resumes-101

How To Make A Resume 101 (Examples Included)

By Mike Simpson

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If you are reading this article, I think it is safe to say that we can call you a “job seeker”, correct?

But what kind of job seeker are you?

Are you looking for a change of pace from your everyday job?

Are you just starting out in the workforce?

Maybe you’re a seasoned veteran trying to make the leap up the chain of command?

Or perhaps you’re just fed up with the way things are going (or not going) with your career and it’s time for a change?

Well, no matter what stage you are in your career, you’re going to need to know how to make a resume for a job interview… and we are going to show you how! So start by downloading our Free “Perfect Resume” Checklist that will help you overhaul your resume and will get you more interviews.  Click here to get the “perfect resume” checklist

Here's What We Are Going To Cover

  • What is a resume?
  • Why do I need to create a resume?
  • Resume format
  • Resume fonts
  • Resume layout
  • Resume categories

  • Types of resumes
  • Resume length
  • Tailoring your resume
  • Action verbs
  • Top 10 resume tips
  • Resume “Don’ts”
  • Resume templates

What Is a Resume?

Don’t laugh.

Believe it or not, some people (especially those who are completely new to the workforce) have never seen a resume before, let alone written one.

If you’re one of those people, this section is for you!

So what is a resume?

A resume is a document used by job seekers to help provide a summary of their skills, abilities and accomplishments.

In other words, a resume is typically a short and quick way for a job seeker to introduce themselves to a potential employer. (In North America a resume should not be confused with a CV. Check out our blog post on the difference between a CV and a resume if you’re interested.)

Resumes are normally submitted to hiring managers along with a cover letter (Need help writing a cover letter? Check out our article How To Write a Cover Letter 101), usually via email or on online job posting.

Sounds pretty easy, right? Just take a piece of paper and put some basic info on it and “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, I’m right for the job and can start tomorrow,” right?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, which I’ll explain later) it’s not that easy.

In fact, writing a bad resume is much easier than writing a good one…and trust me, there are lots of bad ones out there…which is why you want to make sure you have good one…no wait, a GREAT one so when employers look at it, they say, “Heck yes, bring this kid in for an interview!”

Why Do I Need a Resume?

I know the (company CEO, boss, hiring manager, owner’s dog walker who works on Tuesday’s and they’ve totally promised me a job no matter what.)

If that’s true, then hey, you probably don’t need a resume…you’re essentially guaranteed the job already…but what about when that job ends?

Betcha no matter how great your hookups are right now, at some point in your career, you’re gonna need a killer resume, and luckily we’re here to tell you how to create a resume.

And not just any resume… a professional resume.

For those of us who don’t have direct connections to killer jobs, a resume is essential to getting your foot in the door.

Employers use resumes as a way to quickly screen potential applicants, selecting only the individuals they feel are right for the position, so making sure your resume is in tip-top shape is absolutely vital.

Here, let me walk you through a quick little scenario and we’ll see just how important those little pieces of paper actually are:

Imagine you’re a hiring manager and it’s your job to find the perfect candidate for an open position with your company.

You’ve trolled the usual job listing sites and posted what you’re looking for and the response has been…overwhelming.

Your desk is COVERED with resumes. Pile after pile. Stack after stack.

All you need is that one qualified person, but as you look through the piles of paperwork, you feel your stomach starting to knot up. These resumes are a mess. Most of them are sloppy, with spelling errors, confusing headings, and lists of qualifications that have absolutely NOTHING to do with the job at all. You need an IT specialist and a third of these resumes have things like ‘underwater basket weaving specialist,’ and ‘professional poodle groomer’ listed under relevant skills. How is that relevant?

You call maintenance and ask them to empty your trash can, again. It’s filling up too quickly with all these rejected candidates.

You continue to slog through the pile of papers, your eyes growing heavy with each rejection. You’re sleepy, you’re bored, and you’re frustrated. Does NOBODY really qualify for this job?

And then you see it. A single resume that’s clean, crisp and clearly written. The font is professional, the layout is well organized and thoughtful and the qualifications are…gasp…actually on target! You smile as you read it, your heavy eyes suddenly snapping open in excitement as you realize you’ve got someone here who might actually be able to do the job!

You carefully set that resume to the side, a bright yellow note stuck on top of it: “Interview THIS one.

Then you turn back to your unending mountain of resumes. Back to the slog.

Okay. Story time is over…back to reality. How would you like to be that hiring manager?

No fun, eh? Absolutely not!

Unfortunately, odds are, your current resume is probably buried in that mountain of not quite right resumes…or worse yet, in the trash waiting to go out with the next trash run.

Wouldn’t you rather be the one with the yellow “Interview THIS one” sticky?

Heck yes!

Okay, then… it’s time to give you all the resume help you need! That’s why we created this fantastic (and free) Resume Checklist for you to use to make sure your resume stand out against your competition.  Click here to get the “perfect resume” checklist.

In this article, we’ll show you SECTION 1, “How to Build a Resume” or proper resume format and SECTION 2, “How to Write a Resume.”




Section 1 – How To Make a Resume (or Proper Resume Format)

Good resume writing (and proper resume format) is an art form and can make the difference between getting lost in the pile and being invited in for an interview.

