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How to write a resume

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  • Expert tips and examples

In today’s competitive job market, knowing how to build an effective resume is more important than ever for any prospective jobseeker.

Employers receive more applications than they can handle and take around 6 to 8 seconds to decide if they are interested in a candidate. The quality of a resume is essential and determines whether a candidate moves to the next stage of the hiring process.

Resumes clearly have to be professional and eye-catching to have the best chances of landing a great job. But just what makes a resume stand out?

What Makes a Good Resume?

Not all resumes are the same, and there is no single, set way to craft a great professional resume. But generally speaking, there are 4 qualities that all successful resumes share.

  • GOOD RESUMES ARE HONEST

    Getting hired based on a lie is not only risky - it may also blacklist a jobseeker from any future opportunities. Don’t lie on your resume; be honest about background, experience, and abilities.
  • GOOD RESUMES ARE TAILORED TO THE JOB DESCRIPTION

    Every resume should be customized to each job posting. A tailored resume should also include the keywords used in the job description when describing previous work experience.
  • GOOD RESUMES ARE CONCISE

    A jobseeker can improve their chances by keeping a resume clear, concise and focused, highlighting only the most important details and not going into excessive detail.
  • GOOD RESUMES ARE DIGITAL

    Including a LinkedIn, Resume URL or Facebook page on a resume can give an employer a fuller picture of a candidate. However, these pages should be appropriate for any potential employer to view.

Tips for Writing the Best Resume

While there is no magic formula to guarantee a callback or interview, there are 6 tips that every jobseeker should keep in mind in order to write a successful resume.

1. ALWAYS INCLUDE CERTAIN RESUME SECTIONS.

The content of professional resumes can vary wildly, but resumes should always include the following fields.

  • Contact information
  • Objective or summary statement
  • Education
  • Employment history
  • Relevant skills

2. PROOFREAD. THEN, PROOFREAD AGAIN.

Avoid silly mistakes: a resume should be proofread at least twice before it’s sent out. A trusted friend with impeccable grammar and spelling can also check to see if anything has been missed.

3. PUT IMPORTANT RESUME SECTIONS AT THE TOP.

Anything relevant or impressive should be in the top third of a resume. This way it’s more likely to catch a potential employer’s interest right away and will minimize the chances of getting eliminated.

4. USE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER.

In most cases, a professional resume should be written using the reverse chronological order resume format, unless there are significant work history gaps where skills should be emphasized instead.

5. QUANTIFY, QUANTIFY, QUANTIFY.

Provide specific numbers, percentages, etc. that quantify achievements at work. The more specific the result, the better. As an example, “increased overall sales in wines” isn’t as effective as “Increased overall wine sales by 18% in 6 months.”

6. USE STRONG VERBS THROUGHOUT.

Successful professional resumes use strong verbs and fresh language throughout. Using “pioneered” or “spearheaded” when describing a business strategy say much more than “developed,” for example.

How to Get Started Writing a Resume

It goes without saying that writing an effective resume isn’t easy.

A resume builder can certainly help, but for the brave that want to try it themselves, doing an inventory of work experience and overall background can be useful in getting started.

Make a list of companies, job titles and the duties performed at each place, as well as the degrees or certifications possessed and the institutions where they were earned.

Jobseekers feeling stuck can also use these resume-writing questions to get started:

  • What experience as a supervisor have you had? What projects have you led?
  • What positive feedback have you received from customers or managers?
  • What did you accomplish in college? Were you part of any organizations or clubs that are relevant to the job you’re seeking?
  • What would former employers or internship supervisors have to say about your work ethic and performance?

Why is Choosing the Right Resume Format So Important?

Remembering that the resume is a job applicant’s calling card, choosing the right resume format is crucial and can mean the difference between a callback and being eliminated.

A resume is the first impression an employer has of a jobseeker. A resume format that’s too complicated, disorganized, or that’s been formatted awkwardly will decrease the chances of moving on to the next round. And there are no do-overs.

Resume templates can go a long way by giving job applicants a preview of what their resume will look like as it’s being written

Resume Length: How Long Should a Resume Be?

While most jobseekers can fit their relevant work history and education into a single A4 page, not everyone needs to stick to this old bit of advice about resume length.

It’s okay to exceed the 1-page rule (but never exceed 2 pages) if:

  • an applicant has extensive experience in a given field, and a potential employer would be more interested; or
  • you are a graduate student or academic, and need a lengthy description of research

If neither of these criteria apply to you, it’s probably best to stick to a 1-page resume or perhaps a student resume instead.

What Not to Include on a Resume?

Resume formats can vary depending on the candidate’s background, experience, and position they’re applying for.

However, there are certain aspects that should never appear in a professional resume unless it’s been explicitly requested.

  • A photograph
  • Date of birth, marital status, race, or sexual orientation
  • Potentially controversial companies or organizations
  • Salary requirements
  • References

And never list a company on a resume unless it can give an excellent recommendation.

Resume Templates

Writing an effective resume is no easy task and a jobseeker has to juggle many aspects. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Resume builders are especially useful as they provide candidates with the fields they need. In this way, a jobseeker only has to worry about the content.

Jobseekers looking to impress potential employers can also use a professional resume template to find the layout that best complements their skills, background, and experience. The right resume template can go a long way toward improving a jobseeker’s chances.

The Cover Letter

A cover letter is usually sent along with a resume and serves to introduce a potential employer to a candidate.

An effective cover letter can take a resume that extra mile to help secure an interview. It’s a space for a jobseeker to discuss their relevant background and experience in more detail and also gives the company a fuller picture of what a candidate has to offer.

It’s recommended to send a well-written cover letter along with a professional resume whenever someone applies for a job. These are especially important for those applying for someone sending a first job resume, as it can supplement a thin resume.

The job search can be a difficult process that begins with a resume and ends with a job offer. While there is no single way to write a resume, learning how to put together a successful resume and cover letter is critical to any job hunt. And the payoff - possibly landing a dream job - is well worth it.