Many people think of the resume as something you update when you need to—as in, “here’s a job opening I want, and I haven’t updated it in three years.” But here’s the thing about resumes—it’s never too early to give yours a makeover, even if you’re not even really thinking about looking for a new job just yet. Whether you want a promotion or a job change (or think you might one one of these things in the near future), it’s time to think about making some changes.
We've complied some of our best advice about how to go about creating a resume that will get noticed—and not ignored. Read on, and get ready to make the resume that perfectly sums up all you have to offer. You can also download free templates from our Resume Library to get started on your best resume.
But first…let’s look at how to get in the resume-writing mindset, and what you’ll want to think about before you even start.
It may seem like a bit of a chore to do “prework” for your resume, but you really don’t want to skimp on the time and effort you put into this important doc.
What should your resume look like?
Before you even get to the content of your resume and what it says, it's important to focus on how to present it. All it takes is a poorly organized resume for a hiring manager to click "close" or toss it on the "no" pile. You have, quite literally, seconds to make a good impression on a first reader. Technicalities matter, they really do, so you want to present yourself as savvy and careful with the choices you make.
Even the file name of your resume (which, by the way, is the first thing someone sees) is something you shouldn't take lightly:
After you've named your document, think about how the person you're sending it to might like to read it. Here are the pros and cons of several different file types:
If you have no idea where or how to get started with how to organize your information, we have you covered. Here are some of the best resources for templates you can use, whether you're starting from scratch or want to jazz up your current resume:
Even if you have the most impressive resume a hiring manager has ever seen, if it's annoying to read they might not even take the time. Seriously. It sounds dramatic, but thing about how annoying and time-consuming it is to read something too small or WITH EVERY WORD IN ALL CAPS. As graphic designers everywhere will tell you: fonts matter. Here's expert info on how to choose the best for your resume:
What should you include (and leave out) of a great resume?
Now that you have the cosmetic parts down, it's time to turn to what's inside: the stuff that eventually makes or breaks whether you'll get that call in for an interview. You want to take all of your awesome (or, hey, not-so-awesome) information about yourself and present it in the prettiest package possible.
After your name, address, and email comes the chance to write that controversial "Objective": a line or two that essentially summarizes the rest of your resume. Some people are very much against this practice and consider it outdated, while some think it's a fine way to introduce the rest of your info. Here's some info to help you decide for yourself:
Somewhere on your resume, after listing all of your relevant jobs and experience, you'll need to let hiring managers know about your skills sets. What do you bring to the table? What won't they have to spend time and money teaching you, because you already know how to do it? Here's info on how to best use this important section:
- How to Use the Skills Section on Your Resume
- 13 Skills You Need to Put on Your Resume
- 5 Soft Skills for Your Resume That Will Get You Hired
- 4 Tips to Sneak Soft Skills in Your Resume
What if your employment history is spotty, which would make your list of previous jobs look a bit strange and spotty? It's okay, really. You're human, life happens, and employers will understand. Here's how to best present a resume with some gaps:
Now comes two opposite problems that are both common for job seekers. First, what if you simply have too much to say? Should you dump it all in there to let hiring managers know just how much job experience you have? Or should you practice your editing skills to get all of your info on one page? It depends on the specific situation. Check out this quick guide on how to decide:
Finally, what if you just don't have... much to say at all? If you're fresh our of college and applying for your first job, no amount of creativity can add years and years of professional experience to your resume. But, there are ways you can present yourself and ready and capable for any job. Here's info for new graduates who want to put their best foot forward:
- 14 Resume Strategies for Recent Graduates
- 5 Essential Resume Tips for Recent Graduates
- 7 Resume Mistakes Almost Every New Grad Makes
What are the worst resume mistakes you can make?
Sometimes, when setting out to create the best resume ever, it's really hard to know where to start. You know what's helpful in those cases? Know what absolutely, 100%, not to include.
First, maybe it's time to assess your current resume to make sure you're not committing any cardinal sins. Check out the one you've been using, maybe even for a few years now. Is it time to make a change?
Then, before you set out to make your new, fresh, and updated resume, read the following to make sure you don't inadvertently make a mistake that automatically leads to rejection. Hiring managers are a picky bunch. They look at hundreds of resumes, if not more, for every position and all it takes is one moment of annoyance to move on from yours, even if you are perfectly qualified.
Here's info on what to never, ever include, and some examples of what a truly bad resume looks like so you can make sure yours looks totally different:
- 5 Things You Should Never Put on Your Resume
- Here's the Number One Resume Mistake You're Making
- 7 Incredibly Bad Resumes That Will Make You Facepalm
- 6 Common Resume Mistakes That Make Recruiters Cringe
- 5 Big Mistakes Google’s Head of HR Sees on Resumes
- Take These Things Off Your Resume ASAP
- Revamp Your Resume: 21 Mistakes to Avoid
Resume how-tos for specific careers
Finally, we have a series dedicated to walking you step-by-step through resume writing, tailored to certain industries and careers. The following posts lead you through resume examples for 3 different levels of each career presented: entry, mid-level, and manager level. Each level focuses on different skills and experience, placing the most important front and center. You can use these as models when creating your own:
- How to Build a Great Dental Assistant Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a College Student Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Delivery Driver Resume (with Examples)
- How to Write a Legal Secretary Resume (with Examples)
- How to Write a Medical Assistant Resume (with Examples)
- How to Write a Perfect Administrative Assistant Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Barista Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Caregiver Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Cosmetology Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Customer Service Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Customer Service Resume (with Examples)
- How to Write a Perfect Human Resources Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Occupational Therapist Resume
- How to Write a Perfect Retail Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Sales Associate Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Social Worker Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Teaching Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Perfect Truck Driver Resume (Examples Included)
- How to Write a Retail Manager Resume (with Examples)
- How to Write a Strong Home Health Aide Resume (Examples Included)
Hopefully, by the time you've made your way through the tutorials and advice on this page, you'll be well on your way to creating a stellar resume that perfectly summarizes your skills, experience, and readiness for the job. Want to check? Before you send it off, make your way through this checklist for one final review:
- Your 5-Question Resume Checklist
- The Ultimate Resume Checklist [PDF]
- Does Your Resume Pass This Key Checklist?
In addition to all of this, you can also utilize free resume templates to help get you started on forming a great foundation.
All set? Congrats on putting in the work to make the best resume possible. Attach it, send it, and wait for the interview invites to pour in!
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