How to Write a Resume in 8 Simple Steps

Erin Carini
Career Advice Expert

Last Updated: August 01, 2022

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Learning how to write a resume is a skill and taking the time to learn that skill can dramatically change the course of your job search. The key to successful resume writing is to present your unique skills and experience to pique the interest of a hiring manager.

By following the instructions on this page, you’ll learn section-by-section what to include in a resume to best present your top skills and achievements to potential employers. Use our detailed resume writing tips and review our diagrammed resume example to learn how to make a resume in eight simple steps.

The 5 critical resume sections

Before you begin writing a resume, it’s crucial to understand the five basic sections of the document:

Medical Resume Example Combinational
  • Header

    Things to put in a resume header:

    • Your name.
    • Your phone number.
    • A professional email address.
    • Links to your LinkedIn profile, personal website or portfolios (if applicable).
  • Professional summary

    What to include in a resume professional summary:

    • A two-to-five sentence introduction to your resume.
    • A mention of your most impressive professional accomplishments.
    • Your most relevant hard and soft skills.
  • Work experience

    What belongs in the work experience section:

    • Your previous job titles and employers in reverse-chronological order.
    • City and state of each role.
    • Start and end dates for each role.
    • Depending on the resume format you choose, a brief list of accomplishments and responsibilities.
  • Skills

    What to include in a resume skills section:

    • A mix of hard, soft and technical skills that relate to the role.
  • Education

    What belongs in the education section:

    • Full name of each school you’ve attended.
    • Date (or anticipated date) of graduation.
    • Type and title of your degrees and/or certifications.
    • Any education-related awards or distinguishing accomplishments.

STEP 1:

Complete the resume writing prep checklist

Before you start learning how to write a resume for a job, there are a few things you’ll need to prepare. Remember, each resume you write should be customized for a specific role. To ensure you know how to write a good resume, you’ll need to have all the information you need at your fingertips. Follow these resume tips to craft a strong document:

  • Look at the job ad to understand the role.

    The foundation of a resume is your experience mixed with accomplishments tailored to an employer’s specific job opening. After you’ve searched for job openings that match your industry interests, it is important to make your resume as relevant to the position as possible.

  • List your applicable soft, hard and technical skills.

    Create a list of all the skills and qualifications you have and then group them into different categories. Soft skills would be things like: communication, customer service and teamwork. Language skills, strategic planning and business development would be hard skills. Technical skills are any industry-related programs you have experience with. Make sure to have a good mix of all types and put the skills referenced in the job posting that you possess at the top of your list.

  • Highlight important job duties from each of your previous positions.

    Give an overview of your responsibilities, especially things that correspond to the skills or qualifications referenced in the job description.

  • Write out your achievements from previous positions.

    Showing your work’s impact is critical because employers want to see how your contributions impacted previous roles. Find data and numbers that tell the story of your achievements. This helps solidify your effectiveness in projects and company improvements.

  • Study resume examples for your job title.

    Studying resume examples for the job title you seek is a great way to get a sense of what information employers seek in top candidates. Look to see which skills and experiences are emphasized on these examples before you start writing your resume.

With these reference materials gathered and the resume example review complete, you now know how to create a resume that will help you stand out from the competition.

STEP 2:

Determine the right resume format.

Now that you know what belongs in your resume sections, you must choose the resume format that best fits your level of work experience. This will help you emphasize your strengths and top skills to employers. Choosing the right resume format is as crucial to landing an interview as what you include in a resume.

Here is a quick breakdown of how to choose a resume format:

Functional

Who should use a functional resume format?

  • Job seekers who have little to no work experience.
  • Applicants who want to emphasize skills and education over work history.
  • Those with gaps in their employment history.
BUILD MY RESUME

Combination

Who should use a combination resume format?

  • Applicants who want to give equal insight on their skills and experience.
  • Job seekers who have held at least two jobs in the same field.
  • Those who are entering a field in which they have work experience after an extended leave.
BUILD MY RESUME

Chronological

Who should use a chronological resume format?

