Here is the truth about corporate America: Your resume is your first impression, and putting your best foot forward starts with resume writing.
Hiring managers routinely flip through hundreds of resumes for every job opening. What will separate yours from other job seekers? And, will it encourage hiring managers to call you in for an interview during your job search?
A recent survey found that the most crucial factor in deciding who will be invited for a job interview was the resume. But, most managers spend less than 10 seconds reviewing resumes. Yours needs to stand out and quickly.
How to write the best resume takes practice, but it's time that's well spent.
What makes a perfect resume? Resumes that are perfect:
- are crafted especially for the job
- clearly highlight both soft skills and hard skills
- are meticulously proof-read and contain no typos
- are easy to read with bullets, bold and other typography callouts
In this article, you'll learn exactly how to write the perfect resume that highlights your work experience and grabs attention, and sets you up for an interview during your job search. I will explain what a resume is, how to write a resume, why covers letters are essential (and how to write one), and, most importantly, how to stand out from the pack when applying to jobs.
I will even share my writing template and resume examples with you. This is the template I used to get highly coveted jobs, and I am sharing it with you! This is how to write an effective resume that the next hiring manager will want to read.
Remember, your resume format should be clear and direct, built directly around the job description. Resume examples are provided below.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is a Resume?
- 2 How To Write A Resume
- 3 Resume Format Summary
- 4 A Few Resume Template Examples
- 5 General Resume Writing Tips
- 6 Cover Letters
- 7 How To Write a Cover Letter
- 8 Example Cover Letter
- 9 Other Resume and Cover Letter Questions
Why You Should Trust My Advice
I have the work experience, but I also have an education. As a graduate of Harvard’s MBA program (one of the top MBA programs in the world) and Wharton’s undergrad business program at the University of Pennsylvania (the #1 undergraduate business school in the world), I have had access to resume coaching and tips from the world’s best institutions.
I have applied to and gotten/been accepted to some of the most competitive jobs, scholarships, and universities in the world throughout my career.
That’s right, I have received over half a million dollars worth of schooling at Ivy League universities where I was shown how to create world-class resumes and conduct an efficient job search process.
And I will share that information with you for free so that you can also get the job you deserve!
Let’s start at the very beginning so that you understand exactly what a resume is. I will then cover how to write a resume before showing you a couple of examples.
Finally, you can download the resume template I created by combining the best features of resumes from Harvard and Wharton so that you can have the best resume in the world. It's the same template I had used to get highly competitive jobs, and I also used it when I applied to Harvard Business School.
What Is a Resume?
A resume is a 1-page document that summarizes your academic and professional experience for prospective employers.
A resume is nothing more than a personal marketing tool! It’s NOT a biography.
It's the paper version of your best self, which is tailored to a job you're applying for.
A resume's purpose is to quickly show the reader (typically the hiring manager or the person responsible for hiring new employees) your strengths as a potential candidate. Job seekers need an effective resume.
A CV (curriculum vitae) is NOT the same thing as a resume. In general, a resume should be limited to a single page (unless you are a senior executive with many years of experience), while a CV may stretch several pages, and the resume format might differ a bit.
Another distinction is that a resume will be tailored for the specific position you are applying for (based on the job description). A CV is more of a static document that will not change regardless of who it is going to.
It's important to note that you shouldn't lie or exaggerate on your resume. Everything on it should be accurate and verifiable. The last thing you want is to write that you are fluent in Spanish and then have the interviewer decide to conduct the entire interview in that language.
How To Write A Resume
Your job search begins with your professional resume.
Writing a resume is an essential step in applying for a job, so you need to invest the time to create a resume that will make you stand out from the other applicants. The hiring manager needs to like your resume.
The most important aspects of any great resume are the easiest to get wrong.
To start, you want to make sure your resume is easy to read and matches the job description's demands. This means using a standard font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri and making sure it’s big enough to read when printed out.
Secondly, you want to make sure there are absolutely no typos, no misplaced commas, or any other errors. Resume writing begins and ends with proofing the document. And well.
It would help if you showed that you are a serious applicant who put their best foot forward.
I mean, if you can’t even ace the resume part of the job application, who’s to say you’ll be able to handle the job you’re applying for?
A professional resume is split into different sections to make it easier to read.
