How to Write a Resume

Jeanne Grunert
Man Holding Resume

Knowing how to write a resume is essential to your job search. A resume is designed to get you an interview with a potential employer on the hunt for a problem solver. To write a resume, you've got to tailor it to the job being offered and make sure it meets the employer's need as stated in posted job requirements, or discovered during research. A resume is not a one-shot deal. The first draft is never perfect, but neither is the third or fifth. It's a process that takes time and thought to complete.

Your resume copy must highlight your skills and abilities. Being objective about yourself is not an easy thing. Most people are reluctant to "toot" their own horn, never realizing their knowledge and experiences are valuable commodities employers are willing to buy. Your goal is to create a sterling first impression. You can create a positive first impression by writing the resume from the employer's point of view. Study the job description or company Web site to see what the employer is looking for and keep this information in mind as you write your draft.

Step by Step Instructions to Write a Resume

Follow these instructions to write a resume.

Gather the Necessary Information

Begin by gathering all the information you will include on your resume. This includes:

  • Previous work experience: Past job titles, position in the hierarchy, individual accomplishments or team efforts, projects worked on, problems solved, improvements and discoveries made.
  • Skills and abilities: Include foreign languages you speak and read fluently, other skills relevant to the job you're applying for.
  • Education: You'll need the name of the schools you graduated from, the year you graduated, and your major area of concentration. If you have any special certificates such as a teaching certificate, include them too.
  • Technological skills: You may wish to include the major software packages you know well such as Microsoft Excel, Access, and PowerPoint. Other skills to include are graphic design skills and programs used, website and other online technologies and related office technologies, if relevant.
  • Awards and achievements, such as industry awards, civic awards and others.

Determine the Resume Format

Resumes may be organized chronologically or by skills. Experienced workers typically use a chronological format while recent graduates or people returning to the workforce often choose a skills-based resume format to hide employment gaps.

Find a Resume Template or an Example

Regardless of the type of resume you choose, a resume template makes the task of writing a resume easier. Choose a template that works with your word process program. If you cannot find a template, at least look at many resume examples online.

Complete the Body of the Resume First

Since the body of the resume includes factual details such as where you worked, your job title or position and your past achievements, it's often the easiest part of a resume to write. Begin with the body of the resume and fill in your employment, education and achievements.

Write an Effective Objective Statement

Each resume objective statement should be tailored to the specific company and job you're applying for, but it's still a good idea to create a draft objective statement. You can easily customize and revise it later. Review many sample resume objective statements to learn how to write one that is clear and compelling.

Review and Revise Your First Draft

An effective resume must have logic and flow, like a news story that summarizes key points. Write with an active voice in the third person. Remember you only have 10 seconds to convey your potential. Focus on your achievements, but always be truthful and honest. A lie on your resume can come back to haunt you.

Check your resume for typos, misspellings and text that isn't compelling. Use spell check on your computer, but read through the document yourself. Spell check may not catch some typos. It's also a good idea to have a trusted friend read your resume, too, as sometimes a fresh review catches additional typos.

Resume Formatting Tips

Nowadays computers make formatting a snap, and therein lies the problem. Resist the temptation to become artistic. Use a Times Roman or Arial font that a scanner can read. Avoid italics, boldface, ALL CAPS, underlines and dashes. While sometimes impressive to humans, scanners have difficulty with these formatting techniques. If you wish, you can always send two resumes: one formatted for human consumption and one for scanning.

Print your resume using black ink and white, 8 ½ x 11 paper. Most resumes are submitted electronically through websites, so be sure your resume can be easily scanned and uploaded.

A Good Resume Is Only the First Step

In addition to writing a resume, you'll need to write a compelling cover letter. While you do not need to include your references on your resume, it's a good idea to line up a few business contacts, while job hunting, who are willing to serve as your reference. This way, if an employer asks for references, you'll have them ready.

Writing a resume takes patience and practice, but with these tips and other references, you're sure to create a great resume.

How to Write a Resume