Not Sure How to Write a Resume? This Step-by-Step Guide Makes It Easy

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Resume applications on wooden desk ready to be reviewed
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Hiring practices may have changed a bit in the last few years, but one thing has stayed the same.

Resumes are a must during a job hunt.

Many new grads worry their resume isn’t any good because they don’t have much job experience to list. Some lack a resume altogether.

That’s too bad, because a quality resume is a very big deal for job seekers.

It’s your first introduction to prospective employers and can make or break your chances of getting a job.

Hiring a professional resume writer is an option, but it doesn’t come cheap. You could pay anywhere from $100 to $1,000.

Writing a resume isn’t too complex, but there are some important details to keep in mind. Use this blueprint to create a great resume that gets you noticed.

Choose Your Format

Choose Your Format of Your Resume and What Types of Resume Fits Your Job

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Free online resume templates that let you fill in the blanks are an option, but you get what you pay for — which is to say, not much.

Employer brand consultant Jörgen Sundberg says resume templates cast job candidates in a poor light.

“Basically, it’s the lazy way of doing it,” Sundberg says. “What type of signal do you think these copy and paste skills send to the hiring manager? I would think that this applicant, if hired, would always look for quick and dirty ways of solving problems. I might be cynical here but can you afford to risk that?”

Artists, graphic designers and other visually creative professionals may want to use their resume to highlight their creative talents. Otherwise, keep things simple.

Hiring managers are interested in your skills and experience, not fancy fonts or formatting. Use a standard font like Arial or Tahoma and keep the layout simple.

Create Your Content

Sections of a Resume

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Your resume should contain several important components.

Contact Information

Feature your name and contact information at the top of the page.

Use your full name, followed by your phone number and email address. If you have a LinkedIn profile or professional online portfolio, be sure to include that as well.

Objective

Write a short paragraph — two or three sentences at most — highlighting the type of work you’re looking for. Be sure to mention skills and talents that make you perfect for the job.

Work Experience

List your current job (if applicable) first, followed by all previous jobs in reverse chronological order.

Each job should include:

  • Name and address of the company where you worked
  • Your job title
  • Dates of employment
  • Your job responsibilities

If you have no work experience, don’t leave this section blank or eliminate it altogether.

Instead, use the section to highlight skills you’ve developed during college or while doing volunteer work.

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the skills you list on your resume need to be the direct result of a previous professional position. As long as you can successfully demonstrate those abilities, go ahead and list them! It really doesn’t matter where you learned them,” recommends The Everygirl’s Kat Boogaard.

Education

In this section, include any community colleges, universities, trade schools or technical colleges you’ve attended. Begin with your most recent school and work backwards.

For each school, be sure to provide:

  • The name, city and state of the school
  • The dates you attended
  • Any degrees or certifications you received

Note: If your degree is in progress, add the expected date of completion to let prospective employers know you’re still working on it.

Honors and Community Experience

This section captures extracurricular activities that don’t fit into the previous sections. For example:

  • Academic or work-related awards
  • Membership in clubs or organizations like Girl or Boy Scouts, 4-H or debate club
  • Volunteer community service
  • Greek Life leadership

Additional Skills

Here’s where to highlight skills and talents that set you apart from other job seekers, including:

  • Fluency in more than one language
  • Typing speed
  • Proficiency in specific computer software programs
  • Experience with public speaking

A Word About Keywords

Many companies ask job candidates to apply online and upload resumes to their website. Resumes are often electronically scanned for specific keywords to quickly weed out unqualified applicants.

“Your resume keywords should include specific job requirements, including your skills, competencies, relevant credentials, and previous positions and employers,” says career expert Alison Doyle. “Essentially, keywords should be words that, at a glance, will show the hiring manager that you are a good fit for the job.”

As you sprinkle keywords throughout your resume, be sure they don’t make the content sound stilted or awkward. Look for ways to work them in naturally; don’t force it.

Final Touches

Once you’ve created your resume, it’s not ready to hand to a hiring manager until you do these three things.

1. Proofread Your Work

It’s not enough to simply run your resume through a spellchecker because they don’t always catch every mistake.

Print a copy of your resume, then read through it slowly several times to make sure it’s error-free.

2. Show It to a Friend

Share your resume with someone you trust to get some honest feedback on how it looks. Have them read it to you out loud to take in the content in a new way.

3. Convert It to a PDF

Save Your Resume into a PDF Before Sending It Off in Job Applications

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Write your resume in whatever software application works best for you, but convert it to a PDF file before you send it to a hiring manager. If your word processing software doesn’t include a conversion feature, there are plenty of free online services to choose from.

PDF file formats are almost universally preferred during the hiring process and they protect your resume’s content from being accidentally altered once it leaves your hands.

Once your cover letter is ready for prime time, write up a cover letter (they’re more important than you think) and start sending it to job prospects.

Happy job hunting!

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves to write anything, and she means anything, except resumes.

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