Resume writing is a skill that will help you throughout your life.
While the past few years have involved major changes for employees and employers worldwide, resume trends haven’t changed much. Making a resume (and writing a great cover letter to go with it) remains the best way to land the job you want today.
Here’s how to make a resume in 10 steps:
- Pick a resume layout
- List your contact information
- Summarize your value as a professional in an introduction
- List your work experience and accomplishments
- Showcase your skills
- Highlight your education
- Add other sections that strengthen your resume
- Choose a design for your resume
- Proofread your application
- Email your resume
Your Current Job Title
(xxx) xxx-xxxx | firstname.lastname@example.org | 47 Your Address, City, State, ZIP Code
Three to four sentences that describe your years of experience, your most noteworthy accomplishments and skills, and your target role. Try to include hard numbers in your resume introduction to describe your accomplishments, and add the target company’s name.
Current Job Title
Company Name | City, State | Month, Year–present
- Use the present tense as you write bullet points that describe your current job
- Start each bullet point with a strong action verb that keeps the hiring manager reading
- Use hard numbers in each bullet point to provide context for your successes
- Write 3–5 bullet points for each role
Previous Job Title
Company Name | City, State | Month, Year–Month, Year
- Use the past tense to write bullet points describing previous jobs
- List up to 15 years of work experience on your resume
- Use your bullet points to show how you applied your skills
- Keep each bullet point to one or two lines so the hiring manager isn’t overwhelmed
Institution, City, State
Year of Graduation
- GPA: x.x/4.0
- List your skills, prioritizing any skills mentioned in the job ad if you have them
- Group similar skills under one bullet point (for example, any coding languages you know)
- Include both hard and soft skills to show hiring managers your skill set is diverse
Whether you’re making a resume for the first time or need to update your resume, we’re here to help. Check out the video below where our career expert Chloe explains what a resume is and shows you exactly how to write a resume, step by step.
1. Pick a resume layout
There are three main resume formats most job seekers use today. Each format arranges the parts of the resume differently, with the goal of helping different types of job seekers lay out and emphasize the most compelling parts of their professional backgrounds.
Those three formats include the:
The right format for you depends on your work history, the job you’re applying to, and your skill set. Here’s an explanation of each format and when to use them:
Most people format their resume chronologically.
In a chronological resume, your work experience is featured at the top after contact details and a short introduction. The experience section starts with your current or last job, followed by previously held positions from most recent to least.
The chronological format is the best choice for the majority of job seekers. It’s easy to understand, and demonstrates a clear career progression.
Chronological resume example
A functional resume (or “skills-based” resume) focuses on a candidate’s relevant skills rather than their work experience and job titles.
Instead of listing out your work history, the functional resume format organizes your top professional skills into categories. Your resume bullet points under each category provide examples that illustrate the ways you’ve applied those skills at work, school, or in your personal life.
The functional format is useful if you have large employment gaps, or are writing a resume for a career change and want to shift attention from your lack of professional experience.
As its name suggests, the combination resume format (otherwise known as a hybrid resume) mixes the most significant features of both a chronological and functional resume.
Specifically, combination resumes include both a long technical skills section and a detailed work experience section.
Combination resumes are arranged in a way that best suits candidates with a lot of experience and a well-developed, specialized skill set to showcase.
2. List your contact information
You’ve landed on a style and resume format. Now it’s time to dive into what to put on your resume.
The first thing you need to do is include an eye-catching header on your resume at the top of the page to quickly highlight your contact information for hiring managers.
The basic contact information you must list on your resume includes your:
- email address (use a professional one like email@example.com)
- phone number
You can also add these optional details:
- an online portfolio or website (if relevant to the job)
- your LinkedIn URL
- your mailing address (if you want to show you’re a local)
- a short resume headline (a subtitle that describes your experience)
3. Start your resume with a summary or objective
Hiring managers, especially those at large companies, have many applications to review for each job opening. With so much competition, it can be tough to make sure your resume gets the attention it deserves.
To stand out to the hiring manager, you need to communicate why you’re the right person for the job as quickly as possible. That’s where a convincing resume introduction comes into play.
