How to Write a Resume That Gets Noticed
Explore our resume examples, templates, best practices advice and writing guides to learn how to write a resume that will propel you into your next job.
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How to write a resume
During your job search, you will find different jobs that might interest you. The best way to land a job interview is to make a resume that summarizes your work experience, skills and abilities — and we’re here to help!
Keep reading our page to see:
- What makes a good resume
- Perfect resume examples and templates you can use
- Tips on how to write a resume that’s professional and impresses employers
What is a resume?
A resume is a written record of your job history, skills and other information to help potential employers decide whether you are qualified for the job you are applying to. A resume is typically one to two pages long and does the following:
- A resume introduces employers to who you are as a job candidate. Highlight what makes you stand out from other applicants.
- A resume explains your most relevant skills and experiences. Be sure to match your skills and experiences to the requirements in the job description.
- A resume gives evidence that shows you’re the right person for the job. Make a good impression to show that you can perform the role’s tasks and contribute to the company’s success.
How to make a resume
These are the key elements of a professional resume. The order in which these sections appear in your resume will be determined by your resume format (more on that below), but for the most part, the header will always be at the top of your resume, followed by your summary or objective, with the education section coming after your work history and skills sections.
The header has your contact information, which typically consists of your phone number, your location (usually your city and state of residence is all you need to include) and a professional email address where you can be reached. You can also include a link to a professional portfolio or profile site, such as your page on LinkedIn, or a social media account (if you use it for work).
Key Tip: Don’t waste space on details such as your date of birth or a photo of yourself, unless you’re applying for a job such as acting or modeling where your face is important.
2. Resume summary or objective:
Right below the header, you’ll find the resume summary or resume objective. They’re both short two- to three-sentence introductions that highlight your top skills and experience, but they have different aims depending on the job seeker’s years of experience. A summary is better for more experienced job seekers, as it provides an overview of your top skills and career achievements thus far. An objective focuses on important skills and includes a statement about your career and job goals (e.g., “Trained caregiver seeking opportunities to serve the senior community”).
Key Tip: Think of your summary or objective as an “elevator pitch” in which you only have a few seconds to explain who you are as a job seeker and your strengths.
The resume skills section will normally feature a mixture of 8-10 hard skills and soft skills relevant to the job. Hard skills are abilities you’ve learned through experience or training, such as financial analysis, or how to operate specific equipment. Soft skills are intangible traits that define how you approach work or interact with others, such as attention to detail, problem-solving skills or flexibility.
List your skills in this section using bullet points. Depending on your resume format, you may have a single section dedicated to your skills, or several skill sections under different categories (e.g., “Organizational Skills” or “Soft Skills”).
Key Tip: To assemble your skills list for your resume, pay close attention to the job listing and pinpoint the skills required for the job. Then match them up with your own skill set. Sometimes you can figure out skills based on the nature of the job; for example, a position that involves managing a team of 20 people indicates that you need to feature important leadership skills when you write your resume.
4. Work history:
The work experience section is written in reverse-chronological order, meaning that your latest or current job is at the top. For each job title, you should provide the company name, your dates of employment and three to five bullet points that describe your job highlights.
Key Tip: Feature accomplishments instead of mundane daily tasks. The goal here is to give examples of how you’ve performed above expectations or how you contributed to a major success.
When writing the education section, you should only include your highest educational credentials. If you have a bachelor’s degree, don’t include your high school diploma; if you graduated more than 10 years ago, don’t include the graduation date. There’s also no need to include your GPA.
Key Tip: If you performed any special academic projects or gained recognition for specific achievements, you can feature them if they apply to the job. For example, if you majored in English and earned honors in creative writing, it’s useful to list your honors achievement for a copywriter position.
6. Additional sections:
We highly recommend creating sections for relevant certifications, awards, publications and other important achievements, as long as they apply to the job at hand. For example, if one of the job requirements is knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, listing your certification in Photoshop is a major plus in your favor. If you’re applying for a job that favors candidates with knowledge of a few languages, you could create a “Languages” section and list your understanding of each one, whether you are Fluent, Intermediate or Conversational.
Unless you’re applying for a job that requires more than 10 years of experience, you should limit your resume to a single page. Hiring managers will typically look at your resume for less than 10 seconds before deciding if you’re a good fit or not, so you need to make your document easy to scan.
