Skip to content
How To Write A Resume

Blog

How To Write A Resume

Franklin Buchanan |

Chapter 1 – The Development Process

Content is king on a resume, and you want to make sure your content is relevant and not redundant. Start with your current job and make a list of all the things that you do on a daily basis.

Some people will tell you that a resume should be 100% accomplishment-based, but I believe in a balance of descriptive AND actionable content. As a recruiter, it's important to know what you do on a daily basis. It's also important to know how good you are at it. Plus....when's the last time you saw a job description ask for "Reduced administrative staff time by 45%"? That bullet is resume gold, but it lacks keywords. That's where your descriptive content comes into play.

After you've made the list of the things that you've done, ask yourself "what was the end result?" and document that. Yes, numbers and percentages are ideal, but if you don't have them, the problems you solved are good enough.

Make these lists for the last 7-10 years of your career, or your last 3-4 jobs depending on how long you've been in your current role.

I know what you're thinking....so we only take the resume back the last 7-10 years? Not necessarily, but this is the starting point!

 

Chapter 2 – The Layout

The 2 most common resume layouts are either have 1 column (which allows the eyes to scan all the way down) or 2 columns (which can be more concise and save space).

I always recommend the 1 column approach. Even if it stretches your resume to an extra page.

Don't get me wrong, 2 column resumes can be very nice to look at if they're formatted properly and I've written them for clients before. But those clients were not undertaking any aspect of an online job application in their search.

The 2-column layout can be tricky for an Applicant Tracking System to scan. And it's almost 2022, so if you're applying online for a job, odds are your resume is going through that software.

Now, I've seen some candidates have success with online applications with a 2-column resume. So, it's not a blanket statement to say that you're guaranteed to get rejected if you have one. But I'm a big believer in setting yourself up for success, and the 1 column format does that.

 

Chapter 3 – The Start

You've already listed out your content - you've written down what you did for the last 7-10 years of your career or last 3-4 jobs and written down the end result.

Now it's time to start putting the document together. Open Microsoft Word or Google Docs and start putting the resume together with easy things that you know to be true.

What does that mean? Well, start with your contact info! Make sure it's up at the top of the resume, front and center! Your name, email address, one phone number, city, state, and LinkedIn URL should all go in this section.

You have 6 seconds to grab a recruiter's attention. The last thing you want to make a recruiter do is search your resume for how to get in touch with you.

I see resumes every single day with contact info on the left, on the right, and even on the bottom. All you're doing is hurting yourself when you do that.

Part of your job as a jobseeker is to make the reader of the resume's life easy! Don't make them work hard to figure out how to call or email you!

Next, go to another finite piece of information if you have it. Your education. Depending on where you are in your career will determine where on the resume it goes, but I like to put the education down next after the contact info, even if it ends up being the last thing on the resume.

Why? Because I believe in momentum. And in order to get momentum you need to start with the things you know to get in the writing flow.

 

Chapter 4 – Descriptive Content

You have your content, and you have your layout. You've put your contact info and education info on there to start building momentum.

The rest of the resume needs at least a summary, skills section, and then professional experience. Do the professional experience first.

You need to list the company, location (even if you've been remote), dates of employment, job title, and then your bullet points.

I don't like putting a bunch of bullet points though. It makes it hard to read. Instead, I like to do a short paragraph that describes what my clients do. Use 3-4 lines, tops, and give a high-level overview of your responsibilities.

Next, use bullet points to highlight your key accomplishments that you wrote down. This way the ATS scan grabs your descriptive content that's full of keywords, and the human eye quickly goes to your bullet points to show your impact.

Do this for the last 7-10 years or last 3-4 jobs to get started. In the next chapter we'll talk about the art of writing an impactful bullet point.

 

Chapter 5 - RATS

You've put together your 3-4 line descriptive paragraph outlining your daily job duties. Now it's time to write some actionable bullet points.

By this point, you've probably heard of the STAR format. STAR stands for "Situation, Task, Action, Result." STAR is great for interviews. I do not like it for resumes in most situations.

Instead, I like the "RATS" format instead. Yes, I think I just made that acronym up. But I lead most client bullets with the result first, because that's what I want the reader to see.

Here is (kind of) a STAR bullet. It's probably more of a TAR but anyway:
- Implemented new sales process across team of 17 and increased sales by 85% in less than 12 months.

It's good, it has impact, action, and result. Let's reverse it though:
- Increased sales by 85% in less than 12 months by implementing new sales process across team of 17.

See the difference? Get to the impact quicker! Do this for each of your bullets. Try to have at least 3 bullet points for each job.

In the next chapter I'll give you a case where the STAR bullet is the better option.

 

Chapter 6 - STAR
In the last chapter, we discussed RATS vs STAR format for your bullets, and why it's usually best to go with RATS (Results, Action, Task, Situation).

In this chapter, we'll talk STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result), which is also the method for answering behavioral based interview questions.

I typically will use the STAR approach when my clients are making a shift in their career or have never held the desired job title they want.

A recent example is a client who wanted to get into Training, but her experience was largely as a Financial Advisor. She had Training responsibilities for her company and actually facilitated new hire trainings.

But, the large majority of her responsibility was assisting customers with banking issues.

So we wrote a very brief 2 sentence overview of her job duties, and then led off her bullets with the situation and task first, because we wanted to demonstrate to hiring managers that she has in fact done the job before. Here is an example:

-Partnered with CEO to create duties, procedures, and training modules for new virtual position after exceeding 6-month goals in 2 months.