(Here’s the good news. We’ve dedicated an entire blog article just to resume format and the best practices for 2016 and beyond! Click here to head over to that article now!)

The problem is, a lot of people don’t see it as an art form…rather an obligation. Most people look at writing a resume as just something you have to do to get a job.

There’s no time put into it. No thought. And certainly no enthusiasm.

Just a bunch of stuff thrown on a page with the expectation that if the company really want to hire you, they should be able to look at that mess and pull what they need out of it and bring you in based off of that.

Reality check!

Research has proven that hiring managers only bring in about 1 person per 200 resumes received.

1/200…

Those are some pretty miserable odds!

Time to step up your game and go from one of the 200 to that one out of 200!

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Okay, so we just finished telling you that writing a resume is an art form and that you need to stand out. BUT (there’s always a “but” isn’t there?) this doesn’t mean that you should paint your resume in water colors or build a resume diorama out of Play-Doh and Legos.

In fact, you should know that a lot of companies today are using Applicant Tracking Systems to help them screen resumes and find the best candidates.

How does this work exactly?

Well, a piece of software analyzes your resume for certain keywords and gives you a score based how well your resume matches a predetermined list of keywords chosen by the company you’re interviewing with.

Got it?

There are a few things you can do to ensure your resume gets past the software and into the hands of hiring managers, which Lifehacker does a nice job of outlining here.

In the meantime, here are our best practices to follow when it comes to formatting your resume.

Resume Fonts

Of course you want your resume to stand out, but for the right reasons…and you have to understand that it starts with the very first second someone looks at it.

Your resume is a marketing tool to sell you to an employer and that means making sure it clearly represents you in a professional manner.

Notice the word professional. That’s what this is. PROFESSIONAL.

This isn’t a time for artistic expression or a place to make a personal statement using gimmicks or tricks..and that means say goodbye to cartoon fonts.

bancomicsansNo. Comic. Sans.

I repeat. DO NOT EVER USE COMIC SANS.

Look at it. It’s ridiculous.

Who is ever going to take that font seriously? Nobody. That’s who.

You get, on average, 10 to 20 seconds to make a first impression with your resume…so make it count!

If your resume is sloppy or has unprofessional font, odds are those 20 seconds are going to end with you in the trash.

For anyone with a basic word processing program, it’s easy to see there are hundreds of fonts out there to choose from and picking the right one can be difficult. We’ve already discussed Comic Sans (no) but what fonts are good ones to use?

Most professionals use serif fonts, a stylized font with tails and other (subtle) decorative markings. Examples of serif fonts include Times New Roman. Serif fonts are perceived as being reliable, authoritative, and traditional.

Other serif fonts include: Bell MT, Bodoni MT, Bookman Old Style, Cambria, Goudy Old Style, Calibri, Garamond, and Georgia.

San-serif fonts are also often used and are characterized as being simpler and no-frills. San-serif fonts include Helvetica and Arial and are associated with being clean, universal, modern, objective and stable.

Examples of san-serif fonts include: Verdana, Trebuchet MS, Century Gothic, Gill Sans MT, Lucida Sans, and Tahoma.

No matter which font you use, the biggest consideration you have to keep in mind is legibility.

You need to make sure that your typeface is easy on the eyes and shows up well both in print and on screen, regardless of formatting or size.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that not everyone has the same operating system on their computer so unique or gimmicky fonts that look great on one computer system might show up as absolute nonsense on another.

Also, remember in today’s increasing digital age that most resumes are first scanned by an automated applicant tracking software program and any form that can’t be read will be automatically discarded!

Which one is right for you? It’s up to you really, but if you really want a recommendation then I suggest keeping it simple and going with Helvetica. It’s the perfect combination of style and clarity.

Mike's Tip:

While Times New Roman may have been the tried, tested and true choice of job seekers for the last few decades, we recommend giving it a pass. Why? Well, for that reason exactly. It's overused. Not only is it unoriginal, but Hiring Managers have grown tired of seeing it to the point where some will even "penalize" you for it.

 

document-28155_640Resume Layout & Formatting

Okay, now that you’ve got your font picked out, it’s time to focus on your resume formats (or layouts).  Don’t worry if you can’t remember all of this stuff, because we summarize it all on our “Perfect Resume” Checklist we made for you.  Simply click here to get your copy.

The first rule of layout is, keep it clean and clear. You want a resume that’s easy to read and easy to follow.

Again, remember, you get 10-20 seconds to catch a hiring manager’s eye so handing in something that’s messy, unorganized or confusing is going to end up in the trash.

Margins – Keep your margins to ½ to 1 inch on all sides of the paper, especially if you’re sending your resume to anyone you think might print it out. The last thing you want is to have a printer crop your resume and leave off important information!

Font Size – With the exception of your name which can be larger, you want to keep your font size at between 10 and 12 point. Keep in mind that some fonts are larger and/or smaller than others so an Arial 12 is larger than a Times New Roman 12. Ideally you want your resume to be a single page so feel free to tweak your font size a bit to make it fit (some programs allow you to adjust sizes by half points) but remember, keep it readable! Don’t sacrifice legibility in order to get everything on the page.

Spacing – Generally single spacing works the best, with a blank line between each section of content.

