Resumes are important for a wide variety of professionals. If you want to land a position as a designer, digital marketer, web developer, or another type of job, your resume is what will help open the door for you.
If you're seeking work, you need a resume. Most employers expect them, so you want to be prepared.
In this tutorial you'll learn how to make a resume. We'll start with a discussion on what a resume is (and is not). Next, we'll explore various types of resumes so you can craft the right one for the position you're applying for. You'll also discover guidelines for designing and writing an effective resume. Then we'll touch on where to send your resume and explain how to follow up after you've sent it out.
1. What Is a Resume?
Simply put, a resume is a document that summarizes your education, professional experience, and skills. It's frequently used by recruiters and others to sift through job applicants and choose those that they'll interview. For that reason, a resume is one of the most important documents you can create if you are looking for a job.
Traditionally, resumes were printed on paper. In today's job market a resume is a digital document used to apply to jobs online.
With the popularity of social media sites like LinkedIn and About.me there is some confusion about what a resume is. LinkedIn is a popular site with recruiters that allows users to share resume-type information on their profiles. It is not your resume though.
LinkedIn, About.me and other business-oriented social media sites do not replace your resume. Instead, use these sites to supplement it. Remember you do not own your social media site profile. A social media platform can change at any time. Those changes could affect your profile. Refer to your professional profile in your resume, but do not expect that profile to replace your resume.
Now that we know what a resume is (and is not), let's look at what to put into it.
2. Gathering Information
The first step to make a resume is to gather information. You need to compile details about your past employment, your education, and your specific skills. If it's been a while since you've made a resume or if you've never made one, you might find this task challenging.
First, you need to understand what type of information to gather. Next you need to know how to get that information. We'll discuss both.
Information You Need to Make a Resume
The purpose of your resume is to convey details that help you stand out as an applicant. It's important to have the right type of information on your resume. At least include the following:
- Work Experience
Include professional social media information, such as your LinkedIn account, and your contact information. The order in which you present your information depends on the type of resume you choose.
Here are some key points to remember as you gather your info:
- Recent work experiences are more important than long ago work.
- Professional work experience is more important than nonprofessional work.
- Recent education is more important than dated education.
- Gather significant volunteer experience.
- Keep your resume simple and if possible, short. But don’t omit anything really important.
- Don't forget to mention specific coursework related to your field.
How to Get Information for Your Resume
So, how do you make sure you haven't left anything out? If you haven't updated your resume for a while, it's possible to forget something. You also might have trouble pulling details together if you're making a resume for the first time. Here are some potential sources for information:
- Find past employers and clients in your tax documents.
- Find specific coursework in your college transcripts.
- Search past performance reviews for mentions of specific achievements.
At this point, it's better to have too much information than not enough. You can always edit out anything you don't need.
Once you've gathered your information, you're ready to choose a type of resume that fits your experience best.
3. Choose a Resume Type
There are four different types of resumes. I will explain each type. The resume type you choose depends on the type of job you are applying for and on your own background.
The four resume types are:
- Chronological Resume
- Functional Resume
- Combination Resume
- Creative Resume
I'll discuss each resume type below.
This is the most common resume format. It starts with a career summary followed by work experience listed in reverse chronological order. Skills and education appear at the end. Chronological resumes also include the month and year for each past job.
If you have a strong work history with lots of work experience in your field, a chronological resume is probably the best resume format for you. It emphasizes your strong background in your field.
Because of its focus on work history, employment gaps are easy to spot in a chronological resume. Some recruiters prefer this format for that reason.
If you have employment gaps some specialists recommend using a functional resume format instead. What is a functional resume? Let's take a look.
Like the chronological resume, the functional resume starts with a summary statement. The next section in a functional resume is a listing of professional skills. Your work history (without employment dates) and your education follow.
The functional resume format de-emphasizes dates and work history. That is why it is sometimes considered to be a better format to use if you have gaps in your employment. The format can be helpful for stay-at-home parents re-entering the workforce and others who have taken time off from their careers.
Be careful when using the functional resume, though. Many recruiters are suspicious of resumes with lots of work experience and no dates. They may feel that you are trying to hide something. Always be prepared to explain employment gaps.
Learn more about the benefits of a functional resume in this tutorial:
- ResumesHow to Write a Functional or Skills-Based Resume (With Examples + Templates)Charley Mendoza
There is a resume format that includes features of both a chronological resume and a functional resume.
A combination resume format is just what sounds like: a combination of the chronological and functional resume formats. It allows you to highlight your skills and still provide details about your work history.
Like a functional resume, the combination resume starts with your summary statement followed by a listing of your skills. Your work history, in reverse chronological order with dates, follows.
This is a great format for those who have a short, but consistent, work history because it emphasizes skills over experience. Students, for example, may have strong skills but a limited work history. Recruiters also tend to like this format too because they can still see your work history.
There is one final resume format to discuss: the creative resume.
The creative resume falls outside of conventional resume descriptions. You may have seen resumes designed as infographics, software programs, or even interactive resume websites.
The obvious advantage to using a creative resume is that it is memorable. Potential employers are unlikely to forget it. In the crowded job market, being unique can make a difference.
