The cornerstone of your job search is your resume. Your resume should tell the story of your career—or the one you hope to launch if you’re an early-career candidate. But, just like great storytellers know rules to spin a good yarn, you need to know some do’s—and don’ts—of resume crafting. Here’s how to write a resume.
Five Resume Sections
First, let’s start with what should be included in your resume by breaking it down into sections. According to Monster.com, how to write a resume begins by breaking this down into five sections:
- Contact Information: Include your cell phone number, email address, and address
- Headline/Summary: Create a 1-2 sentence overview of your career path.
- Skills: Add relevant skills you possess critical to your field.
- Professional Experience: List any jobs you’ve held and/or any internships you did.
- Education: Add your education, GPA, and other relevant information that proves you’re trained for this career.
Now, let’s focus on what to include and what to avoid when you’re writing these sections.
Keep in mind, there are some helpful tips and tricks for each of these sections. For example, LinkedIn argues there’s the 90-minute rule, where if any employee’s commute is longer than 90 minutes, they’ll quit. Companies are aware of this, so they look for potential employees within a reasonable radius to the office. (This may be a thing of the past, though, with the amount of companies providing permanent remote work situations.) If you’re looking to relocate for a position, you should indicate this. Granted, an organization may also factor that in since it could be an extra expense they have to pay to hire you.
This should provide readers a quick overview of what you bring to the table and where you want your career to go. If you have any credentials, you should include them. If you’re looking for entry-level positions, you’ll want to use strong action adjectives like “motivated,” “driven,” and “passionate.” You should also research people in your career and see the roles they’ve had. How did they get their start? How do they word it on their resume? Remember, as Pablo Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal!”
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You may be tempted to list every wonderful talent you have to eliminate white space. But, this is a mistake because the applicant black hole—the place where 98% of applicant resumes are sent, never to be seen by a job recruiter—is real. You cannot risk losing someone’s attention by listing juggling as a skill—unless you’re applying to be a clown, in which case it’s critical you list it.
Again, the temptation may be too great to list every job you’ve ever held to give your resume some “weight.” This section requires a little more nuance, though, because you should list your past employment. However, you need to frame responsibilities so they’re relevant to the position you’re applying for. For instance, if you were a summer day camp counselor, and you’re applying for a teaching position, you can easily relate the job to your field. This may be more challenging if you’re looking to become an engineer. In this case, you may want to focus on how you worked well with your co-counselors, mention if you were the head counselor of your group, or describe some valuable soft skills you learned from the job. You can mention how the experience taught you to communicate effectively.
Interestingly, this section is losing favor with some companies. As Entrepreneur notes, Tesla has famously claimed you don’t need a college degree to work at Tesla. More and more you’re seeing organizations understand any type of training in the industry can be as valuable as the former gold-standard, the four-year college degree. So, if you have a Bachelor’s degree, write it down! If you took an 18-month certification program, include it! The point is, prove to your would-be employer they won’t have to train you in every aspect of your job.
In order to combat the applicant black hole, many organizations use applicant tracking systems (ATS). These systems have algorithms that choose specific keywords relevant to a job. So, if you want your resume to be flagged by the ATS and reviewed by someone on the hiring team, include words people would use to search for the position throughout your resume. Having trouble still? Look at the job listing—use some of the words that stand out to you in the job description.
Also, one key to how to write a resume is using strong action verbs when you’re describing past experiences. And, if you have available data to include, you should! A strong bullet point for a job experience goes like this: “Generated more than $2.5 million in revenue through sales in one year.” Now, no one expects early-career candidates to have statements like this on their resume. You need to figure out which data points you can emphasize to help craft your career narrative in a favorable light.
Tailor Your Resume
You should create different resumes for different positions within your industry. Just like blanket statements are dangerous when describing groups of people, general resumes hurt your chances of landing a job. Similar to keywords, look at the job listing and rework your message so your experience reflects qualities the hiring manager is looking for.
If you follow these proven tips on how to write a resume, you’ll have success landing an interview. Also, if you’re looking for a job, you should consider using Applied Resource Group, Atlanta’s premier staffing agency. When you work with our staffing agency, you get highly trained experts who have perfected the art of matching candidates with their ideal company. Either way, happy job hunting!