Resume writing is a skill that will help you throughout the course of your life. While the past few years have involved major changes for employees and employers worldwide, application documents haven’t changed. Making a resume (and cover letter) remains the best way to land the job you want today.
Here’s how to make a resume in 11 steps:
- Set up your formatting and resume style
- Pick a resume layout
- Add a resume header
- Use a resume introduction
- Target your work experience
- Use numbers and action verbs
- Showcase your skills
- Highlight your education
- Add other optional sections
- Proofread your application
- Save your resume as a PDF
Need a basic template for your resume? Here’s a copy-paste resume outline you can put into a word processor (such as MS Word or Google Docs) or your preferred resume template (or you can use builder software if that’s too much work):
Your Current Job Title
(xxx) xxx-xxxx | firstname.lastname@example.org | 47 Your Address, City, State, ZIP Code
Three to four sentences that describe your years of experience, your most noteworthy accomplishments and skills, and your target role. Try to include hard numbers in your resume introduction as you describe your accomplishments, and add the target company’s name here to show that you’re writing a targeted resume.
Current Job Title
Company Name | City, State | Month, Year–present
- Use the present tense as you write bullet points that describe your current job
- Start each bullet point with a strong action verb that keeps the hiring manager reading
- Use hard numbers in each bullet point to provide context for your successes
- Write 3–4 bullet points for each role
Previous Job Title
Company Name | City, State | Month, Year–Month, Year
- Use the past tense to write bullet points describing previous jobs
- List up to 15 years of work experience on your resume to prevent age discrimination
- Use your bullet points to show how you applied your skills
- Keep each bullet point to one or two lines so the hiring manager isn’t overwhelmed reading your resume
Institution, City, State
Year of Graduation
- GPA: x.x/4.0
- List your skills, prioritizing any skills mentioned in the job ad if you have them
- Group similar skills under one bullet point (for example, any coding languages you know)
- Include both hard and soft skills to show hiring managers your skill set is diverse
Ready to make your resume? Here’s how to write a resume step by step.
How to write a resume from start to finish
Writing a resume doesn’t have to be a drag. For audiovisual learners, here’s a video walkthrough of how to create a resume (or continue on if you prefer written instructions with clearly marked images):
1. Set up your resume formatting and style
- set ½”–1” inch margins on all sides
- make sure your page is set to US Letter size and portrait orientation
- select a professional font for your resume, such as Arial or Helvetica
- adjust your font size between 10 and 12 points
This formatting is the default in Microsoft Word, so you shouldn’t need to adjust anything if you’re starting with a new document.
Adding style to your resume
After formatting your resume, you need to land on a style.
Your resume’s style includes all the aesthetic details like:
- the colors of your resume
- the font you pick
- whether or not you use a sidebar
- how you set up your headers
For formal industries like law, finance, or politics, you should stick to a simple, traditional resume style. Clean lines, no graphics, and dark colors like navy blue or burgundy are most appropriate.
However, if you want a job in a more creative industry like tech or marketing, you should use a more modern resume design. Modern resume designs include brighter colors, sans-serif fonts, and graphic details like visual skill levels or sidebars.
2. Pick a resume layout
There are three main resume formats most job seekers use today. Each format is structured to help you lay out and emphasize different parts of your professional background.
The right format for you depends on your work history, the job you’re applying to, and your skillset.
Most job seekers use the chronological resume format. This format is probably the best choice for you if you’re just starting your career, or have a consistent work history within a single industry and have no long employment gaps.
The most notable feature of a chronological resume is its work experience section. Chronological resumes primarily emphasize your professional experience, and are organized according to when you held each job (with your most recent job at the top).
Hiring managers want to be able to see how your career has progressed over time, and the chronological format communicates this information quickly and clearly.
A functional resume (or “skills-based” resume) focuses on your relevant skills rather than each job you’ve held.
Instead of listing your work history, the functional resume format lists several broad skill categories. Bullet points under each category provide supporting examples that illustrate you actually have those skills.
Functional resumes are ideal if you want to draw attention away from your work history. This format is useful if you have large employment gaps or are writing a resume for a career change.
As its name suggests, the combination resume format (otherwise known as a hybrid resume) mixes the most significant features of both a chronological and functional resume.
