Highlight your strengths and trim the fat
Wondering how to write a great resume that will show off your skills and experience and get you interviews? Here's a beginner's guide to how to craft a resume that will catch a hiring manager's eyes.
Your resume should be composed of the following sections:
Contact info. This is pretty straightforward – this is the header for your resume, and it's where your name, address, phone number, and email address go. It's fine to add a link your LinkedIn profile or your website if you want to, but don't clutter this section up to much.
Profile or highlights. This section is optional, but profiles or highlight sections have replaced objectives at the top of modern-day resumes. This is a quick list of the highlights of your strengths and accomplishments, summing up in just a few bullet points who you are as a candidate and what you have to offer. The idea is to provide an overall framing for your candidacy, setting the hiring manager up to see the rest of your resume through that lens.
Experience: This is the meat of your resume. You should list each job (from most recent to least recent) – where you worked, what your title was, and the years you worked there. Underneath that, you should have a bulleted list of what you achieved while working there. And this is crucial: These bullets should not be used to just explain your job duties. Instead, you should focus on accomplishments – things you achieved that weren't simply fulfilling the basis duties of your job. For instance, instead of "managed website," it's far stronger to say something like, "increased Web traffic by 15% in six months" – in other words, explain how you performed, not just what your job was.
When you're deciding what to include, give yourself permission to remove things that don't strengthen your candidacy. You don't need three lines explaining boring, basic job duties – especially if these responsibilities are going to be implied by your title. Similarly, you don't need to include that summer job from eight years ago, or that job you did for three weeks that didn't work out. Your resume is a marketing document, not a comprehensive listing of everything about you, so include the things that strengthen your candidacy, and pare down the rest.
Education: For most people, this section should just be a line or two, explaining where you went to school and what degree you graduated with. And note that generally your education should go beneath your work experience, because generally employers are most interested in what work experience you've had. Leading with your education just buries what will make most attractive to an employer.
Optional other sections: After that, you might include some additional optional sections, like Volunteer Work (or Community Involvement), Skills (if not obvious from the experience section), or Miscellaneous. Fleshing out your skills and experience in these sections can demonstrate a passion for the work that your work experience can't always do. For instance, if you're applying for an I.T. position and you run an online software discussion group in your spare time, mention that. Or if you're applying for a teaching job and you review children's books for your website, that's important to mention too. These types of details help paint a stronger picture of you as a candidate.
Things not to include: Your resume is for experience and accomplishments only. It's not the place for subjective traits, like "great leadership skills" or "creative innovator." Smart employers ignore anything subjective that applicant write about themselves because so many people's self-assessments are wildly inaccurate, so your resume should stick to objective facts. Additional no-no's: Don't include a photo of yourself, information about your age, any mention of high school, medical conditions, or family members.
Overall formatting: In all of the sections above, you should be using bullet points, not complete sentences. Hiring managers will only skim your resume initially, and big blocks of text are difficult to skim. An employer will absorb more information about you with a quick skim if your information is arranged in bullet points rather than paragraphs.
Length: As a general rule, your resume shouldn't be over two pages (or one, if you're a recent grad). The longer your resume is, the less likely an employer is to see the parts you want them to see. The initial scan of your resume is about 20 seconds - do you want that divided among three pages, or do you want it focused on the most important things you want to convey? Short and concise means that employers are more likely to read the parts you most care about. Plus, long resumes can make you come across as someone who can't edit and doesn't know what information is essential and what's less important.
Design: Avoid unusual colors or untraditional designs. All most hiring managers want from a resume: a concise, easy-to-scan list of what you've accomplished, organized chronologically by position, plus any particularly notable skills, all presented in a format that they can quickly scan and get the highlights.