Let’s face it. Your résumé is your marketing tool, and YOU are the product.
Having a résumé will not automatically get you a job, but without it, you’re powerless.
Writing a résumé is a daunting task that requires time and attention to details. In order to guide you through this task, I’m providing you a step-by-step guide on how to write a résumé in an effective way.
Before we get into the steps of how to write a résumé, I want you to know that there is no certified standard way to do it. With that being said, below are some tips and guidelines on how to write a résumé that best presents you, your skills, and your qualifications.
So let’s get started!
Table of Contents: How to Write a Résumé
- I. Contact Information
- II. Qualifications Summary
- III. Professional Experiences
- IV. Education
- V. Other sections
- VI. More on how to write a résumé
I. Contact Information
This section is for who you are.
Your contact information should be listed in the top of your résumé. This section does not require a label (e.g., “Contact Information” or “Contact Details”). When listing your contact details you should follow this order:
- Name (large font and bold). If you have a title (e.g., Ph.D., MPH, etc.) that is relevant for the job you’re applying for, feel free to add it.
- Phone Number: make sure that you have an appropriate voicemail message with your name
- Email Address: don’t forget that 76% of résumés are discarded due to use of an unprofessional email address!
- Online presence: Feel free to add your online presence, as long as your profiles are relevant and appropriate for the job you’re applying for (e.g., LinkedIn, Xing, SlideShare, Twitter, GitHub, Blog, etc.). Here’re some helpful tips on creating a professional online presence.
II. Qualifications Summary
This section is for what you can give to your potential employer.
Since recruiters spend only 6 seconds to scan a résumé, you don’t have a lot of time to waste! You should immediately provide the readers with the information they need to know.
The goal of this section is to gain the attention of the reader and get them interested in reading more about you.
Right after your contact information section, put a small introduction to highlight your skills and experiences that will add value to your potential employer.
Target only the skills that are specific to the job you are applying for.
More specifically, use this section to describe your Qualifications Summary. List your most outstanding career achievements that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Use specific statements that reflect your unique experience and skills to show how you qualify.
Both, bullet points format and paragraph format can be used to describe your Qualification Summaries. Here’re two examples in two different formats:
Example of Qualifications Summary for Biomedical Scientist [Bullet Format]
- 6+ years research experience in biomedical engineering, including biosensors, microfluidics, electrochemistry, and biomaterials
- Independent researcher in close collaboration with 10+ biochemists and bioengineers from different labs and institutions
- First author of 4 journal publications under peer-review and 3 conference presentations
- Experienced lab manager who routinely trained and supervised new graduate students, undergraduate interns and visiting scholars
Example of Qualifications Summary for Facilities Maintenance Technician [Paragraph Format]
HVAC-certified maintenance technician with more than 7 years of experience in building and grounds maintenance in multi-unit residential and healthcare facilities. Expertise includes painting and wall coverings; apartment make-ready services; general electrical and plumbing repairs; coordinating and assisting licensed vendors; power and hand tool use. Committed to safety, customer service, and clear communication with management and residents.
You can find more examples in this list of free résumé resources.
I recommend you to avoid using this section for Objective Statement. The goal of objective statement section is to describe your career objective and tell the potential employer how they are going to help you achieve your objectives. In today’s market, employers receive a lot of résumés, and what they need to know quickly is how a candidate can help them, and not the opposite.
I recommend you to avoid putting your objectives and highlight how YOU can help the employer.
III. Professional Experiences
This section is for what you have given for previous employers, and the transferrable skills.
This is the core section of your résumé. It describes your experiences, achievements, and skills.
There’s no standards to label this section, so you can use: “Selected Experiences,” “Relevant Experiences,” “Work Experiences,” or “Professional Experiences.”
Starting with your most recent position (including the job you have now, if applicable) list the jobs you’ve had in reverse chronological order. You should only list experiences that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
For each experience, create a heading including:
- Organization’s Name
- City and State or Country
- Your Title
- Dates of employment (month and year). If you are still currently working, you can simply write “month, year-Present” for the employment dates.
Under each experience, use bullet points to list your main duties and achievements. You can have a look at these tips on how to write effective bullet points.
A powerful way to express your experiences in your résumé is to use PAR statements (ProjectsActions Results). They allow recruiters to quickly read the key accomplishments and tasks you’ve carried out during a professional experience.