How to write your resume in 10 steps
Here’s a step-by-step plan to follow when writing your resume.
Check the Job Description
Look at resume examples
The description of the job will tell you what the recruiter is looking for. Note specific skills and experiences that the job wants. In your resume, plan to describe yourself the same way the job description talks about the ideal applicant. For example, if the description says they’re looking for a “detail-oriented, knowledgeable applicant with more than five years of experience,” highlight any skills and past achievements that show you’re detail-oriented and list any industry experience that matches what the role requires (e.g., five years of experience).
A resume format determines the way your information will be presented and organized. There are three formats you can choose from:
- Chronological resume: Employers are most familiar with this resume format. The chronological resume focuses on work experience and it’s ideal for candidates who have more than nine years of experience in the same field.
- Functional resume: Also known as the skills-based resume, this format emphasizes your skill set and not your work experience, with multiple sections outlining your best skills. It’s best for job seekers with little to no experience.
- Combination resume: As the name suggests, this resume format (also known as a hybrid resume) combines a focus on work history (from the chronological resume) with a substantial skills section (from the functional resume). It’s a great option for mid-level professionals with three to eight years of experience.
Visit our resume formats page for more tips on how to choose the format that’s best for you.
Use a professional layout
One of the best ways to impress potential employers is to use a resume layout that is professional and readable. How do you achieve this? Easy:
- Choose a professional font like Arial, Helvetica and Times New Roman.
- Make sure you have 1-inch margins throughout your resume.
- Keep the font size of your body text and section headings readable, with consistent spacing between sections.
- Ensure your resume template follows applicant tracking system (ATS) standards.
For more pointers on how to get your resume layout looking as good as it can be, visit our resume design section.
Personalize your resume for each job application
You should never submit exactly the same resume to more than one job application. It’s important to personalize your resume so it fits each job you apply to. Mention skills that are in the job posting and include professional experience that directly relates to the responsibilities of the new job. This way, you’ll be able to capture all the keywords and requirements for each job application. You’re presenting yourself exactly the way the company wants to see an applicant — every time.
Anyone can say they’re good at something. It’s much better to show how good you are at something. Did you handle employee records at work? Don’t just state “Managed employee records,” write “Managed employee records for 500-person office.” Instead of stating “Oversaw processes that increased on-time deliveries,” write “Oversaw processes that increased on-time deliveries by 10 percent.” Numbers can set you apart from other job seekers.
Focus on achievements and key skills
Instead of just throwing every skill you have and listing every responsibility from past jobs, focus on the important ones. Mention work accomplishments that show off how good you are — and if you can include a number or quantifiable metric, better (e.g., “Led new process that led to 15% increased profits from previous quarter”). Your skill set should also be tailored to the job, so see if the potential employer wants an expert in Microsoft Excel or someone who’s up to speed in graphic design, include those skills, and mention work responsibilities or achievements where you used them. For more on how to make your work accomplishments shine, see our page on resume job descriptions.
Any relevant experience is good experience
If you’re short on professional experience, don’t worry! You can include volunteer experience, internships, relevant coursework and extracurricular activities as relevant experience so long as you learned important skills that will help you do the job well.
Keep it concise
Your resume should typically only be a single page. Two-page resumes are less common and run the risk of losing a hiring manager’s attention, especially if you don’t include information that targets what the job wants. That said, if you’re applying for a more senior role and have plenty of experience to back up your qualifications, it’s okay to go to two pages. If you’ve worked at more than two or three places, you don’t need to list every single responsibility you’ve ever had. Focus on your most relevant work experience to showcase that you have the right technical skills and know how to do the job.
Proofread your resume
Your resume might have the right “look” and impressive credentials, but all of your hard work might go to waste if the recruiter finds a typo. Reread your resume a few times before sending it in, checking for accuracy, grammar and spelling. You can also save time with our Resume Builder, which features a handy spell-checking tool that scans your resume.
Change things up if you’re not getting any bites
If you’re not getting any responses to your resumes and you’ve submitted to dozens of jobs, look into ways to improve your resume. This could mean brushing up some skills that employers seem to be looking for and adding them to your resume, or emphasizing certain work experiences and achievements over others. Just remember: you want to show the potential employer why you’re the best person for that specific job, so gear each resume to fit the job.
