A resume is more than an obligatory document that you must create and submit to land a job. Think of it, rather, as an opportunity to showcase the amazing things you’ve done in your career and a chance to start a conversation with a potential employer.
Well-written, effective resumes open doors and help you land more job interviews.
However, a subpar resume will encourage employers and recruiters to pursue other candidates. That’s why it’s important for every jobseeker to learn how to write a resume according to best practices. Here is what a resume should accomplish:
- A resume should accurately and concisely detail your professional history and identify what you, as an employee, can bring to the table for a future employer.
- It should cover your top skills, best achievements, and educational history—and it should truly sell your abilities and the unique value you can bring to an organization.
- The information in your resume should paint a picture of the type of employee you are and show employers what you are capable of accomplishing.
Whew! That’s a lot to take in. Fear not, for we have formatting, writing, and general best practice tips for you.
Behind Every Great Resume is a Great Resume Template
They say, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but they also say, “looks matter”. So it’s safe to assume that employers and recruiters will judge you and your professional endeavors (at least a little bit) based on the appearance of your resume. Read our advice below on selecting a resume template that helps rather than hurts your quest for the job.
An organized layout suggests that you are an organized person.
When you learn how to write a resume well, the way you present yourself on paper provides insight into your professional identity. A cluttered, lengthy resume won’t show off your best talents and achievements. If you aren’t able to showcase your experience, employers will wonder if you are capable of organizing your work assignments.
It doesn’t matter if you are the most qualified worker in the history of employment; if your resume doesn’t convey this, employers won’t see this side of you.
A great resume format is easy to scan.
Most employers and recruiters don’t take time to read your resume. As previously mentioned, an ATS will process your resume first and discard it if it’s difficult to scan and it doesn’t include the correct keywords. Even after your resume makes it into human hands, it’s unlikely that they’ll spend more than six seconds looking at it.
This means that you must structure your resume neatly; additionally, you must place your most marketable experiences in prominent positions on the page. Test your resume: Set a timer on your phone for six seconds, then scan your resume. Did you see everything that you want an employer to see? If not, then edit your resume again.
Your resume is a great opportunity to brand yourself.
Professional branding is important for experienced jobseekers. Why? This is a way to control how employers perceive you. If you work in a creative industry, then you might want to consider adding some subtle style to your resume to show your innovative side.
But, a financial applicant should stick to a bare bones layout to show their straightforward thinking. No matter what you pick, just remember to go easy on resume style. A colored bar beneath your contact information shows creative style, but a picture of flowers just confuses machines and hiring managers alike.
3 Resume Templates We Love
3 “DON’TS” for Formatting a Resume
What’s Wrong With Resume 1?
What’s Wrong With Resume 2?
What’s Wrong With Resume 3?
What’s the Best Resume Format: Functional vs. Chronological?
Did you know that there are two major resume formats? One is called a “chronological resume,” though a more appropriate name would be “reverse-chronological resume.” Why? Because the work experience section starts with the most recent job and then works backward through your professional history.
The “functional resume” format is significantly less common. This is a skills-focused resume style that does not emphasize employment dates. But what’s the difference between the two formats?
Chronological and functional resumes cater to different needs. A chronological resume is preferred by recruiters and is great for most workers, especially those who have stayed in the same field for their entire career.
A functional style, on the other hand, is ideal for candidates who have followed a unique path, either because they changed careers or have significant gaps in their work history. Consider your needs and see the explanations below to choose the best resume format for you.
Chronological Resume Format
The chronological resume style is the standard format that is most widely accepted by employers and recruiters. Even if you think a functional resume would better suit your needs, it’s smart to learn how to write a resume this way as well since it’s the standard.
This format allows little room for confusion; it lists where you’ve worked and the dates you worked there. Your relevant talents are highlighted in the skills section. This is the format to use for jobseekers with work experience and no significant career gaps.
Why use this format:
- The chronological format is a classic format that is familiar to your readers. Unlike the functional resume, the chronological format allows for easy skimming and fewer questions from your readers.
- This format paints a clear picture of your professional history. Employers and recruiters will be able to quickly understand your career progression.
Don’t use this format if:
- You should avoid this format if you want to downplay a significant employment gap
- This format won’t help you if you are changing industries.
- You might want to skip the chronological format if you’ve worked in relatively similar positions for your entire career or held the same job for a very long period of time.
Functional Resume Format
The functional format is great for candidates who don’t quite fit the mold of typical applicants. Maybe you took a few years off of work to raise a family or care for an ailing loved one, or perhaps you’ve switched industries during the course of your career.
Also, the function resume format is great for applicants with little to no work experience because the functional format is focused on skills, rather than work experience and accomplishments.
Why use this format:
- Consider using this format if including dates on your resume might bring unwanted attention to a large gap in employment
- You’re an older worker who doesn’t want to invite bias based on age
- You don’t have a lot of work experience or you have many years of experience in the same job.