Paper – If you’re printing out your resume make sure to use a laser printer or inkjet printer that produces high-quality results. Use off-white, ivory or bright white paper and always stick to the standard 8 ½ X 11 paper in the highest quality you can afford. Make sure if there is a watermark on the paper that it’s facing the correct way and whatever you do, keep it readable. Don’t cram so much on the page that it’s crowded or confusing!

Resume Categories

Resumes are really nothing more than a bunch of specific categories that quickly outline who you are and what you’ve done and can do. Making sure your categories are well organized is a quick way to help put you in the “yes” pile and keep you out of the “trash” pile.

One of the biggest problems with many resumes is they lack focus and clarity. Double check yours and make sure your categories are well defined and organized.

Mike's Tip:

 The categories you choose and what order they go in will largely depend on what type of resume you decide to write: chronological, functional or combination (which we will explain in full in the next section). As a general rule of thumb, the way they are presented here is a good place to start, but don't be afraid to move them around based on the style of resume you choose to write.

Header – Start your resume off with the most important information first: your personal information! Include your full name, phone number, email and personal branding website if you have one. It’s also appropriate to include your permanent mailing address, but this can be optional.

Objective or Resume Summary – Depending on what sort of job seeker you are and what job you’re applying for, you will have to choose between an objective statement (what your employment goals are with the company you’re applying to) or a resume summary (a quick recap of your skills and experiences that highlight your value to a potential employer.) Regardless of whether you include an objective or a summary, keep this short and sweet (no more than a sentence or two.)

Experience/Qualifications – This part is all about your work history and should not only include who you worked for but what you did and how long you did it. Include the title you held and a quick bulleted list of responsibilities and/or duties. This is listed in reverse chronological order with your most recent job first.

Skills & Abilities – This section is a quick outline of the skills to put on a resume that relate to the position/career you’re applying to. These can include things like computer skills, technical skills, language skills, anything that can help make you the perfect candidate!

References – Including references is no longer a requirement. It’s a good idea to have references, but the days of listing them at the bottom of your resume is a thing of the past. Instead, have them as a separate list, and if requested, you’ll be able to provide it. Check out our article on how to use your job references strategically if you need more info.

Interests – This category is a tough one. Not every resume should include an interests section…this isn’t Facebook and your potential IT employer probably doesn’t need to know you spend your weekends dressing up as a troll warlord and reenacting great battles… Interests and hobbies can be a double-edged sword and listing something that has nothing to do with the job you’re applying for can not only waste valuable resume space but can also make you seem unfocused or scattered. HOWEVER…there are times when including interests can help you out…especially if they’re related to the job you’re applying for and show interest outside of the office, such as volunteering for an organization you know the corporation is already involved in (do you research first)! This category should be carefully considered before you add it. Weigh the pros and cons very seriously.

Types of Resumes (And 3 Resume Samples)

There are three major types of resumes: chronological, functional and combination (sometimes called targeted or hybrid), and we’ve included a description of each below along with some good resume examples.

chronological resumeChronological Resume

Chronological resumes are the most commonly used layout and is exactly what it sounds like, a chronological listing of all your work history with your most recent positions listed first.

Employers tend to really like this type of a resume because it’s easy for them to quickly see what jobs you’ve held and how long you’ve held them. It also often includes an objective or career summary as well as education, certifications, and special skills.

For job seekers with a strong working background, this is a great way to showcase what you’ve done!

Here is a great chronological sample resume:

chronological-resume-exampleSource: Vault.com

 

funtional resumeFunctional Resume

Functional resumes focus more on skills and experiences rather than on chronological work history and are perfect for people who are changing careers or have a gap in their work history as they focus attention on specific skills and capabilities.

Rather than displaying a timeline of your work history, the functional resume focuses on the actual skills you possess and highlights what you know rather than when you did it.

If you’re applying for a job with specific skills or clearly defined requirements and/or traits, this is the one you want to choose!

Here is a great functional sample resume:

functional-resume-exampleSource: Vault.com

 

combo-resumeCombination Resume

Combination resumes are exactly that, a combination of chronological and functional. A combination resume lists both your skills and experiences as well as your employment history in chronological order.

The idea is to not only highlight the skills you have that are relevant to the job you’re applying to, but also provide your potential employer with a chronological record of the jobs you’ve held in the past.

Because this type of resume is essentially two different types mashed together, it’s typically broken into two parts. The first part is your functional resume section and highlights your skills, achievements and qualifications and the second part is your timeline of work experience.

Although more complicated to pull together and keep cohesive and clear, this type of format is effective when used by an applicant who wants to show off the most relevant skills while still documenting work history. It’s also a great way to explain gaps in work history as well as career changes.

Here is a great combination sample resume:

combination-resume-exampleSource: Vault.com

 

long-resumeSo How Long Should A Resume Be?

Once upon a time the fast and hard rule was keep your resume to one-page MAX! Job seekers who found their resumes exceeding the one page limit were forced to either cut out valuable information or tweak their formatting, font sizes and/or margins to make it work, often resulting in either difficult formatting or incomplete histories.

Nowadays the rules are a little more relaxed and the new rule is: Your resume should be long enough to entice the hiring manager to call you in for an interview.

Confused? Don’t be.

First off, your resume is an introduction to who you are…give them enough information to get them comfortable, but brief enough that they’re left wanting more (and call you in for an interview!)

