Getting Started in Resume Writing: Your Essential Guide to Landing the Job

Getting Started in Resume Writing: Your Essential Guide to Landing the Job

by | Get Started

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Crafting a compelling resume is an essential step for anyone entering the job market or looking to make a career move. This document serves as a personal marketing tool that highlights an applicant’s skills, achievements, and experience to potential employers. A well-structured resume effectively presents one’s professional story in a concise and readable format, making it easier for hiring managers to assess fit for the role.

Essential to resume writing is understanding its purpose: to secure an interview. To achieve this, the resume must be tailored specifically to each job application. It must accentuate relevant achievements and detail one’s experience in a way that aligns with the job requirements. Additionally, in today’s digital age, ensuring that a resume is optimized for electronic screening tools can be just as important as the content itself.

Key Takeaways

  • A resume is a crucial marketing tool that delineates a candidate’s professional narrative.
  • Customization of the resume for each job application enhances its effectiveness.
  • Adaptation to digital screening methods is important for modern job searching.

Understanding Resumes

Resumes are structured documents that showcase an individual’s professional background. They typically include work experience, education, and skills relevant to the job one is applying for. Employers use resumes to quickly assess potential candidates and decide whom to interview.

Resume Format: It is crucial to choose a format that presents one’s background effectively. The three primary formats are:

  • Chronological: Lists work history in reverse chronological order.
  • Functional: Focuses on skills rather than employment history.
  • Combination: Blends both chronological and functional elements.

When constructing a resume, formatting plays a key role in readability and presentation. One should keep formatting consistent with clear headings, easy-to-read fonts, and bullet points to separate information. Font sizes generally range from 10 to 12 points to ensure legibility.

In today’s digital job market, an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is often the first reviewer of a resume. These systems scan for keywords and phrases that match the job description. A resume optimized for an ATS might have a better chance of reaching a human recruiter. Therefore, understanding how to make a resume ATS-friendly is essential. This includes using standard headings, relevant keywords, and avoiding complex formatting elements like tables and graphics that might confuse the ATS.

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) differs from a resume in length, detail, and purpose. CVs are longer and more detailed, utilized primarily for academic, educational, scientific, or research positions.

Key Points:

  • Choose an appropriate resume format for the industry and job.
  • Utilize clear and consistent formatting for ease of reading.
  • Optimize for ATS with standard headings and keywords.
  • Differentiate between a resume and a CV based on the application context.

Crafting Your Resume

Crafting a resume requires attention to detail, with an emphasis on structure and professional finesse. Choosing a suitable format, filling in essential sections, and considering optional ones are critical steps in creating a document that showcases an individual’s abilities and achievements.

Choosing the Right Format

A well-formed resume must follow a format that best exhibits an individual’s strengths and work history. Chronological resumes are widely accepted as they list work experience in reverse-chronological order, highlighting career progression. For those focusing on skills rather than work history, a functional resume allows for a more skills-oriented approach. The combination resume, which merges the two, is ideal for individuals with significant skills and a solid work history. It’s essential to format your resume in a way that aligns with your unique experiences and goals.

Resume Sections to Include

Every resume must include certain key sections to provide a complete picture of an individual’s qualifications:

  • Contact Information: It should be prominently placed and include name, phone number, email, and possibly a LinkedIn profile.
  • Education: Listing the highest degree first and any relevant certifications or training.
  • Work Experience: Include job titles, companies, dates, and concise descriptions of responsibilities and achievements.
  • Skills: Both hard and soft abilities should be listed, tailored to the job description.
  • Accomplishments: This can include awards, recognitions, or any quantifiable achievements that relate to the job.

The organization of these sections should reflect the chosen format and employ a consistent and readable font, such as Arial or Times New Roman, in a 10-12 point size. Clearly organized resumes are preferred, with margins ranging from 0.5-1 inch to ensure a clean structure.

Optional Sections to Consider

Tailoring a resume can also involve adding sections relevant to the job or industry. These can include:

  • Resume Summary or Objective: A concise overview of the individual’s background and intentions could be included at the beginning.
  • Volunteer Work and Internships: Especially for those new to the workforce, this demonstrates a commitment to the field.
  • Publications: Relevant for academic or research positions.
  • Extracurricular Activities, Interests: Can provide a more rounded view of the candidate if they relate to the job.