Don’t use this format if:
- Remember that this format is not the norm. If you don’t feel comfortable trying something different, then don’t.
- Does your work experience follow a typical pattern of growth and advancement? If so, then skip the functional format. You’re better off utilizing the chronological style.
- If the job description explicitly states that the employer will only accept a chronological resume, then honor its needs.
Write Your Resume for an ATS in 5 Quick Steps
The first step to obtaining the job you want is to get your resume into the hands of the hiring manager. To do this, your resume must survive the ATS. At this day in age, most employers use an ATS, so it’s crucial to know how to optimize your resume to appease it. Even if you know how to write a resume well, you’ll benefit from learning these tricks.
Study the job description and pull out key phrases. Look at the sections that pertain to the skills applicants must have. You will see these valuable words and phrases here.
Use the language in the job description exactly as it appears. If an employer wants a “highly detail-oriented” worker, then don’t write “obsessed with details.” The ATS searches for exact phrasing.
As we stated earlier, skip wacky fonts and graphics. This will just confuse the ATS, and that might ruin your chance to score an interview.
Use spell check. It sounds simple, but you could miss a great opportunity if you misspell one or more important words.
Stick to a simple layout. Some of ours add color and bars. That’s okay. However, you want to avoid flourishes and layouts that are so unique that they don’t look like resumes.
How to Write a Resume Pro Tips: 5 Recruiters Explain Their Top Pet Peeves
Technical Recruiter – Product Marketing
“When applicants write ‘familiar with XYZ’ —what exactly does ‘familiar’ mean? Did you read about it in school? Or do you have a solid theoretical understanding of the topic? And if you do, then you better be able to talk about it in an interview. Otherwise, DO NOT LIST IT. Also, this kind of inclusion is too vague: ‘led team on XYZ project.’ What exactly did you do on the project? Did you just orchestrate the project or did you also take part in its execution? Where did project come from and what was its impact?
DON’T list skills or experiences that you do not have or that aren’t strong. If you can’t talk about it in depth in an interview, if you can’t demonstrate an understanding of a skill or experience and show how you executed on something, DON’T LIST IT.”
Talent Acquisition Manager/ Interview Coach and Trainer
Even if you know how to write a resume like a pro, you can still learn new things to aid your job search. We hand-picked dynamite recruiters and asked them to share their biggest resume pet peeves. Check out their responses below and see if you’re guilty of committing these jobseeking sins.
“The most common mistake jobseekers make is that they don’t have a skills section at all, or the skills are not relevant to the job they’re applying for. The skills section is typically listed at the top of your resume, and there is no need to mention all of your skills—focus only on the ones that are relevant to the job you’re interested in.
Ensure you include some hard/technical skills first—data analysis, programming, strong knowledge of employment law, etc. However, also include some soft skills; for example, your ability to build strong partnerships or work with cross-functional teams.
Chief Operation Officer/Cofounder
“I review over 100 resumes a day. There a few things that really stand out to me. The first thing that stands out is how readable the resume is. Some fonts really hurt the eyes. I recommend not using specialty fonts for your resume. The best fonts for resumes are Calibri and Times New Roman.
The second thing that stands out is the contact information section. There is a ton of contact information but no mention of the best way to reach the candidate. If the candidate is open to texting, they should put ‘open texter’ in parentheses after their cell phone number.”
Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach
President of Careers Done Right
“A resume is a marketing tool, a document that candidates should be using to showcase how their background and achievements will deliver positive outcomes on behalf of a potential employer.
I always find it shocking when people simply list ‘responsibilities’ on a resume as if that highlights something exceptional that they did. With these ‘responsibilities,’ they expect to be contacted for interviews and fail to understand why there is radio silence when no responses are flooding their inboxes.
A resume is a tool to help brand a candidate. This is the place to provide examples of work completed and the outcomes to demonstrate strengths and abilities. With the achievements and measurable outcomes, the candidate can really engage a reader and drive someone to action- meaning that a hiring manager will see the value in the candidate and feel compelled to reach out for an interview.
Without solid achievement-based information, the resume will not provide the compelling story that a hiring manager is seeking. Since the candidate has about 7 seconds to impress the reader, it should be impactful and not repetitive to other things already captured.”
Tech Sourcer, Product Marketing
“With resumes, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of proper formatting. You can’t just toss a bunch of bullet-pointed tasks and accomplishments from past and current jobs into a Word document and call it a day. You need to take the time to make sure your formatting is neat and aligned.
For example, line spacing should be single-spaced, and you need to make sure the margins are comfortable—don’t try to cram two pages-worth of work experience into one page, and leave just specks of space around the body of the resume. This is not a good way to make a resume stand out! The resume, at the end of the day, needs to be as easy as possible for me to read, because I have a lot of resumes to read.”
Need More Help? Write a Resume Using Our Resume Builder
Whew! We just threw a lot of information at you. Go easy on yourself and try our Resume Builder. It’s the fastest, easiest way to create a winning resume that’s sure to get attention from hiring managers.Back to Top