Combination resumes include a long skills section with categories, similar to a functional resume. They also have a detailed chronological work experience section.
You may think all of these skills and experiences are a lot to fit on the page – and they are. Combination resumes were designed for candidates with a lot of experience and a well-developed, specialized skill set to showcase.
3. Add a resume header
You’ve landed on a style and format for your resume. Now it’s time to dive into what really makes your resume stand out: the written content.
A resume header needs to include your:
- email address (use a professional one like email@example.com)
- phone number
You can also add these optional details:
- an online portfolio or website (if relevant to the job)
- your LinkedIn
- your mailing address (if you want to show you’re a local)
- a resume headline (a subtitle that describes your experience)
4. Start your resume with a summary or objective
Hiring managers, especially those at large companies, have many applications to review for each job opening. With so much competition, it can be tough to make sure your resume gets the attention it deserves.
To stand out to the hiring manager, your resume needs to communicate why you’re the right person for the job as quickly as possible. That’s where a convincing resume introduction comes into play.
Your resume introduction provides a quick snapshot of your experience, skills, and qualifications at the very top of your resume. It should be 3–5 sentences, and can be written in either sentence or bullet-point format.
In 2022, most job seekers use the following types of resume introductions:
1. Resume summary
A resume summary is an introduction that highlights your most impressive professional achievements and skills.
Resume summaries are ideal for candidates with:
- several years of relevant work experience
- accomplishments that can be tied to actual numbers (which give context to those accomplishments)
Here’s exactly how to structure a resume summary:
2. Resume objective
A resume objective focuses on your professional goals and career path, and how they match the company’s goals. For this reason, a resume objective is ideal for candidates who:
- have just graduated from school and lack professional experience
- are writing a career-change resume or internal position
Here’s the formula for putting together an effective resume objective:
5. Target your work experience to the job ad
Next is your resume’s work experience section, which many recruiters and employers are most interested in (so it’s important to get it right).
For each work experience entry, list the following basic information:
Job title – Dates employed (year and month)
Company name – Company location (city and state)
- Three to five bullet points describing your achievements and responsibilities
- Include hard numbers in your bullet points when possible
To make your work experience section shine, target each bullet point to the specific job you want. Look carefully at the skills mentioned in the description, and showcase any of those skills you have with clear examples.
To get an idea of how to find these relevant skills, here’s an example of a marketing specialist job ad (with orange underlines for verbs and yellow for nouns/skills) courtesy of Indeed.com:
There are many clues about what the company wants from applicants in this job description. It’s up to you to capitalize on them.
Here’s what you might write to respond to this job ad in your marketing resume:
Taylord’s Marketing Firm, Reno, NV
July 2017 – August 2018
• Collaborated with the outreach department to develop innovative marketing solutions for 6 unique products
• Developed branding materials for a new mobile app, resulting in a 14% increase in sales
• Analyzed weekly performance statistics, ensuring that effectiveness of outbound marketing activities
Not only does tailoring your experience section to the job ad make your resume more attractive to employers, but it also helps you get through the applicant tracking system (ATS) software that many large companies use.
ATS software automatically scans your resume for specific skill-related keywords to determine if you’re qualified for the role. If the software doesn’t find the keywords it’s looking for, it automatically rejects your application before a hiring manager even gets to see it.
6. Use numbers & action verbs throughout your resume
Many job seekers make the mistake of simply listing past responsibilities in their experience section and resume introduction. Phrases like “responsible for” and “tasked with” are technically correct, but they don’t do a good job of explaining what you accomplished at work.
To make a resume better than those job seekers, instead focus on your achievements, complete with hard numbers that illustrate the impact of your work.
Here’s a comparison of two work experience bullets. The first bullet doesn’t use numbers and lacks accomplishments, while the second bullet provides an achievement and related number:
- Responsible for making media kits for company projects
- Spearheaded the development of the first media kit for all company projects, increasing annual revenue by 12%
There are two reasons this second bullet point is effective:
- It starts with a strong resume action verb. Action verbs catch the hiring manager’s eye and make you seem proactive and responsible. Start all of your bullet points with an action verb to make your application stand out.
- The candidate includes a hard number. Hard numbers provide context to your accomplishments and show hiring managers what you can achieve for their company if hired.