With PAR statements you can effectively demonstrate specific skills that can be relevant to the position you’re applying for.
To create PAR statements, think about your past experiences:
- Projects where you improved specific elements (productivity, velocity, efficiency, etc.)
- Situations where you saved money for your company or customers
- Programs that you started from scratch and led to success
- Difficult projects that you revamped and brought back on track
- Award and recognitions you won
Once you have the experiences and achievements that you want to highlight in your résumé, use the following formula, and you’ll be able to demonstrate your skills in a way that maximizes their impact on the recruiter:
- What was the Project, task, or job that you had in your previous experiences?
- Employers are looking for skills and what makes you qualified for the position you’re applying for. That’s why you should pick a project, task, or a job that is relevant to the job you are now applying for.
- What were your specific Actions YOU took in the projects you picked above?
- Be very specific on the role that you played! Saying something like “participated in the content strategy of the company” won’t tell anything about you. Instead, you can say, “built the content marketing strategy and successfully rolled it out, increasing online traffic by 40%.”
- Use action verbs to gain the attention of the reader.
- Every bullet point in this section should always start with an action verb in the past tense (e.g., accelerated, accomplished, achieved, acquired, activated, adapted, adjusted, etc.). You can refer Harvard Law School’s list for more examples of action verbs to assist you in describing your experiences and accomplishments.
- What was the Result or outcome of your Actions in the the Project you just described?
- This is your moment to shine and separate you from equally qualified candidates.
- Let the recruiter know what happened as a result of your actions in the project
- Mention what you’ve accomplished on those jobs by quantifying actual results from your actions (e.g., increased sales by 60%, improved productivity by 30%, etc.).
- Demonstrate how your actions benefited the company or the organization you worked for
Examples of solid statements with specific actions and results:
- Built the digital marketing strategy of the company and increased the online sales by 60%.
- Hired subject matter experts and developed the analytics platform on time and budget.
- Increased software development velocity 30% by introducing the agile methodology.
- Increased team productivity 20% by changing meetings and emails policies.
- Upgraded three computer systems and related communication equipment, increasing 30% the volume of transactions and sales processed.
- Implemented a $75,000 electronic data interchange technology program that slashed paperwork, reduced staffing and cut overall operating expenses by $800,000 annually.
- Consistently performed at 15% of quota in a three state sales territory for 12 consecutive quarters.
More examples of PAR Statements are available in this list of free résumé resources.
To make sure your PAR statements are well written, ask your yourself the following 4 key questions:
- Did I provide enough detail about the project?
- Is my role in the project very clear and my actions well described?
- Did I present the results or the outcome of my tasks?
- Have I demonstrated the transferable skills from this experience that relate to the position I’m applying for?
The answer to the 4th questions is particularly important. Some candidates describe their skills, but forget to match them with what the employer is looking for. Make sure you don’t make this mistake!
Do not mention the list of every job you’ve ever held. The key is to list the experiences that are relevant for the job you’re applying for.
There’s no standard résumé for all jobs. Your résumé should be adapted for each job you apply for. Pick only the skills and the achievements that can serve you to get the buy in of the employer that you’re considering.
Here is the format that I suggest for the Professional Experience Section:
Your Job title, start date of employment – end date of employment (month and year). If you are still currently working, you can simply write “month, year-Present”)
Organization’s name, City & State or Country
- First PAR Statement …
- Second PAR Statement …
- Third PAR Statement …
There’s no magic number for the list of PAR Statements. The key is to mention the skills and experiences that are good enough to get the buy-in of the employer. Don’t inflate your achievements, though! The recruiters might discover it when they run a background check up.
This section is for the foundation of your knowledge.
Whether you’re a grad students or a senior professional, having a solid education section can help you to demonstrate the foundation of your knowledge.
If you have a rich professional experience, then you can keep this section short and use your résumé to highlight more your professional achievements.
If you don’t have any professional experience (e.g., college student), you may want to put the Education section before the Professional Experience section.
Your education should be listed in reverse chronological order, with your most recent achievements at the top.
Here are the main points to include in your education section:
- Name of the educational institution (university, college, institute of technology, etc.)
- Location (city, state or country)
- Graduation day (month, year)
- Grade Points (include them only if your grade points are high)
V. Other sections
In some cases, you may want to consider adding more sections to highlight some relevant experiences and strengthen your résumé.
