how to make a resume
This article will teach you how to make a resume, whether you have had previous experience in writing resumes or you have never written a resume before.
You may also want to take a look at our resume tips section for other ideas on putting together your resume. We have included additional tips in this section to help you prepare your resume.
Once you have learned how to make a resume you may also want to take a look at our free resume examples and then use a resume distribution service.
Almost everybody you can ask about how to make a resume will tell you that its job is to sell you to employers. But what does this actually mean?
Think about the last time that you made a major purchase. What attracted you to the particular product you eventually bought? To start with, your interest may have been caught by an advert. This would have given you an instant impression of the product’s appearance, while highlighting its most outstanding features. You then decided to have a closer look, perhaps by looking at a website or going into a shop to ask for more details. Encouraged by what you learned, you may then have tried the product out firsthand, to see whether it lived up to everything you’d heard.
Now think of yourself as the product and the employer the buyer. Your resume needs to have the same effect as the initial advert and the ‘closer-look’ information. If it works well, it will convince the employer to ask you to an interview, when they get to check you out firsthand. However, you are an extremely complex product. Your features include not only your past work history, but your potential in your next job, as well as your characteristics as an individual employee.
It’s not surprising then, that while you’re sitting staring at the blank page, it’s hard to know where to start, or indeed how to start. Here are some basic guidelines that will help you put that elusive attention-grabbing resume together.
Appearances count as much as content. The way your resume is presented and laid-out will make an enormous difference to how much attention it attracts. If it’s badly laid out, the employer will not feel like reading more than a few lines. Remember that they don’t have time to do more than skip through most applications, so you want to make life as easy as possible for them and encourage them to read yours.
The best resumes are usually no more than two pages in length, with critical information summarized in the top third of the first page. Information is presented clearly with plenty of bullet points. Wide borders and white space between paragraphs also help make your resume easier to read. A clear font and simple layout will keep the employer’s focus where it matters: on the content. Snazzy graphics, a messy, cluttered page and large blocks of text will only make it harder to read and therefore put the employer off.
This part of your resume is like the picture in the advert. But unlike a picture, it doesn’t show your face – instead it’s a snapshot of your experience and skills. It sits at the top of your resume, just below your name and contact details. Get it right and it will encourage the employer to read further. In two or three sentences, you need to highlight one or two important areas of your experience and pinpoint two or three key skills and abilities. Make sure these are relevant to the advertised job (you can change your profile to suit whichever post you’re applying for). You can also mention your career goals, or what you’re seeking in your next job. Make sure this section sounds concise and fairly upbeat – everybody is looking for a motivated employee!
Next in your resume comes the Achievements section. Think of this as the extra information that goes into the advert. An achievement is a result that you personally brought about in your current or post jobs. It isn’t a fixed responsibility that anybody in that job would have fulfilled – it’s evidence of how you made a difference. For that reason, it tells the employer what you might deliver for them.
The best achievements to include are those that can be measured in financial figures, statistics, numbers of people or units, as these show how you can help to bring about results. Achievements can also be differences that you’ve made to the way systems are set up or how organizations are run. Reports you’ve written or awards you’ve won also count as achievements. Likewise, very fast promotions within the same organization are worth including. List around six achievements in order of impact.
Going back to our example of a major purchase, this is the extra information that you’d find on a website, or that you’d learn out by going into the shop. It’s the small print that provides the more in-depth information about the product (you).
Start with your current or most recent job and work backwards through your work history. For each job, give the employer’s name and location, your job title and the dates you started and finished (give the years only, you needn’t include months).
Next, provide details of your duties for each post. Do this for the jobs you’ve held in the past 10 years. Start with the most important responsibility and work downwards. List about five or six duties and mention any achievements that aren’t already in your Achievements section. Use bullet points to keep it neat and clear.
If there are gaps in your employment, due to unemployment or raising a family, try to explain these briefly.
Education / Qualifications
This section is also like the small print. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no need to list every examination that you passed while at school. If you took your main educational qualification over 10 years ago, then it’s not going to be of as much interest to the employer as the jobs you’ve held since. So simply list what you’ve attained, along with the place of study and the dates when you qualified. If you have a degree, that’s all you need to include – there’s no need for earlier examinations taken up to the age of 18.
If your career is still young and you’ve only held one or two posts, then it may be worth giving more details about your qualifications, but only if they’re relevant to the positions you’re applying for.
Also include any professional qualifications and memberships you’ve gained.
IT and Other Skills
Depending on the job you’re interested in, this is where you can include other skills that are relevant. IT skills are increasingly important in many sectors, so in this section list your software skills and training. If IT is very important in the job, you may want to include further details, such as hardware, operating systems, architectures, etc.
If typing and language skills are relevant, include these as well.
Personal Details and Hobbies
Not everybody includes these more personal sections these days. If you do include a Personal Details section, add it at the end of the resume and include your date of birth, driving license (if relevant), marital status and nationality. The final two details are optional – employers don’t necessarily wish to see them.
Hobbies and interests are not always important to an employer. However, for certain jobs, your outside interests might tell them a bit more about you – such as your personality, leadership potential and team working skills.
Also important … the language you use
So now you know what needs to go into your resume. Next, you need to read it back to yourself. Do you feel that it’s selling you to an employer? Or is it a series of dull, dry lists? If it doesn’t have that ‘buy now!’ factor, it may be due to the language you’re using. As with all effective adverts, the writing style you use in your resume is as important as the factual content.
Your descriptions need to be short and to the point, yet they also need to be readable and persuasive from the employer’s point of view. Try to use effective statements and professional language. Always be positive and keep your language short and punchy – this makes the resume a more inspiring read. Make it sound like you made things happen, rather than that things happened around you. Use active verbs for this reason. And always write in the ‘third person’, avoiding use of the word ‘I’ wherever possible.
Avoid being repetitive by using different wording to explain similar duties in different jobs. Also, read the description of the job you’re applying for and include some of the wording used there.
Now check it … and double check it
Run the Spellchecker on your word processing package to check that there aren’t any errors in your resume. Then reread it several times. Reading it out aloud will help you to notice where the grammar or sentence structure doesn’t work. Ask somebody else to read it for you and give you an honest opinion on whether it sells you to your best advantage.
Follow these guidelines and your resume will be a polished, finely tuned document that will considerably improve your chances of gaining an interview.
Information / general articles:
- UK / European CV service - improve your CV/resume, get more interviews
- US / Canadian Resume service
- FREE Report: Is your resume letting you down?: How to dramatically improve your resume
- How to make a resume - free tips on improving your resume
- Resume distribution to 1000's of employers - save time by getting employers to contact you
- Cover letters
- Resume examples
- Resume buzzwords or keywords
- Sample resume objectives - what is a resume objective for?
- Resume reason for leaving - should you include reasons for leaving on your resume?
- Explaining gap in resume
- More articles on resume writing
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