  • Anyone who is applying for an executive-level position.
  • Job seekers who have significant experience in the same industry.
  • Applicants who want to show off an impressive career progression.
BUILD MY RESUME

STEP 3:

Craft a professional summary or career objective.

Resume Professional Summary

The professional summary grabs a reader’s attention and expresses your career goals and interest in three to five sentences. It is usually the section hiring managers spend the most time on, so when learning how to create a resume, remember that it should be both succinct and customized for the job posting.

Pro resume tip: Most applicants will want to use a professional summary as it is the industry standard and provides a more descriptive cataloging of your accomplishments in an active voice. Career objectives are one to two sentences that solely convey the job seeker’s goals. They are useful for job seekers who have experience in an unrelated field or are recent graduates.

Here are two examples of a professional summary statement:

  • “Skilled property management professional experienced in overseeing operational aspects, tenant relations, office management and maintenance coordination. Successful balancing tenant’s rights with business considerations to achieve financial targets. Excellent interpersonal, communication and leadership abilities.”
  • “Analytical technical writer with five years of experience writing about engineering. Extensive knowledge of editing and distribution processes with fluency in JavaScript. Able to conform writing style, content and formatting to proprietary style guides. Dedicated to thorough and accurate writing.”

Here are two examples of career objectives:

  • “Dedicated marketing professional with 12 years of experience looking to explore a career in design.”
  • “Recent graduate looking to pursue a career at a pharmaceutical company in chemical research.”

Resume writing tips for your professional summary or career objective include:

  • A professional summary should focus on how you can help meet the employer’s needs.
  • A career objective focuses more on the job seeker’s overall professional goals.
  • Articulate your value to the employer with callbacks to their job posting.
  • Emphasize your skills and experiences as they relate to the role.

STEP 4:

Capture your most notable skills.

Resume Skills

A great list of skills tells employers at-a-glance about your technical acumen and hard and soft skills. One of our top resume tips is to revisit the list of skills you created during your writing prep and be sure to focus on those that were pulled directly from the job ad. The more relevant skills your resume contains, the more likely it is to pass through an applicant tracking system (ATS).

An ATS is programmed with critical skills for the role and applicants whose resumes do not contain those keywords are often deemed unqualified. For that reason, when considering what to include in a resume, remember that it’s critical to list skills using the same language as the job ad.

Here is a quick tutorial on the different types of skills you’ll want to add to your resume:

  • Technical skills are industry or program-specific. They require either a certain level of education or certification and are specific to a particular industry.
  • Hard skills can be learned, taught or measured and aren’t dependent on your industry.
  • Soft skills are personality traits that are hard to measure, but that make you great at your job.

To further illustrate, here are some common resume skills for each category:

Soft skills:

  • Multitasking
  • Customer service skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication

Hard skills:

  • Presentation skills
  • Project management
  • Database management
  • Writing skills

Technical skills:

  • Excel
  • Constant Contact
  • Adobe
  • Google Suite

Resume writing tips for your skills section:

  • Make note of the skills listed in the job ad and be sure to emphasize those you possess on your resume.
  • Put your strongest skills upfront.
  • Don’t mention skills that are irrelevant to the role or outdated, like knowledge of defunct software.

STEP 5:

Write your work experience section.

Resume Work History

Employers want to see the impact your work has had in your previous jobs, so your work experience should be more than just a list of responsibilities. When considering what to put on a resume and what to leave out, remember that results matter and numbers are powerful. The more mundane aspects of your day-to-day responsibilities are less critical to include. Regardless of your role, it’s usually possible to find data or metrics that prove your impact in previous roles.

Here are some examples from various industries:

  • Human resources manager: “Reduced labor budget by 15% by devising innovative methods for adjusting salary ranges while preventing layoffs.”
  • Teacher: “Evaluated and revised lesson plans and course content to facilitate and moderate classroom discussions and student-centered learning ranging from 22 to 37 students.”
  • Concierge: “Greeted and assisted +70 guests per day by gathering information pertaining to reservations or requests.”
  • Senior pharmacist: “Oversaw work activities, performance and service quality of an eight-member pharmacy staff over a two-year period.”

