1. Career Advice
  2. Resume & CV's
  3. Your step-by-step guide to making a resume
Your step-by-step guide to making a resume

Your step-by-step guide to making a resume

Artwork by: Alexandra Shevchenko

  • Getting ready to make a resume
  • Clarify your job targets
  • Review and reflect on your work history
  • Study job descriptions
  • What to include in your resume
  • Header
  • Professional summary
  • Experience / work history
  • Education
  • Optional resume sections
  • What a resume should look like in 2024
  • How long should a resume be?
  • How far back should a resume go?
  • Which format do most employers prefer for resumes?
  • Design elements to consider
  • Final touches
  • 1. Proofreading
  • 2. Tailoring
  • 3. Naming your document
  • Key takeaways

Not sure how to write about your professional career? This step-by-step guide teaches you how to draft a resume guaranteed to make recruiters take notice.

Crafting a resume can be a daunting task that often stirs up frustration and uncertainty. If you’re like many job seekers, you may find yourself grappling with questions like, "How do I effectively showcase my skills?" or "What details do potential employers want to see?" When you know how to make a resume, you’re aware that it’s not just compiling a list of past experiences. It’s about strategically narrating a professional story that captivates recruiters in the seven seconds they take scanning your resume.

Here’s what we cover: 

  • How to prepare to make a resume

  • What should I include in a resume?

  • What a resume should look like in 2024

  • Final touches 

Getting ready to make a resume

Before creating your resume, there are a few key steps that will help you if you do the pre-work to make the actual writing much easier. 

Clarify your job targets

As a first step, make a firm decision on the types of roles you are targeting. This is vital to asking yourself the right questions and focusing on the right aspects of your career when you write your resume. It also allows you to identify and de-emphasize experiences that no longer align with your career goals.

Review and reflect on your work history

Pull up old performance reviews, letters of recommendation, and old job descriptions. The key is to take inventory of your skills and achievements so you can effectively tell your story. More importantly, extract all the things from your career that will make you stand out.

Ensure the work you enjoyed is in alignment with the roles you’re seeking now. After this exercise, you may discover you want to change your job target—and that’s OK.

Study job descriptions

Once you know where your interests lie and have taken inventory of your career history, compile job descriptions that appeal to you. This allows you to get familiar with the typical requirements associated with the type of roles you want. That way, you can tailor your resume to speak to those qualifications. Jot down recurring keywords and phrases and save those for later.

What to include in your resume

Now that we’re prepared, it’s time to start writing. Let’s break down each section of the resume and how you can make sure to optimize its content for maximum impact:


Think of your header as your first introduction to the reader. Introduce yourself by starting with your name and contact information. Make your name the biggest component on the page and provide accurate contact information. Add your email address, phone number, LinkedIn profile, or any links to portfolios.

Here’s a sample header

MARSHA COX [email protected] | 444-555-9920 | City, State | linkedIn.com/in/marshac

Professional summary

Directly following your header, create a resume title and power statement. The resume title should align with the roles you are targeting, and the power statement is a unique brand statement that differentiates you from other candidates. Think of this like a newspaper headline and teaser to a juicy story that will intrigue the recruiter to want to read more.

Title and power statement for a marketing professional

MARKETING COORDINATOR Innovative creative with six years of success developing new business opportunities and generating unprecedented brand awareness through engaging marketing strategies.

Then, create a paragraph summary. This is a critical section of your resume as it shapes the first impression you convey. It’s one of the first things the reader will see, and can make or break their desire to continue reading. Start strong with summarizing your skills, expertise, and any other differentiating factors you want them to know. 

Every word counts, so keep it concise, yet powerful. After reading your summary, the recruiter should have a clear idea of who you are, what you’ve done, and how well you did it. Basically, use descriptively lean language to compose a “why hire me?” elevator pitch in three or four compellingly compact statements. 

Some elements to include in your summary are special skills and talents, expertise, achievements, and credentials. There is no need for any “I,” “we” or “they” pronouns as you (the subject) is understood. Remember, this is your time to shine. So, incorporate only the most relevant information about you for the biggest impact.

Strong summary example for a chief technology officer

Visionary technology leader with 15+ years of experience and a proven record of saving millions by delivering innovative technology solutions that optimize operations. Adept at streamlining internal systems and maximizing productivity through defining and creating short- and long-range technology product, service, and solution development strategies. Consistently recognized and awarded for leading IT operations, including project management, implementation, change / risk management, and support.

As part of the summary, it’s customary to create a section dedicated to your core competencies or areas of expertise. It always makes sense for the essential hard skills (practical, technical, hands-on competencies) to take precedence on your list of key abilities. This is where you would revisit the list of keywords you pulled from job posting and incorporate these phrases into your resume. This will not only help ATS-proof your resume but also show you are in touch with employer priorities.