When deciding on optional sections to include, evaluating their relevance to the job applied for is vital. These sections can offer insight into an individual’s breadth of experience and character.

Tailoring Your Resume to the Job

When preparing a resume, job seekers should align their experience with the job description. It’s crucial to understand that each application must be tailored to the specific role they’re applying for. This involves highlighting the relevant experience and foregrounding the skills and accomplishments that are of the greatest value to the employer.

Employers typically scan resumes looking for specific keywords that match the job ad and job requirements. These keywords can often be found within the job listing itself and should be incorporated thoughtfully into one’s resume.

To begin tailoring a resume, applicants should:

  1. Analyze the Job Description: Find phrases that describe the skills, attributes, and qualifications needed.
  2. Identify Keywords: Look for terms and skills that are repeated in the job ad and related industry publications.
  3. Match Experiences: For each keyword identified, they should think of specific examples from their past work that prove they have the skill or experience.

Here’s a simple table to organize this process:

Job Requirement Your Experience
Keyword or skill from job ad Specific example demonstrating this skill


Candidates should be selective about what they include; unrelated experiences can distract or detract from one’s candidacy. Each section of their resume should reflect the language of the job ad while staying honest about their capabilities and history. Remember, a well-tailored resume might be the key to getting an interview, where they can further elaborate on their qualifications.

Highlighting Your Achievements

When writing a resume, it’s crucial to showcase one’s achievements to position oneself as a valuable candidate. Highlighting accomplishments not only demonstrates a track record of success but also conveys the value one brings to a prospective employer.

Start with a Summary:
Begin with a brief section that encapsulates key accomplishments. This could include notable milestones or quantifiable successes. Distilling one’s career highlights into a few compelling bullet points sets a confident tone for the resume.

Use Bullet Points:
Organize achievements in the work experience section using bullet points. This format allows hiring managers to quickly scan and grasp the impact of one’s work.

Quantify Achievements:
Wherever possible, one should enumerate achievements to quantify their impact. For example, “Increased sales by 20% over a six-month period,” provides a clear, measurable value.

Tailor Your Achievements:
Personalize the resume by linking accomplishments to the job one is applying for. Showcasing relevant successes draws a clear line between one’s past work and future potential.

Sample Accomplishments Table:

Year Achievement Impact
2021 Led team to sales victory 30% increase in sales
2022 Developed successful new product Garnered industry award


Including achievements and accomplishments effectively presents one as a candidate who not only meets the baseline requirements but also goes above and beyond, with a proven track record that adds undeniable value to teams and projects.

Describing Your Experience

When constructing the Professional Experience section of your resume, candidates should highlight their work history in a format that is easy to read and clearly demonstrates the progression of their career.

How to Format:

  • Chronological Order: List jobs in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent position.
  • Job Details: For each role, include job title, company name, and dates of employment.
  • Location: Mention the city and state where the company is located.

Content Tips:

  • Relevancy: Tailor the experience section to align with the job applied for, emphasizing pertinent roles.
  • Accomplishments: Use bullet points to describe achievements and responsibilities, leading with strong action verbs.
  • Quantify: Whenever possible, back up accomplishments with data, such as percentages or revenue figures.
Do Don’t
Use concise bullet points Overwhelm with irrelevant details
Start bullet points with action verbs Use passive language
Include numbers to demonstrate impact Include generalized or vague statements


Career Objective Alignment:

Ensure each point under your work history relates back to the career objective by demonstrating how past experiences have equipped you to meet the goals of the prospective role. This approach showcases not only a clear background in the field but also a forward-thinking mindset geared towards growth and contribution.

Remember, the experience section is the candidate’s opportunity to illustrate their professional narrative and potential to the employer. With a confident and clear delivery, this section can greatly influence the hiring decision.

Formatting Your Resume

When embarking on resume writing, selecting the appropriate font and font size is crucial. Experts recommend a professional font like Arial or Times New Roman at a readable size, typically between 10 and 12 points. The length of a resume is equally important; one page is standard for most entry-level positions, while two pages may be suitable for those with extensive experience.

The layout should present information in a clean and logical order. A resume must include contact information, a professional summary or objective, work experience, education, and skills. Consistent formatting with clear headings and bulleted lists can enhance readability. Margins should generally be set at one inch on all sides, maintaining a balanced appearance.

