Ch. 6: How to Make a Resume
In the last chapter, Ch. 5: Skills for Your Resume, we went over the skills that are commonly used on modern resumes and how to effectively go about utilizing the section to its fullest extent. In this chapter, we'll cover every aspect of making a resume, from header to salutation. Along with the strategies, skills, and terms you’ve learned in the previous chapters, you can use this guide to learn how to make a resume that will get your foot in the door.
Remember that your resume is nothing more than a marketing document for your skills and capabilities, meant purely to land the interview, and it should be written as such. It's your job to highlight your strengths, and downplay your weaknesses, just like any other advertisement you'd see on TV or the web.
This is the end product that we're working to create:
Before beginning, it's important to gather your thoughts and create a game plan. Follow these 5 steps before writing a resume:
1. Choose Your Field
We recommend that you create a resume for a field, or category, of positions, rather than one at a time. This ultimately is a time-saver and will go a long way if you're job search is lengthy. To do this, just create multiple documents, each geared toward one specialty. For example, if you're looking to land a Medical Assistant position, you can make one resume targeting clinical medical assistant positions, another for administrative medical assistant, and more for other specialties.
2. Don't Dwell in the Past
Your resume is more about the future than the past. Don't go overboard with every detail of your past. Highlight your strengths while downplaying your weaknesses.
3. Avoid First-Person Pronouns
Whoever reads your resume already knows who it's from, so using "I" in your sentences is unnecessary, redundant, and unprofessional. Instead of saying "I created strategies that saved the company $1.2 million," say:
Created strategies that saved the company $1.2 million
Lead in with a strong verb and list your accomplishments rather than your features.
4. Research the Position & Company
Ensure that you are fully aware of the responsibilities of the position and the needs of the employer. Essentially, the employer has a problem, and they need a new employee to fill the role and solve that problem for them.
You need to ensure that you're resume is written in such a way that will "fit" in to the position well and take the problem off of the employers hands. The more research you do, on both the position and the companies you're applying to, the more prepared you'll be when it comes to writing your resume and landing an interview.
5. Start Broad, End Specific
Begin your descriptions and summaries broadly and funnel down to the more specific details.
“Headed operations for new hire training.(broad) Supervised five training managers and developed new hire documents. (specific) Answered questions, created training curriculum and actively trained new hires when necessary.”(more specific)
Keywords have become more and more important in recent years, so it's imperative that you learn how to make a resume using them. Most major companies and career portals use parsing software to scan resumes for text keywords and sort them out. In order to get past this software and get sorted into the "yes" pile, you should implement keywords into your resume logically.
Follow this list to find and implement relevant keywords into your resume:
1. Scan the Job Listing(s)
The best place to find relevant keywords is in the "description," "responsibilities," or "duties" section of the job listing itself.
Simply take note of the keywords present in the listings you're applying and integrate them into writing your resume. Luckily, most listings for the same position, no matter the company, include many of the same responsibilities and keywords.
2. Build a Keyword List
Write out a list of the keywords you find in the job listings you're considering applying to:
3. Integrate Keywords into Your Resume
Take the keywords you've listed and write the statements in your resume around them. Position does not necessarily matter, so you can include them in your qualifications summary, heading, experience, or skills sections. It's up to you.
The resume heading is roughly the same on every document, no matter which type of format you choose. While it may be simply, it's still important to know how to make a resume, professionally. However, how you want to organize the heading is totally up to you.
We recommend keeping things clean, not only with your heading, but throughout. The heading is particularly important though as it is the first thing any employer will be looking at when considering you as a candidate, so be clear and make sure your info is easily readable.
You always want to include the following elements in your resume heading:
- Phone Number
- Email Address
- Web Address (if applicable)
- Social Media Profiles - Primarily Linkedin
The objective statement is a traditional element in resume building, but has been slowly fading out. It's up to you whether you want to include an objective statement in your resume, but we advise against it since the employer already knows which position you're applying to.
The space could be allocated better otherwise. Your resume objective is a short statement that tells the employer what you can do for them to solve their problem and why you're the best fit for the position. Employers do not care about what the position will do for your career, they're self-interested and looking for a fit that can take the issue off of their hands.
