How to Write a Professional Résumé - 2018 Guide

2017 December 4  | icon time-read13 min read

How to Write a Résumé For 2018 – Extensive Résumé Guide (+Examples)


Whether you are looking for your first job or trying to make a career change, the process starts with your résumé. This one document can make or break your chances of getting a job interview.


So, what is it that recruiters want to see? This comprehensive guide will cover all the résumé rules and tips you need to build a professional résumé for 2018, including several resume examples.


By reading this guide, you will learn…

  • What is a résumé? And, what is a CV?
  • How to choose the best résumé format
  • What content to include, such as skills to put on your résumé 
  • Tricks for how to write an effective résumé
  • Additional job search advice


Keep in mind that you don’t have to build your résumé from scratch. A résumé builder can provide you with a free résumé template to work with, so all you have to focus on is résumé writing.


Let’s get started...

how to write a resume steps

Résumé Basics


What Is a Résumé?


A résumé is a brief summary of personal, educational, professional experiences used for job applications. 


What Is a CV?


A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a detailed summary of professional and educational histories used for job applications.


What Is the Difference Between a Résumé And a CV?


We hear this question all the time. And based on how similar the above definitions above are, it’s easy to see why there might be some confusion.


The main difference between a résumé and CV is the length and amount of detail. A résumé layout and its content is meant to be selective and concise. That means one page (maximum three for senior roles). By contrast, a CV outlines your entire educational and professional history, along with major accomplishments, publications, and other credentials, so it is almost always more than two pages in length.


In general, a résumé is used when applying for jobs in the private sector, whereas a CV is used for jobs in the public sector, especially academia. We’ve developed a separate guide so you can learn more about the differences and see a comparison of résumé samples and CV samples

difference between a cv and a resume

Résumé Layout and Format 


What Are the Different Résumé Formats?


There are three types of résumé formats: reverse chronological, functional or skills-based, and a combination of the two. Choosing which one to use depends on the type of job you are applying for and your level of experience.


How to Choose The Best Résumé Format


Reverse chronological résumé format - this is the most popular resume format and is ideal for people with plenty of work experience that is relevant to the role which they are seeking.


Functional/skills-based résumé format – if you lack relevant work experience because you are a student/recent graduate, or you are looking to make a career change, the skills-based format is a good choice.


Combination résumé format – this is a great choice if you have a diverse set of skills and work experiences that you feel are relevant to the desired role. 


Still not sure which format to go with? The combination résumé format is becoming very popular and can look great when you use a free résumé builder. See for yourself with this résumé example.

resume example

What Is The Best Résumé Layout? 


The first thing a job recruiter notices about any résumé is the layout. Does it look organized or cluttered? Is it too short or too long? Is it boring and ignorable, or does it scream out “Read me!”?


This is what you have to consider when choosing a résumé layout. There are some general layout principles that apply no matter where and with whom you are applying for work.


Résumé Layout Must Haves:

1. One page in length (max three)

2. Clear section headings

3. Ample white-space, especially around the margins

4. Easy-to-read font. 


The advantage of using a résumé builder is that these must-haves are done automatically. You don’t have to invent an entirely new layout. Instead, you can make use of a professional résumé template and customize it to your needs.


The ideal résumé layout also depends on the company and role you are pursuing. For example, if you are applying for a marketing job with a cool new startup, you will want to use a modern résumé template. Looking for a job with an investment bank? A simple résumé template will be your best bet.

Résumé Content


What Are the Sections to Include On a Résumé?


In general, the major content sections for a résumé are the Professional Summary, Contact Information, Work Experience, Education, and Skills. A résumé builder will make it easy to fill in these sections, and will normally include additional sections for organizations you are involved with, volunteer work or languages you speak.


Many people wonder if they should include a list of interests or hobbies on their resume. The answer is that it depends. 


You can either incorporate the skills and experiences gained through these pursuits into other sections, such as Organizations or if your hobbies are highly relevant to the position, you can give them their own section. There can be great value in showing your diverse interests to a potential employer. 


How to Write a Professional Résumé Summary


Which is most common in 2018, an objective for a résumé vs. professional summary? Well, the objective statement is going out of fashion. Instead, a professional summary that provides a convincing snapshot of your skills and experience is favored by recruiters. The best résumé templates will have space for two or three lines of text at the very top of the page for a summary of what follows.


The main goal of the summary is to ‘hook’ the reader, providing encouragement to keep reading. Here is a good résumé summary example:


“An independent and self-motivated graduate with proven and tested business, procurement, sales, and marketing skills. A strong link between theoretical knowledge from an MSc, practical internships and a part-time job.”


Which Contact Information to Include On a Résumé


Some of the most common mistakes in résumé writing are related to contact information, so pay close attention to this section.