This isn’t a novel. It isn’t a 10-page dissertation on who you are or a 20-page essay on everything you’ve done from your first moments on earth to the moment you sent it to the company.

It’s a career marketing tool and should be used exactly like any good advertising is used…to build excitement, pique curiosity, and encourage the viewer to ask “Okay, I like this so far…what else?

Remember our hiring manager from story time at the beginning of this article? Remember, they’re looking through hundreds, if not thousands of resumes and the last thing you want to do is to hand them a long document they’ll have to pour over to get the info they need.

Be concise. Be brief. Be clear. Be professional.

The best way to determine how long your resume should be is to follow these simple rules:

If you have less than 10 years of experience, are in the middle of a career change, or held multiple positions with one single employer, keep your resume to one page.

If you have more than 10 years of experience, your field is technical or engineering related and you need space to list all your skills and qualifications then two pages is appropriate.

And only in the most rare of situations, usually scientific or academic fields where extensive lists of publications, speaking engagements, professional courses, licenses or patents are normal, can you have a resume three or more pages long…

Okay, got all that? Ready to move onto Section 2 – “How to Write a Resume?”

Good.

If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to get your free Resume Checklist. It will help to have it open as you go through the next section!  Click here to get it now.

Let’s go!

Section 2 – How To Write a Resume

Now that we have a general idea of what a resume should include, let’s look at how to write one that helps you stand out from the crowd.

Again, let’s go back to our poor beleaguered hiring manger toiling away over mountains of unfocused resumes…and while we’re there, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Out of all of those resumes, there are hundreds of qualified candidates…people who would probably do an amazing job and would be great additions to any company.

Sure, there are those in that pile who have NO business applying for the job…but I guarantee there’s a big chunk of applicants who are qualified and would be great hires…problem is, their resumes…well…suck.

Luckily yours…doesn’t. In fact, yours is brilliant and you are the perfect candidate! You’re the answer to the hiring manager’s prayers. You’re the reason they post jobs and slog through piles of paper poo and when they finally stumble on your little nugget of job history gold, jump to their feet in excitement and yell “Bring this one IN!”

Or at least, if you follow these guidelines and rules, you will be!

Tailoring Your Resume

No, we don’t mean tailoring like getting a nice suit and having it professionally fitted to you (not a bad idea for interview wear, but that’s a different post for a different time.) but tailoring as in making your resume absolutely perfect for the job you’re applying for.

Job hunting is exactly that, hunting…and if you’ve ever done any sort of hunting, you know each and every animal requires different skills. And before you get all upset and tell me “Hey, I’ve never hunted an animal and I never plan on doing it and your analogy is horrible,” let me TAILOR this even further down.

Have you ever tried to get an animal to come to you?

Have a cat? Have a dog? Have a bird? Even a fish?

Each one requires a different approach and what works for one won’t work for another.

Ever tried to entice a horse to come to you with a juicy steak? How about tossing some hay to a tiger and wondering why it isn’t eating? Of course not! That’s because you tailor what you’re doing to the situation you’re in.

Give the steak to the tiger and the hay to the horse!

Cats typically respond well to string and lasers. Dogs love to chase balls. And job hunting is exactly the same!

If you’re sending out the exact same resume to 500 job listings, then you’re not doing it right.

Odds are, you’re not getting many interviews either, and you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with all those hiring managers.

Is it possible all 500 are idiots and can’t tell how amazing you are and how you’re incredible and they’re totally missing out by not hiring you?

Possibly, but I doubt it.

Tailoring means making sure that every resume is unique and specifically written to appeal to the hiring manager for the job you’re applying to. That means if you send out 500 resumes for 500 job listings, each and every one of those 500 resumes will be different.

Exhausting? Hell yes.

Worth it? When you get the job of your dreams…you bet!

The problem is, each job is different and what each hiring manager is looking for is different. There is no physical way to satisfy each and every employer’s individual hiring requirements using just one blanket resume.

If you want to catch the attention of the hiring manager, you have to give them what they want. You need to invest the time into each application and ensure that your resume is tailored to each employer and the job you’re applying to.

Mike's Tip:

Start by really reading the job posting (the job description specifically). What are they looking for? What credentials are important? What’s required? What’s highlighted as a skill they’re clearly looking for? The goal is to make your resume stand out from all the rest by showing the hiring managers how they’d benefit from bringing you on board! It’s all about customization!

Of course, we’re not saying you have to write 500 resumes from the ground up…it IS okay to start with a basic resume that lists your skills and qualifications…but you have to make sure you customize it for each job you apply for.

Let’s start with our categories from the previous section, shall we?

Header – Again, this is your basic personal information. It’s your name and contact info and really shouldn’t change.

Objective or Resume Summary – Again, you need to decide which one will work for you…an objective statement or a resume summary. We recapped the difference between both in the above section. The key here is be concise and clear. One to two sentences MAX.

Experience/Qualifications – This is where WORK EXPERIENCES go. Include anything you’ve done for which you’ve been paid. This includes full-time and part-time work as well as anything you did that qualifies for self-employed work.

Make sure for each job you list:

  • The name of the company or organization where you were employed.
  • The city and state for that company or organization.
  • Your last position and/or title you held while there.
  • Your employment period for each job in Month/Date format
  • A brief description of your duties and responsibilities in a short, bulleted list

The hardest part about writing this section is making sure that you list your contributions to the company while still being concise and clear, as well as accurate.

