How to write a strong resume for any position
Creating an exceptional resume can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. It's all about presenting your skills and experiences in a way that grabs employers' attention, whatever position you choose to apply for.
In this guide, we'll take a deep dive into crafting a resume that pops. From format to content, we've got you covered. Read on and learn how to:
- Properly format your resume
- Write an impressive resume summary
- Select the right skills for your position
- Write a relevant and concise resume work experience section
- Effectively list your education
- Select the right extra sections for your resume
1. How to properly format your resume
The right format highlights your strengths and makes your resume stand out. There are three main types: chronological, functional, and hybrid. Let's break each one down:
- Chronological format: This is the most common type. It lists your work history in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job at the top. It's best for people with lots of experience in a specific industry.
- Functional format: Ideal If you have gaps in your employment history, you're a recent graduate, or you're changing careers. This type prioritizes skills you have that are relevant to the job you're applying for over your work history.
- Hybrid format: Also known as a combination resume, this format blends elements from both chronological and functional formats. It emphasizes your skills first, then presents a chronological work history. It's suitable for people with a mix of skills and experiences.
In all formats, keep these in mind:
- Font: Choose a clear, professional font like Arial, Verdana, or Times New Roman. Font size should be 10-12 points.
- Layout: Keep it consistent. If you bold one job title, bold them all. Align your content to the left, and keep margins 1-inch all around.
- Sections: Clearly label each section (e.g., Summary, Work experience, Skills, Education).
- Length: Keep it to one page if you have less than 10 years' experience. Two pages max if you have more.
Format is all about readability. Keep things clean, organized, and to the point. It shows potential employers you're professional and have attention to detail.
And remember, no matter the format you choose, content is king. Convey your strengths convincingly, and you'll be one step closer to landing that interview.
2. How to write an impressive resume summary
A resume summary, also known as a professional summary, is your elevator pitch. It’s the first thing employers read when they glance at your resume. So, how to make your resume summary attractive for hiring managers?
- Keep it short and sweet: 3-5 sentences are perfect for capturing attention without overwhelming the reader. Stick to who you are, what you bring, and what your goals are.
- Target the job: Tailor your summary for each job application. Use the job description as your guide. Identify key words you can incorporate into your summary.
- Quantify success: Whenever possible, use numbers and data to highlight your achievements.
Now, let's have a look at some job-specific resume summaries
Software engineer: Seasoned software engineer with 8+ years of experience specializing in mobile app development. Known for creating robust, high-speed code with a user-friendly interface. Seeking to leverage my technical skills to develop innovative software solutions at XYZ company.
Content writer: Passionate content writer with over 5 years of experience in generating engaging and original digital content. Proven track record of increasing website traffic by 60% through SEO best practices. Committed to crafting compelling narratives for XYZ company."
Marketing manager: Dynamic marketing manager with a decade of experience in implementing effective marketing strategies that drive customer engagement and increase ROI by 40%. Demonstrated ability to lead successful marketing campaigns. Seeking an opportunity to apply my market research and strategic planning skills at XYZ company.
But what if you have a lack of work experience? It can often feel like a hurdle for job seekers, especially recent graduates or people looking to shift careers. However, it's not an impossible obstacle. That's when a resume objective comes into play.
A resume objective is similar to a summary, but focuses on your skills and education, rather than work experience. It defines your career goals upfront and explains why you're ideally suited for the job. It's your opportunity to showcase what you offer a potential employer.
Here are a few pointers for writing an effective resume objective:
- Be honest about your experience: Avoid exaggerations. Stick to facts about your skills and education.
- Display passion for learning: If you're lacking in experience, show potential employers your eagerness to grow and learn on the job.
- Keep it Relevant: Customize your objective to match each job application. Pick out key skills required in the job description and explain how you can contribute.
Resume objective example for a recent graduate in digital marketing
Recent marketing graduate with a passion for social media management and content creation. Top of class in digital marketing coursework, with a strong background in SEO strategies and Google Analytics. Seeking an entry-level position at XYZ company to apply theoretical knowledge in a practical setting and contribute to innovative marketing strategies.
Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and employers understand this concept. It's all about how you present your potential, and a well-written resume objective can do just that.
3. How to choose the right skills to put on your resume
Your skills section is more than a list; it's a mirror reflecting your abilities to potential employers. Here's how to thoughtfully curate your skills for a top-notch resume:
- Know the difference: There are hard and soft skills. Hard skills are technical abilities (like software proficiency), while soft skills relate to your behavior and how you work (like leadership or time management).
- Match the job description: Review the job description and identify required skills. Reflect those in your resume.
- Show, don't just tell: Where possible, provide examples or experiences where you demonstrated them.
- Stay honest and genuine: It can be tempting to list every skill you think an employer might want to see, but honesty is crucial. Remember, authenticity outsells exaggeration.
Project manager hard skills examples
- Agile / Scrum methodologies
- Quality assurance
- Cost control and budgeting
- Risk and issue management
- Stakeholder management
- Performance tracking
- Knowledge of specific project management tools (Workfront, Trello, or Asana)
Project manager soft skills examples
- Decision making
- Conflict resolution
In an increasingly competitive job market, the skills section of your resume is a key way to distinguish yourself. Be strategic, be specific, and most importantly, be you. Your skills tell a story — make sure it's one worth reading.
4. How to list your work experience and key projects on a resume
Your work experience tells a potential employer what you've done, where you've been, and, most importantly, what you can accomplish for them. Here's how you effectively list that experience:
- Use a reverse chronological order: Start with your most recent job and work backward.
