Tips for Job Seekers:
Writing a Winning Resume
For most, a good resume is what stands between a dream job and their last choice job. Get your resume right, and you’ll be getting replies and interviews from just about every company you apply to.
If your resume is not strong, though, you’ll end up sitting around for weeks, maybe even months, before you even get a single response.
So how can you can write a resume which leads to HR managers inviting you to interviews daily.
You’ve come to the right place!
How To Write a Resume – Basics
Its Simple…and just takes the right knowledge and a bit of effort.
- Pick the Right Resume Format & Layout
- Mention Your Personal Details & Contact Information
- Use a Resume Summary or Objective
- List Your Work Experience & Achievements
- Mention Your Top Soft & Hard Skills
- (Optional) Include Additional Resume Sections – Languages, Hobbies, etc.
- Tailor Your Information For the Job Ad
- Craft a Convincing Cover Letter
- Proofread Your Resume and Cover Letter
Ready? Lets Get Started!
Step 1: Choose From 3 Formats
The 3 resume formats are:
1) Reverse chronological resume format – By far the most popular resume format and is ideal for when you have plenty of work experience that is relevant to the position you are interested in.
- Apply to a job in a similar field.
- Show a vertical career progression.
- Promote upward career mobility.
Do Not Use If:
- Major lapses in employment history.
- Changing my career paths / fields.
- Change jobs often (every year or more frequently).
2) Functional/skills-based resume format – When lacking work experience because you are a student/recent graduate, or you are looking to make a career change, this is a better choice.
- Gaps in my employment history.
- Changing career industry.
- Highlight a very specific skill set.
Do Not Use If:
- Entry level candidate or lacking experience.
- Industry or trade specific, non transferable skills.
3) Combination resume format – This last formation is a great choice for job-seekers with a very diverse skill-set. It’s useful if you’re applying for a role that requires expertise in 3-4 different fields, and you want to show all that in your resume. Say, for example, you’re applying for a senior management role, and the requirements are expertise in Management, Sales, and Software Development.
With those options in mind, its time to pick the format to go with.
In 90%+ cases, you’d want to stick to the reverse-chronological resume format. This is the most common one, and most HR managers are used to this. However, we will touch on each format style throughout this guide.
What is the Best Resume Layout?
The first thing a job recruiter notices about any resume is the layout. Much like the flashing neon signs on store fronts and billboards, hiring managers are attracted to well-formatted resumes with attention-grabbing details. Back this up with science! — for instance, studies show that 8 out of 10 resumes are discarded with only a 10-second glance, you need to grab attention, and keep it quickly. Where do people start? At the top.
Does it look organized? Is it easy to read? Is it to the point?
Lets look at some best practices when it comes to your resume layout:
Resume Layout Must-Have’s
- One page in length. Keep it simple and short. You should only go for 2 pages if you really believe that it’ll add significant value, or you have that many years of experience. Companies get 1,000+ resumes per month on a regular basis, in a recession or down turn, even more. They’re not going to spend their valuable time reading your entire backstory, keep it short, keep it relevant!
- Clear section headings. Pick a heading and use it for all the section headers. Like bolding or increasing font size to call attention to specific sections.
- Ample white-space, I cannot stress this enough, white space matters, especially around the margins.
- Easy-to-read font. This should be a given, but you want your resume to be easy to read over all. Don’t (ever): Comic Sans
- Pick the right font size. This goes back to readability, as a rule, go for 11 – 12 pt for normal text, and 14 – 16 pt for section titles.
- Formats, save your resume as PDF. Word is a popular alternative, but it has a good chance of messing up your resume formatting. On top of that, automated systems used by companies read PDF’s easier, so you want that to be a consideration
Step 2. Resume Content – What to Mention on Your Resume
Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s dive into the essentials of how to write a resume.
The most popular sections and important for a resume are:
- Contact Information
- Professional Resume Summary or Objective
- Work Experience (and Achievements)
- Optional Sections – Languages, Publications, Hobbies, etc.
Below, we’ll explore each resume section thoroughly. We’ll work to describe what to write and how to write it so that you stand out and get the job you deserve.
This is critical and cannot stress this part enough. Even if you get everything else right and on point, you are not going far if the HR manager can’t get in touch with you because you misspelled your email.
Double-check, and even triple-check your contact information section and make sure everything is correct and up-to-date. The only part that would be worse is addressing it incorrectly to whom you are sending it to! We will get to that when we talk about cover letters.
Contact Information to be Included in a Resume
Must-have Information – This should go without saying, but we will detail it here.
- First Name / Last Name.
- Phone Number
- Email Address
A note on location. If are looking for a job in a new area or state, that you are already planning to move to, put that you already live there. Many companies and automated systems may just reject your resume if it does not appear that you are local. You can even get a local phone number for free with Google Voice.
Optional Information – Particularly for upper level managers and people in particular industries.
- Title– Your professional title. It can be your position, word-for-word, or your desired job. Think “Operations Manager” or “Human Resources Liason” Or “Sales Manager.
- LinkedIn URL– This is critical to have. Especially when applying to medium to large companies, they have their recruiters checking LinkedIn constantly.