The summary statement, sometimes referred to as the "qualifications summary," serves as a sort of introduction for the reader an is an important aspect to writing a resume. It typically appears in a resume just after the heading section and consists of only 3 - 5 sentences, summing up why you're the best fit for the position and why the employer should pick up the phone to schedule an interview.
Writing your summary can be one of the more difficult aspects of writing your resume since you have to boil down your best qualifications and achievements into a concise statement. Writing long-winded explanations, but brevity takes skill and creativity.
One of the more difficult parts of learning how to make a resume is keeping things brief and easy to interpret.
Writing Your Summary Statement
The most difficult part of starting anything is simply starting. Staring at a blank page can drive anyone mad, but luckily we've got you covered if you follow our approach.
Step 1: Assess the Job Posting
Review the job listing(s) you're considering applying to and find what it is that they're looking for in a candidate. Ask yourself:
- What skills and experience are the employer looking for in an ideal candidate?
- If you were looking to fill the same position, what would you want to find?
- Are they looking for a particular personality type?
- What level of experience are they looking for? Entry-level? Mid-level management? Executive-level?
Analyzing the listing and drawing conclusions based on what you find in the "responsibilities" and "qualifications" section will point you in the right direction and make building your summary statement much easier.
Step 2: Create a List
The easiest way to do this is to write out a list of everything you can think of, and then pulling out the points you believe your prospective employer would value most. Write out a list of your best achievements throughout your career thus far. Think of ways that you've influenced or developed the businesses of your former employers, and spin your accomplishments in a way that reveals your value as an employee.
Consider the following when building your list:
- What aspects of your skills and experience do you think are most valuable to the employer?
- What achievements highlight the best of you and what you've done?
- What problem is the employer looking to solve, and how can you make your qualifications fit as a solution?
- How do your career goals match up with those of the position and the company?
Do not include:
- Skills everyone else has. You want to appear unique. Everyone can use Microsoft Word, but not everyone can navigate the chaotic environment of a hospital, juggling the needs of patients with the demands of the industry.
- Flowery language and fluff to make your summary longer. Professionals will recognize filler language and will, either actively or subconsciously, demote your chances of getting the position. Avoid it!
- Tasks and responsibilities you don't really want to do in your future position. You may be good at something but still despise actually doing it. For us, we believe finding the right career means you never feel like you're at work. If you're searching for this kind of position, don't include aspects you don't really want to do.
Step 3: Narrow Down Your List
Go back and review the job listing once again and review what the employer is ideally searching for, and gear your summary to fit into that role. You can either highlight the key points you believe are most valuable to include in your summary, or use the process of elimination to find those you know the employer will not find valuable. Once you've gotten your list down to roughly 3 - 5 points, you can start the writing process.
Step 4: Writing Your Resume Summary Statement
Now that you've gotten your list boiled down to the "best of you" bullet points, you can begin the writing process. You want to stay clear and concise without selling yourself short on your qualifications. The most important piece of advice we can offer you for this section is to ensure that every sentence offers value to the employer. Keep "value" in mind while writing and you'll come up with the perfect statement.
The professional experience section is mandatory. It serves as the meat of the document and the main area where you convey how you're the ideal candidate thorough your experiences and achievements. The section is referred to by many different titles, including:
- Professional Experience
- Work Experience/History
- Relevant Experience
- Clinical Experience
- Volunteer Work/Experience
- Employment Experience/History
Note: There is no correct title here. You are free to create your own as long as it's clear that it is your experiences and qualifications section.
Types of Experience
Your task is to list the most relevant experiences and, more importantly, accomplishments you've had throughout the last several positions you've held while avoiding experiences irrelevant to the job you're applying for. Generally speaking, there are 5 types of experience you can incorporate into your professional experience section:
- Extracurricular & hobbies
- Relevant Travel
As a rule of thumb, try not to list positions you held over 5 years ago unless necessary. However, if you're applying for a position that you don't have a ton of recent and applicable experience for, use any background information you can to support your application.
Remember: Your resume is a marketing document meant to serve one purpose, landing the interview. Write it geared toward this goal.
Experience Section Elements
Resumes come in a million different flavors, depending on who's building it, but there are four elements always present in the experience section:
- The company, charity, or organization and it's location
- Your current or former position title
- The dates of your employment
- Accomplishments, responsibilities, and duties
Employers are looking for experiences you've had and skills you've developed so they can find someone to take the problems off of their hands. In order to make them feel confident in your abilities, these 4 basic areas must be addressed.
