Writing a résumé is hard, and it’s often something that’s not taught in school, so consider this your crash course in how to write a résumé that will land you the job.
Now, first things first. Before you start listing your qualifications, it’s important to know what you want to gain from your résumé. What are you going to use it for? Will you be applying to higher education programs, internships, or jobs? If you’re already in the workforce, do you want to stay on the same career path or do you want to transition into something different?
Your résumé will differ greatly depending on your answers to these questions, so it’s crucial to go through this exercise before getting started. Next, you’ll want to gather your information. So let’s get started.
When you’re figuring out what information to include on a résumé, start with the basics. You should always create a header with your contact information. Make sure you include the following:
A headlining statement is a crucial part of a résumé. It takes the place of what once was an “objective” but is much more effective. Think of a headlining statement as a snapshot of your career. It’s a quick two to three sentence maximum statement about who you are, what you do, and what value you bring as a candidate.
Putting your skills toward the top of the document immediately increases the effectiveness of your résumé. Recruiters look at a résumé for approximately six seconds. That means you have mere moments to show that you are qualified and demonstrate what you bring to the table. When you put your skills matrix towards the top, this shows the reader exactly what you have to offer and highlights that you are qualified for the position right off the bat.
The faster you can grab someone’s attention and persuade them you’re the right candidate for the position, the more likely you’ll be to get past the initial influx of applicants.
Depending on what stage you’re at in your career, you might not have traditional employment information. If you do have traditional work experience, gather your dates of employment, (month and year) job description, projects you worked on, and any additional information you can include like how many people you managed.
If you are in school or are just starting out in your career, you’ll want to include volunteer work and/or internship information. If you need to add even more relevant industry experience, include information about relevant school projects you worked on. This will help highlight your ability to work on a given project under constraints and will help highlight your relevant industry knowledge.
If you are listing class projects on your résumé, use the school name in place of the company name, and include something along the lines of “[Class Title] Project Manager,” “Student Project Manager,” or “[Class Title] Student” in place of a job title.
Specific Metrics and Achievements for Each Role
The key to a great résumé is highlighting exactly what you’ve achieved and what you can bring to a new role. This is not the place to include a general job description that can be used for anyone with that job title. Include specific information about what you did, how many people you worked with or managed, projects you worked on, and project results to ensure that your résumé immediately reflects your achievements and what you can bring to the table.
Anyone can say that they’re great at their job, but very few people can actually show it. When you’re noting your achievements, think about how you can quantify what you’ve done.
Unless it is your highest level of education or you are in your first year of college, do not include information about your high school diploma. Similarly, there is no need to include GPA unless you’re currently in school and have a very high GPA (3.8 or above).
When it comes to listing education, start with the highest level of education at the top and list backward from there. For example:
High School information
Unless you are currently in school or are in a profession where your degree is a key factor, (i.e. medicine, law, etc.) your education should be listed at the bottom of your résumé. If you are in school or in one of the professions where your education is very important, your education will go towards the top under your skills list.
Certifications and Specialized Training
Including certifications and specialized training on your résumé make a huge difference in how impactful your document is. Even if you don’t have specific certifications but you’ve had internal training, taken an online course, or even just an online tutorial, include that on your résumé.
About the Author: Michele Lando is a certified professional résumé writer, personal branding expert, and founder of Write Styles. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves both on paper and in person and works to polish individuals’ application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles provides resources to enhance your résumé, professional appearance, and boost your confidence. Michele strives to help others gain the confidence to put their best foot forward in a personal and professional light.
This story was originally published on January 6, 2020, and has since been updated.