A resume should follow a chronological format if the candidate’s work history is steady and progressive. This layout lists jobs in reverse chronological order, putting recent experiences at the forefront. Placing an emphasis on achievements rather than just duties or responsibilities is a strategy that can increase impact.

Resume Section Recommendation
Font Arial, Times New Roman
Font Size 10-12 points
Length 1-2 pages
Layout Logical, clean structure
Format Reverse chronological


Employing the right formatting strategy can transform a resume from a simple list of jobs to a compelling document showcasing a candidate’s qualifications and readiness for the job they are applying to. It’s all about making the document both aesthetically pleasing and easy to read for potential employers.

Skills and Abilities

When crafting a resume, the “Skills and Abilities” section is critical as it showcases one’s qualifications to employers. This segment should be concise and tailored specifically to the job for which one is applying. Here is how to effectively list them:

Soft Skills
These are the personal traits that enable one to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. They include:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management

Hard Skills
These are the technical abilities and knowledge one has gained through education and experience. For example:

  • Proficiency in foreign languages
  • Certification in specific software
  • Equipment operation capability

Technical Skills
A subset of hard skills, these are essential for specific industries, notably in STEM fields:

  1. Programming languages (e.g., JavaScript, Python)
  2. Data analysis (e.g., Excel, SPSS)

Transferable Skills
Skills that are applicable in various industries or roles. They are incredibly valuable as they stay relevant even when one changes careers. These include:

Communication Skills
Vital for nearly every job, these skills determine how effectively one can convey and receive information:

Each skill listed should be chosen with purpose and should reflect one’s strengths while being relevant to the role. Use bullet points or tables to organize the skills for clear visibility. Essentially, this section is a professional snapshot—you want to put your best foot forward.

Final Touches

Before sending out a resume, it’s crucial that one double-checks the details that can distinguish an average resume from a standout one. Putting the final touches on a resume includes crafting a compelling summary and employing effective language to ensure clarity and persuasiveness.

Writing a Captivating Summary

A resume summary should concisely capture an individual’s most pertinent qualifications and career achievements. When drafting the summary, it is important to focus on how they can add value to the potential employer. A person should aim to highlight their strengths and tailor this section to match the job they are applying for. Action verbs and specific examples can bring a summary to life, succinctly demonstrating one’s capabilities.

IT Project Manager with over 10 years of experience leading cross-functional teams to deliver innovative solutions. Adept at strategic planning, enhancing productivity, and implementing technologies that drive customer satisfaction.

Effective Use of Language

The language used in a resume should be clear, direct, and maintain a professional tone. One should opt for a strong action-oriented language and avoid using passive voice as much as possible. Here are some tips to refine language use:

  • Utilize action verbs to start each bullet point in experience and achievements.
  • Be mindful of jargon and buzzwords, keeping the language accessible to non-specialists.
  • Proofread meticulously to avoid grammatical errors which can detract from the professional presentation of the resume.

Bold for emphasis:
Use bold text to highlight job titles or important qualifications, ensuring they stand out.

Italics for publications or works:
If one has authored any publications or significant works relevant to the job, they should be listed in italics to differentiate them from other text.

Here is a simple dos and don’ts table to help guide effective language use:

Do Don’t
Use precise, concrete action verbs Use vague terms like “handled”
Be concise and to the point Overcrowd with unnecessary details
Tailor language to the job posting Use a generic one-size-fits-all approach


In summary, a well-crafted summary and strategic use of language can significantly elevate a resume, captivating the potential employer’s interest and positioning an individual as an ideal candidate for the position.

Digital Optimization

When crafting a resume for the digital job market, one must ensure it is optimized for both human eyes and applicant tracking systems (ATS). A resume should be viewable and shareable across various platforms, such as LinkedIn or through email, and it is crucial to maintain a professional digital presence that aligns with the resume’s content.

File Format:

  • PDF: Preferred for maintaining formatting across different devices.
  • Digital Format: Plain text (ASCII), HTML, or Word documents are also used.

Optimization for ATS:

  • Use standard resume keywords that match the job description.
  • Avoid headers and footers as they may not be ATS-friendly.
  • Stick to standard fonts and avoid images or graphics that can confuse ATS.

