I remember the first time I wrote a resume. As a recent college graduate, I had no clue what I wanted to do. There was no guide to follow for how to write a resume. And when I handed my resume to a recruiter, she laughed. She laughed. That’s one of the reasons I’ve spent nearly 20 years helping people write outstanding resumes. Nobody should feel ashamed about their background or their resume.
Maybe you think your resume looks pretty good. Or maybe you wouldn’t even bother feeding it to your dog for breakfast. Regardless of how you feel about your resume, I’ll tell you what I tell every client: the resume is always a work in progress. It’s never really completely done.
Ideally, you should tailor a different resume every time you apply for a job. I know it sounds like a lot of work. But here’s the thing: once you learn how to write a killer resume, you don’t have to completely re-write your resume every time. It’s all about matching the language of each job posting with the content of your resume.
The ultimate guide to writing a resume is the only tool you will need to write a compelling, well-written and expertly formatted document. Read below for my step-by-step, ultimate guide to writing a resume:
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Step One: Clarify Your Goal(s)
In other words, why are you writing a resume? To get an internship or a job? To apply for a program? If you don’t have a specific job you want to apply for, writing or updating your resume can be challenging.
Do you have a specific job in mind? Skip to step two.
Are you unsure about your career direction? I have a quick assignment for you:
- Jump on a couple job sites like Indeed, Simply Hired, or LinkedIn.
- Search for jobs that might be of interest to you (keep in mind, you are not searching for your dream job. Just find a job that sounds appealing).
- When you find a job that sounds good, print out the job description.
Step Two: Gather the Necessary Information
Before you sit down to write your resume, print out the following:
- The description of the job you want
- Your current resume (if you don’t have one, don’t worry)
Step Three: Pick a Resume Template / Format
The basic or most commonly used resume templates or formats are the following:
- Chronological, which is ideal for job seekers with a more traditional career background, or who have been working at the same company or within the same industry for a while and who are seeking a job in the same industry.
- A functional or combination resume format is ideal for job seekers who are changing industries or career field or who have a gap in their employment or career background.
- Student or entry-level resume templates or formats focus on education, including high school, college, and / or graduate school or any credential, certificate, or training program
There are many fancy resume templates out there with pretty colors, columns, text boxes, etc. While these resume templates are pretty to look at, they distract the reader from the content, or meat of your resume. And even worse, resumes with lots of graphics cannot be read by ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems).
Applicant Tracking Systems allow recruiters and hiring managers to collect and sort resumes. This is important because a recent study by JobScan showed that roughly 98% of Fortune 500 companies, roughly 60% of large companies, and 30% of small companies use ATS software to filter resumes.
Need some more in-depth help with selecting the best resume template for your particular background? Check out my recent post How to Pick the Best Resume Template 2020 featuring ATS-friendly chronological, combination, and entry-level resume templates.
Step Four: Write Your Resume Content
Ideally you want to tailor a different resume to every job you apply for. I know it sounds like a giant pain in the butt. But here’s the thing. Once you create a well-written resume (which you will have after following the steps in this post), you don’t need to completely re-write your resume every time you apply for a job.
You just need to match the content on your resume as closely as possible with the job posting. Then “save as” each time you create a new version of your resume. For example: “XYZ Company Resume,” “Marketing Resume,” “Sales Resume.”