Highlight the relevant information that relates directly to the job you’re now applying for and cut out any clutter that might add unnecessary length to your resume.

Speaking of length, keep your bullets short and sweet.

Wrong: “Daily I worked hand in hand with the company’s most important clients assisting them with problem-solving and ensuring that they were happy and satisfied with our work.

Right: Worked daily with high profile clients to solve problems.

Do not include unpaid, volunteer or charitable work in this section. If you feel you have an unpaid experience or volunteer job that a hiring manager would find valuable, consider creating a new category labelled “Relevant Experience” or “Other Experience” and be sure to include the same identifying information you include for your “Experience/Qualifications” lists.

Skills/Abilities – Every employer is looking for specific resume skills and abilities for the job they’re trying to fill. Your job (while you’re trying to get a job) is to make sure you fit what they’re looking for. These are the job specific skills and should be tailored (there’s that word again!) for each application you submit. But did you know there are skills to put on a resume that are almost universally valued by potential employers???? Those skills go HERE in this section.

Skills like:

Communication (listening, verbal and written) – This is the number one skill mentioned by employers when asked what they valued in an applicant.

Computer/Technical Literacy Skills – Almost every job these days requires some level of computer proficiency including basic word processing, spreadsheets, and emails.

Interpersonal Skills – Basically how well you work in a team and your ability to relate to co-workers.

Planning/Organization Skills – How well you can design, plan, organize and execute projects and tasks within a specific time frame. Can also apply to goal setting and achievement.

This is just a small sampling of what can go in this section. For a more in-depth look at what to put in this section, check out our previous blog all about it here!

Education – This one, much like your personal information, is pretty straight forward. You want to list your education in reverse chronological order (degrees or licenses first followed by certificates and advanced training).

If you include your college information, list only the school, your major and distinctions and or awards you’ve won. If you’re still in college or a very recent grad, include your GPA ONLY if it’s over a 3.4.

Dropped out or had to leave school because of extenuating circumstances but still want to include the fact that you went? No worries! List the field you were studying, then the school and then the dates that you attended.

If you’re listing just schooling, keep the title of this section “Education.” If you’ve graduated, are including other training, and or other certifications, try to include that in the title. Examples can include “Education and Training,” or “Education and Licenses.” Make the title fit what you’re listing…

Awards – This section is NOT for school-related awards. Include those in your education section. Rather, this section is for awards received, commendations or praise from senior sources. Make sure to mention what the award was for if you can.

Affiliations – If you are affiliated with an organization, guild or club that is relevant to the job you are applying for, the go ahead and include it. Include leadership roles if appropriate. It’s also a great idea to include any sort of affiliation or membership to any organization that might increase your appeal as a prospective employee to an employer.

For almost anything you want to include on a resume, there is a category to help organize it. We’ve listed the most popular above but feel free to do your own research online, especially if what you’re trying to include is unique or hard to categorize.

boom-zap

Action Verbs and Power Words

Speaking of unique, the primary goal of your resume is to make you stand out from the rest of the people applying for the same job and another way to make that happen is to use action verbs and power words (also referred to as “resume verbs”).

Action verbs and power words are exactly that…they’re words that help catch a hiring manager’s eye and give you an edge. After reading hundreds of resumes, many using the same words and phrases, it’s nice to have one that stands out and one of the best ways to do that is by incorporating action verbs and power words!

You’re not exaggerating and you’re certainly not lying, you’re just swapping out old and tired words for ones that are a bit more…dynamic and exciting!

When listing skills, accomplishments, or job described, try using the most impressive words you can think of (without overstating what you actually did).

Were you a leader of a project? Instead of saying “Led,” use one of these words:

Chaired, controlled, coordinated, executed, headed, operated, orchestrated, organized, oversaw, planned, produced, programmed.

Did you pull a project from conception all the way to completion? Instead of saying “developed, created, or introduced,” try:

Administered, built, chartered, designed, devised, founded, engineered, constructed, established, formalized, formed, formulated, implemented, spearheaded, incorporated, initiated, instituted, introduced, launched, pioneered.

Are you an organizing wizard? Are you increasing productivity? Sales? Efficiency? Use these words to really hit home how dynamic you are:

Accelerated, achieved, advanced, amplified, boosted, capitalized, delivered, enhanced, expanded, expedited, furthered, gained, generated, improved, lifted, maximized, outpaced, stimulated, sustained.

Did you achieve something? Did you hit your goals? Try these words:

Attained, awarded, completed, demonstrated, earned, exceeded, outperformed, reached, showcased, succeeded, surpassed, targeted.

This is just a small selection of action verbs and words you can use to spice up your resume and help you stand out in the crowd. (Need more? Head over to our blog article “68 Dynamic Action Verbs to Enhance Your Resume.”)

Grab your thesaurus and go through your resume…find words that are common and pedestrian and swap them out!

Mike's Tip:

Whatever you do, don't overdue it and don't just "plug 'n play" power words into your resume that you can't back up with concrete examples. As a matter of fact, don't put ANYTHING on your resume that you can't support with clear and concise examples. Hiring Managers do this stuff for a living and have seen everything. You're not the first clever applicant to try and embellish on a resume... you will get busted.