Before submitting your resume, always take the time to take a second look at your resume. Make adjustments as you see fit.
- Confirm that your contact information is up-to-date. Is your email address professional sounding?
- Ensure that your resume summary or resume objective highlights your best accomplishments.
- Feature hard and soft skills that match the required skills for the job.
- Does your work experience contain the most relevant responsibilities, achievements, internships or volunteer work?
- Only mention your high school diploma if you lack college experience.
- Keep your resume to a single page in length (unless you’re applying for a more senior job).
- Be sure fonts are consistent throughout. Bold section headings.
- Check margins and spacing between sections to allow for adequate spacing and white space.
- Proofread your resume for typos and grammatical errors.
- Download your resume in the file type specified in the job posting. If not specified, a PDF works well.
The next step: your cover letter
A professional job application isn’t complete without a cover letter. Why? Because a cover letter allows you to provide more context about your career highlights, further insight on why you’re the best candidate, along with more details about your career and personality.
Here are some tips on how to make a cover letter for a resume:
- Don’t repeat what’s already written on your resume. Your cover letter and resume are not twins, so dress them differently. Make sure they complement each other by expanding on a skill or work achievement in your cover letter.
- Get straight to the point. Your cover letter should only be a few paragraphs long. Don’t go beyond a single page, otherwise, the recruiter or hiring manager might not want to read it.
- Research the company. A huge part of writing a cover letter is telling the employer why you want to work for them and what attracts you about the job you’re applying for. Find out more about the company and use that information to tell them what inspired you to apply.
- Complement your resume’s content and look. A good cover letter expands on important points and experiences mentioned in your resume. Your cover letter should also have complementary fonts, colors, headers and footers. Using our cover letter and resume templates with our resume and cover letter builders allows you to match layouts for a cohesive application.
For more on cover letters, read our expert How to Write a Cover Letter article and Cover Letter Formats page. You can also let us do the heavy lifting by using our Cover Letter Builder.
More resume resources
We have dozens of expert articles with more resume-writing tips and career advice to help you put your best foot forward.
- Resume Design: Get more resume tips on design to make a professional resume.
- How to Make a Resume With No Experience: Making a resume with no prior work experience might seem daunting but follow our advice and you’ll have a great resume done in no time!
- Should You List References on a Resume?: Find the answer to that question and how to approach others to make them a professional reference.
- General Interview Tips: Prep for an interview with our expert tips and professional advice.
- Phone Interview Questions: Practice our phone interview questions and impress recruiters right off the bat.
- Questions to Ask an Interviewer: Show potential employers your interest in the job opening by asking them important questions during the job interview.
The big takeaways
To recap, let’s go over the most important tips we’ve discussed on how to make a resume for a job:
- Every professional resume should have the most basic resume sections, which are the contact information, professional summary or objective statement, skills section, work experience and education.
- It’s OK to create additional sections highlighting certifications, awards and other important achievements.
- The right resume format will be determined by your years of professional experience and career needs.
- You should always tailor your resume to the job by reading the job posting and featuring relevant skills and experience.
- It’s important to always write a cover letter that complements your resume to complete the job application.
FAQ: How to write a resume
Q: What should a resume look like in 2023?
A resume in 2023 should:
- Have a professional, elegant and industry-appropriate layout that is readable.
- Feature all the important resume sections, from the header with the contact information to the work experience section and skills section.
- Include action verbs at the beginning of each statement that makes it easier for the recruiter or hiring manager to understand your impact.
- Focus on work accomplishments and not daily tasks.
- Be tailored to the job posting and include keywords that allow applicant tracking systems to scan it easily.
To ensure your professional resume hits all these points, use the friendly step-by-step guidance our Resume Builder provides.
Q: How do you write a good resume?
A good resume emphasizes a combination of work history, skills and education in order to show a hiring manager that you are the right fit for the job you are applying for. Remember, your resume must pass through the applicant tracking system (ATS) so be sure to include keywords (specific skills, experiences and abilities) that match the qualifications and requirements listed in the job posting.
Q: How do I make my own resume?
You can write a resume from scratch using programs such as Microsoft Word, Photoshop and Illustrator. It will require more effort on your part, so an easy way to make sure you’re designing it correctly is to check out resume examples — lucky for you we have hundreds of them.