Resume writing tips for your work experience section:

  • List your jobs in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent position first. If you have many years of experience, focus on the first 10 years of your employment history.
  • Use data and metrics whenever possible to show off the impact of your work.
  • Use your experience to prove that you’re a great fit. Don’t forget keywords. Whenever possible, use keywords from the job ad to describe your accomplishments and job duties. However, don’t clutter your resume with buzzwords.

STEP 6:

Complete the details of your resume.

Resume Education

Now that you’ve written the bulk of your resume, focus on the finer details. Paying attention to these points is how you create a resume that gets you noticed. Here’s how to add the finishing touches:

  • Write your header in a professional and easy-to-read font.
  • Make sure to double-check your contact information for accuracy.
  • Add links to your portfolio or website in the header of your resume, if applicable.
  • Add a link to your LinkedIn profile if you have one.
  • List out your educational experience, including degrees, certifications and special training. Doing so lets employers know you have the training required to get the job done.
  • Add information about awards and honors you’ve won if they are relevant to the role.
  • Mention languages you speak other than English.
  • Add details about relevant volunteer work.
  • Mention industry conferences you’ve attended.

STEP 7:

Select a resume template.

How your resume looks is just as important as what you include in a resume. Consider the employer and industry when selecting your resume template. For example, a colorful creative resume template would be a great fit for a design position, while the simplicity and easy readability of a traditional template is often perfect for fields like banking and law. A sleek modern template is a happy medium between the two and is a versatile choice for many industries.

STEP 8:

Edit and proofread your resume

  • Fact-check the details.

    Double-check information like dates and the spelling of company or school names and make sure your contact information is accurate and up to date.

  • Proofread your resume.

    It won’t matter if you’re the most qualified candidate in the world if your resume is full of spelling and grammatical errors. Check each of your resume sections for typos and formatting errors. Read the page from top to bottom before deeming it ready for recruiters. Whenever possible, send your document to a trusted friend for a fresh set of eyes.

6 reasons to use a professional resume builder

The resume-writing process isn’t as daunting when you do the prep work and break down your experience into small, easy-to-work-with sections. Our professional Resume Builder can provide you with that extra boost to take your resume to the next level and provide you with the confidence that comes with knowing your resume sections are well-written and properly formatted.

Here’s what we offer:

  • A range of templates
  • Pre-written content suggestions for your summary, skills and work history sections
  • Customizable formatting
  • Spelling and grammar check
  • Resume resources
  • Integration with the top job boards

FAQ

How do you write a resume for the first time?

When learning how to create a resume, start with a strong summary of your qualifications, emphasizing the value of your skill set and industry 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 experiences to note on your resume.

 

How do I write a good resume?

The best way to write a good resume is to do the prep work, both internal and external. First, know what you’re good at, your interests and qualifications. It will be easier to craft your resume if you start looking for job postings relevant to your interest. Second, pay close attention to the job ad. Most employers list exactly the skills and qualifications they are looking for in an applicant, then all you need to do is customize the resume to match those requirements.

How do I write a resume to pass an applicant tracking system?

To learn how to write a resume for a job that will pass an applicant tracking system (ATS), you’ll need a clean, easy-to-scan resume template. You’ll also need to study the ad carefully to ensure that your content mentions the most critical keywords from the job posting. Customize your resume every time you apply for a job to ensure that you are emphasizing your most relevant skills and experience to the role. Carry these same principles over as you learn how to write a cover letter.

About the Author

Erin Carini

About the Author

Erin Carini

Career Advice Expert

Erin is a Content Writer at LiveCareer and a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW). She has facilitated creating and demonstrating product examples across all of LiveCareer’s brands both in the U.S. and internationally. Before providing in-depth guidance for resumes and cover letters, she taught English and Creative Writing for grades K-8. With a B.A. in English and MFA in Writing, she has contributed to several online outlets as a creator of ad copy, articles and short fiction.

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