Before we discuss how to write a resume perfectly, think about this:
After countless hours of pounding the pavement (and your keyboard and mouse) on the job search, you’ve found the perfect job opening for your career path.
So, how do you make a resume that will get you in the door?
Don’t worry. Just follow along with our resume guide through ten simple sections, and you’ll soon know how to write a resume that gets great results.
First, here are some dedicated resume-writing guides for specific situations:
Or, visit our resume examples to learn how to build a resume for specific positions and industries.
For the rest of you, keep your chin up, scroll on down, and let’s get started with our step-by-step guide on how to make a resume.
Oh, below one of the great resume samples from our online resume maker so you see what the best resumes look like (paired with a standard, boring resume).
Want to save time, write a professional resume, and have it ready in 5 minutes? Use our stress-free resume builder app as you follow along with this guide. It’s fast, easy-to-use, and you'll get expert resume writing tips and right vs. wrong examples step-by-step as you create it. See 20+ resume templates and create your resume here.
Bad/Good Resume Examples—See more pain-free resume templates and create yours now.
Prepare Your Resume for Perfection
Before we get to building a resume that will knock their socks off, we need to lay down the foundation for resume writing on which to develop.
What is a resume?
Sometimes spelled résumé, a resume is a record of one’s academic and professional achievements, skills, certifications, and other details meant to briefly and quickly sum up an applicant’s eligibility for an open position. It is also the first contact between the company and the job seeker.
In the US, Canada, and Australia, it is essentially synonymous with the curriculum vitae (CV) that most other countries use, but often without the profile photo. The US, Canada, and Australia also uses CVs, but that version differs from a resume and is mainly used in more academic settings. In this sense, a resume is usually shorter than a CV, touching on just the main points.
To learn more, check out our resume writing post on the differences between a resume and a CV.
If you’re an international reader, you might want to switch over to our CV writing guide: How to Write a CV for a Job in 7 Easy Steps: (15+ Examples)
Make it legible
This entire document you’re making is completely useless if the powers that be can’t actually read it. Make it easy for them to scan by keeping these points in mind:
- Choose the best font for a resume—a standard font that will render correctly on most machines, like Cambria, Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman, or Helvetica. No cursive!
- Go for single line spacing, and 11pt or 12pt font size for the regular text. Increase to 14pt—16pt font size for section titles.
- Use bold text to draw attention to particular words or phrases, and italics for supporting text. Avoid underlining, as it just makes the resume feel cluttered (and URLs will already use it).
- Complement the standard font of your text by alternating serif for sans-serif (or vice versa) in any section headings. For example, you can pair the Arial font (sans-serif) of Calibri font (sans-serif) with the Times New Roman font (serif).
Consistency on your resume draft is crucial, just like your consistency as their future employee. For example, format your dates any way you’d like (31 Dec, December 31, 12-2019, etc.), but follow the same throughout.
If you find an icon to introduce a particular resume section, find resume icons for each section or skip them altogether. Also, make sure that your resume margins have the same width on all four sides.
Don’t use the wrong verb tenses or go back and forth between tenses. If it was a past job that you no longer work at, use the past tense. If you’re listing a current position, use the present tense. Whatever you do, keep them consistent throughout.
Want to make sure your resume will hook every recruiter and get you that interview? Get our free checklist and learn what makes a job-winning resume: 46 Things You Need To Do Before You Send Your Resume.
Choose a Resume Format that Fits
You can’t just start writing a resume by putting your info into the resume template all willy-nilly.
Instead, first select from the standard resume formats:
Functional or “Skills-based”
For most job applicants, you’ll likely want to choose the reverse-chronological resume template:
The chronological resume is a traditional resume format emphasizes your duties, experience, and work history. You’ll list your most recent positions first, and go back through past jobs in reverse-chronological order from there. As the standard resume format, it tends to be the easiest to read and scan.
Resume Tip: There are several studies that theorize relationships between resume cues and the applicant’s personality and hireability, further impacting hiring judgments through resumes. Be careful which info you choose to include!
Get Your Contact Information & Personal Details Right
A career diplomat knows what information should be given and which to hold back.
Likewise, on a resume contact information section, there are items which you must include, details that are recommended, and some which you should definitely leave out:
First name, last name (middle name optional).
Brief title or branding statement, like a catchphrase.
Optional / Problematic
Many employers still send offers & rejections via post. Also, some jobs may prefer local candidates.
Personal cell phone preferred over house phone.