Your resume introduction provides a quick snapshot of your experience, skills, and qualifications at the very top of your resume. It should be 3–5 sentences, and can be written in either sentence or bullet-point format.
Today, most job seekers use the following types of resume introductions:
A professional resume summary is an introduction that highlights your most impressive achievements and skills.
Resume summaries are ideal for candidates with:
- several years of relevant work experience
- accomplishments that can be tied to actual numbers (which give context to those accomplishments)
Here’s exactly how to structure a resume summary:
A resume objective (or career objective) focuses on your professional goals and career path, and how they match the company’s goals. For this reason, a resume objective is ideal for candidates who:
- have just graduated from school and lack professional experience
- are changing careers or writing a resume to apply for an internal position
Here’s the formula for putting together an effective resume objective:
4. List your work experience and accomplishments
Next up is your resume’s work experience section, which many recruiters and employers are most interested in (so it’s important to get it right).
How to format work experience on your resume
If you haven’t written a resume before, you’re probably unsure how to properly format your experience section.
For each work experience entry, list the following basic information:
Job title – Dates employed (year and month)
Company name – Company location (city and state)
- Three to five bullet points describing your achievements and responsibilities
- Include hard numbers in your bullet points when possible
If you’re adding more than one job to your experience section, list them with your most recently held position at the top and older positions underneath.
You should also list every title change you’ve received at your job and how long you held each title. This is the best way to show promotions on your resume and demonstrate to employers that you’ve grown professionally.
Here’s an example of how to format a work experience entry if you’ve had multiple titles at the same job:
What to do if you don’t have work experience
Don’t have any work experience to list on your resume yet? You can still write an effective work experience section.
Just rename your work experience section to “Relevant Experience”, and list out any relevant experience you have the same way you would for a full-time job.
For example, if you’re a student you can use this section to highlight any of the following experiences:
If you’re self-employed, use this section to put your freelance work on your resume or highlight relevant experience you’ve gained through other projects you’ve worked on.
Include hard numbers and achievements
Many job seekers make the mistake of simply listing past responsibilities in their experience section and resume introduction. Phrases like “responsible for” and “tasked with” are technically correct, but they don’t do a good job of explaining what you accomplished at work.
To make a good resume, focus on your achievements and include numbers.
- Responsible for making media kits for company projects
- Spearheaded the development of the first media kit for all company projects, increasing annual revenue by 12%
There are two reasons this second bullet point is effective:
- It starts with a strong action verb. Action verbs catch the hiring manager’s eye and make you seem proactive and responsible.
- The candidate includes a hard number. Hard numbers provide context for your professional accomplishments and show hiring managers what you can achieve for their company if hired.
Adjust your work experience based on the job ad
To make your work experience section shine, target each bullet point to the specific job you want. Look carefully at the skills mentioned in the job ad, and showcase any of those skills you have with clear examples.
To get an idea of how to find job-related skills, here’s an example of a marketing specialist job ad (with orange underlines for verbs and yellow for nouns/skills) courtesy of Indeed.com:
There are many clues about what the company wants from applicants in this job description. It’s up to you to capitalize on them.
Here’s what you might write to respond to this job ad if you’re writing a resume for a marketing position:
Taylord’s Marketing Firm, Reno, NV
July 2017 – August 2018
- Collaborated with the outreach department to develop innovative marketing solutions for 6 unique products
- Developed branding materials for a new mobile app, resulting in a 14% increase in sales
- Analyzed weekly performance statistics, ensuring that effectiveness of outbound marketing activities
Not only does tailoring your experience section to the job ad make your resume more attractive to employers because it makes you seem like the ideal candidate, but it also helps you get through the applicant tracking system (ATS) software that many large companies use to filter out unqualified candidates. Job descriptions contain keywords to include on your resume, so read them carefully while you put together your application.
5. Showcase your skills
Hard skills are learned through specific training, workshops, work experience, or school and include the skills you need to operate equipment at work (like point-of-sale systems).