Creative resumes can be effective for those working in the creative fields such as graphic design or web design. This is especially true if your resume highlights skills needed for the position you're applying for. However, recruiters at more traditional corporations may reject a creative resume.
Another problem with creative resumes is that many recruiters use Electronic Resume Management (ERM) systems to scan resumes for appropriate keywords. Some creative resumes won't properly scan through an ERM. Still, a creative resume can be the right choice if you know a person will see it.
If you choose to use a creative resume, it's a good idea to have another resume in a more traditional format as a backup.
If you want to learn more about how to make a creative resume, we have an article for you:
4. Design Your Resume
Once you've chosen the type of resume you'd like to present to prospective employers, you are ready to design your resume.
Remember, your resume represents you. It’s the first thing that most recruiters look at, so it needs to leave a good impression. A sloppy resume design doesn't help your chances of getting job. In fact, it could even keep you from being considered.
Learn how to organize your resume effectively:
If you have strong graphic design skills, you can create your own resume design. Most job candidates will benefit from customizing a good resume template though. A quality resume template saves you time and ensures that the final result is attractive and professional. Here are a few creative resume templates to look through:
We have a wide assortment of resume templates, in various types and styles, on GraphicRiver to browse through as well. You can find a professional resume template that works for you.
To get an idea of how easy it is to customize one of these resume template, review my tutorial on how how to personalize one, which walks you through the process of customizing a template:
Though the tutorial above is based on a specific resume template, the customization principles illustrated in the tutorial work for most template designs.
Once you've chosen a resume template, it's time to pull it all together. You're ready to write your resume.
5. Write Your Resume
How do you put your experience into words? Do you write in first person or third person? Are there any key terms you should use?
If you've wondered about these topics you're not alone. Writing about yourself is awkward. That's one reason why so many people have trouble writing their resume. In this tutorial, I've pulled together some guidelines to help you put your resume together.
Resume Writing Guidelines
Opinions vary, but most recruiters agree with the basic resume writing guidelines below:
- Don't speak of yourself in the third person. An example of a resume statement written in third person would be "John saved the company seven thousand dollars." Don't use statements starting with "I" and "Me" either. Get around the problem by using phrases that start with action verbs. For example, say "Saved the company seven thousand dollars" instead of "I saved the company seven thousand dollars."
- Don't copy your job description into the resume. Recruiters don’t want to see generic statements that could apply to anyone. They want to see what you contributed to the position. Be sure to mention anything that you received recognition for.
- Do be specific about your accomplishments. Use numbers whenever possible. For example, the phrase “managed and mentored a team of seven” is better than “managed a team” because it is more descriptive.
- Do check grammar and spelling. Mistakes could cause your resume to be rejected. If possible, have a friend review it to catch any errors you might miss.
Write Your Summary Statement
Your summary statement is one of the most important pieces of your resume. Its position at the top of your resume means that most recruiters will read it first. A good summary statement can make or break your resume.
Your summary statement should be short. Two to three sentences are enough. But those two to three sentences should be carefully crafted. They need to explain what you have to offer an employer. When writing your statement, consider what the employer is looking for and how you can meet their needs.
In this tutorial Julia Melymbrose explains why most resume statements fall short and describes how you can make yours stand out:
Write Your Work History
Another important part of your resume is your work history. Job seekers often wonder about the following:
- How far back should I go?
- Should I include summer and part-time jobs?
- Do volunteer positions count?
Let’s tackle those questions one at a time. If you have strong work history with few gaps, some recruiters say it’s okay to go back as far as 15 years only if the jobs are relevant. If the jobs are not relevant or if adding them makes your resume too long, then limit your work history to the past ten years.
If you’re just starting out, you may be wondering whether you should include summer jobs or volunteer work on your resume. The key to making this decision is relevance. Most recruiters only like to see paid and professional positions listed. Others are open to resumes with volunteer or part-time work if the experience is directly related to the position being applied for.
Remember, even if your volunteer or part-time work is not listed on your resume you can still address it in your cover letter or mention it in an interview.
Tip: Make your job descriptions unique. Focus on specific achievements instead of on a job description. For example, rather than stating “designed websites for clients,” state “won XYZ award for most innovative website design.”
The experience, job history, achievements, and statement that you present in your resume is a narrative that a potential employer will consider. Learn the writing secret to make a compelling resume:
6. How to Use Your Resume
After you’ve made your resume, it’s time to start using it. Here’s what to do with your resume when it is complete:
- Send it to recruiters and headhunters.
- Use it when applying for an advertised position.
- Share it with friends who might be able to help in your job search.
You should also print out a copy of your resume and take it along with you when you go on an interview. Be prepared to answer questions that your interviewer might have about the items on your resume.
After you’ve sent out your resume you are not done. You need to follow up with the hiring manager a week or two after submitting your resume.
When you follow up don’t ask if the company received your resume. They probably did. Instead offer to answer any questions they might have. Be aware that while some company recruiters like candidates who follow up others are annoyed by the practice.
So, now you have learned about the complete process of making a resume. These guidelines work whether you’re in a creative field such as graphic design, web design, or coding. They also work for more conservative professionals.
If you’re ready to start making your own resume, you can download one of our resume templates on GraphicRiver.