You can also save time by making a resume in our Resume Builder. We provide resume templates, clear instructions, expert job-specific suggestions and more to help you create your resume fast.
Q: How do I write a resume with no experience?
The key to making a resume with no experience is to redefine what professional experience looks like. You might not have worked at a traditional 9-5 job but maybe you gained relevant skills and experience through an internship, volunteer work, extracurricular activity or personal project.
We also highly recommend checking out the functional resume format, as it’s specifically made for entry-level job seekers. The functional format makes it easier for candidates with little to no experience to showcase their skills and abilities to recruiters.
Q: What font should I use for my resume?
Selecting a good font is critical to making your resume visually appealing. Select an easy to read font like Helvetica, Cambria, Calibri or Verdana and use that font consistently throughout your resume. A 12 point font size is recommended.
Q: What is the most important part of a resume?
The answer to this question will vary depending on whether you are writing a chronological resume or a functional resume. A chronological resume will place the importance on work history while a functional resume will place importance on skills. Regardless of the format, refer to the job posting to be sure that your resume is clearly showing that you meet the most important job requirements.
Q: What is the difference between a resume and a CV?
Your resume will highlight your professional skills and career experience in a one page format. A CV (curriculum vitae) is typically longer because it includes more extensive information relating to career achievements and academic training. Unless a job posting requests a CV, you will send a resume.
Q: Do I need a different resume for every job application?
The quick answer is “yes,” you do need to submit a different resume for every job application. However, you don’t need to rewrite your resume from scratch each time. You just need to focus the resume based on the requirements and qualifications listed in the job posting. Create a base resume, then update it based on the job you are applying for. Our Resume Builder allows you to do this and save as many versions of your resume as you need.
Q: What types of skills should I put on my resume?
You should include a combination of hard skills and soft skills, relevant to the job you are applying for. Focus on hard skills the job description specifically mentions, like computer programs, analytical skills and project management. Feature soft skills that are important to the specific industry like good communication, empathy, problem solving, organization and leadership. You can refer to ResumeHelp resume examples from your industry and for your job title to get a better idea about what skills are important.
Q: How do I optimize a resume for applicant tracking systems?
Applicant tracking systems, also called ATS, are software that scans incoming applications for hiring managers. The ATS is programmed to review resumes, looking for keywords related to the job posting and selects the most qualified job candidates. With that being said, the ATS can reject unqualified resumes before they even get read by the employer.
To optimize your resume for ATS, scan the job description and make sure the skills and experiences you list in your resume address what the job is requiring. For scanning purposes, be sure you have an easy to read layout with simple fonts and void of unnecessary graphics.
Q: How long should a resume be?
Resume lengths will vary but most often, a resume should not be longer than a single page. A hiring manager receives dozens of applications for each open position so time is of the essence. A one page resume allows the reader to take a quick look at a resume, make a snap decision and decide whether to continue reading the resume in detail. If you have a longer career with extensive experience, try to condense the information to no more than two pages.
Q: How do I know what resumes should be like in my industry?
The ResumeHelp experts have compiled resume examples based on industry and job title. This is a great jump start to creating your resume, especially by showing you how to present your hard skills and soft skills, job experience, certifications and education. The resume format and approach you’re aiming for will be different depending on your industry.
To stand out from the competition, look at our resume samples to get a general idea of what to feature in your own resume.
Q: How do I write a simple resume?
A simple resume should have the basic resume sections, which are:
- The contact information at the top of your resume
- A professional summary or resume objective
- Skill set
- Work history section
- Education section
Read the job description of the job opening to see the requirements to get hired and tailor each section of your resume accordingly. Not every job is the same, so even if you’re looking for a job in graphic design, one employer might want a candidate with experience in Photoshop and another might prefer Illustrator.
Use the rest of the resume tips in our article to craft a professional resume that leaves a good first impression.
Q: What should a resume look like in 2023?
A professional resume in 2023 should:
- Have a professional font like Helvetica, Arial or Times New Roman.
- Use an appropriate resume template that is ATS-friendly and easily readable by recruiters and hiring managers.
- Be tailored to the job posting and feature keywords, as well as action verbs, that relate to the job.
- Include any social media handles, such as your LinkedIn profile, if it will add value to the job application.
- Proofread for typos and spelling errors before submitting to ensure quality and professionalism.
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