Writing a resume can be a daunting task. Whether you’re tackling this challenge for the first time in your professional life, simply need to update your most recent version, or you’ve been out of the job market for so long that you may as well start from scratch, resume writing is something many jobseekers understandably find intimidating. The good news is that there’s no need to panic! Simply follow these nine straightforward steps to writing a resume that will lead to your next job.
1. Start by taking some notes
The first step in the steps to writing a resume involves getting into the right frame of mind by first thinking carefully about the following questions:
- What kind of job are you looking for?
- Which skills, talents, and credentials do employers in this field currently value most?
- How can you prove that you have these skills by sharing carefully selected details from your professional background?
2. Get inspired
Leverage other people’s resume success by looking for resume examples and samples from people who have the kind of job you’re looking for. This will provide ideas of how other people convinced employers to hire them, and what can work for you the same way.
Ideally, if you’re targeting specific companies, use LinkedIn to search for employees at those companies who hold similar positions to the one you are applying for and research their resumes.
3. Hit the ground running
Why reinvent the wheel? Searching for a new job can be time consuming so if you can save yourself some time in writing a resume, do it!
To that end, instead of starting from scratch with a blank file, choose one of the resumes you found during Step 2 as a template. Simply replace that jobseeker’s content with your own to create a new resume.
But, what if you didn’t find any such resumes, or the ones you have found aren’t editable or appealing enough?
If you’re targeting specific companies, use LinkedIn to search for employees at those companies who hold similar positions to the one you are applying for and research their resumes.
If that is the case, consider an online resume builder. Aside helping to keep your resume well-organized, these tools can provide a number of other benefits, such as providing examples of text you can use, automatically applying spelling and grammar checks, and even providing a web-based version of the final document that’s available for download.
4. Start with your contact information
Create momentum by knocking out the easiest section first: the header.
Your header should include your contact information. Headers typically list your name, address, email address, and the best phone number for taking calls from recruiters. Then add the URL of your most relevant website, such as a work-related personal blog, a portfolio of your work, or your LinkedIn profile.
For the rest of your resume, the order of the sections will depend on the resume format you’ve chosen. This choice depends on your skills, work history and other factors. As you research how to write a resume, pay attention to resume format and choose the format that will best highlight your most impressive achievements.
5. Expose your work accomplishments
For the fifth step in the steps to writing a resume, create a subhead labeled “Professional Experience,” or “Work History.” In this section, you’ll list each of your formal job titles, starting with the most recent or, depending on the length of your work history, the roles that are most relevant to the positions you’ll be pursuing.
Under each job title, create three bullet points, and follow each bullet point with an achievement or relevant accomplishment you earned during your tenure in that role. When possible, use numbers to emphasize the results.
Your resume should always be written with your reader in mind, so if you have to be selective, choose accomplishments that will impress your potential employers over accomplishments that make you proud.
Take your resume to friends, family, experts in your field, a mentor, your network contacts, or a professional resume writer who can help you fine tune the details.
6. Highlight your skills
Create a section titled “Skills,” which should briefly list the most important skills you can offer to potential employers—the hard and soft skills that may not be easily conveyed by your work history. If you have any skills that are in particularly high demand, emphasize them first.
This section could include languages you speak, programming languages you’ve mastered, specialized areas of knowledge, certifications and licenses you hold outside of those required by the jobs in your work history section. And don’t forget the soft skills, which research shows are becoming increasingly important.
Make sure the language you used to describe your skills mimics what's in the job ad.
7. Include your education
The seventh step in steps to writing a resume involves education. But know this: if you have many impressive work accomplishments and a lot of experience, this may be one of the steps to writing a resume that you can ignore, especially if you’re aiming for a one-page resume.
Here is how to do it:
- With a subheading called “Education” or “Academic Background,” list each of your educational institutions, starting with the most recent.
- After each institution, list the degree or diploma you earned, your course and years of study.
- Include all relevant training and certification courses, not only university or college degrees.
- Only include your high school diploma if your education doesn’t extend beyond that point.
8. Show some personality
Stand out with a short section, such as “Volunteerism,” “Hobbies,” or “Personal Interests,” in which you share 2-3 points about yourself. If these interests somehow coincide with your profession, industry, or perhaps even with employee activities at a targeted company, that’s even better.
9. Get proofreading help
Once your first draft is complete, you still haven’t completed all the steps to writing a resume. For example, you don’t want to be one of those amazing candidates who stumbled because of basic typos that irk recruiters.
Take your resume to friends, family, experts in your field, a mentor, your network contacts, or a professional resume writer who can help you fine tune the details. You may also need to adjust and tighten your layout and presentation, including font sizes, text boxes, lines, and stylistic decisions, especially if you didn’t use a resume builder. Do some research online to find out what recruiters are looking for in a resume. And check out this article on resume formatting.
Ultimately, by breaking the larger resume writing task down into these smaller, individual steps, you’ll have a new resume in no time. And remember: you can always revisit or tweak any detail of your resume as you get a better understanding of what recruiters are looking for.