Resumes & Cover Letters
August 12, 2020
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A resume is a document commonly used in the hiring process. It includes information about your background and qualifications and should communicate the most important, relevant information about you to employers in a clear, easy-to-read format. The goal is to quickly communicate why you are uniquely qualified for the position based on your skills and experiences.
To create a resume that will get noticed by employers, you can follow a few simple steps and best practices. The main goal to keep in mind is to make your resume relevant and readable.
Let’s take a closer look at the best ways to write each of these resume sections. For more inspiration when writing or updating your resume, look at resume samples from your industry and job title.
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How to create a professional resume
Follow these steps when drafting a resume for your next job application:
1. Start by choosing the right resume format
A “format” is the style and order in which you display information on your resume. There are three commonly-used resume formats you can choose from depending on which is right for you: Chronological (or reverse-chronological), functional or a combination.
A chronological resume format places the professional history section first and is a good option if you have a rich professional work history with no gaps in employment.
Thefunctionalresume format emphasizes the skills section and is a good option if you are switching industries or have some gaps in your work history.
The combination resume format is a good option if you have some professional experience, where both skills and work history are equally important.
2. Include your name and contact information
Your resume should begin with your name and contact information including your email address, phone number. You have a choice about whether or not to include your mailing address. Your name should be highly visible at the top of your resume with a bolded or larger font than the rest of the document, but no more than a 14 point size. You might also include a link to your online portfolio if you are applying to creative positions, for example.
3. Add a resume summary or objective
After your contact information, you have the option to include either a resume summary or objective statement. An objective statement quickly explains your career goals and is a good choice for those with limited professional experience, such as recent college or high school graduates. A resume summary is a short statement that uses active language to describe your relevant work experience and skills.
4. List your soft and hard skills
Take a moment to consider which skills make you a great fit for the job. Review the job description and highlight keywords that you have had proven success with in the past. Consider both hard (technical) and soft (interpersonal) skills, as well as transferable skills you can use when changing careers or industries. Create a skills section with the keywords that are relevant to the employer. List any required skills like certifications or licenses first.
5. List your professional history with keywords
Write your professional history section in reverse-chronological order. Start with your most recent job and provide a short description including the company name, time period in which you were employed, your job title and a few key achievements during your time at the company. You might also include relevant learnings or growth opportunities you experienced while employed there.
When listing your professional history, you should keep a few best practices in mind:
Use numbers to measure your impact, when possible. Including specific numerical achievements can help employers understand your direct potential value to their company.
Example: “Developed new process for requesting supplies, reducing fulfillment time by 10%.”
Use keywords from the job description. Similar to your skills section, you should also include information from the job description in your job history bullets. For example, if the job description mentions the importance of meeting sales quotas, you could include information about how you’ve met or exceeded quotas in past roles.
Example: “Achieved goal of reaching 250% annual sales quota, winning sales MVP two quarters in a row.”
Be brief. Employers have mere seconds to review your resume, so you should keep your descriptions as concise and relevant as possible. Try removing filler words like “and,” and “the.” You should also only list key achievements instead of multiple lines describing your role.
Use action verbs. Make a stronger impact by using action verbs to describe your professional achievements. Some examples include “developed,” “saved,” “drove” and “managed.”
Follow the same process for other work experiences. If you do not have extensive professional history, you should also include internships and volunteer opportunities following the same format.
6. Include an education section
An education section will be especially valuable if you have limited work experience (such as recent college or high school graduates) or if you are transferring to a new industry. You can include information such as:
- Relevant coursework
- Grade point average (if above 3.5)
- Participation in clubs or organizations
- Leadership positions held
- Awards, achievements or certifications
When writing your education section, you should include the name of the institution, dates of attendance and your degree or area of study. If you are applying to mid or higher-level positions, you might remove all but the name of your school and dates of attendance to make room for more relevant professional experience on your resume.
If you have certifications or licenses that are relevant to the job description, you can include them in this section as well. To save space, you can leave off any credentials that are not directly related to the requirements of this job.
7. Consider adding optional sections
If you have significant white space on your resume, consider adding an achievements or interests section. This can help supplement a shorter resume, especially for those with limited work and educational experience. Makes sure that the achievements and interests you list support your career goals and are relevant to potential employers.
8. Format your resume
While the layout of your resume is important, you should also take time to pay attention to formatting details like font style, font size, margins and spacing. Formatting your resume can make it look clean, professional and improve readability. This is key when attempting to keep an employer’s attention. Here are a few key tips that can help make your resume look polished:
- Make your font between 10 and 12 point size.
- Select a font that is clean and easy to read like Arial or Helvetica; avoid stylized fonts.
- Make sure your margins are 1 to 1.5 inches.
- Make your name and section headers bold or slightly bigger in font size (no more than 14 points).
- Use bullet points when listing several different pieces of information, like under your education and professional history sections.
Carefully review your resume for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Reading your resume backward can help you identify errors by presenting the words in a new order. You should also ask trusted friends, colleagues, professors and family members if they can review your resume. Third-party opinions can help reveal new information you might have overlooked.
If your resume is more than one page, review for ways to consolidate or shorten each section by removing filler words or extraneous information. Two pages may be acceptable if you are applying for high-level positions or industries like healthcare or academia.
Related: Q&A: How Long Should a Resume Be?
10. Tailor your resume for each position
It’s important to revise your resume to tailor it to each position you apply for. For each job, adjust the keywords in the skills section so that it’s a great fit for what the employer needs. You should also change what you emphasize in the professional history and educational experiences sections depending on what’s listed in the job description.
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Here is an example of a resume following the combination resume format:
Tampa, Florida • 123-456-7891
A diligent and hardworking graphic designer with expertise in key industry-leading design tools and software.
Key graphic design and work skills: Adobe Photoshop (expert level) • Adobe InDesign (expert level) • CorelDraw (intermediate level) • Self-motivated • Creative • Hardworking
Next Up Press
Associate Graphic Designer, August 2014–Present
- Created graphics for both print and online publications
- Worked collaboratively with editors to ensure accuracy and function of designs
- Enhanced key software application skills to overcome unique challenges in print graphic design
Level 10 Designs
Intern, June 2013–June 2014
- Utilized graphic design skills to create graphics for clients
- Learned key skills for Adobe Suite of products
FSU University Newspaper
Graphic Designer, September 2012–May 2014
- Designed graphics for online publication
- Worked with writers and editors to design graphically-unique profiles
- Utilized and developed Photoshop skills
Florida State University
August 2010–May 2014
B.F.A, Animation and Digital Arts | 3.5 GPA