Let’s face it: writing a resume can be intimidating. And the pressure to make it really sing can make the prospect of putting fingers to keyboard that much scarier. But writing the perfect resume doesn’t have to be terrifying. In fact, it can be easy—if you know what you’re doing.
That’s what this guide is for. We’ll take you through all the essential steps of crafting this career document, from how to structure its many sections to how to make sure a spelling error doesn’t sneak in. We promise that when you’re done, you’ll want to show off your resume to the world. (Luckily, you can do that on Glassdoor. Simply upload your resume here, and you’ll be ready to apply in an instant when you spot your dream job posted in our long list of job openings.)
- What Is a Resume?
- How to Structure a Resume
- How to Showcase Your Skills, Education & More
- How to Edit Your Resume
- Examples of Great Resumes
- Learn More!
What Is a Resume?
First things first: let's define a resume. A resume is a summary of your work history, skills, and education. In this respect, a resume is different than a curriculum vitae—more commonly called a CV. A CV is a complete look at your career, covering every aspect of your education, work, and experience without the restriction of length. But a resume is a summary of those experiences and skills—and typically covers only 10 years’ worth of employment. Unlike a CV, a resume should be tweaked and edited for each specific job for which you apply, and it should be just one or two pages long.
A resume is the most requested document in any job search—followed by the cover letter, of course. In fact, recruiters scrutinize job candidates' resumes more closely than their cover letters. So let's move on to how to structure it right.
How to Structure a Resume
This is what the perfect resume looks like: it's got a simple, clean design and a clear way to contact the job candidate, plus it makes the applicant's experience stand out. You'll need to add your work experience, education—including any specialized training you may have received—your skills, and the best way to contact you. (Adding references to your resume is optional.)
But beyond making sure those key points make it onto the page, not every resume looks the same. In fact, one fun thing about resumes is that there's no one right way to structure them—they're as unique as you are.
For example, professional resume writer Peter Yang told Glassdoor that there's no rule that your education section must come before your work experience section. If your work experience is more relevant to the position for which you're applying—or if your education doesn't match the position's requirements—then your degree should be placed at the bottom of your resume. But if your GPA is sure to wow, or you’re a recent graduate without much experience, put your degree toward the top. In other words, structure your resume in a way that makes sense for you—and that shows off your strongest assets for the specific job for which you're applying.
Lastly, beware of leaning too heavily on traditional resume templates. They may make writing your resume easier, but they also won't help you stand out in a pile of other resumes. "People too often use a standardized resume," said Aikman, "and don't think from a creative perspective."
Instead, Aikman told Glassdoor, "You should consider, 'What does this employer think about? What are they looking for? What can I communicate visually?' You are trying to communicate to someone else, so think about what they want to see. What works for the engineering industry does not work for the marketing industry; [and] therefore, you have to style it toward the person who is going to be reading it."
How to Showcase Your Skills, Education & More
Career experts agree: finding a way to quantify or paint a picture of your skills is the most effective way to show them off on your resume. So what does that look like?
It means stripping words such as "results-oriented" and "hardworking" from your resume. Why? They're overused, and they're not specific enough. Instead, use verbs "that really pinpoint what was accomplished, i.e. influenced, improved, achieved, etc.," according to expert Susan Joyce. "This way, there is no miscommunication about a candidate’s qualifications."
Job coach Angela Copeland told Glassdoor, "if you want to show that you’re results-oriented and hardworking, share the numbers. Rather than stating that you’re an 'excellent digital marketer,' prove it. Say something that reflects your actual results, such as, "grew online sales and revenue by 200 percent in one year.'"
But when it comes to showcasing your skills, education, and anything else you want to stand out, there are more words you need to focus on than just verbs. Recruiters and applicant tracking systems scan your resume for exact keywords that match the job description. So, one way you'll ensure you can show off those skills is to pepper your skills section with those keywords. For example, Yang told Glassdoor, if the job description for a software engineering position requires candidates have knowledge of object-oriented design and you took a course on object-oriented programming in college, note it on your resume. You can include it in your education or your skills section.
How to Edit Your Resume
You've written your resume, and read it twice, but that's not enough. A good editing job will take a little longer—and some specific tactics meant to catch resume errors.
First, don't attempt to edit your resume until it's done. Yes, it can be difficult to leave a glaring error while you move on to write your skills section, but force yourself to finish your resume before you edit it. Why? You'll save yourself time, and letting go of errors now could help you write a better first draft because you're focusing on the writing itself. You'll be glad you decided to go back and make all the edits at once.
Next, never try to edit your resume right after you've written it. In fact, you should give yourself a 24-hour break before editing your resume. With time away, you'll see your resume with fresh eyes and for what it really is—not what you meant it to be.
When you give your resume a read, try reading your resume backward. It sounds odd—and it's not always easy—but reading backward forces you to focus on each word, and helps you better catch both spelling and grammatical errors in the text.
Ask a friend or family member to read your resume, too. They may spot errors that you missed, or have suggestions for how to show yourself in an even better light.
Then, fact-check your resume. Check the spelling of proper nouns—think: company names, addresses, etc.—and make sure you have the current contact information for any references you've chosen to add. These things might have changed since you last applied for a job.
And lastly, be sure to look for these common resume pitfalls before you press send.
Examples of Great Resumes
Feel better? We hope so. Now, get to your desk so you can apply for that dream job.
Check out these helpful resources on turning your resume into an irresistible reflection you and your work.