How to Write a Resume in 6 Steps

how to write a resume

Categories: Resume Writing

There’s no doubt that it’s challenging to learn how to write your own resume—especially when we’ve always been told not to brag about ourselves. While it can take days of poring over your computer to create a fantastic document, we’re providing you with the big six steps you need to write a resume that will help you apply online and get the attention you want to move your candidacy on to the interview.

1. Choose a Simple, Straightforward Format

If you’re applying online, you need to know how to write a resume that works with applicant tracking software (ATS) systems. Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to creating a document that will easily parse into the systems most employers use. When choosing your format, you always want to write a reverse-chronological resume, starting with your current or most recent position and going backwards in depth for 10–15 years. For the look of your resume:

  • Use decent-sized margins of at least .5” and no more than 1” all the way around.
  • Stick to one simple font in either a serif or sans serif, using 10- to 11-point font for the body of the resume and up to 16-point for your name. The best fonts are Calibri, Arial, Helvetica, Tahoma, and Times New Roman.
  • Avoid overuse of italics, bolds, and underlining.
  • Keep your document to 1–2 pages.
  • Don’t use tables, charts, columns, or images, since many ATS systems can’t read them.

Unless the website or job advertisement tells you otherwise, always send your resume in a Word document (.docx), which almost all ATS systems can parse without any issues.

2. Include Clear Contact Information

This might seem like a no-brainer, but many people either forget to include contact information or put it in the wrong place. Keep your contact information up at the top of your resume (not in the header) and include your name, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn custom URL. Ensure that your email address is a professional one. You may choose to include your street address, but most of the time, it’s not necessary.

On your second page, include your name and one way to contact you in the header. That way, it won’t be seen by ATS systems, yet if the document is printed, your information will be there as insurance in case the pages get separated.

3. Say What You’re Looking For

If you have an older resume, it probably has an objective that reads like:

To obtain a position in which I can…

This is outdated. To master how to write a resume, you need to start with a title or headline. This is simply the title to which you’re applying. It will change as you apply to different roles. Put this right under your contact information in bold.

4. Include Your Value Proposition

Your summary is one of the most-read sections of your resume. Unlike the summaries of old that included how many years of experience you had in each role or industry, this is where you’ll answer the question, “Why should I hire you?” If you want to know how to write a resume that will get you attention, you need to nail this value proposition.

Your summary follows your title and should not include personal pronouns (I, me, my). Keep it to 3–6 lines.

5. Load It Up with Keywords

Keywords serve two purposes on your resume:

  1. They help ATS systems find your resume when you use the same keywords that are listed in the job description.
  2. They paint a picture for employers of the transferable skills you possess and how you can add value to their organization.

Your keywords should be presented in an areas of expertise section as part of your summary. Don’t put them in a table or columns since many ATS systems can’t read those. You can tab across and make them look like they’re in columns, or you can list them with lines (|) or bullets (•) between them. You’ll probably end up with 12–20 keywords. Job seekers who know how to write a resume know that they have to source the keywords from the job description and change them every time they apply to a different role.

6. Include Targeted Accomplishments

Your professional experience come next, and this is where many applicants get it wrong. And this is where you can differentiate yourself by knowing how to write a resume that showcases your value. You do that by including great accomplishments.

Each position should have the company name, city, state, months and years of work, overview of what you did, and bulleted accomplishments. Here’s an example:

AcePointe, Gilbert, AZ                                                                    March 2015 – Present
Senior Consultant

Support small companies through creation of websites, apps, and data warehouses. Centralize data and build reports for day-to-day needs, as well as strategic reporting for decision making. Manage team of 4.
• Reduced time needed searching for data by creating point-and-click reports for clients.
• Increased brand exposure for clients through development of targeted websites.

Show 10–15 years in depth and put any older positions into an additional experience section:

Additional Experience
Project Manager, Microsoft, Redmond, WA

Learn How to Write a Resume with Resume and Career Services

This is a down and dirty overview of how to write a resume, but you probably know it takes much more than just a few simple points to do it well. If you’re looking to up your game and find a great next position, Resume and Career Services has you covered. Our self-directed program includes six courses and more than 100 lessons on how to identify your dream job, build your resume, network, leverage LinkedIn, and master your interview. Plus, you’ll have access to templates and worksheets, as well as support from your personal coach. What’s keeping you stuck?

Learn more about this program here.