Writing Your Experience Section
Before beginning your writing, we suggest asking yourself a few questions and jotting down some notes about your experiences, like:
- What types of experience are most valuable for this position I'm applying to?
- What types of experience are most valuable to the company I'm applying to?
- Which of my experiences, including jobs, volunteer, extra curricular, etc., does the employer really want to know about?
- Which of my experiences are irrelevant and should be excluded?
- How can I spin some of my experiences to go from being irrelevant to related to the position I'm applying to?
- Which experiences are most highly related to my long-term career goals?
After this exercise, starting your writing will be much easier as it helps to avoid writer's block, and you'll already have some solid points ready to go. But how should I set up, or format, my experience section?
The general rule of thumb is not to go further than 5 years into the past. But this isn't a concrete rule. If you have experiences from more than 5 years ago that applies to the position you're applying to, you can include it, but be prepared to explain why it was so long ago. For our example we'll be using the reverse chronological format, but you are free to choose any layout you wish.
We suggest the following layout for each position:
[Job Title], [Employer/Company] [Location] (Start Date - End Date)
That's it. Ensure you include all 4 elements, and focus your responsibilities/duties on your achievements, not your features. It's one thing to say you're fantastic with managing patients, but it's another to prove it.
Your resume should not only list your professional experience and achievements, but your education as well. Just like the rest of your resume, your education section should also be geared toward the job in which you're applying.
For instance, if you don't have a degree or certification in the field you're applying to, sometimes listing courses that you've taken that relate to the job can go a long way to landing the interview.
Education Section Elements
You can choose how to format your education section in a variety of different ways, but you definitely need to ensure you include the following elements:
- The institution's location
- Type and name of your degree program (B.A., B.S., M.S., Ph.D., etc.)
- The dates in which you attended
- Applicable course work (optional and only if necessary)
Education Section Location
There are a few different places you can put your resume, but it usually will depend on your experience level. Most students nearing graduation or those that have just entered the job market will want to put their education section near the top of their resume to highlight this fact.
Employers will understand why you may be lacking a lot of experience in your field. Seasoned professionals, on the other hand, will want to put their education near the bottom of the document, like the formats listed above, in order to put a spotlight on experience over education. Essentially, the more important items should be listed further toward the top of the resume, because it's the place anyone who reads it will start.
Formatting Your Education Section
There are a million ways under the sun to format the education section, or any section, of your resume. It's up to you to choose a clean design that is easily readable. Remember, recruiters spend an average of 5 - 7 seconds reviewing any resume, so the quicker and more clearly you can convey information, the better.
[Degree/Diploma/Certificate] [Instutution/University/School], [Location] (Date range)
Here's an example of this clean education layout:
Education may seem like only a small part, but every aspect is important when learning how to make a resume and marketing yourself.
The skills section is an important part of your resume and should usually be your closer, as they're usually not direct experience but other skills you've developed along the way that are worth mentioning.
Rather than cover all of the skills again here, we've built a page entirely dedicated to this section: Ch. 5: Skills for Your Resume The idea is to take situations and experiences you've had, whether they be in your spare time, professional experience, or volunteer work, and apply them to the position you want.
Tips for the Resume Skills Section:
- Focus on skills you've developed or maintained in the roughly the past 5 years.
- Just like the experience section, stay centered around the accomplishments or achievements you've had using the skills you've gained.
- Don't simply state that you have a skill, like "works well as part of a team." It's subjective and of course you think you're great. Any competent employer will see straight through this, making you look unprofessional.
- Choose a clean format that gives the reader information quickly and concisely. Over complicating things is never good. Simply is always best.
Learning how to make a resume can be difficult, but hopefully this has set you in the right direction. Bookmark this guide, come back to it, go through each section with a fine-tooth comb and you'll be well on your way to landing the interview. Once you're done, have someone look through your resume and edit it. Review it several times before sending it.
Give it some time to breathe and come back to it; that way you can see it from a refreshed perspective and find errors you missed before.It doesn’t matter how shiny and polished your resume is, if you have basic grammar and spelling errors, your prospective employer won’t take you seriously—especially if you have “great writing and editing skills” listed.