- How much cash did you handle every day?
- How many customers did you help per day?
- How many emails did you send out each week?
- How have you helped increase profits or reduce losses?
- What positive feedback rating have you received from your clients or students?
If you haven’t already, consider creating a Google Sheet that tracks the achievements you make at your job.
Then next time you want to send out a resume, you can reference these specific numbers to make more compelling work experience bullet points. Such specific information gives you a better chance of standing out to hiring managers and eventually getting hired.
7. Showcase your skills
Hard skills are learned through specific training, workshops, work experience, or school and include the skills you need to operate equipment at work (like point-of-sale systems).
24 Hard Skills for Resumes
|Accounting Tools (SAP, Oracle, etc.)||SEO & SEM|
|HTML / CSS||UX / UI Design|
|Business Intelligence||Mac, Linux, and Unix Systems|
|Perl / Python / Ruby||Vulnerability Analysis|
|Content Management Systems (CMS)||Data Engineering and Data Warehousing|
|Adobe Creative Suite||Database Management and Software|
|Cloud Apps (JSON, Rest, etc.)||Automotive Services|
|Statistical Analysis and Data Mining||Public Speaking
|Foreign Languages||Software Development|
|Software QA and User Testing||Data Presentation|
|Web Architecture||Technical Reporting|
Soft skills relate to your personality, and you develop them by simply dealing with people and daily tasks while at work. Organizational skills like coordination and self-management are good examples of soft skills valued by employers.
24 Soft Skills for Resumes
Include a mix of hard and soft skills on your resume to show employers you have a balance of technical savvy and the ability to work well with colleagues and clients.
Other places you can highlight your skills
Don’t limit your skills to your skills section. Expand on each skill in your resume introduction and work experience bullet points.
For example, if you list Spanish as a key skill, you can talk about how many customers you served in Spanish during a previous position on a server resume.
Additionally, soft skills should be demonstrated with examples in your experience section, rather than listed in the skills section of your resume. That’s because soft skills are difficult to measure without context, and tell employers very little about your actual abilities.
Measure or rate your skill level
You’re likely not an expert at every skill you list on your resume. So how do you communicate your exact level of proficiency to employers?
For hard skills like Photoshop or languages, consider adding an indication of your level of expertise. This indication can either be written or a visual graphic like a skill bar or graph.
Here’s an example of a visual way you can communicate your skill levels:
Want to use a written measure of your skills? Try out this basic scale to explain how proficient you are in a particular skill:
- Beginner: you have some basic knowledge but need further training and guidance to become skilled.
- Intermediate: you have a strong knowledge base but still need further practice and some supervision or guidance.
- Proficient: you can work independently on projects, completing them efficiently and to a high standard. When referring to languages, you’re able to converse with relative fluency.
- Advanced: you have complete mastery of a skill and deep knowledge. You practice your skill with ease, and teach and train others.
8. Write out your education details
Your education section should normally come after all of your work experience, but you can place it first if you’ve never held a full-time job or you’re currently a student.
An effective education section on a resume includes only your highest degree. If you didn’t go to college, add your high school diploma instead.
Here’s what to include in your education section:
This is an example of a resume education section for a job seeker who graduated in 2020 (so it includes more details than you might see on an experienced professional’s resume):
9. Add any additional relevant resume sections
Depending on your experience and background, consider adding optional resume sections. For example, certifications and awards are great if they’re relevant to your chosen career, while hobbies and volunteer work are useful if you’re writing a resume with no experience.
Here are some common optional sections you can add to your resume to give hiring managers a more complete view of you as a candidate:
Hobbies and interests
Although they’re unlikely to sway an employer’s final hiring decision, adding hobbies and interests to your resume helps show off a bit of your personality and can make your resume stand out.
Additionally, mentioning your hobbies could show hiring managers that you’re a good culture fit for the job.
For example, if you’re applying for a job at a sporting company like REI, highlighting your passion for camping or fishing is a great way to show that you’d fit in with the other employees and are personally invested in the company’s mission.
Passionate about volunteering? Putting volunteer work on your resume is a great way to show employers you’re engaged with your community and are interested in more than just a paycheck.
