Lori Freitas Houghton

Lori Freitas Houghton

Editor

Updated : 06/02/2020

Ready for a new job in customer service? Our resume templates make it easy to write an effective customer service resume and cover letter to get you noticed and help you secure a great position.

Table Of Contents

Introduction

Job searches can be intimidating. You may be feeling frustrated about sending out a bunch of resumes and never hearing any response. You aren’t alone. Some common numbers thrown around are that 95% of Fortune 500 companies use automated systems for resumes and 75% of resumes are weeded out by an ATS before they ever reach human eyes.

This guide will help you understand how to compose your customer service resume with the right format and emphasis to get through ATS screenings and land that interview. For many organizations, the success of a business is measured in customer satisfaction. You need to show you have the skills and experience to provide that key personal connection between the company and its customers.

1. Understanding Your Audience

You’re a customer service specialist, so begin by understanding your customer in this job process: the hiring manager. Most hiring managers juggle multiple responsibilities and are short on time. They may scan through dozens or even hundreds of resumes for an opening. They may spend only seconds viewing your resume. You need to represent yourself quickly and clearly. Show your respect for their busy schedules by presenting a resume that’s clean, error-free, and easy to scan in a familiar format.

Your other audience is a non-human one: the ATS, a software program that scans resumes and approves those that match certain requirements. To reach the hiring manager, and get the interview, your resume must first pass the ATS. We’ll go into detail below about how to help your resume get past an ATS. First, let’s go over the best type of resume to use.

2. The Best Resume Templates for Customer Service

There are three main resume formats: reverse chronological, functional, and hybrid. Each resume format serves a different purpose (which we’ll explain). Here’s the bottom line: reverse chronological resume format is almost always the right choice for a customer service position. Review the basics of each resume format below, so you can choose the best resume template for your customer service job.

Format 1: Reverse Chronological Resume

  • The most common format. It highlights relevant skills and lists your work experience in chronological order to show, via your job history, that you’re a good fit for the position.

Format 2: Functional Resume

  • Less common. It allows you to arrange your work experience and achievements as needed to show you’re qualified for the position you want.

Format 3: Hybrid Resume

  • Also called the combination format. Less common, it allows you to emphasize skills and chronological work history equally to demonstrate transferable skills and achievements that qualify you for the position.

Which Format Is Best for a Customer Service Resume?

For almost all customer service job-seekers, the reverse chronological resume format is the best choice. It’s what we recommend unless you are in one of these two situations:

  • You have very little or no work experience and you’re seeking an entry-level position.
  • You have work experience, but it’s not customer service experience. You want to make a career shift into the customer service industry.

If you’re in one of those situations, you might consider a functional or hybrid resume format.

Format 1: Reverse Chronological Resume

With a reverse chronological resume, you list your work experience based on how recently you worked at an employer. Your latest or current job comes first and any other positions follow, ordered by the date of employment.

Pros

Almost always the right choice. Ideal if you’re applying for a customer service position that’s similar to the job you’ve most recently had or still have. If you want to show the trajectory of your customer service career over the course of multiple years, there’s no better format than a reverse chronological resume.

Cons

On the flip side, if you don’t have much experience with customer service, a reverse chronological resume might not adequately highlight your relevant skill set for the position you want. Similarly, any long stretches of unemployment will feature prominently on a reverse chronological resume and could lead to interview questions you might not want to answer.

Reverse Chronological Resume

Format 2: Functional Resume

A functional resume allows you to rearrange your work experience and achievements and put the most relevant, important material at the top.

Pros

A good choice for a career shift. If you’re hoping to make a big career change from a field outside of customer service, a functional resume allows you to highlight skills or experiences that might be more relevant to a customer service job. A functional resume can also help to dim the spotlight on resume blemishes like job hopping or unemployment.

Cons

Not a favorite of hiring managers. Because many people use this format to conceal unfavorable experiences, it invites some suspicion. To overcome this suspicion, write a direct cover letter with a brief explanation for your career shift.

Functional Resume

Format 3: Hybrid Resume

As the name suggests, the hybrid resume is a combination of functional and chronological formats. Typically, it has a functional summary of relevant skills at the top, followed by a reverse chronological presentation of dates, employers, and details of each position’s duties.

Pros

Great if you have little or no work experience. You can highlight your relevant skills. Then you’ll show your job history, volunteer work, and other relevant experiences that demonstrate you have the character and capabilities to be a good customer service professional.

Cons

As this resume is not as common as the standard reverse chronological resume, many employers may not appreciate the deviation from the standard resume organization they usually see. If the company uses an ATS (as most do), your resume may never make it out of the first round.

Hybrid Resume

3. Prepare for an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

The majority of hiring managers use an Applicant Tracking System, or ATS. This automated software scans resumes and sorts them based on certain criteria. An ATS reduces workload and enables hiring process to flow more efficiently. Companies may receive hundreds of applications for a single open position; it’s simply more practical to automate some part of the hiring process.

