How to write a resume: A beginner’s guide

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A well-crafted resume is essential in the job hunting process. It serves as your first impression and can make or break your chances of landing an interview. This guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of creating a strong, professional resume, even if you’re starting from scratch.

Understanding Resume Basics

Your resume acts as a personal marketing document designed to showcase your skills, experience, and achievements to potential employers. First, it’s important to understand the different sections that typically constitute a resume and how they should be formatted.

If you’re unsure where to start, provides useful tools and templates to simplify the process.

The format and structure

There are three primary resume formats:

  • Chronological: Lists work experiences starting with the most recent.
  • Functional: Focuses on your skills and qualifications rather than employment history.
  • Combination: A hybrid of chronological and functional styles.

Most job seekers use the chronological format because it reveals their career progression over time in an easy-to-follow manner.

Personal Information and Contact Details

What to include

This section must contain:

  • Full Name
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Location (city and state)
  • LinkedIn Profile (optional but recommended)

Avoid including unnecessary details such as birthdate, gender, or marital status unless requested by the employer.

Crafting a Compelling Summary

Objective vs. summary

Choose between writing a resume objective or a resume summary:

  1. Resume Objective: Best for beginners or those making a significant career change. Briefly mention what you aim to achieve in your next role.
  2. Resume Summary: Suitable for experienced professionals. Provides a concise overview of your skills, experiences, and accomplishments.

For instance, a Sales Manager’s summary might look like this: “Experienced Sales Manager with 10 years in retail sales management. Proven ability to lead large teams and exceed sales targets.”

Showcasing Professional Experience

How to list your work history

The key is to provide clear, succinct information while highlighting your contributions in each role. Include:

  • Job Title
  • Company Name
  • Location
  • Dates of Employment (MM/YYYY)
  • Bullet points summarizing responsibilities and achievements

Examples of bullet points to help elucidate your past roles:

  • Exceeded quarterly sales goals by 20% by implementing customer-focused sales techniques.
  • Led a team of 5 junior analysts, mentoring them to surpass performance benchmarks.
  • Reduced operational costs by 15% without compromising quality.

Highlighting Education

Educational background

List education in reverse-chronological order, similar to work experience. Include:

  • Name of Institution
  • Location
  • Degree Received
  • Field of Study
  • Graduation Date

If recently graduated, consider adding coursework relevant to the job you’re applying for, especially if lacking extensive work experience.

Additional certifications

Include Professional Certifications, training programs, and relevant online courses. These bolster your educational credentials.

Emphasizing Skills

Hard vs soft skills

Consider dividing into two subsections:

  • Hard Skills: Technical abilities directly applicable to the job.
  • Soft Skills: Interpersonal attributes that influence how you perform tasks.


  • Hard Skill: Advanced proficiency in Excel functions.
  • Soft Skill: Strong communication and teamwork abilities.

Tailoring to the job description

The job posting usually outlines required skills. Ensure those appear prominently within your resume.

A Range of Additional Sections

Professional affiliations

Involvement in industry groups indicates deep engagement and keeps you updated on trends. Example: Member of the ‘American Marketing Association’.

Volunteer experience

Volunteering can reflect leadership and commitment to social causes. Format similarly to work experience, emphasizing transferable skills.


  • Position: Volunteer Coordinator
  • Organization: Habitat for Humanity
  • Responsibilities: Led volunteer recruitment efforts, coordinated schedules, trained new members.


Add languages you speak fluently, not basic vocabulary knowledge. List by proficiency level.


  • Spanish – Full Professional Proficiency
  • German – Conversational Proficiency

Hobbies and interests

Optional but revealing insight into personality traits. Only add if space permits and there’s specific relevance.


  • Travel Blogging: Demonstrates communication skills and adaptability.
  • Basketball Team Captain: Reflects leadership and teamwork.

Fine-tuning Your Resume

Proofreading and editing

Ensure error-free content. Proofread multiple times or ask someone else to review. Typos and grammatical errors can undermine credibility.

Using action verbs

Start bullet points with dynamic action verbs to make descriptions more compelling, Examples:

  • Improved
  • Spearheaded
  • Developed
  • Implemented

These words convey decisiveness and initiative, setting you apart from others.

Customizing per job application

One-size-fits-all resumes rarely succeed. Tailor each version based on the job’s requirements to emphasize the most relevant aspects of your experience and skills.

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