Also, volunteer work is a good addition to your resume if you lack work experience because it shows you have a strong work ethic and are able to commit your time to something.
If you’re a recent graduate or are just starting your career, be sure to include any volunteer experience you have on your resume.
If you’re applying for jobs that require specific certifications to get hired, you should add a section to your resume clearly highlighting that you have them.
For example, if you work in education, construction, or engineering, you likely have more than one professional certification. In these fields, it’s a good idea to add a certifications section to your resume.
Awards and honors
Awards show employers that you were highly successful in your previous role, and help you stand apart from other applicants.
If you work in academia, writing, or law, you’ve likely published some work under your name, either online or in an academic journal.
Adding a section for publications on your resume shows off some of your relevant work to employers and gives them a reference for the quality of your writing and research.
Do you speak three or more languages? Creating a dedicated section for languages on your resume is a good way to show off your skills as a polyglot.
Being able to speak foreign languages is helpful for many different careers, but you should only add a dedicated section for them if you’re applying for a job where speaking in different languages is highly relevant.
If you’re someone who’s worked on multiple personal projects, including them on your resume shows employers that you’re passionate about your work and able to motivate yourself.
For example, if you spent a year independently developing an app or game, including programming projects on your resume shows off your accomplishment to employers and helps explain any gaps in your work experience.
10. Proofread your application (several times)
Finished writing your resume? Don’t just fire it off straight away.
Spend some time reading through it at least a couple of times. You’d be surprised how easy it is to make a typo and how hard it is to spot them in your own writing.
You should also give your resume to a friend or relative to read through so they can help you cut down on common resume writing mistakes.
Software tools you can use to check your resume for grammar or spelling mistakes include:
To help make the proofreading process easier, here’s a checklist you can tick as you complete it:
Is your contact information accurate?
Does your resume NOT include details like headshots or sensitive personal information?
Does your resume fit on one page (or two pages if you’re highly experienced)?
Is your information easy to read (fonts are above 10pt, sections don’t look too crowded)?
Is the design of your resume appropriate for the position you’re applying for?
Did you include all relevant sections on your resume?
Did you quantify achievements in your resume work experience section?
Does your resume address the requirements stated in the job ad?
Is your resume free of typos and grammatical errors?
Is all of your information clearly formatted and professional?
Feel free to use our on-page checklist, or make a copy in Google Docs and begin reviewing your resume.
11. Save your resume as a PDF
When you’re sure your resume is finished and you’ve checked for errors, you can save it. The best option is to save your resume as a PDF. PDFs save your formatting even if you use fonts that aren’t installed on the hiring manager’s computer, so they’ll appear exactly as you want them to appear.
However, if the job ad specifically asks for your resume in Microsoft Word (DOCX) format or some other format, follow those instructions.
Once you’ve saved your resume, keep it somewhere on your computer. If you’re called into an interview, you can then print out hard copies to hand to your interviewer. You can also refer to your resume if you’re writing one for a similar job opening in the future.
Model your resume after examples
Here are a couple examples of well-written resumes for different levels of experience that you can use as inspiration when you make your own.
This college student does a great job showing off the qualities that make them a valuable candidate on their entry-level resume:
This experienced project manager successfully highlights their skills and expertise on their resume:
How to build a resume online
If you’re short on time or simply don’t like writing, use a resume builder to put together a resume that earns you interviews.
There are many good resume builders online to try out in 2022. We’ll walk you through the steps of using our own AI-powered resume builder and show you how to create a fully-formatted resume that’s sure to impress hiring managers.
Step 1: fill in your personal information
First, answer a few questions to help us tailor your resume to your background.
Then, fill in the contact information to automatically generate your resume’s header. Be sure to include the best phone number and email where hiring managers can reach you so that you don’t miss them when they try to contact you.
Step 2: add examples of work experience
For each position you want to add to your resume’s work experience section, you’ll need to include several bullet points about your responsibilities and contributions.
Our AI helps you create work experience bullet points by pulling information from relevant job ads and modifying them into actionable descriptions.
This information is displayed on the right side of your screen, while the text editor on the left allows you to make adjustments or write bullet points from scratch if you prefer.
Using the search bar, you can try looking for different job titles if the initial results don’t match your work experience.
