Prepare to Write Your Resume
Here is what you need to get started:
- The names and addresses of the companies you’ve worked for
- Dates of employment
- A succinct description of your duties and responsibilities, with an emphasis on your most recent or most relevant job
- A list of critical hard and soft skills you want to highlight in your resume
- The names of all colleges and universities you’ve attended and the degrees you received
- Proper names (not just the acronyms) of any professional certificates, licenses or special training you have earned, and the dates you completed these
- The job description for the role at hand
Learn to Tell Your Story
Once you’ve gathered the information above, think about what you want an employer to know about you and your professional or academic accomplishments.
Your resume shouldn’t be a boring list of work responsibilities. It should tell your professional story and show the journey you’ve taken in your work life. Think of it as a thread running through your employment history that connects on role to another, showing the skills and experiences you’ve gathered along the way.
To start, study the job ad to determine what the employer is looking for in a candidate, with the following questions in mind:
- What problem is the employer trying to solve by making this hire?
- What skills from the job ad do I possess?
- What stories about my professional (or academic past) can I connect to the requirements outlined in the job ad?
Next, incorporate the information you’ve jotted down in the following ways:
- Use your response to the first question as a sentence or two of your professional summary.
- Add the hard and soft skills list that you’ve created prominently in your skills section, using the exact phrasing it uses. These keywords will help your resume pass through an applicant tracking system in the first round of screening.
- Using the work experience and achievements that you’ve connected to the job ad, add relevant data and metrics to the work experience section of your resume.
Choose a Resume Template
Resume templates refer to the look and feel of your document. Here are some things to consider when choosing a resume template:
- Is the industry to which you are applying conservative? Creative? Or somewhere in the middle? A whimsical design may not be received well at a law firm, for example, so consider your audience carefully.
- Are you applying for the same job title across industries? If so, we recommend that you change your resume template accordingly. LiveCareer’s Resume Builder allows you to change your resume template as often as you like, for no additional charge.
See What People Are Saying About Our Resumes
Pick a Resume Format
When you’re learning how to write a resume, the next step is choosing a resume format. A resume format refers to how the information in your document is laid out, and which elements are emphasized. The format you choose will depend on several factors, including your work history, skill set, level of work experience, and industry.
There are three widely used resume formats — chronological, functional, and combination/hybrid. Here is a brief overview of each format.
Still not sure which resume format is right for you? LiveCareer’s Resume Builder will help you pick the resume format that is the best match for the job you want.
Write the 5 Essential Resume Sections
While the layout of the three resume formats differ, all contain the same five components. The level of detail required and the placement of the sections will vary slightly from format to format.
Using the information you gathered in Step 1, now it’s time to fill in all the sections of your resume. Below, we provide a general overview of each resume section and what belongs in each.
- List your given first and last name. If you prefer to be called by a nickname, mention that in your interview, not on your resume.
- List your telephone number and a professional email address. Adding your mailing address is optional unless you are looking to relocate.
- If you have a professional website or portfolio, provide the URL.
2. Professional Summary
- In a sentence, mention the job you are applying for and a few of your most relevant skills and accomplishments. Choose these skills by studying the job ad.
- Use compelling language to convince a potential employer that your qualifications will further the company’s objectives.
- Keep this section to 2-4 sentences.
3. Skills Section
- Add in your most relevant hard skills by referring to the job ad and emphasizing the skills listed there.
- Insert your valuable soft skills, like communication or customer service experience. These skills are sought after even in jobs where they may not seem applicable.
- Round out this section with any applicable transferable skills you possess.
4. Work History
- Make this section compelling by not only listing your responsibilities but by showing the impact your work had. Accomplish this by adding data and metrics whenever possible.
- Turn each bullet point into a selling point by using compelling verbs to describe your responsibilities.
- Aim to write five to eight bullets for your current (or most relevant role).
- For older positions, stick to three to six bullet points.
5. Education Section
- If you have a college degree, awards or certifications, include it in an education section.