Here are some dos and don’ts of résumés to keep in mind:

DOs

  • As a minimum, include your name, phone number, email address, and the current location of residence.
  • Consider including social media profiles that are relevant to the position, such as a detailed LinkedIn profile. Other profiles like Twitter, Medium and Instagram, may be valuable for certain roles.
  • Include a professional headshot if you are applying for a job in Continental Europe, Asia, South America, Africa or the Middle East.

DON'Ts

  • Use an unprofessional email address, like CoolCanadian86@hotmail.com. Create a separate professional email if you don’t already have one.
  • Include personal information, such as marital status, nationality or religious affiliation.
  • Include a professional headshot if you are applying for a job in the United Kingdom or North America.

What to Include In the Work Experience Section Of a Résumé


This section is your opportunity to showcase how your experience is aligned with the position you want. The best way to do this is through bullets, with each point providing examples of past responsibilities and accomplishments based on what the potential employer is asking for in the job description. 


Keep in mind that you have limited space on a résumé, so you will need to be selective about what you want to emphasize. The easiest way to decide what to include is to base the content of your résumé off of keywords the recruiter wants to see. 


Your ability to use these strategic keywords will determine whether or not you are invited for an interview. Our guide to résumé keywords offers plenty of examples to follow. 


One more consideration is that you want to avoid leaving any gaps in employment on your résumé. If one of your previous jobs doesn’t seem applicable and it came between two relevant roles, you still need to list it. But you don’t have to describe it in great detail.


If you’re still wondering how to write the work experience section, take a look at these résumé examples.


How to Write Achievements In a Résumé (for Work Experience Section)

IDEAL

  1. In charge of the full renovation of the hotel with a $5M budget. Completed the project 3 months before the deadline and respecting the budget.
  2. Revamped the business page on Facebook that now reached over 95.000 followers (up 38% in just 2 months); which generated over 1.200 customer leads resulting in over 4% increase in bottom line profitability.

NOT IDEAL

  1. Completed the renovation of the hotel before the deadline and within the budget limit. 
  2. Redesigned the Facebook business page which generated new customer leads resulting in increased profitability. 


What to Include In the Education Section Of A Résumé


The content under this section depends on where you are at in your career. If you’ve been working for 20 years, you are best keeping the education section brief by listing your completed academic degrees and institutions attended from most recent to oldest.

 

For students or recent graduates, the education section has added importance. Here you can include sub-sections for relevant courses taken, research/course projects, and academic achievements. This is how to create a persuasive résumé without a lot of work experience.

Which Skills to Put On A Résumé


The skills section of your résumé should include a combination of hard skills and soft skills. With a typical résumé template, you have limited space, so you should only list the skills that are A) mentioned in the job description, and B) skills that you can qualify you have.


Here are some examples of skills for a résumé:

Hards Skills Examples For a Résumé:

  • Financial ratio analysis
  • Proficiency with specific software 
  • Written or verbal communication
  • Negotiation
  • Equipment operation


Soft Skills Examples For Résumé:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Active listener
  • Service orientated
  • Mentoring towards others
  • Critical thinker


There are hundreds of possible skills to consider using. We’ve also developed a guide on which skills to put on a résumé.  

What Are the Additional Sections In a Professional Résumé Format?


Extra sections to consider include Achievements (E.g.: scholarships or industry awards), Organizations (E.g.: memberships in professional associations), Certifications (E.g.: professional designations), Conferences/Courses attended and Languages spoken.


These sections aren’t necessarily black and white in terms of their labeling and usage. For example, your personal situation might be perfect for a “Certifications and Courses Completed” section. 


As part of choosing the best résumé builder, consider whether it gives you the flexibility to change section headings.


Résumé Writing and Editing Advice


Résumé writing and editing tip #1: One résumé DOES NOT fit all job applications


Resist the urge to create one résumé and use it for multiple jobs. This is a lazy approach that will significantly reduce your chances of getting an interview. There’s a good chance it won’t include all the keywords outlined in the job description.


Keywords are just one part of customizing your résumé to a specific job. Here are some other résumé elements employers want to see


Résumé writing and editing tip #2: Be selective with what you include


Since your résumé should be customized to each job opportunity, you need to be precise with the information you include and exclude. You also only have one page to capture all of the attributes you want to share. 


The best examples of résumés avoid emphasizing the same skills or experiences multiple times. Especially under the Work Experience section, each bullet should provide a new insight into your capabilities, even if you’ve done similar tasks for multiple companies.  


Résumé writing and editing tip #3: Illustrate your achievements, not responsibilities


One of the best pieces of résumé writing advice for getting job interviews is to focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities. The goal of a résumé is to persuade, and simply listing the tasks or types of work you’ve completed does little to impress.


When you are outlining your previous work experience, explain what tasks you did and the RESULT of the work.