Experience / work history

Strategic, selective, and specific are your guideposts for impressing hiring managers with resonating employment history highlights. The more extensive your work experience, the more selective you must be in describing beneficial outcomes that you achieved for past employers. 

Your ability to pinpoint what your next bosses are keenly interested in can be a game changer. Success stories depicting professional prowess can help them picture you replicating those outcomes on their team. Dig deep enough to outshine others vying for the same position.

Expert Tip

Start a brag book

If you keep a running journal of on-the-job success, it will be easy to recall your achievements when it’s time to update your resume. Make note of confidence boosters as they happen—tasks well done and accolades won, with details about measurable outcomes for easy reference.

In reverse chronological order, list your past jobs, specifying the title you held, company name, location, and years of employment. This could take up one or two lines depending on preference or how much space you have. Like everything else, keep it brief to no more than five lines. Also, if the role was in the past, use past tense. If you’re describing your current role, use present tense.

Outline the day-to-day specifics of your job in a short paragraph. This is a great opportunity to showcase the level at which you operate with quantifiables. For instance, don’t just say you led a team. Clarify how many and what type of team you lead. If you managed a budget, give specific numbers. Be careful not to disclose any proprietary information, though. This may go against any confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements you may have signed.

In the absence of hard data, give indications of scale and capacity, such as facility size, production volumes, number of customers served, or new employees onboarded. And if exact numbers are unavailable, it’s fine to give ranges or approximations.

Experience entry

Prime Group Inc. | Things Remembered, Inc., Scottsdale, AZ District Manager (2019 to Present)

Manage daily operations of 21 locations of Prime Group Inc. with annual volume $23M while concurrently overseeing 15 locations of Things Remembered with annual volume $16M. Facilitate staffing of store management positions and train staff to operate stores in accordance with company policies. Protect company assets through execution of safety and inventory recovery. Collaborate with HR to conduct hiring processes.

  • Held title of Top 10 Sales Performer within both organizations for three consecutive years.

  • Earned promotion from Assistant District Manager to District Manager at Prime Group Inc.

  • Trained 75% of District Managers in Region and 30% at Things Remembered, Inc.

  • Developed seven Area Managers to the District Level—the most in company history.

  • Created a structured developmental training program for new Area Managers.

Once you spell out your duties, provide a bulleted list of accomplishments. These are outcomes that have been beneficial to the organization. These could be: generating revenue, streamlining processes, earning recognition, winning awards, boosting productivity, or growing the customer base.

When writing your accomplishments or achievement bullets, start with an action verb. Banish phrases like “responsible for” and “successfully” altogether; simply tell what you did (or do). Also, use numerical digits instead of spelling them out as it helps highlight important information. This makes it easier for readers to catch crucial details and the numbers they are looking for. 


The prominence, amount of detail, and emphasis in your resume’s education section will vary depending on the occupation, industry, career stage, and hiring requirements. Generally, the more work experience job seekers acquire over time, the less important this section becomes relative to employment history. 

But for those new to the workforce, or in certain professional, academic, and scientific fields, more extensive education details may be necessary and possibly placed above the employment history section. 

Education section for a special education teacher

Education and Credentials

Master of Arts in Special Education | 2016 Bachelor of Arts in Psychology Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) / Program in Applied Behavior Analysis | 2015 Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL

Member, Special Education Advisory Committee, State of Nevada

In any case, your resume’s education section should also be organized in reverse chronological order, from highest to lowest level. Besides college degrees, list any relevant technical-vocational programs you’ve completed, as well as management courses. The same goes for licenses, on-the-job training, and any self-initiated courses focusing on specialized competencies; this includes workshops, seminars, boot camps, or certification programs.

Optional resume sections

When it’s not possible to incorporate certain details anywhere else and the information is relevant and adds value, you can use discretion in adding any of these optional resume sections: volunteer work, projects, publications, and patents. Add internship experience only if you have little or no professional experience. Certifications and awards, if not included in the education section, can go here as well as professional affiliations and memberships. Mention any industry contributions or speaking engagements. Although it’s sometimes listed with skills, languages fit here too.

What a resume should look like in 2024

How many times have you heard the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Unfortunately, we all do it—recruiters included. The layout of your resume is like a book cover. They might not admit it, but employers do pass judgment based on how it looks before reading a word.

Looking the part of the perfect hire is all about making the stylistically-sound choices involving layout, design, and formatting elements. Strive to ensure these elements are consistent and compatible with the role and industry you’re targeting. From buttoned-down conservative to casually relaxed to the edgier side of modern, find a style that fits you, the job, and the industry. 