- Social Media– Do you have a portfolio online? This would be your GitHub for you programmer/developers, for a designer maybe or instagram and for a writer, it could be a blog or some of your guest articles.
- Website / Blog– Do you have an online presence? Maybe a blog that positions you as an expert in your field? Do not include any personal ones, only professional
With any of these online presences, make sure they are appropriate. Take some time to scrub them and maybe even your personal social media accounts if they are publicly accessible, you wan’t to come off professional and in a good light.
What NOT to Include in the Contact Info Section
- Date of Birth– The company doesn’t need to know your age, in fact to could leave to discrimination for being too old or too young, so just avoid it.
- Unprofessional Email Address– Don’t: [email protected], Do: [email protected] Even more so avoid hotmail, yahoo, facebook email addresses. Stick to gmail or outlook.com, they look the most professional.
- Picture / Headshot– Unless you are an actor or real estate agent, do not do this, it is distracting and could lead to a rejected resume, by people judging a book by the cover type of situation.
Step 3: Create a Resume Introduction
Develop this with one thing in mind. You have 10 seconds to grab their attention and make it worth while to continue reading your resume.
Four primary choices to pick from when writing a resume introduction:
- Career objective
- Summary of qualifications
- Professional profile
- Professional summary
Seek to gain the attention of a prospective employer by highlighting relevant skills and experience.
Be as specific as possible
#1: Career Objective
Best suited for entry level candidates, a Career objective is a 2–3 sentence statement that provides an overview of your skills and experience.
#2: Summary of Qualifications
With regards to format, the qualifications summary is a bullet point list (ranging from 4 to 6 points) of your most outstanding career achievements. Avoid using generic statements and try to list your skills in a way reflects your unique voice.
#3: Professional Profile
The most flexible of the four styles this can be formatted as a short paragraph or bullet-point list. With this we create short overview with elements from the Career Objective style and the Summary of Qualifications style introduction.
#4 Professional Summary
A bulleted sentence of no more than 5 items, highlighting past achievements through actionable data (Reduced loss by 50%)(Lead to 10% reduction in labor hours). These should be impactful and the highlights of your profession, also highly relateable to the position you are applying for.
Here is an example of a great summary section:
Step 4: Highlight Work Experience
Keep it relevant. In this section you want to look at the keywords and topics of the job position you are appling to. Keep your resume pointed toawrds this and keep it relevant.
The core of your resume is this section, prove and backup the items in your summary. The heading for this section is “Work Experience” or “Professional Experience.”
This is where you will use the format chosen in step one. Most likley reverse chronological order. Which means you start with your most recent experience, like your current job.
Each experience have around 3–5 bullet points of your main duties and achievements.
Each bullet point should have and follow this format
1st: Action Verb
2nd: Quantifiable Point
3rd: Specific and relevant job duty
See this example:
Step 5: Education Section
Education is important, it can help to supplement for work experience. Keep this section short and to the point, unless you are in an industry like a doctor where advanced education is important to highlight.
Here again we do in reverse chronological order with your most recent education first. No need to show any education level lower than high school graduation.
It shoud list the name of the school, grade point average, dates and subject studied. If your GPA was less than 3.0 – omit it.
If the school was online, put the name of the school and city of its main office. No need to say it was an online school or degree.
Here is an example:
Step 6: Certifications, Awards, & Honors
These items help to give you credit, fill in space and speak to your authority regarding the job you are applyling for. Again keep it relevant. If you are certified to fix computers but are applying to be a pipe fitter, it doesn’t apply. Keep it relevant.
Certifications are the most important you can include, but adding a certifications or licenses section is largely dependent on your industry. Keep it relevant to the job and industry.
This section is your chance to brag a little. Did you get an award for community service? Employee of the year? That sort of thing.
Step 7: Wrapping It All Up
Skills – Highlight These
Companies are looking for skilled individuals.
Fitting various skills into your resume’s will help strengthen your chances, make sure to keep them relevant to the job you are applying for.
There are two types of skills, Hard and Soft.
Hard skills are concrete, quantifiable skills. Language fluency, knowledge and experience with computer programs, programming languages, public speaking, or operate heavy machinery (fork lifts etc) all count as types of hard skills.
Soft skills, are more personality focused traits. Things like leadership, communication, being able to motivate people, decision making, open-mindedness, responsibilkity, versatility and time management.
Make sure these are added and sprinkled through out your resume to make you stand out and be a candidate the company wants to hire.
Consider a Cover Letter
If you are able to, then absolutley create one. Your cover letter gives you a chance to add more personaility and generate a connection with the person reviewing your resume. But be sure to read our post on creating a winning cover letter.
Review, correct errors and check your spelling. Read it, re-read it. Give it to someone else to review and correct as well. You do not want any mistakes
Confidently Email Your Application
Here are the main areas when writing an email that gets attention from hiring managers:
Use the hiring manager’s name, if you know it. Avoid “To Whom It May Concern,” alternatively address “Dear Team at XYZ Corp”
No flagrant spelling or grammar errors. Re-read it a few times
Attach your application documents in accepted formats (Word and PDF should do the trick).
Call to Action. Let them know you’d be happy to communicate via email, but give them a phone number to reach you at as well. Let them know you look forward to discussing the position with them