profile and be sure to include the URL on your resume.

    3. Write a standout resume headline

    A resume headline is a concise, one-line description of who you are as a candidate. A well-written headline can grab a recruiter’s attention and encourage them to take a more detailed look at your qualifications.

    resume-writing-guide

    Your headline is a short but powerful addition to your resume, often the first thing a recruiter reads. Take advantage of the opportunity to make a strong first impression.

    lightbulbResume headline tips:

    • Include keywords from the job posting, ideally the job title.
    • Keep it short. Try to write under ten words.
    • Use title case (capitalize the first letter of each word) and adjust your font so the headline stands out visually.
    See more resume headline examples

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    4. Add your professional resume summary statement

    A resume summary statement is a short paragraph or section of bullet points at the beginning of a resume that highlights your professional skills and experience. Your summary should expand on your headline and communicate to recruiters and hiring managers why you are a good fit for the job.

    resume-writing-guide

    Summary statements are not ideal for all job seekers. If you don’t have much job experience or are changing careers, you might use the space to expand on your work history section, skills section, or write a strong resume objective statement instead.

    Note: Career experts rarely recommend including a resume objective statement, but these summary alternatives can work in special circumstances such as in the case of career changes.

    lightbulbResume Summary tips:

    • Look for patterns in your work history and include a concise overview.
    • Include your most important and relevant skills.
    • Mention your most impressive achievements.
    • Incorporate keywords from the job description.
    Learn more about resume summary statements

    5. Detail your work experience

    The work experience section is the heart of your resume. Employers look at this section closely to determine whether your job history and prior accomplishments make you a promising candidate.

    That’s why it’s important to detail not only your job responsibilities but also your competence in prior roles. The work experience section is your chance to show recruiters and hiring managers how you have added unique value to other companies.

    The first things a recruiter looks for on your resume are the job titles you’ve held and the caliber of companies you’ve worked with. Make this information easy to find by sticking to a familiar format.

    List each job in reverse-chronological order. Each job should have its own subheading that includes the following information:

    • Company
    • Job location
    • Your job title
    • Start and end dates

    For example:

    resume-writing-guide

    Our research has found that this sequence offers maximum applicant tracking system compatibility.

    resume-writing-guide

    lightbulbWork experience section tips:

    • Use a traditional section title, like “Work Experience,” “Professional Experience,” or “Job History.”
    • Include measurable results where possible.
    • Add as many relevant skills and keywords from the job description as possible.
    • Tailor the information provided in this section to each job you apply to.
    Learn more about writing your work experience section

    6. List relevant skills and keywords

    Resume keywords are important terms of interest that recruiters look for whether skimming a resume or searching in an applicant tracking system. The more role-specific keywords—often hard skills—your resume contains, the better optimized your resume is.

    99 percent of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to sort, filter, and search applicants. Some ATS, like Taleo, can automatically rank your resume’s content against the job description, allowing recruiters to focus only on the “best” applicants. Recruiters also search their applicant pool for important resume keywords, like “customer service,” “accounts receivable,” or “Adobe Photoshop.”

    Where on your resume should you include important skills?

    It’s important to incorporate important skills throughout your entire resume, beginning with your headline which should, when possible, include the most important keyword: the job title. You can also list skills in a dedicated skills section of your resume if using a hybrid format.

    Read more about key resume skills

    How do you find keywords to include in your resume?

    Look in the job description to see which hard skills and soft skills are mentioned. Anything that is required or mentioned multiple times can be considered important to the role. You can also join over 1 million job seekers and use Jobscan to scan your resume against any job description. Jobscan helps optimize your resume in every way and often identifies keywords that are missing from the job description but likely still important to recruiters.

    See the top 500 resume keywords

    Ready to put your resume to the test? Jobscan users landed a job 67% faster.

    7. Add your education, certifications, and any other relevant information

    There are other resume sections that may be worth adding, depending on the job. These sections include things like education, awards and accolades, volunteer experience, and certifications. Keep in mind that anything you include on your resume should be relevant to the job you are applying for.

    Education

    It’s common to include your education on your resume, especially if you are applying to a job that requires a degree. If you’re a few years into your career, your resume’s education section can be minimized at the bottom of your resume. Unless you’re applying in a career that puts extra emphasis on education (like academia, law, or medicine), most job seekers can get away with providing only the following information on their resume:

    • Name of Institution
    • Degree
    • School Location
    • Years Attended

    If you’ve recently graduated college, your education section goes above your work experience and includes more detail. Skills developed in school are real skills that have value in the professional world. Recent grads can include relevant coursework, societies, organizations, and extracurriculars that strengthen their candidacy.

    See examples of resume education sections

    Awards, Accolades, & Certifications

    All three of the aforementioned things can be embedded in the work experience and skills sections of your resume. However, if you would like to highlight them, they could warrant a section of their own. Either way, relevant certifications and honors will increase your credibility.

    Discover 8 certifications to add to your resume for free

    8. Tailor your resume and optimize for applicant tracking systems

    It’s very easy these days to fire off your resume to dozens of jobs, but if you’ve tried this method, you may have been disappointed by your success rate. That’s because you didn’t take the time to customize your resume—and recruiters can tell.

    The most impactful thing you can do to improve your chances of getting interviews is tailor your resume to each and every job. Customized resumes that align with job requirements and include keywords from the job description will stand out to recruiters who often receive hundreds of resumes for each role.

    When you tailor your resume to the job, you’re also optimizing for applicant tracking systems., because many ATS allow recruiters to search by keyword. Want to see if your resume is well-tailored? Use Jobscan to see your match score and discover missing keywords.

    Does your resume pass the test?

    Tailor your resume and optimize for applicant tracking systems with Jobscan.

    Optimize Your Resume
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    9. Polish up your grammar and formatting

    Resume writing is a unique style. It can be tricky to remember which tense to use or when (and why) to omit pronouns. How can you use language to tell a more compelling story? Which fonts and formats are ATS-friendly? Let’s take a look.

    Resume Fonts

    It’s important to use a font that is easy to read on screen, ATS-compatible, and commonly available. Avoid using script fonts or custom fonts unless you are a designer. Don’t use a font size below 10.

    See our top ATS-friendly resume font picks.

    Tense and Pronouns

    Use past tense when talking about jobs in the past and present tense when describing the work you are currently doing. Traditional resume writing leaves out personal pronouns (I) and gets right to the action. Ex. Spearheaded a new email marketing initiative that increased revenue by 10 percent.

    Learn more about how tense and language can affect ATS optimization.

    Resume Action Words

    Action verbs help liven up your writing, making your resume more readable for recruiters and hiring managers. Consider beginning each bullet point on your resume with an action verb and replacing generic verbs like “managed” or “led” with more engaging words like “mentored” or “accelerated.”

    See our list of over 400 resume action words.