Soft skills relate to your personality, and you develop them by simply interacting with others and accomplishing daily tasks at work. Organizational skills like coordination and self-management are good examples of soft skills valued by employers.
Top skills for your resume
Include a mix of hard and soft skills when you include your professional skills on your resume to show employers you have a balance of technical savvy and the ability to work well with colleagues and clients.
Some of the top skills to highlight on your resume include:
- Analytical skills
- Communication skills
- Computer skills
- Customer service skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Leadership skills
- Language skills
How to list skills on your resume
You’re likely not an expert at every skill you list on your resume. So how do you communicate your exact skill level to employers?
For hard skills like Adobe Photoshop, consider indicating your rough level of skill. This indication can either be written (e.g. “Photoshop – Intermediate”) or a visual graphic like a skill bar or graph.
Here’s an example of a visual way you can communicate how good you are at each skill:
Want to use a written measure of your skills? Try out this basic scale to explain how proficient you are in a particular skill:
- Beginner: you have some basic knowledge but need further training and guidance to become skilled.
- Intermediate: you have a strong knowledge base but still need further practice and some supervision or guidance.
- Proficient: you can work independently on projects, completing them efficiently and to a high standard. When referring to languages, you’re able to converse with relative fluency.
- Advanced: you have complete mastery of a skill and deep knowledge. You practice your skill with ease, and teach and train others.
Include skills throughout your resume
To make the most impact, expand on your skills in your resume introduction and work experience bullet points as well.
For example, if you list Spanish as a key skill on your waiter or waitress resume, talk about how many customers you served in Spanish during your previous serving job. Describing a real situation where you put your skills to work proves to employers that the skills listed on in your skills section aren’t just empty words.
This is especially true for soft skills, which should always be demonstrated with examples in your experience section, rather than listed in the skills section of your resume. Soft skills are particularly difficult to measure without context, and just listing them without examples tells employers very little about your actual abilities.
6. Write out your education details
Your education section normally comes after all of your work experience, but you should place it first if you’ve never held a full-time job or you’re writing a student resume because you’ll want extra space to talk about your academic achievements.
Here’s what to include in your education section:
This is an example of a resume education section for a job seeker who graduated in 2020 (so it includes more details than you might see on the resume of an experienced professional):
7. Add any additional relevant resume sections
Depending on your experience and background, consider adding optional resume sections. For example, certifications and awards are great if they’re relevant to your chosen career, while hobbies and volunteer work are useful if you’re writing a resume with no experience.
Here are some common optional sections you can add to your resume to give hiring managers a more complete view of you as a candidate:
Hobbies and interests
Although they’re unlikely to sway an employer’s final hiring decision, adding hobbies and interests to your resume helps show a bit of your personality and can make your resume stand out.
Additionally, mentioning your hobbies could show hiring managers that you’re a good culture fit for the job.
For example, if you’re applying for a job at a sporting company like REI, highlighting your passion for camping or fishing is a great way to indicate you’d fit in with the other employees, and are even personally invested in the company’s mission.
Passionate about volunteering? Putting volunteer work on your resume is a great way to show employers you’re engaged with your community and are interested in more than just a paycheck.
Also, volunteer work is a good resume booster if you lack work experience because it shows you have a strong work ethic, are driven, and commit your free time to something meaningful.
If you’re a student or recent graduate, highlighting extracurricular activities on your resume is a good way to make up for a lack of professional experience by showing employers some of the transferable skills you’ve picked up.
For example, team sports or activities like debate team make a great addition to your resume because they require a variety of soft skills and help hone your ability to work on a team.
Additionally, if you belonged to a greek life organization, listing your fraternity or sorority to your resume is a good way to showcase some skills and potentially win over hiring managers who might’ve belonged to the same organization.
If you’re applying for jobs that require specific certifications to get hired, you should include a section on your resume that clearly highlights those certifications.
For example, if you work in education, construction, or engineering, you likely have more than one professional certification. In these fields, you can add a certifications section to your resume.
Awards and honors
Whether you’ve been named “Employee of the Month” or received formal recognition from a professional association, highlighting awards and honors relevant to the job is a great addition to your resume.