LinkedIn Profile:

  • Ensure your LinkedIn profile complements your resume.
  • Highlight skills and experiences with specific, searchable terms.
  • Include a professional profile photo and a comprehensive summary.

Maximizing Visibility:

  • Use a clear, logical layout that is easy to read.
  • Incorporate bullet points to list skills and achievements.
  • Embed email or LinkedIn URLs to facilitate contact.

By tailoring the resume’s content and design for digital consumption, one increases their chances of grabbing attention in a competitive job landscape.

Beyond the Resume

While a well-crafted resume is a crucial component in job hunting, going beyond the resume to establish a comprehensive personal brand and prepare for subsequent steps in the hiring process is essential.

Leveraging LinkedIn Profile

Networking and social media presence, particularly on LinkedIn, are indispensable for job seekers. A professional LinkedIn profile serves not just as an extension of one’s resume but as a platform for showcasing dynamic content like articles, recommendations, and project highlights. The profile should align with the individual’s goals and reflect a cohesive online presence that underscores their expertise and value to potential employers.

  • Profile Picture: Professional and recent.
  • Headline: Specific to their dream job; not just their current position.
  • Summary: Narrative form, highlighting achievements and skills.
  • Experience: Detailed descriptions with quantifiable successes.

Preparing for Interviews

Once the resume and LinkedIn profile have garnered attention, candidates must excel in interviews. Preparation is key to transforming an interview opportunity into a job offer. They should thoroughly research the company and be ready to articulate how their experience aligns with the role’s requirements and the company’s values.

  • Research: Understand the company’s products, services, and culture.
  • Practice: Conduct mock interviews to refine answers to common questions.
  • Examples: Prepare specific examples that demonstrate skills and achievements relevant to the job.

Effective interview preparation also includes formulating questions to ask the interviewer, demonstrating interest and the desire to engage with the company’s future.


The end of a resume should leave a lasting impression by summarizing an applicant’s primary objectives. Careful review of the document ensures that all relevant experience and skills have been included and presented in a clean, professional format.

It is advisable for a candidate to provide a call to action that facilitates the next steps in the hiring process. Phrases like “professional references upon request” signal a readiness to move forward and may serve as a subtle, yet effective closure to the resume.

Resume formatting suggestions:

  • Fonts: 10-12 points for legibility, larger sizes for headings.
  • Style Consistency: Maintain uniform style for bold, italics, and underlining.
  • Margins: 0.5-1 inch to maintain a clean, readable layout.

By highlighting qualifications and giving a clear course of action for potential employers, the individual finalizes their intent to secure the position. The document must be polished to a high standard, reinforcing the professional caliber of an applicant.

Finally, the last review is crucial to check for syntax, grammar, or informational errors which, if present, could undermine a job seeker’s chances. An error-free resume reflects one’s attentiveness and dedication to detail, reinforcing a positive image to the reviewer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Crafting an impactful resume can be challenging, especially for those new to the job market. The answers to these common questions highlight the crucial strategies and components for creating a standout resume, even with limited experience.

How can I craft an effective resume if I have no previous work experience?

An individual can showcase their potential by focusing on academic achievements, internships, volunteer work, and relevant skills. They should emphasize transferable skills and personal projects related to the job they are applying for.

What are some powerful sentence starters to begin my resume summary?

Effective resume summaries often start with phrases like “Dedicated graduate,” “Motivated self-starter,” or “Detail-oriented professional.” These provide a strong introduction to the candidate’s profile and work ethic.

Which format is most suitable for someone new to the workforce creating a resume?

The functional resume format is ideal for someone with little to no work experience. It allows the candidate to highlight their skills and qualifications over their employment history.

What are the essential elements to include at the beginning of my resume?

The beginning of a resume should include the candidate’s name, contact information, and a professional summary or objective that outlines their career goals and what they can offer to an employer.

Can you provide examples of entry-level resume templates that can guide my writing process?

Candidates can refer to professional websites such as Indeed and Novorésumé for entry-level template examples that can help structure their resume.

What steps should I follow to write an impactful cover letter to accompany my resume?

To write a compelling cover letter, the applicant should begin with a personalized greeting, convey enthusiasm for the position, summarize their qualifications, and explain how they align with the company’s values and needs. They should also include a call to action, inviting the employer to review their resume and consider them for the position.



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