- List your highest degrees first, the date you earned them and the institution.
- Mention high school if that’s the highest level of education you have achieved. Only add your most relevant certifications and awards.
Check Your Formatting
Resume formatting can be a pain in the neck but it doesn’t have to be one. LiveCareer’s Resume Templates handle all the formatting required to make your resume stand out.
Below, we lay out resume formatting basics to keep in mind as you write your document.
The basic rule of thumb is to write one page per decade of work experience, with a maximum of two decades worth of experience represented on your resume. Whenever possible, keep your resume to just one page.
When setting the margins on your resume, stick to 0.61 inches on the sides and 0.9 inches at the top whenever possible. If you need to adjust your margins, remember not to go smaller than 0.5 inches on any side or larger than 1.25 inches.
Choose an easy-to-read font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Once you have chosen a font, remember to stick to either a 10- or 12-point font size.
Each section of your resume will be formatted and aligned slightly differently. Below, we have outlined some basic formatting rules:
- Main Resume Sections
Your Professional Summary, Skills and Work History sections should be left-aligned for readability.
Depending on the header you choose, the contact information in your header should be centered aligned, which is more traditional, or left-aligned, a feature of some modern resumes.
- Employment Dates
The dates of employment for your past roles should either be right-aligned across from the company name or job title, or left-aligned under the company name.
- Main Resume Sections
For more information on formatting, see our resume formats page.
Proofread Your Document
Nothing will land a great resume in the trash faster than typos and grammatical errors. Before you send out a resume, take the time to proofread your document.
- Read your resume top to bottom at least twice.
- Ask a trusted friend to review the content. When you’ve read a document over several times, it’s sometimes hard to see your own errors.
- Use an online grammar and spell-check tool. These are typically free and will make suggestions for how to polish your writing.
If you choose LiveCareer’s online Resume Builder, our exclusive Resume Check will review your document to identify and resolve 20 common resume writing roadblocks, including language choices, poor grammar, and spelling to ensure your document is clean and well-written every time.
Download, print, and send
Every employer has a different preference when it comes to file formats. Some prefer PDF documents, while others want MicrosoftWord or simple text. LiveCareer makes it easy to save your document in a variety of file formats, depending on the employer’s requirements.
- Choose your file format and save your resume.
- When you are ready to apply for a job, download your resume and either send it via email or upload it to a job board.
- Need to change the file format for a different job application? LiveCareer allows you to change formats in just a few clicks.
FAQs on How to Write a Resume
How long should it take to write a resume?
It can take up to a couple of weeks to craft a resume worth sending to potential employers. Though writing a draft may take only hours, you still need to tweak it to perfection – after all, you only get one shot to make a great first impression. If you don’t have the time to master how to make a resume shine, use our Resume Builder, and get your resume in minutes.
How do I write a good resume?
Nail your professional summary, work history, and skills sections. Lead those three sections with what’s most important, and make it compelling and relevant.
The average recruiter or hiring manager spends six seconds reviewing a resume, scanning the document from the top down. If the summary, work history, and skills sections are off, the scanning will stop.
How do I write a resume with many short-term jobs?
Lead with a compelling summary statement that emphasizes both your length of experience and desire to find long-term, full-time employment. Consider leaving off very short-term stints that lasted only a few months. Use only the years with dates.
How do you write a resume when you are still in college?
Start with a strong summary of your qualifications, emphasizing the value of your skillset and knowledge. If you have limited work experience, move your education section above the work history, listing any academic honors. Remember you may have internships or volunteer experience to note on your resume.
Use LiveCareer’s Resume Templates and the resume builder to ensure your one-page document contains the right keywords.
How do you write a resume when you haven’t worked in years?
Use a functional or hybrid format, leading with your most relevant skill set, including those developed outside of a formal profession. For instance, if you raised kids, you can emphasize your ability to multitask in high-stress environments. Do the same in your cover letter.