To get your resume past the ATS and to an actual human, you need to use the right format and keywords. The ATS is programmed with rules which tell it which resumes to accept and which to reject. Poor formatting or missing keywords might cause the ATS to reject your resume even if you are qualified for the position.

Formatting Your Resume

Stick with a well-known, professional font: Calibri, Arial, and Helvetica are all good choices. These are all sans-serif fonts, meaning that they do not include the small line at the end of each letter. Because they are simpler, the fonts are easier to scan. However, some professional serif fonts, such as Georgia and Garamond, are simple enough to be scannable and used on a resume (example below).

✓ Sans-Serif FontsBoldItalic

CALIBRI

ARIAL

HELVETICA

CALIBRI

ARIAL

HELVETICA

CALIBRI

ARIAL

HELVETICA

✓ Serif FontsBoldItalic

Georgia

Garamond

Georgia

Garamond

Georgia

Garamond

If using bullets, don’t use a special character like an arrow or diamond (example below). Stick with simple round bullets, which are readable by an ATS.

X Don’t Use Special Characters
  • Ø Bilingual
    • { English
    • { Spanish
✓ Use Bullet Points
  • Bilingual (English/Spanish)

Consider using a resume template to ensure that the spacing on your resume is standard and easy to scan. A resume template will also help you remember to include each necessary resume section. If you want a different font for section headers, do not use more than two fonts on a resume. Clean, clear, simple formatting is most effective in the job-seeking process.

Finally, consider the file format. Standard file formats for resumes are Microsoft Word document (.doc) and PDF format. Sometimes the job listing will specify one or the other. The PDF format ensures that your formatting won’t be inadvertently changed, but the Microsoft Word format is easier for an ATS to read. The best choice, of course, is to meet the specifications of the job ad.

Using Keywords on Your Resume

An ATS is given certain rules to follow when scanning resumes, and that’s where keywords come in. An employer chooses certain keywords that they want; to pass the ATS and get to the hiring manager, a resume must include a certain number or percentage of the chosen keywords. That’s why taking time to identify and include those keywords is important.

To find out which keywords to include on your resume, check the job ad. Which keywords does the employer include? That’s a good clue. If they’ve listed specific skills, traits, and experience levels, the ATS will likely scan for those keywords. Of course, you should only use the keywords that are accurate for you. If you don’t have a certain skill, do not list it.

Job title terms are the most basic keywords that ATS and recruiters use. If your job title doesn’t exactly match what the job opening is titled, but they are similar roles, it is reasonable to list both job titles on your resume. As a basic example, the listing could be for a “Customer Service Representative.” You may have your most recent position listed as a “Customer Agent.” An ATS that is programmed well should recognize the match. But in case it’s poorly programmed, you might want to list your job title as “Customer Service Representative.”

Make sure you include keywords for the job position, as well. Use customer service keywords like communication skills, product knowledge, response time, call center, fast-paced, resolution rate, detail-oriented, etc. The keywords and phrases you should include really depend on the job listing. Examine it carefully and identify potential keywords. Then include all the words you honestly can when describing your work experience.

And don’t forget: you want your resume to make it through the ATS scans and ultimately in front of the hiring manager. So your resume needs to be ATS-proof, but it also needs to be readable and appealing for the hiring manager’s eyes.

4. Resume Objectives and Summary for Customer Service

The first section of your resume needs to convey an accurate, appealing, and concise message about what you have to offer. There are three basic options for the opening section:

  1. The resume summary statement
  2. The professional summary
  3. The resume objective.

1.The resume summary statement

A resume summary statement is a few sentences that outline the value you add to the position. Here are the basics for a resume summary statement:

✓ It should be 1-3 sentences long.

✓ You’ll want to consider customizing it for each job application.

✓ It should explain who you are and what you have to offer specific to this job opening.

✓ Example

“Customer Service professional combines energy and empathy with a solid history of achievement in retail. Areas of expertise include communication, problem-solving, and reading physical and emotional cues.”

2.The professional summary

The professional summary offers more details than a standard resume summary statement. This is the right choice if you have at least 5-10 years of experience. A professional summary statement has these traits:

✓ It can be a full paragraph or 4-8 bullet points of career highlights.

✓ It should detail the years you’ve specialized in particular fields or areas.

✓ It should highlight your major projects, achievements, and awards.