- Be specific: Rather than just listing tasks you've performed, highlight achievements and projects you've completed.
- Quantify accomplishments: Measurable data helps to illustrate the impact of your work. Rather than saying "increased sales" or "improved efficiency," provide concrete numbers like a "20% increase in sales" or "cut processing time by 30%".
- Use powerful adjectives and action verbs: This will make your resume more dynamic. Instead of "responsible for," use verbs like "managed," "led," "executed," or "delivered."
A similar approach works well for the key projects. Highlight the scope, your role and the measurable results.
Let's look at a work experience section example
Marketing Coordinator at XYZ Company
February 2015 - March 2018
- Led a team of 3 in the planning and execution of 6 successful marketing campaigns for key company products.
- Implemented a new social media strategy, resulting in a 20% increase in engagement and 15% increase in followers within 6 months.
- Coordinated with the sales team to develop a training session on leveraging social media in customer interactions.
- Implemented CRM program for capturing and nurturing leads, resulting in a 30% increase in conversions.
Remember, your work experience and projects aren't just a rundown of your job duties. They're a way to showcase your abilities, impact, and what kind of employee you'll be. Make that first impression count!
5. How to list education on a resume
A key aspect of your resume, the education section can help potential employers understand more about your background and skills.
Here's how to approach it: Start with your highest degree first, followed by lower degrees. Include the name of the institution, location, dates you attended, and the degree you earned. If you're still studying, you can put "Expected graduation date."
Now, let's consider scenarios where your education is relevant and where it's not so much:
2. Relevant education
Let's say you're applying for a graphic design role and you have a related degree:
Here’s how you can list your education
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, 2015-2019
- Graduated with Honors
- Completed courses in Illustration, Typography, and Branding
- Led a semester-long project creating a branding package for a local business
In this case, your degree directly relates to the job, showing you likely have necessary skills and knowledge.
2. Non-relevant education
Suppose you're applying for an HR Manager role but your degree is in English Literature:
Here’s how you can list your education
Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 2010-2014
- Graduated Cum Laude
- Completed relevant courses in Organizational Communication and Public Speaking
- Served as Editor-in-Chief for the university's literary journal for two terms
Though it's not directly related, don't worry — you can still leverage it. Highlight the transferable skills you gained during your degree that could be relevant.
For example, an English Literature degree shows you've likely honed written communication, critical thinking, and analysis — skills that are valuable in many professions.
Remember, your education isn't just about the title of your degree. It's about how the skills and knowledge you acquired during your education make you the right fit for the job.
6. How to choose the right extra sections for your resume
Including additional sections on a resume can provide a fuller picture of your traits and experiences. Here's how to select extras:
- Match the role: Make sure the extra details align with the position you're applying for or add unique value.
- Value-adding information: Extra sections are perfect for spotlighting relevant information that doesn't fit into standard categories.
- Be unique: It's always good to stand out. So, if you have a unique hobby or interest that's appropriate and professional, include it.
- Proficiency level: Only include a skill or interest if you're proficient in it. For example, if you're listing a language, ensure you're conversational or fluent.
By choosing the right extras, you can give potential employers a more comprehensive understanding of who you are, boost your appeal and increase your chances of being selected for an interview.
Some extra sections could include:
- Languages: Listing additional languages you speak is particularly useful for roles in international companies or customers from diverse demographic groups.
- Volunteer work: Show painting a school or planting a community garden. It provides a glimpse into your personal values and character.
- Certifications: For roles that require specific skills, include any related certification courses. For example, list a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification when applying for a project management job.
- Hobbies & interests: Many companies value cultural fit. If you have hobbies or interests that align with the company's culture or mission, include them.
Here’s an example of how to list extra sections on a resume
- Certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Project Management Institute, 2020
- Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Scrum Alliance, 2018
- Fluent in Spanish and French
- Basic proficiency in German
- Habitat for Humanity: Lead a team of volunteers in building homes for underprivileged families, 2019 - Present
- Local Food Bank: Regular volunteer, organizing and distributing food donations, 2015 - Present
Hobbies & interests
- Marathon Running: Participated in three national marathons
- Photography: Regular contributor to a local photography club
Remember, a resume isn't just about listing your professional achievements. It's about presenting a comprehensive view of what you bring to the table. Choose your extras wisely.
- Tailor your resume to each job you're applying for. Mirror language from the job description in your resume's summary, skills, and work experience sections.
- Use powerful action verbs and quantify success where possible. This lends weight to your achievements.
- Highlight skills and educational achievements that are pertinent to the job. Use real-life examples to show how you've applied these skills.
- Extra sections can elevate your resume if chosen strategically. They should be relevant, serve a definite purpose, and reflect positively on you as a candidate.
- Keep your formatting professional, readable, and consistent throughout. This reflects well on your attention to detail.
1. What's the ideal length for a resume?
As a rule, if you have less than 10 years' experience, keep your resume to one page. If you have 10-15 years' experience or more, it can extend to two pages.
2. Should I include all my work experience on my resume?
No, prioritize recent and relevant experience. Older or less relevant jobs can be omitted to save space.
3. Do I always need a cover letter with my resume?
While not always required, a well-crafted cover letter can give context to your resume and provide more depth to your application.
4. How far back should my education section go?
Generally, you only need to include post-secondary education unless the job specifically asks for high school details.
5. Should I list references on my resume?
No, it is not necessary to list references on your resume. It is assumed they are available upon request. Use the space to focus on your skills and experiences instead.