How to Make a Resume in 15 Easy Steps
Updated : May 27th, 2022
Knowing how to make a professional resume may be one of life’s greatest mysteries and most intimidating tasks. There’s so much pressure! Your resume, also known as a curriculum vitae, must be polished, professional, clear, and engaging–otherwise, it’s doubtful you’ll get a second look from a hiring manager.
15 Easy Steps for Making a Resume
- Make Sure You Meet the Job Qualifications
- Plan Your Resume Outline
- Compile All the Necessary Information
- Take Advantage of Resume Templates and Examples
- Choose a Format
- Choose a Clear, Clean Font
- Include All the Necessary Elements
- Stay Focused
- Use a Checklist
- Stay Consistent
- Edit, Edit, Edit
- Get Help
- Be Creative When Appropriate
- Choose an Appropriate File Name and Type
- Update Regularly
HR managers may receive hundreds of resumes for every job they post. Resumes that are irrelevant, riddled with errors, confusing, or incomplete will likely make their way straight to the trash can.
But not yours. If you’re looking for how to make a great resume that gets you noticed – especially if you are unemployed – you’ve come to the right place. Don’t let the challenge of writing a strong resume paralyze you. If you’ll take a little time to plan ahead and use some of the resume tips outlined below, you’ll be well on your way to a resume that works to your advantage.
Many hiring managers use applicant tracking systems that can make it a challenge to stand out from the pack and get noticed. But if you’ll employ some of the resume tips presented here, you’ll find they can be effective in making your professional resume interesting and unique when reviewed by a recruiter or hiring manager.
Explore the list below to learn more about how to make a winning resume that presents you in your best light, grabs the attention of the HR manager, and helps land you the job of your dreams.
1. Make Sure You Meet the Job Qualifications
The most polished and professional resume in the world won’t land you an interview if you’re not a good fit for the position. Before you start anything, take the time to carefully review the job description and ensure that you have the qualifications requested. If you don’t, this is a simple exercise in futility and you’ll waste everyone’s time – including your own.
2. Plan Your Resume Outline
Don’t jump straight into writing your resume without taking some time to think about the most important points you want to make. Carefully read the job description. What is the hiring manager looking for? What are the most important qualities an applicant should have? How do these qualities match up with what you have to offer? These are important questions to ask, so take some time to map out the story you want to tell, one that makes you the ideal candidate
You will need to provide the basics, like your work history, educational background, key qualifications, skills or certifications– but try not to approach them as a simple list. Present the information in a way that tells the story of why you are a good fit for the job position.
3. Compile All the Necessary Information
Resist the temptation to just jump in and create a resume. It can be tedious, but if you’ll take the time to first collect all the information into a resume outline, the actual writing process will go much more smoothly. Carefully list your years of work experience, your educational credentials, your applicable certifications and any other qualifications that work in your favor.
Confirm the dates and formal names of organizations and institutions and reach out to potential references you plan to include in your resume. Verify that you have the correct contact information for everyone on your reference list. Hiring managers also love to see quantifiable results when you talk about your career accomplishments, so gather your numbers and data before you start writing.
Once you’ve successfully collected everything you need, it’s time to arrange it in the way that best illustrates your fit for the job position.
4. Take Advantage of Templates and Examples
Myriad examples and resume templates can be found with a quick online search. Use them. Many tools exist to help you develop the look and feel you’d like for your resume. Reviewing examples can help you focus on exactly what you’d like to present about yourself – and how. Many of these templates and examples of resumes are free.
Also, make sure that the template you choose lets you tailor and customize your resume for your unique professional profile and the position you’re seeking. Don’t just copy and paste – that’s the surest way to guarantee a bland, boring resume that isn’t a specific match for what a hiring manager is seeking.
5. Choose a Format
One of the most important considerations at this point is deciding what kind of format to use. You can present your work history and skills chronologically or by functionally, or maybe a mix of both. And there’s no one right choice. Carefully consider the job description itself, plus your relevant information, and move forward with the best format for your specific goals. This may take some time and careful consideration, but don’t let it become all-consuming. Once you get started, if you decide a different format would actually be better, it’s never too late to change it.