✓ Bullet Point Format
  • Experienced customer service call center manager with 8 years of retail experience and 3 years of supervisory experience
  • Skilled at developing people and managing performance; track record of increasing retention rates, despite decreasing retention rates company-wide
  • Results-oriented with proven ability to lead high-performing teams; led team to decrease resolution time by 25% and increase customer ratings by 42% over three-year period.
  • Adept at managing conflict in fast-paced, high pressure environments
  • Excellent communication skills with experience developing new call center scripts for new products

Alternately, this summary statement could be presented as a full paragraph:

✓ Full Paragraph Format

“Experienced customer service call center manager, with 8 years of retail experience and 3 years of supervisory experience, brings skills of developing people and managing performance. Supervisory achievements include increasing departmental retention rates, despite decreasing retention rates company-wide, and developing new call center scripts for new products. Results-oriented leader, adept at managing conflict in fast-paced, high-pressure environment. Excellent communication skills and proven ability to direct high-performing team to an improved resolution time (decreased by 25%) and increased customer ratings by 42% over a three-year period.”

3.The resume objective

An objective statement is a one-sentence statement of purpose, explaining what type of position you are seeking. Objective statements have become less common, but can be helpful in these situations:

✓ Early career:

When you have little experience, an objective statement can be helpful to state that you’re looking for an entry-level position.

✓ Mid-career switch:

When you’re making a jump from a different career, an objective statement can clarify what you’re seeking and why you’re qualified.

✓ Seeking promotion:

When you’ve worked your way up the ranks, an objective statement can show you’re ready for the next level.

✓ Example
“Former retail manager with 8 years of direct customer experience and technical expertise seeks opportunity to transfer well-developed communication skills to customer service position.”

Customize Your Opening Statement

Customizing your summary for each position may seem like too much work, but you can streamline it. You don’t have to start from scratch each time. Write a summary that fits the position you want most. Then tweak it for each subsequent application you send. Make sure you:

✓ Pay attention to the language in the job ad, specifically if there are bullet points listing desired skills or experience.

✓ Research the company to get an idea of the language they use.

✓ Then you can change the wording and emphasize different skills in the resume summary to better fit each company’s needs.

Ask yourself: What qualities is the hiring manager looking for and what experiences do I have that showcase those qualities? Use strong action verbs, be as direct and concise as possible, and avoid using personal pronouns. Emphasize hard skills and be specific about what they are.

5. Resume Skills for Customer Service

The most important skills for a customer service job can be divided into two categories: hard/technical skills that center around processes, and soft skills that are more personality-based.

You can highlight soft skills like effective communication, active listening, empathy, friendliness, time management, and effective conflict resolution.

However, your focus should be on the hard/technical skills you’ve gained in your customer service career. Think of the computer programs you’ve used, your typing or language skills, and technical abilities. Then choose the skills that line up most closely with the position you want. Relevance is important in all parts of the resume, but particularly so in the skills section. Potential employers don’t need-or want-to know all the skills you’ve gained. They want to know the skills that will add value to their organization.

6. Resume Templates for Customer Service: Work Experience

The experience section is typically the second section in a resume, unless you recently graduated. This section may be titled: Work Experience, Professional Experience, or simply, Experience. It should be specific, achievement- or evidence-oriented, and should use plenty of those relevant keywords in your descriptions. Each piece of experience should be listed in reverse chronological order: start with your most recent job first and work your way backwards in time through your other jobs.

The basic elements for each work experience entry are:

✓ Job title

✓ Name of organization

✓ Employment date

✓ Brief description of top accomplishments and responsibilities in the job, as well as skills gained/used in that job

Sometimes job title is listed first, sometimes the place of employment is listed first. If you’ve worked for a recognizable company, maybe you want to lead with the company name. If you’ve had job titles that demonstrate well your progression and promotions, you may want to start with job title first. Just be consistent in whichever approach you take. It’s helpful to list the dates along the right-hand side so hiring managers and recruiters can quickly scan dates to understand your career stage.

If you have customer service experience, devote more resume space to those jobs in your professional background. Move your education section below your work experience section, unless you’ve graduated within the last 3-5 years.

Try and quantify your work as best you can; use percentages, measurements, and time to clarify what you’ve achieved and why it’s important. Numbers are powerful, and help potential employers understand the specific value you have to offer.

If you don’t have relevant customer service experience, you can mention examples of performance that could transfer to customer service jobs. Think about experiences in prior positions that highlight the hard and soft skills mentioned above. Many jobs involve customer service skills, even if the role isn’t specifically named a customer service role, so highlight those crossover skills.