Today’s preferred means of communication.
Preferred networking platform for professionals.
Especially if related to the job, like Behance for designers or Github if you’ve made IT contributions.
Blog / Website
Got a relevant website, portfolio, or blog? Show its URL off on your personal info section!
Date of Birth
Don’t Add It!
Adding your birth date could lead to ageism.
Second Email or Phone Number
Don’t Add It!
A second email address, mailing address, or phone number will just confuse them (and you).
In the US, resume images or profile photos usually not recommended.
Resume Tip: Give them a professional email address, not your old high school handle (sexypapa69xoxo@....) or an outdated email provider (....@hotmail.com). Studies have proved that a formal email address is much more hireable than an informal one.
To be sure you get your contact information and personal details on your resume right, have a glance at our contact info guide on how to address a resume.
Introduce Your Resume with a Heading Statement
Most Tinder users have little patience. It takes a witty statement or provocative image to get a match not to swipe left on you.
Well, the employer flips through resumes just like a Tinder user with an attention deficit, as they spend an average of just 6 seconds skimming resumes for applicants, initially.
That’s why a professional resume heading statement is super-important to get right. You’ve got to make a statement, with wit, that paints an attractive image of your candidacy.
Your resume summary statement or resume objective statement, the two common heading statements, are likely to have the most eye time since it’s at the top of the page.
You’ve got to craft a resume description that gives them pause and makes them want to continue reading the rest of your resume and cover letter.
Here’s how to get them to give you a chance and swipe right:
Resume Summary Statement
Choose the resume summary statement if you seek a position at a job in which you have experience. It summarizes your position-related skills and qualifications.
Let’s take a look at how to write a professional summary, followed by a not-so-good one:
|Personable and dependable graphic designer with 4+ years expertise in a fast-paced global marketing firm. Achieved company-best quality satisfaction rating according to internal review (99.76%). Seeking to advance career by growing with the DeZine team.|
|I have been a graphic designer for the last 4 years. In addition to my knowledge of various software and design programs, I also handle some tough customer accounts, and I am always able to work well under pressure, even the tightest of deadlines.|
See the differences here? While the “Wrong” one has some impressive experience listed, it plays up your everyday duties as if they’re accomplishments, which they aren’t. In the “Right” example, you give evidence of your IT consultant resume skills, achievements, and experience.
Resume Tip: The “right” resume summary above also mentioned the company by name. This is a great way to make sure that your resume feels personalized, rather than just sent out to every company with an EIN in the area.
Learn more about how to write a professional resume summary.
Resume Objective Statement
Choose the resume objective statement if you have no work experience, or at least none related to the position you’re applying for (entry-level applicants, career changers, students, etc.).
Instead, you’ll highlight transferable skills from other areas and make the case that though you don’t have experience with this position, you do have experience relevant to it.
Let’s looks at another set of good/bad examples on writing an objective for a resume:
|Diligent customer support specialist with 3+ years experience at large computer hardware company. Obtained highest grades in build spec knowledge (100%) and quality (97.3%). Seeking to further career by growing with the BQNY team as an entry-level IT technician.|
|I am a customer support specialist eager to become an field technician. I don’t have experience in field work, but past coworkers have said that I am a quick learner. I am highly motivated because I enjoy being outside for work rather than behind a desk at a cubicle.|
See the differences here? The company is taking a greater chance by hiring someone without exact experience—in this case, a support specialist for a technician role.
You’ll need to show them you have what it takes.
In the “Right” one, we used some transferable skills from the previous company and some proud resume achievements for a quantifiable win. The “Wrong” one doesn’t show enough to hold the hiring manager’s attention.
Resume Tip: If you noticed, both “wrong” examples above also used the first-person. This may be okay for your cover letter, but avoid it on your resume.
Check out our guide to understand more how to craft the perfect resume objective.
Zety’s online resume builder will give you tips and examples on how to write a resume summary or objective. You can easily copy them straight into your resume, saving you a ton of resume writing time and allowing you to rest assured that you got it right.
Inside our resume generator, you will find expert resume writing tips and examples for each resume section you are working on. Choose from over twenty great resume samples to ensure your resume stands apart.
Detail Your Work Experience on a Resume
If you think of your resume as a fancy meal, the resume experience section is the main course.
You’ve knocked out the appetizer with the previous sections, so now it’s time to fill in your work history and past achievements before moving on.
Let’s go through the various job history components of the perfect resume experience section now.
