How to write a professional resume

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How to write a professional resume

There is no denying it is a competitive job market out there. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help yourself land the best position possible. Self-promotion is key to obtaining the position you want.

Once you are invited to interview for a job, you will have the opportunity to display your confidence and share your skills with the interviewer. But to get to that point, you’ll need to shine right from the start. Your resume is the first thing a potential employer will see–the first impression of you.

Previously we discussed how to write a cover letter for a job application and how to write a CV for a job now it’s time to detail how to write a resume.

In this post, we’ll discuss:

  1. How to write a good resume
  2. How to create a professional resume
  3. Other tips that make the perfect resume

What makes a good resume?

A great resume is the most important step in getting an interview. Therefore you should give it careful consideration and not rush the process. You’ll want to carefully consider every detail you’d like to include. After all, your resume is the perfect opportunity to show why you are an excellent candidate for the job and what separates you from the rest of the applicants.

Your resume should NOT be:

  • A record of your previous positions or job history.
  • A summary of what you can do or what you’re good at.

You don’t want your resume to just be a checklist of your work history. It should be unique to you and tell a story.

Honestly, there isn’t one right way to write a resume, but there are some basic tips you should follow. Your resume should be unique to your job history and skills.

Contact information

This section is quite obvious, but you’ll want to include:

Name

Feel free to use whatever name you are comfortable with. Your full name or your nickname. Just make sure you use the name that you use professionally and makes the most sense for your career.

Email address

Use your email address that is most relevant to your job search. This is not the time to use your college email address like coolestguy99@gmail.com. Try using an email with your first and last name.

Phone number

Make sure you are listing a number that you answer on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to set up an appropriate voicemail message if you don’t have one already.

Mailing address

If you aren’t comfortable with your full address, just city and state is appropriate.

Portfolio

A link to your online portfolio, if applicable.

Social profile

A link to your LinkedIn profile. Most HR managers and recruiters will look you up on LinkedIn, so save them some time.

Professional experience

You’ll want to list your work experience in reverse chronological order. Some experts suggest only mentioning your work experience that is directly relevant for which you are applying rather than list every job you’ve had. Each position you list should include the following info:

  • Company name
  • Location
  • Job title
  • Dates of employment
  • Job description
  • Achievements. It is critical to detail how you brought measurable benefits to the company. For example, increased sales by 10 %; traffic by 23 %, etc.

Languages, technical skills

Foreign language knowledge is a nice way for you to sell yourself to an employer. Be sure to list each foreign language you speak and your proficiency level.
You might also have a good command of job-related tools, software or platforms. Remember to include them in your resume too.

Education

Next up, you’ll want to list your degrees. This could be your undergrad, grad, or even certification programs. For each one your list, you should include the following:

  • Name of the institution
  • Location
  • Graduation year
  • Degree
  • Major
  • Accolades and any other honors

How to style a professional resume

Now that you’ve included all of the basic info, it’s time to apply your personal style to your resume.

Font

You want to choose a professional font, not one that looks too elementary. The best ones to use are Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, among others. You’ll also want to make sure your font size stays between 10-12-point so it’s easy to read.

Lines

Utilize lines to break up blocks that contain new information. Lines help recruiters to skim through your resume.

Margins

One-inch margins are best. It is possible to go a little smaller but then you might have a mess of copy just don’t go below .5.

Templates

You might want to choose a ready-made template as they already include proper formatting and help you avoid critical mistakes.

Resume tips

Here we’ve compiled a small guide on how to write a resume that is sure to be the first step to securing the position you desire. Some points are repeated from the text above.

1. Concerned about length?

A simple Internet search will yield proof that many people are confused about the proper length of a resume. The truth is, the length of the resume is not a make or break issue. While your resume should not be excessively long (or frighteningly short), what matters most is the content of the resume.

Human resource experts cite 2 pages as the typical length — for someone with many years of job experience, that is. If you are just starting out in the job field, condensing your skills and experiences into one clean, succinct page is highly preferable.

Using a pre-made resume template is a great way to ensure you’re using a proper format. Another benefit of a resume template is that it will save you time creating and formatting the resume–giving you more time to focus on the job search.

2. Highlight achievements

Content is key on your winning resume. Your goal is to stand out amongst numerous other applicants, so you must showcase your achievements and abilities in a way that sets you apart. As you list previous employment experiences, include a very brief summary of what you achieved in each position. Include unique and tangible successes that emphasize your skills, talents, and leadership potential.

A short statement of top achievements is recommended over a droll listing of typical job duties, which may be easier for a hiring manager to overlook. If providing personal attributes in this section, it is important that each one be followed up with real, tangible evidence–an example demonstrating your use or expression of this attribute.

At the top of your resume, consider adding a well-written statement of objective. This is especially useful for a recent grad or someone new to the job search, as it adds layers and content to what may be a fairly thin resume. This objective statement outlines your career and professional goals.

3. Boost with keywords

A little-known secret for crafting an outstanding resume is the addition of relevant keywords. These keywords can be peppered strategically throughout both your cover letter and your resume. Certain employers, especially those who are receiving an inordinate number of job applications, may employ a practice of screening the materials of applicants. This screening method typically scans applications to search for the inclusion of keywords relevant to the available position.

So how do you know what these keywords are? A great way of including the proper keywords is by looking at the job posting itself. Check out advertisements for similar positions at other companies and make note of the recurrent keywords that stand out as important. These keywords may be related to desired skills, qualifications, previous experiences, similar job titles, and more.

You might also want to look at a more detailed description of the role you’re applying for, if that is available. The more relevant keywords you incorporate into your resume and application, the greater your chances of being selected as compatible with the company, identifying you as a potential candidate for the position.

4. Tailor to employer

As you integrate significant keywords into your resume, you are already taking steps to tailor your resume to the specific employer you’re targeting. It is important to take the time prior to applying for each new position to adapt and customize your resume for that specific position and company.

Reading the company’s statement of purpose or similar allows you to demonstrate your own understanding of the company and showcase your personal alignment with its goals and values. (This statement of purpose can also indicate if the job or company is a good match for you to begin with).

Your resume is the ideal place to prove to a potential employer what a great fit you will be for their company. An employer wants to know you’ll be a hard-worker who will be an asset to the business. Your resume should always contain indications that you will make the company better — that you will have something substantial to contribute.

The very best resume gives the employer a sense that the candidate will bring to the table unique qualities and contributions that no other applicant can provide.

5. Odds and ends

It is important that your resume paints a clear picture of you professionally and individually. A unique resume, in terms of style or format, can certainly be eye-catching and memorable, but it is generally suggested to avoid extreme or outlandish ideas. Keeping the resume professional overall makes a much better impression.

You should address any significant gaps in work history, such as maternity leave, extended travel, etc. Military service should definitely be included on your resume, as this is very important to potential employers and also demonstrates certain skills.

Education can be listed on the bottom of the resume. You should indicate your degree and institution from which it was achieved. If you are a recent graduate, it is also okay to display your education more prominently, as well as highlight academic achievements, awards, and accolades.

Check out PandaDoc for more tips, and to see some of our recent document templates, designed to help you succeed professionally.

Originally published April 22, 2014, updated July 22, 2018

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