Your resume will include the following sections: Heading, Summary, Work Experience, Additional Experience, Education, and Additional.
At the very top, you’ll want to list your basic contact information so you can be contacted easily!
This includes your first name, last name, home address, email address, and phone number.
Government jobs require you to include your home address, but it could make sense to add it for non-government jobs as well since including your address shows that you are a local candidate.
If you don’t want to include your full home address, at least include the city and state you live in.
This is a fantastic opportunity to tell the reader EXACTLY what you want them to know about you. This could include what makes you unique and relevant for your target role. Limit this to 3-4 sentences.
The experience section communicates and highlights your experience and work history. Relevant skills to the job description. Yes, even your soft skills.
Your work experience section should start with your most recent role, listed in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest jobs).
If your company is well known, no company description is necessary. If your company is not well known, include a line describing the size, industry, and type of company.
For each role, include your title and dates of service on the same line. Below that line, you’ll want to provide 1-2 sentences describing your responsibilities. If applicable, include the number of people managed and the revenue or budget managed.
Below each role, include 2-4 bullet points with specific accomplishments. Focus on personal results and measurable achievements and be as quantitative as possible.
For example, let’s assume you work at a call center, and you were responsible for reducing the customer wait time from 2 minutes to 1 minute. Which of the two bullets below sounds more convincing and impressive?
- Customer wait time dropped from 2 minutes to 1 minute while I was there.
- Created program to cut customer wait time by 50%, improving customer satisfaction significantly.
While both statements are true, bullet #2 is MUCH better for two reasons: It is more quantitative and uses strong action verbs.
It would help if you started all of your accomplishments bullets and work experience with action verbs (words that express action). Some great action verbs include:
- Solved, etc.
You can and should include action verbs throughout your resume (not only at the beginning of bullet points). They convey confidence and show that you are active and results-oriented.
How Far Back Should Your Work History Go?
In general, your work history should include your three most recent jobs. If you have had less than three jobs, then list all of them.
If your most relevant job wasn’t your most recent one, use your judgment to decide what to include. You only have a single page to convey why you are the best candidate for the job, so you need to be flexible and thoughtful about including.
This section will include any relevant volunteer, extra-curricular, public service, or other professional experience and work history that highlights your unique abilities.
If you have work experience older than ten years old or have worked many different jobs, you can list some of those jobs here as well.
You’ll use this section to highlight your formal education.
For recent graduates or current students, this section should be listed below the Summary section.
If you are still in college, include your high school. If you are a college graduate, you should remove your high school to save space for more important aspects (your professional experience).
Spell out your degree and use the formal name of your school/college/university. For example, if you earned a B.A. in Psychology from Duke, you should write:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in History – Duke University
Make sure to include your graduation date unless it was over 30 years ago (your graduation date is less relevant as you progress through your career).
Use this section to highlight languages spoken, hobbies, relevant skills, and other interests.
For some people, this may be a single simple sentence.
Example: “Basic German language skills with a passion for running (half marathon finisher).”
For years my resume included that I loved to make pottery (it was a hobby I started thanks to a high school pottery class), and there were countless interviews in which this came up and gave us something fun to talk about. Yup, resume writing that sparks conversation in an interview!
This is your chance to show what makes you different on a more human and less professional level. However, make sure you only include interests that cast you in a positive light. Recruiters or a hiring manager won’t be impressed if you list your penchant for being a party animal.
Resume Format Summary
- No more than two pages (95% of people should stick to 1)
- Make all bullets and text left hand justified.
- All fonts should be size ten or larger.
- Margins should be no smaller than 0.7
- Easy to read fonts like Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman
- Only ever submit or send your resume in PDF format (unless asked for a different resume format)
Which Program Should You Use To Write Your Resume
Resumes should always be typed up and printed out.
Most are created using Microsoft Word or Google Docs but feel free to use other word processing programs.
A Few Resume Template Examples
As you will see in the resume examples below, no two resumes look the same.
Use my template to get started and craft the perfect resume template now!
General Resume Writing Tips
Writing a resume takes practice. Keep your sentences and bullets concise. A concise resume is more visually appealing and shows that you can focus on the most important things. Make sure your work experience is clear and direct.
A visually appealing resume will make a much stronger impression than a dense document packed full of words and is hard to read.
In many ways, less is more.