Once you’ve completed your first entry, add another position at the same company or outline an entirely different position.
Complete these steps for each relevant experience you want to add to your resume.
Step 3: outline your educational background
Here, simply add your school, location, program, and date of graduation. Only add your high school diploma if it’s the highest level of education you’ve received, because you only need to demonstrate that you meet the minimum requirement for education.
Step 4: include relevant skills
Next, you’ll add hard and soft skills to your resume. You can either type them yourself and they’ll be automatically formatted into your template, or you can choose suggested skills based on data pulled from relevant job descriptions.
Step 5: generate a resume summary
Then you’ll be prompted to generate a resume summary. This section quickly tells hiring managers who you are as a job seeker, and the most important skills and qualifications you have to offer them and their company.
You can use the suggestions as a guide or write your own statement — just make sure this section is concise and persuasive to convince the recipient to continue reading.
Step 6: customize your resume with additional details
Depending on your industry or experience, you can add additional sections like languages, awards, or certifications.
These categories, while not necessary, may help your application stand out, especially if you don’t have as much professional experience.
Step 7: test out different resume templates and pick your favorite
Once you’ve filled out the content of your resume, you can use the arrows on the right and left sides of the page to see how your resume looks using different templates.
For each individual template, you can select a color from the dropdown button at the top.
If you plan to use our software to create a cover letter as well, we recommend using the same template to create a visually consistent application.
Once you’ve chosen a template and made your final edits, click on the “Save & Continue” button to save your work and view download options. Typically, you should save your resume as a PDF unless a hiring manager specifically requests it in another format.
If you want to make other versions of your resume at any time (or some new cover letters), you can access your documents in the application’s dashboard and proceed from there.
Pair your resume with a convincing cover letter
Now that you’ve put the finishing touches on your resume, it’s time to start sending it off to employers, right? Not just yet.
No job application is complete without writing a cover letter first.
While your resume shows your work history and skills, your cover letter explains your passion for the job and how your experience makes you qualified for that specific role.
In other words, your cover letter is your opportunity to convince the hiring manager that you’re the ideal person for the job.
Without going into too much detail, here’s how to write a strong cover letter for your resume:
- Introduce yourself and explain how you found the job
Address the hiring manager by their name (if you can find it). Then, introduce yourself and how much experience you have, as well as where you found the job.
- Open with an attention-getting introductory paragraph
Briefly explain what attracted you to the job ad and why you’re passionate about the opportunity. Your introduction is also a great place to summarize why you think you’re a good fit for the role.
- Explain why you’re qualified for the job in your body paragraphs
In one or two body paragraph(s), highlight your previous experience and accomplishments. Only include experience that’s directly relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- Connect your experience with the job requirements
After providing an overview of your previous achievements, add an additional paragraph connecting your experience to the needs of the company. This paragraph should make it clear what you can do for the new company if you’re hired.
- End with a confident closing paragraph
Briefly recap why you think you’re qualified for the job. Then, state your availability and tell the hiring manager that you’re available for an interview.
- Thank the hiring manager and politely sign off
Let the hiring manager know you appreciate their time, and then use a formal sign-off such as “Sincerely” and write your name.
Here’s a cover letter example to see what this looks like in action:
Additional resume writing resources
In addition to our resume making guide, we also have many other resources to help you build a competitive job application (no matter your industry or level of experience):
- Resume guidelines (21 formatting rules)
- Internship resume example
- Military to civilian resume example
- Stay-at-home parent resume example
- College student resume example
- How to put your GED on your resume
- How to write a resume for an internal position
- Resume for older workers
Resume making FAQs
If you still have some questions or concerns about writing your resume, here are commonly asked questions about resumes that we’ve answered in greater detail:
- Can I send a resume instead of a CV?
- How many jobs should you list on a resume?
- Is it OK to lie on your resume?
- Is it resume or resumé?
- Can I make a resume on my phone?
- What are red flags on a resume?
- Do you list every job on a resume?
- Can I just put years on my resume?
- Should I put a job I got fired from on my resume?
- Should I put my resume on LinkedIn?
- Can you say “I” on a resume?
- What do I put on my first resume with no experience?
- How can I update my resume in 2022?
- How bad is a gap on my resume?
- What should you name your resume file?