How to format the resume work experience section
If you look at the above infographic, you’ll see our recommended way to format your employment history in the job experience section:
- Job Title—This should go at the very top of each entry of work history so that it’s easy for potential employers to scan and find. Make it bold and/or increase the font size by 1pt or 2pts from the rest of the entry.
- Company, City, State—On the second line, include the previous employer’s company name, and the city and state of the location you worked at.
- Dates Employed—Thirdly, put the timeframe of your employment there. You can add the year or both the month and the year, but there’s no need to put exact days.
- Key Responsibilities—Don’t just list every single task you did in your job history. Curate a few duties that are the most relevant to the position you’re seeking.
- Key Achievements—Resume achievements are often overlooked, but they are super important. Employers know what you did, generally, but they need to understand how well you did them. Use quantifiable numbers to prove your worth.
- Keywords—It is important to sprinkle resume keywords throughout the experience section (we’ll talk more about this shortly).
If adding more than one job history entry to your resume or CV experience section, start with the most recent position and go back in reverse-chronological order from there.
Use five or six bullet points (combined) to lay out your case in each entry’s responsibilities and achievements.
Also, your experience section bullet points should go near the top of your resume, just under your heading statement. However, if you have little or no professional experience, put your education section above your work history.
Got a promotion you want to show off, or more than one job title within the same company? Don’t worry, our guide on how to show promotions & multiple positions with show you how.
Tailoring your resume work experience
Robots are taking over.
As hiring practices continue to modernize, larger companies are turning to applicant tracking systems (ATS) to give them a hand. ATS software which automates parts of the hiring process by scanning resumes and parsing the content of the text rendered. Applicant tracking systems also assign a score per job candidate based on relevancy to the position and keywords set by the employer.
So, tailoring your resume is an absolute must, and your experience section is where you’ll do most of it.
To tailor your resume, go back to the job description and look for keywords related to your responsibilities.
If you see duties you’ve performed, include them in your resume job description bullet points.
Got a conspicuous timeframe in your vocational history where you didn’t have work? Don’t worry! Check out our guide on how to explain gaps in employment.
Also, don’t use the same, tired words (“responsible for…”) in your resume job experience area. Instead, choose power words and action verbs which will keep them interested.
Finally, don’t use passive voice, as it feels evasive and unclear. Instead, choose active voice when writing a resume, as it’s concise and to the point:
|Growth team was managed by me.|
|Managed growth team.|
How much work experience to include on a resume?
Senior-level applicants, such as executives and managers, should list up to 15 years of relevant work experience with powerful action verbs to introduce each bullet point.
Mid-level job seekers should include detailed job descriptions of relevant positions and a brief mention of any other positions.
Entry-level candidates should list and describe all paid work, particularly calling out responsibilities and achievements that are most relevant.
First-time job hunters with no work experience can still include other history, such as a student organization role, internship, or volunteer experience, to fill out their experience section.
We’ve got dozens of good resume examples, resume templates, and resume styles that truly make Zety the best resume builder online.
As you learn how to write a resume, keep in mind that the best resume templates will highlight your experience and eligibility. Don’t hide it with the wrong order or a dull resume layout or resume templates free of character. Or, simply make a resume in no time with our resume builder app and 20+ great templates.
List Education Correctly on a Resume
Many people treat the education section as an afterthought, but you shouldn’t.
Here’s how to put education on your resume so you don’t get schooled:
- The right resume education order is to place your highest degree first.
- Add any other degrees after in reverse-chronological order.
- If you finished a university degree, don’t add high school info.
- Add any relevant coursework, honors, or awards you received.
Resume Tip: We mentioned this earlier, but we’ll repeat it, just in case: if you have little or no working experience, place your education on top and your experience section below it. Otherwise, keep your resume education section just beneath your work history.
Here’s a brief look at how to list education on a resume:
We recommend skipping your GPA on your resume (grade point average), as anything but the highest of scores will only count against you.
Wanna know how to create a resume education section if you have a GED or didn't graduate? Not sure on the proper resume education format? Check out our article on how to put education on a resume.
Resume Tip: Don’t lie in your resume or CV education section. A credit short of a diploma is not a diploma. Also, don’t round your GPA up. Anyway, many business degrees don’t necessarily improve job prospects.
Put Relevant Skills on the Resume
Picture a hunk of beef (the cow variety, not Chris Hemsworth).
