How to Write the Perfect Resume for Your Job Application 
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:
- Spend time organizing your most recent work history to your least recent.
- Organize your previous jobs and work history by job titles.
- Spend time writing down your significant accomplishments at each position.
- Spend time reviewing the job description of the job you want and what hard skills, soft skills, and other abilities the employer wants to see.
- Decide what resume format is best for you based on your needs (federal resume, military resume, academic resume or traditional job application).
- Write your contact information in the resume format that you chose.
- Write a resume summary.
- Include any extracurricular activities or achievements like volunteer work or other accomplishments.
- Proofread your resume, have a friend or colleague proofread, and export your resume to a PDF or Word document and be ready to send to a hiring manager or job portal for your job application process.
- Coordinate your resume with your cover letter and ensure you’ve customized both assets for the job and company you’re applying to.
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:
- Increased sales more than 74% throughout my career at 5 jobs
- Increased lead generation by more than 24% through my career at 3 jobs
- Met nearly 98% of all sales goals provided by employers and sales managers
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.
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):
- Your contact information.
- Your resume summary or career objective.
- Your previous work experience and work history.
- Your education information.
- Optional skills section, hobbies and interests or other applicable key skills as a skills section.
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:
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:
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:
- Adaptability Skills
- Research Skills
- Quantitative Skills
- Stamina Skills
- Flexibility Skills
- Written Communication Skills
- Presentation Skills
If your job requires technical skills, consider computer skills to list like the following:
- Microsoft Office: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Powerpoint, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Teams
- Google Drive: Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Slides, Forms
- Spreadsheets: Excel Spreadsheets, Open Office, Spreadsheet Management
- Email: Mail Merge, MixMax, Folders, Rules
- Presentation Software: Google Slides, Tableau
- Accounting: Quickbooks, Quicken, Excel Spreadsheets
Resume writing tips
Helpful tips when writing your resume:
- Including your university location isn't necessary and can save you space on your resume.
- Including your GPA isn't necessary.
- Your resume isn't a log of your work history. Be sure that you are presenting yourself professionally.
- Your resume isn't going to get you a job offer. But it will get you an interview.
- Get an informational interview from someone within the company before you write your interview. This can give you helpful insights into what the company is seeking for both a "good" employee and a great candidate for the role.
- If you're applying for a position that requires a heavy amount of certifications (like a Registered Nurse, for example) be sure to include a certifications section on 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.
Below is a sample resume, showing what your resume should look like when you’re done writing your resume.
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