Writing your resume is one of the most important steps in landing your dream job. It’s also a pain. A quick Google search can pull up thousands of articles, resources and guidance on how to write a resume, it can get overwhelming. This is why our team of resume experts have put together the below comprehensive, step-by-step guide to writing the perfect resume that reflects your work experience and unique set of skills. We’d love for you to try our industry leading resume builder [insert link], or if you’d like to go it alone… we’re here to help you and guide you each step of the way.
A brilliant resume accomplishes 3 things:
- Catches the eye of the reader (think HR or hiring manager)
- Concisely and compellingly captures your skills and accomplishments
- Creates a personal brand that is unique and earns you an interview
Think of yourself as a product you are trying to sell and your resume as your advertisement. YOU are a brand and your resume is the ad that says HIRE ME. So how do you do this? Let’s start with the first point.
Catching the reader's eye
Think of a few of the world’s best brands out there: Nike, Apple, Disney. What do they have in common? Simple, compelling recognizable advertisements that quickly communicate who they are and what they sell. Your resume needs to do the same. But how?
Design and layout. HR and hiring managers see dozens if not hundreds of resumes every day, they don’t have time to read the details of each and every resume that lands on their desk. Studies show that hiring managers typically spend less than 10 seconds on a resume before deciding to keep it or throw in the trash. Many even use Applicant Tracking Systems, which are software that do this job for them. Yup, HR bots are now the gatekeeper to your career.
You need to create a perfectly formatted resume with just the right details in just the right place just to get a second look. Luckily for you, we have taken the time to craft HR and bot friendly templates for every industry. You can check out our entire library here [insert link].
Spelling and grammar. Studies show that at least 17% of resumes with spelling or grammar issues get discarded no matter how qualified the applicant may be. HR and bots are trained ninjas who can spot a mistake in seconds. So make sure your spelling and grammar is on point. There are many tools out there that can help check for mistakes while writing your resume, including good old Microsoft Word, but also tools like Grammarly can be great assets. Invest a little extra time to make sure you aren’t missing out on great jobs because you typed an extra “s”. You’ve got skillz, just make sure their not misssed.
Concisely and compellingly captures your skills and accomplishments
A resume is not an essay. A resume is not a list of the tasks or duties at your previous jobs. To write a great resume is to create a snapshot of your greatest accomplishments, particularly those that will show you are a great fit for the job you are applying for.
Length is also a key factor. The vast majority of HR and hiring managers agree that keeping your resume to one page is best until you are a seasoned professional with over 10 years of experience. Generally, stick to your most recent and most relevant experience and cut the fluff. If you’re applying for a marketing manager position, you probably don’t need to list your freshman year summer job at Bob’s Burgers.
Lastly, keep it short. Get your point across in as few words as possible. A resume is not your opportunity to show off your long-form creative writing. Don’t worry, it won’t come across as lazy, being able to concisely get your point across is an invaluable skill in any job. You’re not writing a novel, you’re writing ad copy. You’re not G.R.R.M, you’re Don Draper.
Creates a personal brand that is unique and earns you an interview
If you’ve accomplished the first two points above, you’re almost there. Just avoiding the common pitfalls most applicants suffer from is half the battle. But here are some do’s and don’ts to take it to the next level.
DO incorporate industry keywords and buzzwords, but keep it to a minimum. Show you speak the language but you’re also not a robot who uses buzzwords to hide a lack of true knowledge and experience. Use words like “developed,” “managed,” and “accomplished” sparingly and in a natural way. Using buzzwords and keywords will help you get through the HR applicant tracking systems (ATS) which filter resumes automatically and using them correctly will impress the humans once it reaches their desk.
DO update and tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for. HR reps and hiring managers have a keen eye and can easily spot applicants who have and haven’t taken the time to refresh their resume. Just do it. Trust me. And hey, there’s an app [insert link to registration page] for that.
DO use a modern, ATS optimized, resume format. This is critical. It is the first thing that will be noticed and used to screen your resume. Keep it clean, keep it organized and research the templates that are popular in your industry. If you’re an accountant, your resume should be nothing but nuts and bolts and not fluff. If you’re in marketing, you MAY want to consider adding a touch of creativity. Do your research, find what is most commonly accepted in your industry and use a readymade template. Check out our templates and guides here [insert link to resume templates].
DON’T use fancy fonts and colors. You may choose to use some subtle colors to help make your resume standout but overdoing it can be distracting.
DON’T go over one page. There’s an ongoing debate about this one but unless you’re a seasoned professional with over 10+ years of experience, there’s no need to go beyond one page. Being able to concisely tell your story on one page is a skill and will be appreciated. Also, depending on how much experience you have and what type of job you’re applying to, you don’t need to include your part time job scooping ice cream in 2012.
HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR INFORMATION
Much of this is standard across the board, but some choices you make can depend on your experience level and other possible factors. Let’s take you through step-by-step and make it simple for you.
This pretty straight forward so we won’t spend a lot of time on it. This section simply includes your:
- Telephone number
- Email address
Present this information using the template you’ve chosen and keep it simple. One thing to note: make sure you don’t put this in the header of the document as some applicant tracking systems / resume filters may be unable to read it.
Education (OR Work Experience)
Should you put your education or work experience first? This depends on how much work experience you have and how long it has been since your last degree. As a general rule, if you have five or more years of experience post-graduation, put your experience first. Otherwise, put your education details first. It’s that simple.
An education section highlights your relevant schooling and other academic training. If you have significant work experience (5+ years), this section can be kept short and sweet, simply listing the information below. If you are currently a student or a recent graduate, however, you may want to build this section up to balance your lack of experience.
The education section typically includes the following information:
- Schools you have attended including universities and full 4-year colleges, junior and community colleges, as well as professional and technical schools (you can leave out your high school, unless it is relevant in some way)
- Official address of each school
- Date of actual or anticipated graduation
- Each degree earned (be sure to write out the full degree name, i.e. “Bachelor of Science” not “B.S.”)
- Grade point average (GPA), ONLY if it’s better than a 3.0.
If you’re relying on your education section to bolster your resume and want to improve its effectiveness, you should research the content that will be most valued by the company you are applying to. To do this, review the company’s job postings and spend some time researching the company’s website and other literature.
You can tailor your education section in three main ways:
- Include only your most relevant educational experience and accomplishments. Based on the qualifications and requirements from the job post, you may choose to include or exclude certain types of information. For example, if you earned a degree in a very specialized field or have taken courses directly related to the position, then you may want to include a list of your coursework. However, if your degree is self-explanatory and your coursework is more generalized, you can exclude these details.
- Emphasize certain information by placement. The reviewer’s eye will be drawn to section headings and the top of sections, consider highlighting your most relevant and impressive experiences by placing them in either (a) their own sections or subsections, or (b) near the top of a section. For example, if you have certain technical skills or have worked on a relevant project, you may want to place this info in its own section rather than simply list it beneath "Education."
- Place most relevant schooling first. While it is common to use reverse chronological order (most recent education first), you may also consider placing your most relevant educational experiences first, if you feel it is important enough to highlight to the reviewer. This should only be used in very unique circumstances where, for example, you don’t have a ton of relevant experience so you need to catch the recruiter’s eye another way.
Professional Experience (OR Education)
The experience section is often the “heart” of your resume as it highlights your past and present accomplishments and skills gained in relevant fields. Other common titles for this section of a resume include: “Work Experience,” “Work History,” or “Relevant Experience.” Here are a few key tips to make this section pop to HR reps and hiring managers:
- Use reverse chronological order. In most cases, you should present your work experience starting with your most recent experience and work backwards. The vast majority or recruiters and HR reps prefer to read resumes with this layout so they can easily create a timeline of your past experience and work history. As with the education section, if you lack enough relevant experience you may want to highlight your best, most relevant experience first, but this should be a last resort.
- Each job or experience should include:
- Company or organization and its location (City, State)
- Position title
- Dates of employment or involvement (Month, Year)
- Descriptions of responsibilities and most importantly, accomplishments.
- Each bullet point should:
- Action verb (“Led,” “Managed,” “Developed,” etc.) should always be first.
- Each point should try to include a quantifiable accomplishment
- Be specific and relevant to the job you are applying for
Here’s a great example:
Google – New York, NY 2014 - 2016
Digital Marketing Manager
Responsible for working with the sales and marketing teams to optimize activation and retention metrics.
- Led the development and implementation of digital customer acquisition campaigns, resulting in a 20% improvement in customer acquisition cost and a churn reduction of 5%.
- Charged with identifying and establishing strategies for over 3 new marketing channels.
- Managed several agency relationships to maximize the value from the company’s partners.
Here you can add to your resume by highlighting any awards or activities you want that show what an awesome person and candidate you are. The best part is this doesn’t have to be directly relevant to the job you are applying for. This can include but is not limited to:
- Volunteering activities
- Clubs you belong to
- Professional affiliations
In this section you can highlight your relevant technical and soft skills that may be of interest to the employer. This should be a short and concise list of the most interesting and relevant skills for the job you are applying to. Here’s a great example:
- Trainings: AMA’s Advanced Financial Forecasting and Modeling Workshop, Lynda’s “Accounting Fundamentals.”
- Proficient in QuickBooks, FreshBooks, Sage, and Xero.
That’s it! Congrats on investing the time into reading this in-depth resume writing guide. We hope you found it helpful and informative. If there’s a question you didn’t find an answer to in this guide, check out our blog or drop us an email here.