Proofread, proofread, proofread. Did I mention that you should proofread? After you are positive that your resume is perfect, you need to have your friends edit your resume for mistakes. It's almost certain that they'll find something you overlooked, even if you read it 100x.
You need to make sure everything is formatted consistently. For example, all bullets need to either end with a period or no period, and it needs to be consistent throughout.
This is the amount of detail that separates the amazing resumes from those that get lost in a pile.
What Is A Cover Letter
Cover letters are 1-page letters that are submitted with your resume.
They convey why you are interested in a job at the company, why you are a good fit, how you’ll fill a need they have, and your enthusiasm for the position.
Do You Need A Cover Letter?
Cover letters are not required for all jobs.
Some jobs specifically ask for a cover letter, while others give you the option to submit one.
In general, my rule of thumb regarding cover letters is as follows:
Always submit a cover letter if:
- The job posting asks for one.
- The application has space for one (might as well impress them!)
- A letter isn’t required, but it’s a job you are extremely excited about
How To Write a Cover Letter
A cover letter is easy to make, and I typically followed a pretty standard format.
You’ll want this letter to enhance your resume, but it can also be the perfect place to address potential concerns like gaps in work history. It can also be the place to highlight strengths (like existing relationships with employees at the company).
Cover Letter Format
A cover letter should include the date, your name and contact information, the title and name of the person you are writing it to (yes, you should always address it to an individual), the body of the letter, and a closing.
A cover letter should be short and sweet, and I like to keep it to 4 short paragraphs so the hiring manager can quickly read it.
Paragraph 1 (intro) specifies the specific job you are applying for and how you found it. It also includes your current position and company.
Paragraph 2 (why me) highlights your work experience and why you are an excellent fit for the specific role. Highlight a relevant accomplishment and personal touch. This might include information that builds on one of the bullets on your resume. No need to include specific mentions of hard skills or soft skills here.
Paragraph 3 (why you) should convey why you want to work at the company itself. Include facts you love about the company and any connections you have to the company. Make sure to tie this to paragraph 2 so that it doesn’t seem disjointed.
Paragraph 4 (closing) is where you’ll list specific follow up items and leave your phone number or email so you can be contacted easily. Never forget to include your contact information.
Example Cover Letter
Other Resume and Cover Letter Questions
Where to go for resume help and writing tips?
This page should serve as a comprehensive guide to everything you need to write a resume. If you are still looking for more guidance, your first stop should be the career office at the school you graduated from.
You can also seek out public resources in your area by going to Google and typing “free resume review [your city name]” as there is often a public organization that conducts no-cost resume reviews for community members.
Where to buy resume paper?
In general, you don’t want to print your resume on regular printer paper unless you have no other choice.
The heavier paper will make your resume stand out and show that you mean business.
You’ll want to use a 24lb sheet of paper to print your resume. Some people prefer the heavier 32lb paper, but that is overkill, in my opinion.
How to make a resume pdf?
If you aren’t sure how to save your resume as a pdf, it’s super easy. On Microsoft Word, you can go to Save As and choose the pdf file type. Another common trick is to go to Print and then Print to PDF.
You always want to send your resume or submit it as a PDF because you want to preserve the formatting you worked so hard to perfect.
By sending as a Word doc, you run the risk of having the file change and not print correctly. I’ve seen this happen countless times, and it’s a shame when you get a resume with a janky font you can’t read.
How to start a resume?
Starting a professional resume is super easy and should take you no more than a few hours to complete and polish up. Most of the other people applying will only spend 30 minutes on theirs, so by creating a killer resume, you’ll be sure to stand out. Write a resume that will impress!
How to write a resume with no experience?
Even if you have no professional experience, you can start by highlighting your education and volunteer or other life experiences.
The example below is an excellent example of a resume template for someone who hasn't started their career yet. You'll see that education is listed first.
Does It Make Sense To Use A Resume Builder?
In general, a resume builder will help you to write a resume, but the quality is not as good as if you were to go and create an impressive resume yourself. My template is so easy to use that you really won’t even want to use a resume builder!
You are now equipped to build the perfect resume and cover letter. But if you are still looking for inspiration to achieve your wildest dreams, here are some habits from wildly successful people that you should emulate!
After all, while it's true that money can't buy happiness, at least not always, a better paying job is a beautiful way to built true wealth.
And, it all starts with resume writing.