Now imagine a well-cooked, perfectly-seasoned steak.
Your resume is one of these two: it’s either unprepared to be served, or it’s the prime cut sprinkled with the perfect resume skills.
Hard skills vs. soft skills
Hard skills are specific abilities and know-how (e.g., Photoshop, cash register).
Soft skills are self-developed, life-learned attributes (e.g., social skills, adaptability).
Combined, these make up a skill set, which is a job seeker’s range of skills and abilities.
Resume Tip: Don’t list irrelevant skills! An IT resume doesn’t need to disclose your veterinary skills, and a resume for a chef shouldn’t include your ability to use Photoshop.
What skills to put on a resume?
When you consider how to create a resume that will definitely stand out, it has everything to do with sprinkling your skills throughout. But it also makes sense to have a big section labeled “SKILLS.”
Remember that job description you had handy from earlier?
Use the key job-related skills and keywords listed in that ad to help you create a great resume for a job that will make the ATS light up like Times Square.
Here is a list of some common skills to put on a resume:
- Communication skills—These can include social skills, non-verbal communication, listening skills, and interpersonal skills.
- Technical skills—Knowledge required to perform specific tasks, like computer skills or clerical skills.
- Job-specific skills—Particular prowess the company specifically requires.
- Leadership skills—Ability to be a good manager, leader, and supervisor.
- Critical thinking skills—(Organizational skills) Ability to make your own, thought-based decisions and take initiative. Includes analytical skills, decision-making, and problem-solving.
- Transferable skills—for career changers, these are abilities you learned that can be carried over to your new position.
When recruiters look at your skills for a CV or resume, they want to know that you have the skill set they want and requested in the job post. But, if you can, show also that you have complementary skills and extra skills that prove you’d be a valuable worker.
Resume Tip: Don’t just google “skills for a [industry] resume” and throw in the results. Take time to tailor your resume skills list to the job posting, as we mentioned earlier.
How to list skills on a resume?
There are several ways to include a list of skills on a resume. For most, a simple skills section which includes 5-6 key abilities and your proficiency level is enough:
For specific job titles and technical skills, you may want to list your particular knowledge per item, to give them specific detail into the areas of the skill you excel at:
Resume Tip: Don’t add skills which are obsolete; they’ll make you look obsolete! For example, it is unnecessary these days to state your proficiency in Microsoft Word.
A good resume skills section often takes up little real estate, but its impact is great. For more on how to make a skills resume section, check this our best examples of what skills to put on a resume.
Include Other Important Resume Sections
You’ve got your contact information. Education—yup, got that. Same with the job experience and skills sections.
Here’s the thing—everyone else’s resumes include these same sections. What should a resume include to make it personalized?
Make your resume unique by including extra resume sections.
Additional sections on your CV/resume can showcase just about anything about you, from your proud commendations to languages in which you’re fluent and more.
Here are some recommendations for extra sections to include on your resume which will help you stand out:
Hobbies and interests
You might not think that your love of baseball and being the Little League assistant coach would be of interest to a potential employer.
However, listing your hobbies and interests subtly proves your ability to work well in a team, and the coaching can verify your leadership and management expertise.
For most job seekers, listing any volunteer experience as one of your CV’s additional sections is a great way to show your commitment and values. It also lets them know that you don’t only care about the money. For entry-level or first-time applicants who have no experience, volunteer work makes an excellent stand-in.
Certifications and awards
Got any certifications, licenses, or proud awards to show off? If they are relevant to the job and industry, include them!
Placed first in a chili cook-off at the state fair? If you’re looking to be a cook, it will definitely help. Likewise, a food safety certification or food handler’s license that you already have would surely be in your favor.
Speak a second language? Impressive! Maybe a third? Wow.
Listing language skills on a resume only extends your usefulness as an employee, particularly in international corporations or localities where there is a large population speaking that second language. List the language, international variation (Latin American Spanish, for example), and your language fluency levels.
Publications & projects
Have guest posts or articles written in a blog, newspaper, scientific journal, or elsewhere? If it’s related to your field, such as for writers or researchers, a URL link takes up little space on your resume but highlights your clout. If your published material isn’t online, create a short bibliography of the works you’d like them to acknowledge.
Also, if you’ve built graphic designs or other creative creations, or if your list of publications or projects is too long to go on a resume, consider building an online portfolio to document everything. Link to it from the contact section, in this case.
Complement Your Resume With a Cover Letter
You need a cover letter, most definitely.