Here’s an example: Alice worked as a data analyst and was looking to transition into a customer service career. When drafting the experience section of her resume, she thought about the skills she developed as a data analyst that could be beneficial in customer service. In the bullet points below her experience, she focused on highlighting performance that demonstrated her successful time management, digital skills, responsiveness, and adaptability. She also had a lot of internal customers and so she highlights that role with relevant keywords:

✓ Data Analyst Skills to Customer Service Skills
  • Investigated data for integrity and quality, communicating with internal customers to identify issues and manage resolution of corrected data
  • Quickened response rate on data flags from 2 days to 1 day as part of team effort
  • Trained in and applied active listening skills to resolve internal customer concerns more effectively; ranked “High” or “Very High” for all 5 internal customers in 360 survey of “Understood my team’s needs and helped resolve my issues”

If you have limited experience or a resume gap, it might be helpful to list your volunteer experience in this section. However, only include experience that is relevant to the job. Fortunately, most jobs have some kind of customer serving component and you can draw upon relevant experience. Format just as you would work experience: the “job” would be the place you volunteered, the title would reflect the work you did there, the description would sum up what you did for the organization, and a few bullet points would list your achievements.

If your volunteer work is truly unrelated to the position you’re applying for or you have plenty of work experience, a “Volunteer Experience” section usually isn’t necessary. But to fill up a short resume, consider adding a volunteer section after your work experience. It can help fill up space and demonstrate valuable qualities like communication, empathy, and teamwork.

7. Resume Templates for Customer Service: Education and Certifications

Where you put your education on your resume largely depends on the stage you’re at in your career and how much education you have obtained.If you’re crafting an entry-level resume and you have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, your education should be listed toward the very top of your resume, right below your opening statement. List your highest degree first, and make sure to include which type of degree you earned, your major, the university name, and its location. Most customer service positions require a high school diploma or a GED at a minimum, while some may require a college degree or relevant certification. If you have a high school degree or GED only, be sure to include that at the end of your resume. If you have a college degree, it is unnecessary to list a high school degree on your resume.

List your GPA, if it is strong. If not, omit it. What is strong? For a customer service job, perhaps you’d want to list a GPA that’s 3.0 or higher.

✓ College Degree Example

Bachelor of Arts – 2018

Virginia State University, Petesburg, VA

Major: Journalism

Minor: Accounting

GPA 3.4

You can include certifications or languages spoken in this section. This is often a better formatting choice than creating two or three separate sections for these related items. Choose an appropriate title based on what you’re including (for example, Education, Certifications, and Languages).

Whether or not you’ll need specific certifications is somewhat based on the type of customer service position you’re considering. Most customer service jobs don’t require any certification, but it can be nice to have. Technical support customer service positions are more likely to require certification. You might list your certifications this way, for example:

✓ Certifications Example

CCSP – Certified Customer Service Professional – 2015

CCCM – Certified Call Center Manager – 2017

If you can speak more than one language, that is usually important to list on a customer service resume. You can list your proficiency in a number of different ways. For example, “Fluent in English; Intermediate proficiency in Spanish.”

8. How to Write a Customer Service Cover Letter

You’ve put the final touches on your resume and now just one thing stands in the way of you and the job you want to apply for: your cover letter. Your cover letter is another opportunity to show why you’re a great fit for the target customer service position. The most effective cover letters are easy-to-read and quickly grab the reader’s attention. Length should be somewhere between a half page and ¾ of a page. Certainly, write no more than one page.

Begin by doing some research. Personalization is one way to have your customer service resume cover letter stand out. Find out the name of the hiring manager at the company you’re applying to and address the cover letter to that person instead of a generic “Hello” or “To Whom This May Concern.” This is a standard best practice to show that you’re invested in this particular customer service job.

Strike a delicate balance between drawing the attention of the hiring manager and staying concise and professional to make sure your customer service resume is read. The best way to accomplish this is to keep sentences short and to the point.

Your cover letter should tell the hiring manager you’re knowledgeable about the company and explain why you’re the right person for the job. It should answer these two questions the hiring manager will have:

✓ Why do you want to work for this company?

✓ Why are you the right person for this Customer Service Position at this company?

Your cover letter organization is less rigid than a resume. Organize your content based on what flows the best (using standard business letter format). Tell a short story about why your experience has prepared you for this position at this company. Expand on 1 or 2 aspects of your experience that fit what the company is seeking. Go back through the job posting, if needed, to identify what qualities are most important to them. Then, think about your work history. Do you have a difficult customer service situation you resolved? Is there a skill you’ve developed that sets you apart from other applicants?

Above all, cover letters should be short, specific, and error-free. Don’t put too much time into summarizing your experience–that’s the resume’s purpose. But give some insight into how you specifically fit their company and what value you would bring to the position. Some managers honestly don’t read cover letters. But those who do really value the clear picture of an individual that a well-written cover letter can create.

About the Author

Lori Freitas Houghton

Lori Freitas Houghton

Editor

In her 15+ years in human resources, Lori Freitas Houghton has worked on both sides of the hiring equation. She’s experienced as a recruiter and partner with hiring managers. She is also a proven career coach with a high success rate at helping job candidates create breakthrough resumes that gain them interviews. With a BA in English and a Master of Organizational Behavior (MBA) degree, Lori also has considerable experience writing and editing HR content.

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