Depending on your industry, some occupations require a license (e.g., such as architect, nurse, security guard, etc.). The employer will then be expecting to find your license in your application. Before applying for a job, make sure to research your industry to find any relevant licenses you might have missed.
This section can also contain certifications or professional trainings.
If you are a graduate student or a researcher, and have published papers that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, then you should consider adding a publications section. List your papers in reverse chronological order by publishing date.
If the job you’re applying for require strong invention skills, then it would be relevant to list your patents. As patents are excellent credentials, you can include them in the Qualification section. Don’t put a lot of details though – only indicate the number of patents you have, put the details in the Patents section.
Honors & Awards
This section highlights the honors and awards that you earned for exceeding average standards in either academics, athletics, or in a work environment. Some examples of honors and awards are:
- Work-related awards or honors (e.g., top performing salesperson, distinguished art award, best paper award, etc.)
- Academic awards or honors
- Volunteer-related awards or honors (e.g., volunteer of the year)
- Grants and Scholarships
This section highlights the relevant activities you have been involved with. The goal is to communicate how these activities can make you an asset to the organization you want to join. Some examples of activities are:
- Professional Affiliations
- Volunteer positions
- Membership in campus, national, or international organizations
- University and community service positions
There are jobs that require specialized knowledge and hands-on skills (e.g., electrical engineering, computer engineering, etc.). If you’re interested in one of these types of jobs, then adding a technical skills section can be helpful in highlighting your knowledge and the number of years of experience.
Here are few skills examples for computer engineer positions:
- Programming languages: Java, Scala, Ruby, etc.
- Databases: Oracle, MySQL, MongoDB
- Operating Systems: Linux, Windows
Some other information might be relevant for the position you’re applying for. For instance:
- Your level of computer skills (e.g., Microsoft Office Suite)
- Additional languages you speak
- First aid certification
Interests & Hobbies
Many people would argue and don’t agree with me, but I still think that adding a section for your personal interests can add value to your résumé.
Take a look at how Google hires people who are open and playful. Why? Because that’s Google’s work culture. And Google wants new employees to fit in with their other workers and the culture of their office.
What I think is that the person who will hire you will be your colleague with whom you might be spending a lot of time.
In addition to the professional aspect, if you share interests with your hiring manager, you increase your chances of being retained. This is a good way to finish the résumé with a demonstration of some of your human qualities.
Here’s a few examples of hobbies and interests that you can put on a résumé:
- Team Sports (Basketball) – You excel at teamwork and have leadership skills.
- Extreme Sports (Motocross) – A risk taker (bad for desk jobs).
- Tech Hobbies (Computing) – Tech savvy and introverted (not great for social jobs).
- Games (Chess) – You’re an intelligent strategist.
- Social Hobbies (Mentoring) –You communicate well and connect with others.
VI. More on how to write a résumé
Now tat the hard part is over, it’s time to give your résumé some personality before submitting it and getting that interview.
The way you lay out your résumé is really a matter of preference; however, you should make it easy to read, concise, and clear.
Here are some guidelines you can follow:
- Font: you should use an easy-to read font, and use it throughout your entire résumé.
- Size: you should not go below 9 point. You can change the size in descending order for your name, section label, and bullet points.
- Space: you should have lots of white space on your résumé. Adding lines between sections will improve the readability of your résumé. Make sure your margins are not too small; otherwise your pages will look overcrowded. The margins will add more space to your résumé and allow the reader to take notes.
In the first draft of your résumé, don’t focus on the format. Focus only on the content. The first draft is never great. It’s the process of revision that makes it great.
These are, by no means, standard rules for résumé formatting, rather some guidelines to consider following. The most important thing is to present yourself and your accomplishments in a clear and professional way, and allow hiring managers to quickly buy into what you’re selling.
I recommend you refer to the list of things that you should never put in your résumé. It will help you to avoid some errors, and optimize your time while writing your résumé.
You can find addition tips on how to write a résumé and increase your chance to get an interview.
I hope you found this step-by-step guide on how to write a résumé helpful.
If you want to fix your résumé for free, submit it now and get it reviewed confidentially by one of our résumé writing experts. We will email to you personalized suggestions within 3 business days at absolutely no charge.
If you have any questions or suggestions on how to write a résumé, feel free to comment below. I will get back to you as soon as possible.