Whether you’ve chosen to use a resume creator or resume template as your foundation, or simply used these resources for inspiration, you’ll want to make sure you include certain sections. Start with a heading that includes your full name and all appropriate contact information. You’ll want to make it as easy as possible for an employer to contact you. Include a link to a professional social media site, such as LinkedIn.
You may want to state your objective near the top of your resume, but it’s not mandatory. Depending on the type of industry and specific job you’re applying for, use your best judgment as to how that would be received. If you do include an objective, make sure to focus on what potential employers are looking for–make it about them, not about you. Make sure the hiring manager fully understands how hiring you can help the company and boost team performance.
Reverse chronological resume format is the most common, which leads with your work experience, starting with the most recent. You can also choose a functional resume format, which focuses on experience and skills, or a combination resume format that includes both your relevant skills and your chronological employment history.
6. Choose a Clear, Clean Font
Refrain from expressing your creative, quirky personality through your font. In fact, the reader shouldn’t even notice the font; it should be easy to read and take a backstage role to the actual content you’re presenting. Keep it simple. Choices like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial work well. Don’t go too big or small with your font – typically, a font size between 10 and 12 is best. A font that’s too big makes it obvious that you’re stretching your content to fit the space, while a font that is too small is often hard to read and could make a hiring manager place your resume in the “reject” pile.
You can, however, vary size and style of font throughout your resume. For example, you can present your name and/or headings in a larger font, you can bold them or present them in italics, etc. Just stay consistent in how you use font styles and don’t let them become distracting.
There is one small exception to this rule: If you’re applying for a graphic design position, for example, and suspect that your resume may be used to judge your design expertise, you may have more artistic freedom with the font you choose. But still, focus on making sure your resume is highly readable. In fact, you may want to have someone else take a look and verify that your more stylized font is still easy to read.
7. Include All the Necessary Elements
No matter what format or outline you decide on, your resume should always cover the basics: education, years of work experience, certifications, awards, community service, etc.
Some would argue that your work experience is the most relevant portion of your resume. A hiring manager needs to understand where you’ve worked–and when–along with a summary of your responsibilities and accomplishments. Use this section to tailor how your previous experience qualifies you for the role you’re seeking. Tailor your resume for each position you apply for, you’re including the strongest accomplishments related to that specific job. Remember to lead with action verbs – stay in the present tense for anything associated with your current role and use past tense for any previous positions. Make sure everything you include is accurate – most organizations will run a check to verify the information you’ve provided.
The education section of your resume is also vitally important. With this section, you only need to list the degrees you’ve earned, typically beginning with your highest one. However, if you’re a student or a recent graduate, you may want to try to get more out of this section since you’ll be lighter on the work experience front. You can expand a bit on how coursework relates to the position you’re seeking, along with any awards and accolades earned. For example, mention your GPA if it’s high, or if you graduated with any Latin honors.
If you have any board service or community volunteer work experience that is relevant to the job you’re applying for, you can provide that information as well. Board service, in particular, shows leadership and initiative. It can certainly be a nice addition to your professional experience.
Other sections you may want to add to your resume include any certifications applicable to the position at hand, along with appropriate skills directly related to the position. Hint: This is a good opportunity to carefully review the skills requested in the job description. Use them to describe what you’ll bring to the table, focusing on your most closely related abilities. In addition, you may include a section outlining any personal interests that are relevant to the position, or highlight particular qualities specified in the job description. This can be especially effective if you’re applying for a position for which you don’t have as much direct employment experience, but you have a high level of relevant experience that you’ve achieved in other ways.
8. Stay Focused
Remember to stick to your outline – you want your professional resume to succinctly share the most salient points that make you an ideal candidate for this particular position. Make sure to remain focused on your key points without letting extraneous information become distracting. In other words, leave out anything that you don’t believe will help you get an interview.
You’ll hear a good deal of debate about the proper length of a resume. For the average job seeker, a multiple-page resume is too much. A one-page resume–or two pages at the most–will suffice for most applicants. Remember that your main goal is to tell a clear, concise story about yourself. Provide enough content to tell that full story without padding your resume with extraneous or inapplicable information.