Wow, that’s a ton of information…can you just distill all this epic awesomeness down into a top ten list of tips for creating a resume??

*sigh.*

Okay.

Drum roll, please…

Here Are Our Top 10 Resume Tips

If you’re one of those people who likes to skim through an article or if you plan on coming back for a quick review before your interview, here are our best resume writing tips.

1) Your Resume Is Tailored

You’re bringing steak to the tigers with your resume. The employer can look at it and know immediately that not only are you qualified but that you’ve done your research into what the job is and what they’re looking for in an employee. Your goals are clear as are your skills, areas of expertise and or body of experience.

2) Your Resume Is Aesthetically Pleasing

Remember what we said about a resume being a work of art? It should be clean, concise and have a simple structure that invites a reader to glance at it and immediately know what they’re looking at. It’s balanced and flows between sections smoothly. It’s not crowded, the margins are clean, and the font is professional. It’s also devoid of ANY ERRORS. No missing periods, no misspelled words, no grammar issues. It’s also correct and the information included is current and accurate.

3) Your Resume Is Complete

That means everything you need to include is included, including (but not limited to) your name, current phone number and accurate email address, a listing of all the jobs you’ve held (in reverse chronological order), educational degrees (including any certifications and the highest degree achieved – again in reverse chronological order) and any targeted information that will help a hiring manager realize you are the perfect candidate.

The easiest way to make sure you remember all of this is to keep track using the “Perfect Resume” Checklist we made for you. You can simply check off the boxes as you complete them. Click here to your “perfect resume” checklist.

4) Your Resume Is Accurate

Jobs listed also include your title, the name of the company or organization you worked with, the city and state where you worked and the years you were employed. The bulleted lists are summarized in a clear way that highlights the key ideas without taking up too much space.

And PLEASE! No fibs. Hiring Managers can easily verify anything you put on your resume, and getting busted lying isn’t exactly a winning formula for getting job offers.

5) Your Resume Is Focused

The hiring manager can look at your resume and immediately know what you’re applying for and what you bring in value to the company. It’s clear and concise. There’s no confusion as to what your profession is and what you can do.

6) Your Resume Is Short

One page to two pages max, depending on your field, level of experience and skill set. Don’t bore people with details, keep them wanting more…but also learn the balance between not saying enough to saying just enough.

7) Your Resume Is Relevant

Never include anything on a resume that might turn off an employer including political or religious affiliations, anything controversial, or that could be taken in a negative light.

8) Your Resume Is Professional

This includes font, layout, and paper as well as content. Again, this is for a job and should be used as such. This isn’t a platform for personal statements or a novel detailing every job you’ve ever had since birth to present. It’s printed on high-quality paper in an appropriate color and is clean of any smudges, tears or wrinkles.

9) Your Resume Is Current

Every time you apply for a new job, check your resume to ensure that it’s not only targeted, but also current. Make sure your dates are correct and that you include the most up to date information (this is especially important if you’ve changed your phone number or contact email!)

10) Your Resume Is Yours

That’s right…it might seem strange to say this, but the number one thing you have to remember when applying for any job is to be honest! Use action verbs and power words to give your resume life, but don’t let yourself get carried away and overstate your skills, positions, or abilities. Remember, they’re hiring you…and the last thing you want is to get a job you can’t do.

11) BONUS TIP – Your Resume Contains A Link To Your Personal Website

We’ve been seeing an interesting trend in 2016. Job seekers who add a link to a personal branding website are getting more job interviews and in turn getting more job offers. The fact is, having a simple personal website that highlights your skills and more importantly your personality go a long way to creating a three dimensional persona for the hiring manager. A personal website makes you stand out when compared to all the other candidates who just hand in a resume and cover letter. To find out more check out this blog post.

What Not To Put On Your Resume

Don’t title your resume “resume.” The hiring manager should know what it is just by looking at it. If they don’t, then it’s not a resume and you should re-read this article.

Don’t “fluff” your sentences with unnecessary words. Remember, short and sweet.

Don’t include salary requirements or information. For more info on how to discuss your salary and when and how to bring it up, check out our blog on “When to bring up Salary.”

Don’t list why you left your last job or jobs…and on that same topic, don’t trash former employers…ever…

Don’t include personal information beyond your name and contact. They don’t need your age, race, marital status, sexual orientation or hobbies.

Don’t include a photo of yourself. Unless you’re an actor and applying for a role…otherwise, it’s just creepy.

Don’t get sloppy. Double-check for errors. Then check again.

Resume Templates

Now, we imagined that you’d like some resume templates to help you build a resume, so we combed the internet for some job-specific free resume templates that you can use as a guiding tool.

Customer Service Resume

Administrative Assistant Resume

Teacher Resume

Nursing Resume

Receptionist Resume

CNA Resume

Medical Assistant Resume

Project Manager Resume

Cashier Resume

NOTE: These are templates, meaning they are a good place for you to start. But keep in mind that other applicants will also have access to these templates so you don’t want to copy them exactly. Don’t forget you want to stand out among the other applicants, not blend in!

Putting It All Together

So there you have it! How to make a resume …or better yet, how to make an AWESOME resume! Just remember that no single resume is right for every job…make sure to keep it short, sweet, and relevant.

