A Job Seeker’s Guide to Writing an A+ Resume from Scratch
Need to build your resume from scratch? Check out this handy guide!
By: Grace Mitchell | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma
Hey there, job seeker.
Is your response to a busted pipe to pull up a Youtube tutorial? Did the pandemic inspire you to bake your own sourdough?
Maybe you hope to apply these same DIY principles to your resume-writing, but you’re overwhelmed at the sheer magnitude of advice out there.
We’re an award-winning resume-writing service, so we know a thing or two about what’s under the hood of a great resume.
Here’s our nuts and bolts guide to everything you need to write a resume from scratch.
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First things first: hiring managers need to know whose resume they’re looking at (and where to send those interview requests!). The top of your one (or maybe two) page resume should include your first and last name, phone number, email address, city and state, and a link to your LinkedIn profile, either centered or left-justified to the margin.
Be sure to use a professional email address from a contemporary domain. It should go without saying, but email@example.com leaves a much better first impression than firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t worry about including your full mailing address; it’s unlikely that your hiring manager will want to reach you via snail mail. If you’re applying to a job in a different city, you can list that city and either “relocating to” or “commuting to” next to it so that your resume still includes the job location, which is a common ATS keyword.
Finally, if you don’t have a LinkedIn account yet, creating one that’s tailored to your career story and current job search is a great way to attract recruiters and include details relevant to your job search that won’t fit on your resume.
Summary of Qualifications
Next up: your Summary of Qualifications! This section includes a few sentences, bullet points, or both, outlining your main qualifications. You can think of it as a tl;dr for your resume (though we hope your hiring manager reads the whole document!). It should also be directly targeted to the job you’re applying for.
To write a winning Summary of Qualifications, try starting off with this formula for your first sentence:
Descriptive Word + Job Title + Level of Experience + Key Area of Expertise
From there, you can include one to three short sentences (and/or two to three bullet points) following the same structure but replacing the job title with a powerful noun and elaborating on your key areas of expertise that are most crucial to the qualifications of the specific job you’re applying to.
So your Summary of Qualifications would look something like this:
Your Summary of Qualifications should get the hiring manager interested in the experience you have to offer, so be sure it includes your career highlight reel, closely targeted to the job description, rather than a generic statement.
Your Skills, or Areas of Expertise, section lists hard and soft skills relevant to the job posting. Pay attention to the specific skills listed in the job description for the job you’re applying for, as these are likely to be used as ATS keywords.
This section shouldn’t take up much space in your resume, so listing your skills in categorized subsections is a good rule of thumb. And use your informed judgment with what to include here! If your target company’s main office is in Germany, it’s worth mentioning that you’re semi-fluent. Otherwise, you’re best sticking to skills that are more relevant and ditching the ones that aren’t.
Your professional experience section should be the longest section of your resume. This is where you list the recent and relevant positions you’ve held along with 3-6 accomplishment-based bullet points (the more recent or relevant the job, the more bullet points you should use).
For each position, include your job title, the company you worked for, and the dates of your employment. Then give your bulleted list of relevant achievements on the job. You can also include a brief 1-3 line paragraph before the bullets with a description of any important responsibilities or info about the company that’s not obvious from your job title or company title.
Your bullet points should lead with an action verb and should always include metrics when possible.This shouldn’t read like a job description because you want to show hiring managers what you personally brought to the job. For great accomplishment-driven bullet points, you can use this formula:
(1) Active Verb + (2) Contribution and Skills Used + (3) Result
(4) Add Metrics to Contribution and/or Result
If you don’t have much professional experience, don’t fret! You can also list volunteer positions, freelance work, and internships.
The final section on your resume, in most cases, should be the Education section. (Note: If you’re a recent grad with limited professional experience or you’re switching to a career in a field you have a degree or certifications but limited professional experience in, this section should be closer to the top.)
Include your highest level of education, along with your field of study and university (if applicable). You often don’t need to list your GPA unless it’s required for the job, but you can include it if you want (if it’s 3.5 or higher – you won’t win any points with the hiring manager for being in the “2.5 and alive” club).
Although some people choose to include the year they graduated, this isn’t actually needed. We usually only include it if it’s recent, within 10 years or so. If you’re an older job seeker, a hiring manager may use this against you.
You’ll also want to include any certifications or licenses relevant to the job you’re applying for on your resume, as well as any professional development courses you’ve completed. Depending on the importance of the certification, course, or license, you can either list these in the Education section (with a modification to the heading such as Education and Certifications), the Skills section, or in a dedicated Certifications/Licenses section.
Other helpful sections include Awards/Honors, where you can list accolades you’ve earned in your career, and Professional Affiliations, for the societies you belong to.
Putting It Together
While you may choose to modify it depending on your experience, the outline listed above works well for anyone’s resume. Once you have each section written, you can put it all together in an easy-to-read, ATS-friendly format and edit the document for each job you apply to.
And voila, your very own self-made resume! Now get out there and get those interviews!
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Want a better resume?
Get our free 3-step guide to writing better bullets (plus 70 ideas for metrics!)