At some point in time, most people have found themselves exploring new professional opportunities. While this can be an exciting time, it also brings with it one of the more significant challenges of the job hunting process – how to write a resume. Whether it’s a quick update on your latest position, or you’re starting from scratch, it can be all too easy to get overwhelmed by the numerous details of writing a resume. An online search will probably return a few writing tips, but true step-by-step resume guides are hard to find. The good news is that you’re here now, and we have the resources and experience to walk you through the process.
One of the first things to put in your arsenal is a clearer understanding of what a resume is, and what it can do for you. In its essence, a resume is a marketing tool designed to get you an interview. It needs to convey enough information to a recruiter or hiring manager to help them to decide, and at the same time, it needs to be concise enough to prevent information overload. It, therefore, has the same elements and goals as an advertisement, so it helps to think of yourself as the product in this scenario. The analogy is also accurate because advertisements, just like resumes can be exceedingly good, or excruciatingly bad – therefore the advertisement itself cannot guarantee a purchase (or an interview in your case). Recruiting managers have to go through a large number of resumes in order to complete their shortlist. Therefore, the ones that are generic or poorly created resumes can be passed over because of the additional effort required to review them. This ‘friction’ can be removed by creating a document that showcases your skills in a clean and easy-to-read style and format. One of the other advantages of doing this is that recruiters also notice how much effort goes into creating a good resume and take this as a sign of how serious you are in your job search, as well as an indication of your professionalism at work itself.
Another significant point to remember is that there are no rules on how to write and format a resume. There are just too many different jobs to assign a specific resume to each. Even for the same job, different applicants will need to design a resume that is individually tailored to present their unique skills and experience. That being said, there are certain guidelines that can be followed to create a resume that leaves a strong impression. It will help to remember that your resume isn’t merely a chronological logbook of your professional experience, nor is it a just list of your skills. It serves as a critical bridge of information between you and your potential employer and portrays your overall professional picture. Merely having a resume cannot guarantee a job. However, if it’s well-designed it will greatly improve your chances of being called in for an interview – which is the primary goal we should aim for.
The primary goal in the first step to decide is the overall format of your resume. While there are a lot of different ways to do this, most of the popular formats are a variation of one of these three basic styles:
- The traditional Reverse-Chronological format is the most popular choice in resume formats, especially among entry-level applicants. Candidates like it for its flexibility and the fact that they can easily update it as they accumulate work experience. This is designed to document a clear career progression, with the latest work experience listed first. If you’re applying for a job that is in the same (or similar) field, this format works great. The biggest advantage of this style is the ability to showcase an interlinked upward trend in your work history. Of course, there is a flip side as well. If you have job-hopped in the past, or have one or more career changes, this style may not be the best choice for you. Similarly, if you have any significant gaps in your employment, it will highlight those as well – leading to questions about stability and consequently lowering the chances for an interview.
- For such situations, a Functional resume style will be more appropriate. Here you can shift the focus to your skills and abilities instead. This works best for experienced hires or senior technical roles since there is a strong emphasis on qualification, training, and certification. It will benefit candidates who are changing careers as well, since the focus is on skills, rather than experience. It is also a great way to draw attention to a specific skillset or qualification, especially in a niche or highly specialized fields. For these very reasons, entry level candidates with little or no experience should consider another style. The same applies if your skills are specific to one type of job and cannot be used in a different environment.
- The third resume format is the Combination style, which fuses parts of the first two formats. The focus is on detailed professional qualifications, and the work experience is grouped into a chronological timeline. For experienced hires in specialty occupations, this is a great format to use. It can also be a good way to showcase transferable skills and applicable experience when you’re applying for a job in a different industry, or considering a career change. It’s the preferred choice of resume for Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and other professionals that have a strong mastery of their fields. However, this resume may not be the ideal way to present educational qualifications. For this reason, candidates that have little or no experience should consider the reverse-chronological format instead.
The second step on your journey to the perfect resume is to decide the order of information presented in your resume. This will be driven primarily by the chosen format, but certain text elements like your contact details should stay at the top. We’ve created sections for efficient organization and to improve readability. We’ve split it into five sections to make it easy to write, and easy to read.