How to Write the Perfect Resume for Your Job Application [2020]

how to write a resume

If you’ve never written a resume before, then you’ll need to learn how to write one. Learning how to write a resume isn’t a complicated process. As long as you follow the correct steps, you can be on your way to creating an impactful resume that your future employer, potential employer, and hiring manager will respond well to. As a job seeker, writing a resume is something you’re guaranteed to have to do. But making a good resume can be hard.

A resume is a way of showing your qualifications, work history, experience, and ability to be considered for a job for a hiring manager. It’s a comprehensive overview of your career on a single sheet of paper.

Before we begin talking about your resume. There’s a piece of technology that you should be informed of, that’s Applicant Tracking Systems. These systems scan resumes for keywords, academic information, work history, and other key information that prioritizes your resume at the top of the list for the recruiter.

In this resume writing guide, information is going to be discussed that will help you write strong action verbs and resume keywords that diversity your language in the resume to create one that rises to the top of the pile.

Here’s what goes into creating a resume:

Each of these is going to be discussed in detail. Before constructing your resume, spend time preparing the right materials to put into your resume.

What to prepare before writing

Here's what you should prepare before you begin writing.

Organize your prior work history

When deciding on which work history to include in your resume, you should only recall and write down job titles that are applicable to the one you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a management position, you may want to include any previous management experience. Or relevant experience that shows leadership or management material.

Your employment history should show job progression in a linear fashion, regardless of the type of resume it is. A CV or curriculum vitae is often used by academics or federal roles. While a chronological resume or reverse chronological resume is used for general job applications. In all circumstances, your work history should show you progressing forward as your career evolves.

Organize your accomplishments

After you have a list of previous work history and jobs, write significant accomplishments that you were able to achieve at each position. A good example of an accomplishment looks like this: Increased sales by 45% using lead generation tools and sales automation technology. A bad example of an accomplishment looks like this: Assisted my colleagues with their work.

Describing your work through accomplishments versus your job duties is a better way to present your professional resume. It shows your prospective employer that you not only can perform the job but drive results as well. Simply writing job duties doesn’t necessarily mean that you can achieve something significant for the business while employed.

Resume Summary, Professional Summary, or Resume Objective

A traditional resume summary hints to the employer what your previous work experience looks like as well as highlights a key skill that you feel separates you from the rest of the job applicants. If you don’t have a significant amount of work experience, you may want to write a traditional resume summary. It would look something like the following:

Recent graduate with a 3.8GPA. I understand the importance of being adaptable on the job and using quantitative research and skills to make decisions. Care for the mission of the company, driving poverty out of the world. Ready to take action and collaborate with my colleagues to create a world-class work environment.

If you have previous work experience, a better resume objective is one that uses your work accomplishments to summarize what you can bring to the job. For example:

This more accurately and impactfully rolls up your work experience into what separates you from the rest of the job applicants. A resume objective can be found in all types of resume formats: a functional resume, combination resume, curriculum vitae, reverse chronological resume, and more.

A good resume tip is to write your work history section before starting this section of your resume. Even though this is going to be at the top of your resume, it’s easier to start with your work history. Be sure to remember that you’ll need to write your resume objective or “career objective” (as better described) when collecting your work history.

Resume format

A reverse chronological resume is the most frequently used resume format. Compared to a functional resume, which highlights skills and academic accomplishments to support your qualifications for the role. A reverse chronological resume contains the following parts of a resume (in order):

A functional resume highlights your skills and education history as a way of highlighting your ability to perform on the job. While a combination resume borrows from both a chronological and a functional resume to create an impactful presentation.

Your most effective resume format is a chronological format. When you use a resume template, resume sample, or resume builder— this will be what you see as the primary or standard format for a resume. When choosing a resume layout, always keep the reader in mind. Keep your resume simple and focused on information that can provide your employer with helpful information to make a hiring decision. The perfect resume is simple, insightful, and saves the hiring manager time.

Your contact information

The contact information that should be included in the resume should be your phone number, email address, mailing address, LinkedIn profile, personal website, and other relevant contact information.

A helpful resume tip is to make sure that when you create your resume, you make your contact information only a single line of text in your resume header. Versus how many resume templates display the job applicant contact information as multiple lines of text. This can take up unnecessary space that can distract from your professional experience and the rest of your resume.

Your resume summary and previous work history

Before you start crafting these portions of your resume, scan through the company’s website and about page. Comprehend their company objectives and work environment values. This can be helpful in positioning your previous work experience and accomplishments as they can align with the way work is performed within the company, making you an ideal candidate. The job ad or job advertisement should include helpful information about this, as well.

As you list each job, include the job title, company, and date that you were part of the company. It should look like the following:

Project Manager
Apple, Inc.
2014 - 2015

When writing your work history be sure to use power words and action verbs like the following:

Using these action verbs looks like the following: Pioneered a new sales process that led to more than 18% of each salesperson's time being saved.

This is better than writing a specific skill that you displayed to describe your prior work. Your professional history should be comprehensive and contain insights like these to give your hiring manager enough conviction to recognize you have the relevant skills required to excel on the job. Each time you use a new action verb, be sure to diversify your language. Repetitive use of an action verb can result in the Applicant Tracking System prioritizing your resume lower on the list of applicants.

Your education history

It’s great to include your education history on your resume. If the job ad mentions any specific certifications or education history that’s required, be sure to reflect that on your resume. For example, knowing CPR or being a Registered Nurse (having your certification) could be something that the job advertisement asks for specifically. Your education history should include your major, minor, GPA, university, Latin honors, and years in attendance.

Here’s what your education history should look like:

BA, Economics
Harvard University
2000 - 2004
3.8 GPA, Magna Cum Laude

Your resume presentation

The font style, font size, and line spacing, and margins that you use for your resume can separate it from the crowd. A great resume should have no more than 11-point font size, with traditional fonts being used (like Garamond, Times New Roman, or other Serif font faces) and no more than 1.5” in line spacing.

A winning resume is one that’s easy to read. And any presentation of your resume that’s different than the above may be more difficult to read for the hiring manager.

Resume skills, volunteer work and other information

The last resume section on your resume might be hobbies, interests, resume skills, volunteer work, and other information. Having a skills section can be useful when you don’t have any other work history or experience to share. If you do this, be sure to list only soft skills or hard skills that are applicable to the job.

If you’d like to include certifications or volunteer work, list them below your education history. Only add certifications and volunteer work that makes you more desirable for the role. For example, volunteer work that shows teamwork and leadership skills if you’re applying for a management position.

Soft skills that you may want to include or consider as part of your resume writing would be:

If your job requires technical skills, consider computer skills to list like the following:

Resume writing tips

Helpful tips when writing your resume:

Your cover letter

Don’t forget how your cover letter and resume work together to display you as a quality candidate. Don’t reiterate anything in your resume that you already said in your cover letter. Make sure your cover letter speaks to what makes you different and what you can bring to the role then let your accomplishments support that reasoning through your resume. Customize your resume and cover letter to each job applied to in your job search. Don’t repeat the same application multiple times.

Resume example

Below is a sample resume, showing what your resume should look like when you’re done writing your resume.

best resume layout example for 2020

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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