9. Use a Checklist
Many career coaches recommend using a resume checklist. You can find many different versions online that can analyze your resume to ensure you’ve included all typically salient information for a hiring manager. These kinds of tools can also protect against common resume-writing mistakes and can help promote writing strategies and important techniques for strengthening your resume.
10. Stay Consistent
Above all, you want your resume to be clear and easy to read. Visual elements should blend into the background rather than distract the reader’s attention. Consistency matters in everything pertaining to your resume. Focus on staying consistent in tone, font, and formatting. For example, if you start listing accomplishments in bullet points, stick with those exact bullet designs throughout – don’t switch midstream to dashes or change the shape of your bullets.
Think about sentence length and verb choices as well. It’s usually best to keep sentences consistently short, concise and action-oriented throughout your resume. It reads as a more interesting story and conveys a sense of vibrancy. Try to avoid “to be” verbs in favor of action-oriented choices like, “accomplished, “led,” “achieved,” “reorganized,” etc.
Also, keep your margins and section sizes as consistent as possible. This gives your resume a nice, symmetrical aesthetic. If possible, try to use standard margins so that your content doesn’t feel cramped or squished onto the page. In addition, don’t overuse bold and italics–make sure to use them sparingly and consistently so that they don’t become a distraction.
11. Edit, Edit, Edit
There’s nothing worse than a resume riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors. This kind of editing deficit can make a candidate seem sloppy and careless. Most often, resumes full of typos go straight into the trash. It’s essential that you edit and proofread your resume meticulously.
Despite your best efforts, never completely trust your own editing. Make sure to have at least one other qualified person review your resume. It’s so easy to gloss over your own mistakes without seeing them. Find a strong editor who can give you the kind of feedback you need to ensure your resume is shiny and polished.
12. Get Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from an experienced resume writer. Writing a winning resume can be difficult, and it’s important to get it right. If you know any good writers, reach out for a favor. Or you might consider working with a career counselor or even hiring a professional resume writer help to ensure that your final product is the best it can be. This is a good time to swallow your pride and be open to any feedback you receive.
13. Be Creative When Appropriate
Depending on your field and the specific position you’re applying for, you may have some latitude to add more creative elements. You might even consider using a free resume website or resume builder that allows you to include additional features, such as infographics or videos. You’ll have to use your best judgment; a feature-heavy resume can play well in creative industries, but not all hiring managers will appreciate it. If you’re unsure of how this type of resume might be received, stick with a more traditional format.
If you’re printing a physical copy of your resume, make sure to use cream or white paper; don’t be tempted to go for bright colors. Your resume might stand out from the pack, but not in a good way. You don’t want to distract or annoy the reader.
14. Choose an Appropriate File Name and Type
Once you feel your resume is ready to submit, make sure to choose a file name that includes your full name. Also, reference the job position and include the date. For example: SueSmith_AccountExecutive_January2019. Make it as easy as possible for your document to connect you to the position you’re seeking. Don’t forget to include a cover letter to introduce yourself.
Also, make sure you can save your resume in a variety of file formats; you’ll need to submit your resume in the file format requested by the hiring manager. You can use Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or create a .PDF file. When possible, you should try to use a .PDF, which locks in all of your formatting and design choices. This way, your document is viewed by the hiring manager exactly as you intended.
Be sure to print a few copies of your resume to take with you to your interview.
15. Update Regularly
Keep in mind that your resume is never really finished; it requires regular updates. Don’t put it away and forget about it once you’ve gone through this process. Anytime you experience significant career developments, accomplishments, promotions, etc., you should open your resume, dust it off and give it a good makeover. By keeping it current, you ensure that it’s ready when you need it.
Creating a Great Resume
If you don’t want to pay for a resume building service, you can create a professional resume all by yourself. Developing a strong and engaging resume is essential during the hiring process, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. There are ways to create a compelling and memorable resume that makes you stand out when reviewed by a hiring manager.
When creating a resume, break down the project into smaller steps rather than taking on an overwhelming project all at once. Allow yourself enough time so that your writing process isn’t rushed. If you follow these suggestions, you can build a solid resume that impresses the hiring manager and lands you a lucrative job interview.
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