Now re-read this article, but as you do, go through your old resume and see where you can make improvements. Clean it up, pare it down, punch up your action verbs and make it the best possible resume you can…

And above all…good luck!

FREE: "Perfect Resume" PDF Checklist

Ok the next thing you should do is download our handy "Perfect Resume" Checklist PDF".

In it you'll get a 38 point checklist that will let you overhaul your resume and make sure you aren't missing any critical components.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE "PERFECT RESUME" CHECKLIST

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47 Comments

  • Anand Vijay

    Reply Reply July 5, 2015

    Hey guys.

    Your article helped me enough to get a clear vision on what my resume should be.

    Bold letters & highlighted sentences makes you stand high.

    Thanks

  • Derek G

    Reply Reply October 9, 2015

    I couldn’t get a job for the longest time. Resume after resume submitted but no results, I then came to the conclusion that it’s my resume itself , I took the websites tips about tailoring the job to your resume. It worked well, not only did I get an interview, I got called within 15 minutes of my resume submission. Thanks interview guys

  • Joseph Murawski

    Reply Reply October 17, 2015

    I just received my accounting degree and am looking for employment in the field. I was wondering if I should list courses, that I took in school, on my resume. I am learning a lot from you guys and am confident about my next interview, whenever that will be.

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply October 21, 2015

      Joseph,

      Generally speaking, you shouldn’t list the specific courses you’ve taken as part of your degree. If you are applying for accounting jobs, the hiring managers at these companies will be familiar with the curriculum of an accounting degree so no need to elaborate.

  • Aubrey King

    Reply Reply November 28, 2015

    Hello!
    I am an aspiring high school actress looking for a BFA degree in the Performing Arts. I am currently writing my resume and I was wondering how many skills I should put down without going overboard.
    Thank you!

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply November 30, 2015

      Hi Aubrey,

      I’m not an expert in university admissions for the performing arts, so I can’t say definitely what you should put on. Let me just say it’s always better to be honest with yourself and whoever is viewing your resume. “Stuffing” skills into your resume is never a good strategy in my opinion.

      Mike

    • Lynette Adriane

      Reply Reply October 15, 2016

      Omg,I’m looking for a BFA degree in the Performing Arts too!

  • JohnSullivan

    Reply Reply January 8, 2016

    Wonderful post. Am excited to re-work my resume. Regarding ATS culling, are there any special characters that we should not use in the resume content? Also, I presume PDF document format will interface cleanly with the ATS. If not, what format should/shouldn’t we use??

  • Gayle

    Reply Reply January 8, 2016

    I’ve just retired from a 30-year career that required a specific skill set. I’ve listed the details of the skills from that specific job on my resume. Now I’m wondering if I should also add the two part-time jobs I had when I was very young, late teens/early twenties, when I was in school for my chosen career 30 years ago.
    Thanks!

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply January 13, 2016

      Hi Gayle,

      If you think that you learned something (a skill for example) that is relevant to the next job you apply for, then by all means, include the part time jobs on your resume. Otherwise, you can probably leave them off. They aren’t going to hurt you, but they certainly won’t have much influence on you getting the job.

      Mike

  • Mecca

    Reply Reply January 31, 2016

    Thank you so much! I studied your website and got the career that I’ve always wanted as project manager. I even increased my salary 100%. The issue I had was that I have the education and experience, I lacked the longevity with my previous employers. So I tailored, tailored, tailored, and they loved it!!! Thank you again.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply January 31, 2016

      Wow Mecca, fantastic news! Congratulations from Mike and I! Good for you for taking that extra step. Clearly you were rewarded for your hard work.

      We wish you all the best moving forward with your new career 🙂

  • Nadeem Abdul

    Reply Reply February 1, 2016

    Is “how to make a perfect resume” included in the interview master system product?

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply February 1, 2016

      Yes Nadeem the Checklist can be found under the “bonuses” section.

  • DavidGraham

    Reply Reply February 9, 2016

    Hello!

    I am transitioning from being a small business owner to moving into the Business Intelligence space (Data Analyst). I’m currently in the process of taking some online courses & certifications to fill in some technical skillset gaps. Is there a particular place that I can reference these courses that are ‘in progress’ to potential hiring managers? (ie. resume, cover letter etc.)

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply February 10, 2016

      David,

      The best place to reference these items would be under the “education” and “special skills” section of your resume. As you mentioned, be sure to indicate that these courses/skills are “in progress” and be specific with the timeline.

      If completing the courses are a condition of employment, you may want to mention this in your cover letter as well.

      Hope this helps.

      Mike

  • Abdou El-Fadaly

    Reply Reply February 11, 2016

    I don’t know how to thank you.
    These information gave me a huge insight and will certainly make a great difference in my career life.
    Thanks a lot

  • LINDA

    Reply Reply February 23, 2016

    Hi, do you typically need a cover letter with your resume? Thanks.

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply February 24, 2016

      Linda,

      You most definitely need to prepare a cover letter to include with your resume. It is an industry-standard practice.

      Mike

  • Owen

    Reply Reply February 24, 2016

    Hi. I am actually pretty new to the concept of getting a job. I have been hired before and I didn’t exactly leave my last job on my own accord.(I didn’t make the cut) I’m looking for a new job right now. How do I make myself more appealing with my lack of experience?