Awards show employers that you were highly successful in your previous role, and help you stand apart from other applicants.
If you work in academia, writing, or law, you’ve likely published some work under your name, either online or in an academic journal.
Adding a section for publications on your resume shows off some of your relevant work to employers and gives them a reference for the quality of your writing and research.
Do you speak three or more languages? Creating a dedicated section for languages on your resume is a good way to show off your skills as a polyglot.
Being able to speak foreign languages is helpful for many different careers, but you should only add a dedicated section for them if you’re applying for a job where speaking in different languages is highly relevant.
If you’re someone who’s worked on multiple personal projects, including them on your resume shows employers that you’re passionate about your work and able to motivate yourself.
For example, if you spent a year independently developing an app or game, including programming projects on your resume shows off your accomplishment to employers and helps explain any gaps in your work experience.
8. Set up your resume formatting and style
The written content of your resume is only part of a finished product. If you’re going to make the perfect resume, it needs to look good too.
No matter what job you’re applying for, you should use the following resume formatting guidelines:
- set ½”–1” inch margins on all sides
- make sure your page is set to US Letter size and portrait orientation
- select a professional font for your resume, such as Arial or Helvetica
- adjust your font size between 10 and 12 points
This formatting is the default in Microsoft Word, so you shouldn’t need to adjust anything if you’re starting with a new document.
Choosing a design for your resume
After formatting your resume, you need to land on a style.
Your resume’s style includes all the aesthetic details like:
- the colors used on your resume
- which resume font you pick
- whether or not you use a sidebar
- how you set up your headers
For formal industries like law, finance, or politics, you should stick to a simple, traditional resume style. Templates with clean lines, no graphics, and dark colors like navy blue or burgundy are most appropriate for writing a professional US resume.
However, if you want a job in a more creative industry like tech or marketing, you should use a more modern design for your resume. Modern resume designs include brighter colors, sans-serif fonts, and graphic details like illustrated skill levels or sidebars.
Graphics are common features of most modern resume template designs.
9. Proofread your application (several times)
Finished making your resume? Don’t just send it off straight away.
Spend some time reading through it at least a couple of times. You’d be surprised how easy it is to make a typo and how hard it is to spot them in your own writing.
You should also give your resume to a friend or relative to read through so they can help you notice any additional mistakes on your resume.
Software tools you can use to check your resume for grammar or spelling mistakes include:
To help make the proofreading process easier, here’s a checklist you can tick as you complete it:
Is your contact information accurate?
Is your email address professional?
Does your resume leave out details like headshots or sensitive personal information?
Does your resume fit on one page (or two pages if you’re highly experienced)?
Is your information easy to read (fonts are above 10pt+ and sections don’t look too crowded)?
Is the design of your resume appropriate for the position you’re applying for?
Did you include all relevant sections on your resume?
Did you quantify achievements in your resume work experience section?
Did you use action verbs to describe your experience?
Does your resume address the requirements stated in the job ad?
Is your resume free of typos and grammatical errors?
Is all of your information clearly formatted and professional?
Feel free to use our on-page checklist, or make a copy in Google Docs and begin reviewing your resume.
10. Email your resume
Once you’re sure your resume is finished and you’ve checked for errors, it’s time to send it to employers.
First, save your resume as a PDF because PDFs save your formatting even if you use fonts that aren’t installed on the hiring manager’s computer, so they’ll appear exactly as you want them to appear.
However, if the job ad specifically asks for your resume in Microsoft Word (DOCX) format, you should make your resume on Word and send a .docx file to the hiring manager.
Finally, email your resume to the hiring manager by attaching it as a file. You should include a brief introduction in the body of the email just so the employer knows who you are and what you’re applying for.
Model your resume after a good resume example
Here are a couple examples of well-written resumes for different levels of experience that you can use as inspiration when you make your own.
Entry-level candidate resume
This college student does a great job showing off the qualities that make them a valuable candidate on their entry-level resume:
Experienced candidate resume
This experienced project manager successfully highlights their skills and expertise on their resume:
How to create a resume online fast
If you’re short on time or simply don’t like writing, use a free resume builder to put together a resume that earns you interviews.