How long should a resume be?

Generally, a one-page resume is recommended for individuals entering the workforce with minimal experience. For professionals with a lengthier career history, a two-page resume is expected.

Three pages are acceptable for high-level executives with expansive work histories. Anything beyond that is too long and it’s time to look for ways to scale it back. Cut extraneous or redundant information to save space. Remember, this is a marketing tool that does not need to list each and every detail of your work history. 

Don’t let page length stress you out. Always prioritize quality over quantity, guaranteeing that every piece of information is relevant, impactful, and showcases your qualifications for the desired position. 

How far back should a resume go?

When determining how far back your resume should go, consider relevance and the level of experience. Generally, it's advisable to focus on the past 10-15 years of your work history. This ensures that your resume emphasizes recent and pertinent experience, aligning closely with the needs of prospective employers.

However, if you have noteworthy achievements or roles earlier in your career that directly contribute to your current career goals, you may choose to include them. Strike a balance between showing a comprehensive professional history and keeping the resume focused on what's most important for the specific job you're applying for. 

Which format do most employers prefer for resumes?

Anyone whose work history follows a linear path can and should use the reverse chronological resume with a powerful professional summary. As the most common and familiar way to showcase your professional experience, it’s suitable for the vast majority of job seekers in any field and is also preferred by recruiters. 

Once a popular option for entry level candidates, career changers, or independent contractors, functional resumes tend to be frowned upon because the reader can’t tell where and when you used specific skills. They also won’t be effectively parsed by ATS software. Use them with caution.

Design elements to consider

Funky, frivolous, or flashy is never a good look, but flawless always is. And you’ll never go wrong with a clean, simple, and uncluttered resume because it’s easy on the eyes and inviting to read. But that need not be synonymous with bland and boring. Sparing graphic touches and splashes of color can provide eye appeal without detraction. Use formatting strategies like bold to make it easy for recruiters to find the details they seek. 

Remember to incorporate white space so the document is easy to scan. Adjust line and paragraph spacing so it’s not too tight. 

Your choice of resume fonts should always be guided by reader-friendliness. Stay with the same font style and size for all of your body text, and no more than one different style and size for section titles. Use the same font style and size for all body text (10-12 pt), and no more than one different font for section titles (14-16 pt).  

Sans-serif font styles are cleaner and more modern while serif fonts are more formal and classic. Stay away from cursive or block fonts as they can be hard to read or distracting. Serif fonts are Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia, and Book Antiqua. Sans-serif fonts include Calibri, Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, and Lato.

Final touches

Finalizing your resume involves crucial finishing touches that can elevate it to the next level. The last steps in making a resume for a job include:

1. Proofreading

Now, it’s time to enlist someone else to be the perfectionist. Ask at least one dependable friend or even a colleague to scour for common mistakes; two proofreaders are even better. Don’t rely on spell-check and grammar apps to catch everything. Watch for inconsistencies too: capitalization, periods ending bullet points, date formats, and the like.  Revise, correct, and proofread again…as many times as “perfect” takes!

Statistical Insight

According to a 2022 study, analyzing 92,000+ resumes found  only 33,881 resumes were spelling error-free, almost two-thirds (63.6%) contained at least one mistake, 13.5% contained five or more errors, and 19% of job seekers filed their resumes under an inappropriate file name.

2. Tailoring

Once you’re done, you’re still not done! Before applying to new career opportunities, tweak your resume to fit the employer’s specific requirements and expectations. Customizing your resume tells hiring managers two things: you’ve done your homework and you’re serious about the job. 

Statistical Insight

Despite the importance of adapting your resume to each job opening, per resume statistics, hiring managers reported a “failure to tailor” rate of 54%.

3. Naming your document

When naming your resume file, include your first and last name at the very least. You can also add the job title you’re applying for. Something like, John-Smith-Project-Manager-Resume works great.

Although you know how to make a resume step by step, our resume builder offers a variety of resume options and templates tailored to suit your individual circumstances. Browse over 100 expert resume examples for inspiration. 

Key takeaways

  1. Before diving into writing your resume, clarify your job targets, reflect on your work history, and study relevant job descriptions to streamline the process.

  2. Ensure each section is optimized for maximum impact. Showcase your professional journey strategically, emphasizing achievements and tangible outcomes to captivate hiring managers.

  3. Your resume's layout, design, and formatting contribute to the first impressions recruiters form. Strike a balance between stylish and professional.

  4. As a final touch, ask a meticulous friend or colleague to proofread for errors and inconsistencies and tailor it for each application.

Share this article