Here are a few examples of accomplishments you can list:

  • Improved efficiency of X system in the organization
  • Grew customer base with %
  • Trained X employees/students/volunteers
  • Launched X campaigns/products/services


See more ideas for how to focus your résumé on your achievements.


Résumé writing and editing tip #4: Follow a proofreading checklist


There are plenty of mistakes you can make on a résumé, ranging from poor choices of content to the smallest of typos. Many of the mistakes can be avoided by following the advice in this guide. But even after you’ve given close consideration to the content of your résumé, your work isn’t finished. 


Proofreading is an essential final step to developing a résumé. Here is a proofreading checklist to help guide you through this stage. 

  1. Have I used consistent tense throughout? Use past tense to describe previous roles, and present tense to describe current roles.
  2. Have I used a variety of action verbs? Describe experiences with verbs that convey action. E.g.: Coordinated, Developed, Achieved, Launched, etc.
  3. Have I used too much jargon? Assume your résumé will be read both by technical experts and a non-technical layperson. 
  4. Have I included personal pronouns? Avoid using I, me, we, us.
  5. Have I included superfluous words? Save space and get your points across efficiently by eliminating unnecessary words (E.g.: adverbs, such as greatly, fairly, creatively)
  6. Have I used a simple, clear font? An online résumé builder will automatically use a common, easy-to-read font.
  7. Have I given my résumé a professional file name? Make sure to include at least your surname in the file name of the version you will submit (E.g.: Smith_Resume_ABC_Corporation)
  8. Have I had someone else proofread my résumé? There’s a good chance you’ve still overlooked a spelling or grammar error, so have a trusted friend give your résumé one last proofread before hitting send.

What Are Action Verbs And How Can I Use Them?


If you are in doubt what the action verbs are, they are verbs that precisely and vividly demonstrate an action. 

A short list of action verbs to use in your résumé: 

  • Coordinated 
  • Organized
  • Programmed
  • Operated
  • Built
  • Formalized
  • Launched
  • Introduced 
  • Developed
  • Reduced
  • Decreased 
  • Achieved

If you need know more action verbs, check the following list


How Long Should My Résumé Be?


From our research, it was concluded that the best length for your résumé depends on your career stage and experience:

One-page résumé: Ideal for students/graduates and for everyone that has less than 5 years of relevant work experience for the job they are applying for.

Up to 3 pages résumé: For seniors and professionals having 5+ years of relevant work experience for the job they are applying for. 

Remember the concept of “Less Is More” and filter the information you include in your job application, only including the relevant details. 

On average, recruiters spend on average only 6 seconds reviewing an individual résumé, therefore focus more on the quality and relevancy of your content rather than the length. 

Using Your Résumé to Get Hired 


How to Write a Cover Letter That Pairs With Your Résumé


When applying for a job, consider the employer’s standpoint. He or she wants to know “Why should we hire you?”


A résumé goes a long way towards answering this question, but it isn’t the only step. First, you have to encourage a recruiter to actually review your résumé. This is the purpose of a cover letter.


Assume that the potential employer will read your cover letter first and your résumé second. The letter is an introduction to who you are and why you are the best fit for the position. Therefore, your letter offers a preview of your résumé by providing a few of its highlights.


Once you show the reader that you have key skills or experiences related to the position, he or she will want to see what else you can offer and turn to your résumé. 


Wondering how to write a cover letter that gets you an interview? See our 2018 Cover Letter writing guide for cover letter examples and practical advice to get you started. Or explore one of our cover letter samples. 


How to Expand the Reach Of Your Résumé


By using the advice found in this guide, you will know how to create a professional résumé to apply for any job. But wouldn’t it be great if the jobs came to you?


During your job search, you will create numerous customized résumés for different positions. Each of these customized versions will be adapted from a “master” résumé. This master résumé should not only serve as the basis for different variations, but it should also be the document you widely share through different channels.


A master résumé can be used on a personal website, uploaded to social media profiles (E.g.: LinkedIn), posted on job networking websites, or handed out at career fairs. Your résumé will already have attractive content and an appealing format taken from a résumé builder, and this can catch the attention of recruiters looking to fill opportunities.


There are countless ways of finding a job. But almost all of them depend on having a professional résumé that impresses employers.

Now you’re ready to create your own professional résumé that will have employers calling you for interviews. Get started now by using our free résumé builder.


Remember to share this guide with your network to help your friends and colleagues with their résumé writing. And for even more job search advice, visit our Career Blog.

Andrei KurtuyCo-founder & CMO

Andrei is one of the 3 co-founders of Novorésumé and responsible for Communication, Research, and Marketing. Born an idealist and optimist, he believes we should always try to search for change and make everything around us more effective and simple. In his free time, he loves running, reading and drinking coffee.

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