Creating Your Résumé

Creating your résumé is the first step to getting a job. Learn exactly what goes into this important document and start your career search off on the right foot by creating your own résumé.

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Step-by-Step Résumé Breakdown

A résumé is a one-page summary of your work and school experiences. Employers match your résumé against their job openings to evaluate if you'd be a good fit. As such, it's important to make your résumé a good representation of yourself. Here's how, step by step:


1. Decide Which Type of Résumé You Want.

There are three types of résumés: chronological, functional and combination. You might want to consider more than one format of résumé if you're applying for multiple jobs.

  • Chronological is the most traditional format and lists experiences according to the order in which they took place. These résumés generally appeal to older readers and may be best suited for a conservative field.
  • Functional is a type of résumé that lists your experiences according to skill. This is the format to use if you're changing career direction (and lack direct work experience). Because it displays your skills first, your work experience, or lack thereof, is not the main focus.
  • Combination combines the best aspects of the chronological and functional styles. Be careful with length for this format; the résumé can quickly get long.

 2. Create a Header.

A header should include your name, phone number and email address. You can also include your mailing address, but leave it out if you plan to post your résumé online.

  • Use a phone number that you plan to answer and change your voicemail to a more professional message if necessary.
  • Make sure your email address is professional. If your current email address, for example, is candygirl@mail.com or hotbod@inbox.com, it's time to set up a new email, such as janesmith@mail.com or jsmith99@inbox.com.

3. Write a Summary.

In one or two sentences, summarize your work experience and relevant skills. Keep this strong and simple.

  • The summary can be useful to explain why you're applying for a role that is a departure from your career path.
  • You don't have to include a summary, especially if your experience speaks for itself and is relevant to the jobs you're applying for.

4. List Your Experiences or Skills.

For Chronological/Combination Résumés, List Your Experiences

Starting with your most recent or current job, list your previous work experiences.

  • This section shows where you have worked and when. It also states specific accomplishments for each position or job.
  • This is where content can make your résumé run over a page, so be selective (if necessary) about what you include.
  • Pick experiences that seem most relevant to the position you seek. For inspiration, think of your full-time or part-time work, summer jobs, occasional jobs, internships, fieldwork and special projects.
  • Don't worry whether your experiences are "good enough." Employers admire people who have worked hard in a variety of positions.
  • Always start each achievement with an accomplishment verb, like accelerated, achieved, expanded, influenced, solved, maintained, generated, effected, advised, controlled, trained or utilized.
  • Don't worry if there are gaps in the timeline, but keep everything in chronological order, with most recent jobs at the top.

Examples:

Southwestern Writing Center, Peer Writing Tutor, Yuma, AZ

April 2014–Present
- Tutored students in writing for all disciplines.
- Critiqued peers' writing.

Camp Granite Falls, Area Director, Mountainville, TN
June 2013–September 2017
- Directed staff of four while supervising 20 campers.
- Taught crafts, sports and cooking.

For Functional/Combination Résumés, List Your Skills

The "skills" section of your résumé is a place where you can show your strengths and individuality. Start by stating each skill. Then back it up with a two- to three-line explanation of how you learned that skill or why you believe you have it. Make these entries short, clear and to the point.

  • List skills that are most relevant to the job you seek. Think about what the employer is looking for in relation to what you've done and who you are as a person.
  • Don't forget to list computer programs you've had experience with; proficiency can be seen as added value.

Examples:

Self-Motivated: Proactively organized volunteers to assist with distribution at the community food bank.

Bookkeeping: Maintained accurate, detailed inventory reports at school library and subsequently won Top Librarian Assistant award three months straight for Brown County.

5. List Your Activities.

List activities in which you have participated and include what your specific role was in each.

  • This is the place to note membership or leadership positions in clubs, organizations of any kind, athletic teams, community organizations and so on.
  • If you've had an interesting job unrelated to the field you're pursuing—such as reading to blind children or teaching English as a second language (ESL)—add it here. Employers are always looking for people with diverse backgrounds to work for them.

Examples:

Track Team: Team Captain, Senior Year. Fall 2016–Spring 2017.

Drama Club: "Crazy for You" and "West Side Story." Fall 2017 and 2018.

6. List Your Education.

  • List the schools you've attended, starting with the most recent one. Include details such as GPA, class rank or special awards.
  • Add any other educational experiences, such as training programs, community college or summer courses, seminars and so on.

Examples:

Oldham County High School, Oldham, PA. 3.8 GPA. Anticipated Graduation: June 2019.

Bellville Adult Education, Bellville, NY. Introduction to Web Design. September 2017.


7. List Any Awards You've Won and When You Won Them.


When you've been recognized by someone else, you should let potential employers know about it. But you shouldn't worry if you haven't received any awards; just skip this section.

Examples:

Richmond County National Essay Contest, Honorable Mention, May 2006.

Honor Roll, South Satchewan High School, Junior and Senior Years, 2008–2010.


8. List Your Personal Interests.

  • This section shows you're a well-rounded person who people would want to know and work with.
  • Employers often use this section at the start of an interview to break the ice.
  • Casual interests are better not to list (e.g., napping, watching reality TV, gossiping). This is really about highlighting hobbies that have helped you grow as a person.
  • This résumé step is considered optional. If you're having trouble coming up with interests, or feel your résumé is already too long, feel free to leave it off.

Examples:

Ceramics, camping, reading, soccer, automotive repair, carpentry

Submitting Your Résumé 

When it comes to applying for a job, there are several ways you can share your résumé with an employer. Make sure you're aware of these dos and don'ts to ensure your hard work is represented clearly.


Saving Your Résumé as a PDF

Most employers prefer to receive résumés in the Portable Document Format (PDF). To create yours, look for the "Save as PDF" or "Print to PDF" option in your word processor. Review the file carefully to make sure your formatting is preserved.


Emailing a Résumé

When emailing a résumé, you will likely be asked to send it as an attachment. Review the job listing carefully to see if there is a preferred format; most likely, employers will ask for a PDF.


Posting a Résumé

When submitting your résumé to a human resources website, review the upload instructions; the PDF is the most common format here as well. 


Another consideration when submitting your résumé online is using job-specific keywords. Employers often search résumé banks for special words or requirements specific to a job description. Including keywords in the summary, experience, skills and awards sections of your résumé will increase your chances of being flagged as a potential match. You should also use such keywords in the title and brief description of yourself that most job sites request.


Keywords tend to be nouns that are industry-specific qualifications, skills or terms. Some keyword examples include degrees or certifications, job titles, computer lingo, industry jargon, product names, company names and professional organizations. 


And lastly, if you're posting your résumé or portfolio to a job website, be sure to conceal your contact information by activating the privacy settings offered on most job sites or by providing only an email address. Posting personal information on the web could attract unwanted attention. 


Printing Your Résumé 

It's a good idea to have printed copies of your résumé on hand when you go on interviews. Start with a well-formatted document and make sure it has been proofread. You also want to make sure it's the same version that you submitted as part of your application. Use high-quality paper rather than regular copy paper; it will make a much better impression. Make sure your printer has fresh ink and then print a test run to check for any errors or inconsistencies. 


Related Resources

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Résumé Examples

Take a look at different samples to see which works best for you.

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Résumé Builder

Create a downloadable résumé using this easy online tool.