Constructing a compelling and visually appealing resume can be challenging, but a few strategies can help you use your resume as a showcase of what makes you the best candidate for a job. Learning what to include in a resume can help you build a compelling and visually appealing document that could impress hiring managers. In this article, we will describe 10 practical steps for building a resume that can show employers that you are the best fit for their position.
How to build your resume
You can follow these steps to build your resume:
- Add your contact information
- Include a summary and objective
- Add your work experience
- Include your education
- List relevant skills
- Explain your achievements and awards
- Use a business format
- Include keywords
- Review samples
- Select a template
1. Add your contact information
The first item on your resume should be your first and last name, a phone number and an email address. Consider also including additional contact information so that potential employers have multiple ways to reach you. You may, for example, include your professional networking platform page or an online portfolio link. You can also include your address, whether it’s the full mailing address or just your city and state. Many companies prefer to hire local employees to reduce relocation time and expenses.
2. Include a summary and objective
Since employers may only spend a short time reviewing your resume, you want to display your positive qualities concisely. These statements should succinctly illustrate the qualities that make you an attractive candidate while also describing the engaging, yet professional, personality that you can bring to the workplace. Your summary statement should include a concise overview of your work experience. Try to focus on work experience that relates to the roles in which you are applying to stand out more to hiring managers. For a resume objective, you should provide a brief display of your skills and qualifications as they relate to the specific position to which you are applying. As with anything on your resume, though, these skills and qualities should be concrete and, where possible, quantifiable.
3. Add your work experience
The work experience section of your resume should be more than a simple list of your previous positions. It should also effectively describe your work experience to enhance your candidacy. Some of the information you will provide in this section is self-explanatory, such as job title, company location and dates employed. Where you can distinguish yourself in this section is with the descriptions of your previous positions.
In each position description, you should explain your previous responsibilities, noteworthy achievements and keywords that will make you appear right for the job. As with your summary statement or objective, be concrete about both your responsibilities and accomplishments, and emphasize items that are relevant to the prospective employer. Rather than saying that you “worked on a team,” describe how you “coordinated with team members to develop over 30 software updates tailored to consumer needs.”
Many companies use software to sort through large numbers of resumes and identify more promising applicants using keyword algorithms. You can supplement your resume with keywords in the job description. If a company is looking for someone who can develop products that guarantee a high return on investment, you could mention in previous job summary that you “consistently increased ROI by guaranteeing high productivity on my team.”
How much work experience you include will depend on your prospective position. If you are seeking your first job, for example, you may not have any previous professional experience to include, but you can include relevant internships or volunteer work. If you are a mid-level applicant, you may have a mixture of experience both related and unrelated to the open position.
4. Include your education
Most jobs require at least some education, and employers seek this information on your resume. List your highest level of education completed first, then list subsequent degrees and diplomas. You may also choose to include any active licenses or certifications you hold in this section. When entering a degree or diploma that you are currently completing, add the date you began pursuing it and leave the end date blank.
If you are in high school or just graduated, include this information. If you have completed a university degree, however, it is not necessary to include information about high school. In addition to listing degrees in diploma, include information about Dean’s lists, honors recognition or academic awards. If you tailored your coursework to a certain specialty, it may even be appropriate to include some of the coursework relevant to this prospective position. Typically, you don’t add your GPA unless an employer specifically requests it, or you were top of your class.
5. List relevant skills
Near the end of your resume, you should include a section for any skills that may be relevant to the position and that can enhance your appeal as a candidate. When including your skills, choose both hard and soft skills that relate to the role. Soft skills may be abilities such as communication or leadership, while hard skills could be computer programs or technical knowledge you know in the industry. To further enhance your image, you can add your aptitude to your description of a skill. For example, if you add data analysis as a skill, you may be able to rate your level from “proficient” to “intermediate.”
6. Explain your achievements and awards
Employers may be more impressed if you can prove that your abilities have been tested and that you have found success despite challenges. You can emphasize your victories by including a brief section in your resume that outlines your relevant achievements and awards. Maybe you received “Employee of the Month” three times in your previous job, or maybe you received an award for generating the most sales on your team in one quarter. These awards can set you apart from other candidates with similar experience.
7. Use a business format
The format of your resume quickly tells an employer if you can follow directions and communicate effectively and concisely. In a way, the format of your resume is the first test of your experience that happens before a potential employer looks at the first word of your document. As with any writing genre, your resume’s format should reflect the expectations of your audience. For example, most employers will expect that your resume is one page.
A professional resume format also generally includes a header with your name in a font larger than surrounding text and the rest of your contact information nearby. You should use an easy-to-read font, like Times New Roman, and space content so employers can clearly and quickly scan each section. Remember that when potential employers review your resume, they frequently scan through it as quickly as possible, which means you should make important information stand out. Many candidates accomplish this by using bold text for job positions and section headers.
8. Include keywords
Use words in your resume that directly relate to the position in which you’re applying. Consider reviewing the job description for keywords and incorporate them in your resume. For example, if the posting states the need for excellent time-managements skills, you can list time management in the skills section and work history section of your resume. Using keywords from the job posting can help you relate directly to the hiring manager, making it more likely that they will go on to review the rest of your application materials.
9. Review samples
Reviewing other successful resumes can help you become familiar with the format, language and sections of a professional resume. When looking for resume samples, take two different approaches. First, look at samples to learn the general qualities that the majority of resumes share, such as format and standard sections. Then, find samples of resumes in your specific field. These examples may feature optional sections that other resumes omit, or they may use certain language or include similar skills that you would like to include in your own document.
10. Select a template
While you can certainly draft your own resume using a word processor, you can also simplify the resume-building process by using a resume template. These templates allow you to fill in blanks with relevant information, offering a complete, professionally-formatted document. For example, Elevate provides a series of templates that you can personalize to your industry and the expectations of your potential employer.