If you need to get a job, you’re going to need a resume. A clear and concise resume is one of your first opportunities to grab the attention of the hiring manager.
This guide will take you through each step.
Choosing the right resume format
There are three basic types of resumes: chronological, functional, and combination. No matter which one you choose, the goal is to make your resume as easy to read as possible. No need to wow your reader with some fancy design—they’re most concerned about your relevant skills and experience.
This is the most common type of resume. It lists your professional experience prominently and in reverse chronological order.
Use this format if you’re applying for jobs in your current field.
Functional resumes highlight specific skills rather than specific jobs you’ve had. Where you would normally list your professional experience on a chronological resume, you list your transferable skills.
Use this kind if you’re pursuing a career change. If you’d like to know more about functional resumes and how to write one, see our guide: How & When to Use a Functional Resume.
Combination resumes, as you might guess, combine features of chronological and functional resumes.
You might use this format if you’re changing careers or if your skills, rather than your specific jobs, qualify you for the position.
How do you write a resume?
Just like eating an elephant, or a moose, or a piece of pie: one bite at a time.
You’ll need information about your past jobs, your education, any certifications you hold or training you’ve completed, and skills relevant to the position.
To make the task easier, start with a free resume template.
Let’s start with the basics. You need to give the reader a way to contact you for an interview.
Your preferred name
Kate rather than Kathryn, for example.
Your area code and phone number
A professional email address
Katechakrabarty@emailme.net, not firstname.lastname@example.org, unless you’re applying for a job in the knitting industry, then by all means.
Your LinkedIn URL or portfolio website URL (optional)
If you have a professional online portfolio or a built-out LinkedIn profile, include a link to that. Instead of shortening the URL and hyperlink, spell it out in full so it’s easy to access whether the reader is viewing your resume online or on paper.
You don’t need to include a street address, but if you want to indicate your city and state, that’s fine. This guide provides tips on listing your location if you’re looking for a job in another state.
FAQ: How long should a resume be?
It’s a myth that a resume should be only one page. Your resume should be as long as it takes you to list your relevant skills and experience. Most people will be able to get away with one or two pages. If you find yourself adding fluff just to make it longer, stop.
Bonus tip: Label your sections
Make it easy for a recruiter or hiring manager to scan your resume, so label your sections clearly. However, you can skip labeling your contact information and objective statement / summary sections; those are self-explanatory.
Objective statement or resume summary
An objective statement tells the reader what you hope to get out of your job search—to find a job in deaf interpretation, for example.
A resume summary is a digest of your experience and skills most relevant to the specific position you’re applying for—I am a deaf interpreter with six years’ experience working in elementary schools supporting children with special needs.
Do you need either?
No. You don’t have to include an objective statement or a resume summary on your resume. Objective statements are really only necessary when you’re changing careers or have a specific requirement for your new position (a remote job, for example), and resume summaries are most helpful when your resume is particularly long.
FAQ: Do I need to tailor my resume for every job application?
Yes, though you don’t necessarily need to make big changes. You may want to highlight different responsibilities or accomplishments in past jobs or mention specific volunteer experience or training. Read the job description, then read your resume from the point of view of the hiring manager: Does your resume clearly show them you have what they’re looking for in a candidate?
This is the most important section of your resume if you’re using the chronological format. If you’re using the functional format, you can skip this section.
List jobs in chronological order, starting with your most recent role.
General Manager, Sandra’s Restaurant
-Manages a team of 20 FOH and 15 BOH staff
-Responsible for $4 million in annual revenue
-Secured partnerships with four notable chefs in the greater Austin area for seasonal menu takeovers, which drove a 25% increase in revenue during the promotion
One of the most important things hiring managers want to see is that you can quantify your work. How many widgets did you make? How many people did you hire? How many did you manage? By how much did you increase efficiency or revenue? Did you have a quota that you met or exceeded?
Hiring managers also want to see qualitative results. Did you invent or refine a process? Were you responsible for a policy change or company initiative? Did you lead a project? Build a team? Mentor younger team members? Talk about that too.
How to show a promotion on your resume
There are a few ways you might show a promotion on your resume, and which you choose can depend on how your responsibilities changed or simply how much space you’d like to take up.
Here’s our guide on how to show a promotion on your resume.
This section is optional if you’re using the chronological resume format. If you’re using the functional resume format, then this is the creamy center of your resume egg. (It’s what the reader is looking for.)
Here’s how to write about your skills on a functional resume: highlight the skill, then back it up with specific examples.
In my 16-year career, I have managed teams as small as two and as large as twenty-two. I have work in both flat and deep hierarchies.
My teams and I have produced award-winning product designs and have filed five patents.
Fundraising and investor relations
While at Cleartech, I raised $3 million Series A in 2007 and $12 million Series B in 2011. Primary investors included Rank Partners, Gellman Fund, and Mariya Cercas.
If you’re using a chronological resume, this section can be simple bullet points.
SQL, Python, Perl, and Ruby
Agile process management
Thai language proficiency
So, what is a relevant skill?
A skill doesn’t have to be explicitly spelled out in the job description to be relevant. Skills like spoken-language proficiency, customer service, team management, and analytical skills are highly transferable. And even a skill like dog training, when you’re applying for a customer service job, can show your potential employer that you’re very patient. Just be ready to talk about any skills you list on your resume in the job interview.
FAQ: When should I include a skills section on a chronological resume?
You might consider a section like this if the job you’re applying for requires specific skills that are best listed in bullet form—software proficiency or coding language proficiency, for example.
Bonus tip: Remember the machines
Recruiters and hiring managers receive an average of 118 resumes for any given job opening, and many of them never actually land in someone’s hands. That’s because some companies use software that sorts and filters applications by keywords. If you want to learn more about how to write your resume in a way that ups your chances of making it past the machine, check out our guide on resume buzzwords.
List your highest level of education in this section. You don’t have to list your graduation date. This can indicate your age, and age discrimination is real. However, if you’re still in school and applying for jobs after graduation, you should indicate when you will finish, since this can affect your start date (and explain your lack of job experience, which is a-okay).
University of Indiana, Bloomington
B.A., Near Eastern Languages & Cultures
Minors in Statistics and Linguistics
M.S., Agricultural Economics
Unless they ask for it, leave it off. Even if you’re a recent grad, even if it was particularly high, it’s not necessary.
This section is optional, and you might even include any certifications in the summary or education sections (how to do that here).
Project Management Professional (PMP)
Certified through Project Management Institute, 2012
Also an optional section. List the organizations you volunteer with and the positions you hold or work you do.
Sacred Heart Center
GED class instructor and special event volunteer coordinator
FAQ: Do I include references on my resume?
Unless the job description or application instructions explicitly instruct you to include your professional references, don’t.