Your cover letter or job application letter lets you expand upon things that you need to keep brief on your resume. Also, it allows you to speak easily in common-language sentences, where your resume has to be a bit more robotic-sounding. It complements your resume in a symbiotic way.
Don’t groan just yet. I know, you thought you were done, and now we throw this at you. But it’s all really simple if you follow our guide on how to make a cover letter. We can also help you make a cover letter with no experience or a cover letter for an internship.
A great resume cover letter will give you an advantage over other candidates. Or at least the hiring manager will appreciate you not making their eyes bleed. Guess what? You can write a cover letter that matches in our worry-free resume maker! Here's what it may look like:
Cover letter template and matching resume template examples that can be downloaded as a PDF. See more modern resume templates and create your resume and cover letter here in our resume wizard.
Wrap It Up Nicely
You’re almost there, but don’t send it off just yet. Here are some resume best practices to keep in mind so you can rest assured that you wrote a perfect resume.
Resume Help, Tips, and Advice
I tried to sprinkle some helpful resume building tips and how-to advice throughout, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (I also tried to be witty, but, alas, I’m only confirming that I’m quickly becoming my father.) Anyway, have a look at our guides on resume tips and resume mistakes to avoid, for more.
Resume Tip: Double-check your CV or resume draft before sending it out. Better yet, get a second pair of eyes on it by letting a friend or family member skim through it. Then, scan your resume and cover letter (and email!) with a tool like Grammarly.
Remember when we discussed social media and LinkedIn back in the contact section? Well, do you remember the naked pictures you posted onto Facebook several months ago?
Yeah, those have to come down.
Before a recruiter or hiring manager gets the chance to look you and your employment history up, you better have your online presence sanitized! That means removing any offensive posts, or at least marking them private. While you’re at it, tweak your LinkedIn profile so that it’s up-to-date and complete.
Resume Tip: Don’t send your email to the catch-all public email address for the entire company, unless the job listing specifically asks you to do so. Find the personal email address of the HR manager, instead, if you can.
Saving Your Resume
Word Doc or PDF? PDF resume downloads are the most common, nowadays. Its format is finalized when you save it, so they get a nice, clean document that doesn’t cause formatting issues. However, Microsoft Word’s .doc & .docx have been the standard for some time, and many still prefer it for their CV or resume because it causes less issues with any ATS software.
Our advice: include both!
How to save your resume? Use a naming convention across all your attachments that includes your name, hyphens or underscores, the position you’re targeting, and the word resume or cover letter.
Resume Tip: When emailing your resume, check the job description to see if they ask applicants to send emails with something specific in the subject line of the email. If not, go with the position title, posting any job reference number, if required, your name, and include the word “resume.”
What about references on a resume? You definitely shouldn’t include them on a resume, but you can include a reference page with a resume.
Email Your Resume the Right Way
When you send a resume to a catch-all email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org, your resume and cover letter are entering a sea of similar emails from your competitors (other job candidates).
To help differentiate your email from the others, try to find the name of the person who will be reading your resume and personalize your email with that information. Sending a resume is much more compelling when you use Dear Susan instead of To Whom It May Concern, don’t you think?
We started off talking about how to write a resume, but by now you know how to right a resume.
Keep these points in mind to ensure your good-looking resume is perfect:
- Stay relevant—Every single item on your resume, particularly your employment history, should strengthen the point that you are the best possible candidate.
- Tailor—Make one resume specifically for one specific job and company to apply at, instead of one to spam everyone with. Name the company and curate the skills you list to relate to the position offered.
- Choose the right stuff—Use active voice instead of passive, pick the appropriate heading statement for your situation, and select the right resume margins, designs, fonts, etc. Don’t include unnecessary details in the resume contact information section.
- Be consistent—Make sure you follow the same formatting, styles, colors, and conventions throughout your resume and across documents (like to your cover letter).
- Double-check—Don’t send your resume off before ensuring that all your contact information is accurate, formatting is correct, and that there are no typos or errors.
- Make a resume online—Use Zety’s easy resume helper to write your cover letter and resume in no time. More than twenty resume examples and templates are there to help guide you. And, with the tips and advice it gives along the way, you know you’ll have a great resume that gets the dream job!
Have any questions on how to write a resume? Not sure how to make the perfect resume experience section or how to build a resume list of skills or achievements? Get at us in the comments below and we’ll answer your questions. Thanks for reading, and good luck on your job search and career path!