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply February 24, 2016

      Owen,

      You need to reach back into your past and highlight some of your other accomplishments, including (but not limited to) schooling, athletics, or charity work. Highlight your qualities that will help make you a desirable employee for the company you are applying to.

      Hope this helps.

      Mike

  • Holly

    Reply Reply March 3, 2016

    Applying for my very first job straight out of college… Thank you so much for this amazing article! It has been extremely helpful. Fingers crossed I get an interview!

  • kevin

    Reply Reply March 7, 2016

    Am very grateful for the tips.I have been sending lots of resumes with no yields but now I see myself attending interviews after giving my resume a new life thou my query is ,being a graduate should I include high school and primary school education in my resume?

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply March 7, 2016

      Hi Kevin,

      Generally speaking you should not add your primary school to your resume. You should add the high school you attended and the fact that you graduated. You can also add any awards or special achievements you received in high school.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply March 20, 2016

    I did not even know how to write a resume. I found this on the internet read through it and I am writing my first resume. Thank you thank you thank you!

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply March 21, 2016

      Great work!!

  • Cheryl Talmadge

    Reply Reply March 23, 2016

    I’m tailoring my resume and was wondering how far back one should go with their employment history? I’ve been working for 42 years in the same field.

    Thank you!

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply March 23, 2016

      Hi Cheryl,

      Generally speaking you can go back 10-15 years. However, this is certainly not a hard and fast rule. Tailoring can come into play here as well. Are there positions you were in over 10 years ago that are particularly apt in terms of the positions you are pursuing now? Then you would want to include those. You CAN cherry pick positions from further back if you think they highlight specific qualities that the companies you are targeting desire… IN fact, we recommend doing so. Having said that, use your best judgement and don’t go overboard. If you include too much, the hiring manager’s eye could glaze over..

  • Tenzin

    Reply Reply April 15, 2016

    Thank You for posting this information.

  • M

    Reply Reply May 22, 2016

    I’m a fresh graduate and has a short work experience during my internship. However, i was only given two responsibilities as an intern i.e. to perform bookkeeping and clerical works such as sorting and filing documents… My question is… Should I still present it in a bullet format?

    I know this is a stupid question but I am really impressed with this very informative post that your opinion/suggestion is important to me hehe!

    thank you jeff & mike!

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply May 25, 2016

      Hi Melanie,

      I would lead with your 2 duties in bullet format. Usually people can come up with a few other things they were responsible for that may not have been on the internship “job description” 😉 If you can remember any, add those to the bullet list too!

  • Sydnie Kleinhenz

    Reply Reply June 24, 2016

    I have been a teacher for many years, but I’m moving out of state in a month to be closer to family. It seems like a good time start a new profession, too. Your articles on resume writing and cover letters have been a tremendous help. I’ve got materials I’m really proud to hand out. Thanks for the detailed coaching and plentiful examples.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply July 21, 2016

      Thanks Sydnie!

  • Daisy K Fena

    Reply Reply June 25, 2016

    Thanks a lot Jeff and Mike. You are the answer to my prayer. When I compared my resume with the the guidline you gave in your artical about the Perfect Resume, I saw for the first time that my resume was very poor. No wonder I was never called for an interview although so many applications were sent. I am so greatful for your help. I strongly believe that I will be called for an interview with this application.

    Thanks
    Daisy

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply July 21, 2016

      That’s great to hear Daisy!

  • Ema

    Reply Reply July 19, 2016

    Hi,
    Thank you so much for this amazing & helpful article!
    I am a recent high school graduate with not much experience working, besides for summer camps. I have worked in several different camps, so I was wondering if I should put them together on my resume or list them separately, since I will end up repeating things.
    This is a stupid question, but I would really appreciate your response:)
    Thank you!

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply July 19, 2016

      Hi Ema,

      You should separate them. After all they were different work experiences! Plus it will fill out your resume more 😉

  • Pat

    Reply Reply October 1, 2016

    Interesting how many people apologize for asking ‘stupid’ questions. There are NO stupid questions people! You really shouldn’t feel the need to apologize. We are on this site because this stuff isn’t easy and we don’t have the answers. I am 62, and I’m still learning too! And I have to say thanks to the authors for some great material. I’m updating my resume with an eye to changing jobs after many years and I really appreciate your practical tips and humourous way of delivering the information.

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply October 3, 2016

      I would have to agree with you Pat! There are no stupid questions when one is trying to improve oneself.

      I’m glad to hear our posts have been helping you. Please keep us posted on how things go for you!

      Mike

  • Sara Almasri

    Reply Reply October 3, 2016

    WHAM BAM, I read this whole thing! I really thought it was informative on how to write a resume. I like the concise and clear writing style.

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply October 7, 2016

      Thanks a lot Sara! We’re glad it has helped you.

      – M

  • Grace

    Reply Reply October 5, 2016

    This article is very helpful!
    I resigned from my first job last May, and I decided to change career. Is it alright if I put my first job in my resume? Thank you.

  • Rowan

    Reply Reply October 12, 2016

    Totally noticed the NOFX reference 🙂 Amazing! Thank you for the article! It took a lot of stress off my mind.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply October 15, 2016

      😉

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