There are plenty of good resume builders online to try out in 2023. Our own AI-powered resume builder helps simplify the process of creating a resume by guiding you through each step and formats all your information for you.
Our software also provides helpful suggestions and fills out parts of your resume like your summary and work experience. At the end of the process, you’ll end up with a sleek new resume that’s sure to impress hiring managers:
Once you’ve filled out the content of your resume, you can use the arrows on the right and left sides of the page to see how your resume looks using different templates.
For each individual template, you can select a color from the dropdown button at the top.
Pair your resume with a convincing cover letter
Now that you’ve put the finishing touches on your resume, it’s time to start sending it off to employers, right? Not just yet.
No job application is complete without a well-written cover letter that explains why you’re the perfect fit for the job.
While your resume shows your work history and skills, your cover letter explains your passion for the job and how your experience makes you qualified for that specific role.
The best way to make an effective cover letter is to use a pre-made cover letter template and fill in your information so that it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Additional resume writing resources
In addition to our resume making guide, we also have many other resources to help you build a competitive job application (no matter your industry or level of experience):
- Resume guidelines (21 formatting rules)
- How to add military experience to your resume
- How to use buzzwords on your resume
- Top resume writing tips
- How to add job descriptions to your resume
- How to put your GED on your resume
- How to write a resume for an internal position
- How to use a resume title
Frequently asked questions about writing a resume
Still have some unanswered questions? Here are some answers to common questions about writing a resume:
What makes a good resume?
Here’s what makes a good resume:
- A clear, professional layout and design
- Easy-to-identify contact information
- Tailoring each section to the job you’re applying for
- A resume introduction that sums up your key qualifications
- A work experience section that uses action verbs and quantifies your accomplishments
- An education section that highlights your academic achievements
- A skills section that showcases a targeted combination of hard and soft skills
Should I include references on my resume?
No, you shouldn’t include references on your resume. While people used to do this, it’s no longer considered necessary because employers will reach out to you later in the hiring process if they want to hear from your references.
Including a reference section on your resume just uses up valuable space that would be better put to use elaborating on your achievements and skills.
What do you put on a resume with no experience?
Here’s what you can put on a resume without experience:
- Volunteer work or community service
- Internships or apprenticeships
- Coursework or academic projects relevant to the job
- Extracurricular activities, such as sports teams, clubs, or organizations
- Skills and certifications
- Awards or honors you’ve received
By giving employers information about these parts of your life, you can demonstrate that you have the skills you need to succeed in the role, even without formal work experience.
How many jobs should you list on a resume?
You should list three to four jobs on a resume. As a general rule, you should highlight the last 10-15 years of work experience on your resume, depending on your career level and the job you’re applying for.
If you have a lot of relevant experience that goes back further than this, you can include some additional positions, but it’s not necessary to list every job you’ve ever held.
How do you make a resume for free?
There are a few ways to make a resume for free:
- Use a resume builder – there are plenty of websites that provide free or freemium resume builders that will help you write and format a resume in minutes.
- Use word processing software – if you have access to Microsoft Word or Google Docs, you can write your resume manually for free.
- Use a resume template – download a resume template for Google Docs or Word and fill out each section with your information for a professionally designed free resume.
No matter which method you choose, always proofread your resume at the end to make sure it looks professional and there aren’t any mistakes that could hurt your chances of landing a job.
What can I do if I still have questions about making my resume?
If you still have questions about making your resume, here are some additional answers to more specific questions:
- Can I send a resume instead of a CV?
- How many jobs should you list on a resume?
- Is it OK to lie on your resume?
- Is it resume or resumé?
- Can I make a resume on my phone?
- What are red flags on a resume?
- Do you list every job on a resume?
- Can I just put years on my resume?
- Should I put a job I got fired from on my resume?
- Should I put my resume on LinkedIn?
- Can you say “I” on a resume?
- What do I put on my first resume with no experience?
- How can I update my resume in 2023?
- How bad is a gap on my resume?
- What should you name your resume file?