Artwork by: Olga Aleksandrova
How is a clear and professional-looking resume formatted? What kinds of career details should you include in the resume, and what information should you leave out? How can you make your resume catch the attention of recruiters and impress them with your credentials? This article offers solutions to these questions and more.
If you’re applying to a job, the professional resume you prepare will be the first thing hiring managers will see – and one of the most important factors they’ll use to decide if they’ll invite you to an interview. To maximize your chances of getting that interview, use the tips in this article to craft a document that impresses recruiters, inspires them to respond with an interview request, and presents your qualities in the best possible light.
In this blog, we’ll discuss:
How to identify the short- and long-term career goals your resume should be built around
How to find a resume format that best fits your current work experience
How to craft a resume summary that shows your professionalism
How to list skills in your resume
How to describe your work experiences and accomplishments
Ways of describing education and certifications
One of the earliest resumes in the historical record was created by Italian polymath Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482, sent to the Duke of Milan in order to seek the noble’s patronage. Centuries later résumé, a French word meaning “summary,” became the default term for the letters of credential job-seekers would send to their potential employers.
The advent of the computer age, chock full of personal computers with electronic word processors, gave the resume its modern form – a crisp digital document with contact information, detailed work summaries, bullet-points of accomplishments, and colorful text or graphics.
The norms for job applications and professional resumes will likely continue to evolve, and the tips and examples in this article may one day grow out of date. For this reason and others, you shouldn’t follow the following resume-creation guidelines rigidly, but instead tweak them as needed to leave the best possible impact on the recruiters, hiring managers, or HR personnel who read it.
Before writing your resume, it’s important to know your short- and long-term goals.
The most important step when writing a resume is figuring out what kind of job you want it to grant you. Maybe you want to choose a new career that’s technically challenging and personally rewarding. Alternatively, you may be working towards a management position where you can lead a team to complete important projects.
Whatever short-term or long-term goals you have, write them out on a list you can consult as you work on your resume. If there’s a section you’ve written that doesn’t help you accomplish one of your listed goals, you’re probably better off re-writing or removing it from your resume draft.
Under certain circumstances, you might want to create multiple resumes, each one specced towards a specific career goal.
For example, if you’ve recently entered the workforce and need a part-time job that pays the bills, you may want to make a resume that highlights your retail/customer service abilities and another resume focusing on the skills that qualify you for your dream job. Alternatively, if you’re filling out a job application form that requests professional references, you may also want to design a custom resume that lists your references near the end.
Also, personalize each resume with the specific job title that you’re applying for. Never send a “generic” resume.
Choose a resume format that neatly contains all your work experiences.
Most resume templates available online start by listing a job-seeker’s contact information and summarizing their career path, while the middle of the resume describes their past experience. Outside of these two universals, the format of a resume can range from starkly simple lists to complex reports full of graphical icons. Whether you’re building a resume from scratch or modifying a pre-existing template, it’s vital to choose a format that lets you list your skills, work history, and goals in a clear, direct fashion.
You should have enough space in your resume format to describe everything in detail without shrinking your word fonts down to a cramped size. At the same time, your resume format shouldn’t be large to the point of having multiple blank spaces or more than two pages, if possible.
Above all else, make sure your resume is pleasing to the eyes, a document that recruiters will want to read all the way through.
According to this CNBC article, the average recruiter spends less than seven seconds reviewing an applicant’s resume, making it all the more important for job-seekers to format resumes that will grab and hold an HR staff member’s attention.
It’s key to describe your personal and professional qualities in detail in this section.
Your resume’s summary, right below your name and contact information, is the first part that a business’s HR department will read. For this reason, your summary shouldn’t be a dense list of all the past positions you worked at, but instead focus on your finest personal qualities and professional skills.
Lend weight to the qualities you list by describing specific ways you use them to help your workplace thrive, whether that involves satisfying customers, assisting your fellow employees, or solving tricky problems. As a final coda to this summary, you can briefly discuss your long-term goals and personal passions, showing potential employees that you have the convictions needed to strive for self-improvement.
Do list qualities such as:
Don’t list any quality that:
- Is a lie or exaggeration about yourself
- Diligent or Attentive
- Isn’t relevant to the career you’re pursuing
- Decisive or Self-motivated
- Strong communication skills
- Adept at problem solving.
- Able to complete tasks in high-pressure environments
- Positive attitude
- Quick learner
- Team player
Confine your summary of your qualities to a single paragraph with four to six lines of text. Below it, use a bullet-point list to describe your most relevant job skills using easy-to-scan resume keywords such as “Team Management” or “Customer Service” and/or specific examples of your finest professional accomplishments.
Here is where you must clearly present relevant responsibilities and special accomplishments.
The bulk of most resumes are taken up by a section that lists the job-seeker’s current or past careers, starting with the most recent and proceeding backwards in time. Each of these job descriptions should summarize your responsibilities – that is, tasks your employers expected you to complete on a regular basis.
After describing these responsibilities, you can follow up by creating a list of your accomplishments in the position – that is, moments where you asked for and got promotions, solved major problems, or otherwise went above and beyond the call of duty.
Template for a job description in a resume:
[Company Name] [Start Date] – [End Date]
Assisted [person or department] with [task]. Supervised [task or people] in a [adjective] fashion. Designed [asset] and organized [activity]. Optimized [process] by [methodology/steps/actions].
Increased revenue of [activity or department] by [statistical measurement] over the course of [time frame].
Created [asset] that improved the efficiency of [activity].
Organized [unique event] using [actions or methodology].
Lavish lots of detail on your more recent jobs and the jobs with responsibilities related to the new careers you’re pursuing.
If there are past positions that aren’t as relevant or more than ten years in your past, touch on them briefly in an “Additional Experience” section of your resume, briefly describing the jobs in question and omitting their start/end dates.
Resume details on education and certification aren’t always mandatory, but are always helpful.
Some job-seekers prefer to describe their educational background – institutions of higher learning and the diplomas they bestowed – on the first page of their resume. Others prefer to put them at the resume’s end.
Many premade resume templates contain a section near the end where people can describe the licenses and certificates they’ve earned and identify the organizations who issued them. These details aren’t strictly mandatory.
If you’re pursuing positions that don’t have any educational requirements beyond a high school diploma, you can safely remove any education sections from your resume without damaging it.
At the same time, a degree from a respected institute of learning is always a powerful detail to include in your resume – proof to recruiters that you have the focus and fortitude needed to master complex topics and complete assignments on time.
Figure out what your dream job and long-term aspirations are before starting work on your resume.
Your resume format should be pleasing to the eye and not have any cramped text or excess white space.
Your resume’s summary should focus on describing your personal qualities, your professional skills, and how you can use them to help a business thrive.
Job descriptions should draw a distinction between responsibilities you were expected to fulfill and special, stand-out accomplishments.
Educational accomplishments such as college diplomas, licenses, and certifications prove not only that you are skilled but also that you can complete tasks competently and on time.
Coleman is a professional writer specializing in creating standout resumes & cover letters. Aside from helping job-seekers create documents optimized for getting results, Coleman writes career advice blogs covering a wide range of in-demand career development topics. Whether providing clients with their perfect resume or comprehensive insights into trending professional topics, Coleman is there to lend his invaluable expertise.