Had we gone with the RATS format, it would have looked like this:
-Exceeded 6-month goal in 2 months which led to partnership with CEO to create duties, procedures, and training modules for new virtual position.

They're both good bullets, and the argument is there that the second is more impactful, but what do you see first? Exceeding a goal that isn't related to training.

I also bolded and italicized the training portions of each of the bullets we developed. That way the eyes of the reader see that first.

So when you're developing your bullets, be thoughtful about your previous experience and how it relates to where you want to go.

 

Chapter 7 - Relevancy

In the last 2 chapters we discussed RATS vs STAR format for your bullets. And, if you'll recall from earlier, we've focused on the last 7-10 years or the last 3-4 jobs you've had to develop our content so far.

Why this timeframe and does that mean that's all that goes on the resume?

The reality is that hiring managers are spending a handful of seconds looking at your resume, so they're focusing on the last 7-10 years of experience. So that's where we want to focus our impact!

But....no, that does not mean that's all that goes on your resume. The question that I ask my clients and myself, is whether or not the information is relevant and not redundant. If it's relevant and not redundant, put it on there.

If it tells a story, put it on there. Go through the same process we've been doing for the rest of those stops. But some consolidation is perfectly acceptable.

As an example, on my resume, I do not list out my time working at First Tuesday Strategies like I do all of my other stops. It's simply listed at the bottom as *** Additional experience as a Project Manager at First Tuesday Strategies from 2006 - 2007 *** because the work I did there in 2006 isn't particularly relevant to resume writing, career coaching, and talent acquisition.

But my time as a Recruiter and Account Manager at Aerotek is relevant, as that was my first stop in the world of recruiting and selling recruiting services. It's not redundant either, despite the fact that I've worked at 2 other competitors doing similar roles. It's not redundant because my successes I had were different than the ones I had at Kelly or FGP, so I list those out to tell more of my story.

So, when you're building out your resume, keep asking yourself if the information is relevant and not redundant, and decide whether or not it should go on there!

Chapter 8 – The Summary

We've put on our education, we've summarized our job experiences, and we've developed actionable and quantifiable bullets using either the RATS or STAR format. We've also determined whether or not we need to consolidate or footnote any irrelevant or redundant experience.

That leaves us with the start of the resume. Arguably the most important part! Hollywood doesn't film a movie from start to finish and I don't write resumes that way either!

Most people STILL put an "Objective" on their resume. But you're applying for a job to be a Manufacturing Engineer. The recruiter knows that's your objective! Instead of an Objective, just put a headline title with what you're applying to.

Now that you have your headline, use the rest of the top of your resume to write a capabilities summary that tells the reader 3 things: who you are, what you bring to the table, and what you're good at. Use the 1st 3 to 4 lines of your resume after your headline to do this.

This begins to brand you as a candidate and quickly will grab the reader's attention. Do try to avoid talking about how many years of experience you have, that part is made clear after the reading of your resume.

It's also the hardest part and why I recommend you do it last. Because if you've been going through this exercise, you've been writing about yourself and you start to remember what you're good at and what you bring to the table.

In the next chapter, we'll talk about the importance of your skills section, where to put it, and how to optimize it!

 

Chapter 9 – Skills Section

We're done writing our dynamic summary that tells the employer who we are and what we bring to the table. Now we need to put together a skills section.

The first question I get asked here, is do I have to have a skills section? Not necessarily, especially if you're staying within industry. While I do like the aesthetic of the skills section, I use it primarily to add additional keywords to the resume.

I typically stay around 9 skills, and I'll put them in columns of 3 right underneath the summary. No tables!

Focus these skills on the jobs you're applying for. Read through the job description and write down the keywords that stand out to you. And then tailor this section to them. As an example, if you're in Account Management and you see a posting call for "client service," make sure that is what is on your resume, not "customer service."

If you're in IT, you might consider adding a second skills section that calls out the operating systems, programming languages, software, and hardware that you're proficient with.

And please, please make sure you are in fact skilled at these! I would never put Microsoft Excel in my own skills section. Because I have a very elementary understanding of how it works!

In the next chapter, we'll talk about an optional "Qualifications Summary" you can put on a resume. Yes - it's geared differently than your "Executive Summary."

 

Chapter 10 – Optional Qualifications Summary

There are some instances where a "Qualifications Summary" can be helpful on your resume.

Let's first talk about what NOT to do with this section. Don't put quantifiable bullet points here. WHAT? That's counterintuitive, isn't it?

It's not - quantifiable bullet points belong wherever they happened. You put those as a bullet underneath the job where you did it.

I treat the "Qualifications Summary" like a cover letter inside of a resume. I ask the client the 3 skills that they feel like they will bring to their next role, and then I tailor those skills to speak specifically to the job they are applying for and the impact those skills will have.

I don't put this section on every resume. I usually add it when a client is looking to take a significant step up, shift industries, or shift career paths. But even then, it's not something that I always include, it just depends on the client.

 

Chapter 11 – Edits and Proofreading

A few good tips for you as you finish up your resume.

1. Proofread. A word processor can help you correct a spelling error, but it will often miss their/there and it certainly doesn't know your email address or phone number. Want to test your proofreading skills? See how many errors can you spot in this post and circle them.

2. Choose a clean font. Cambria, Calibri, Roboto, and Franklin Gothic Book are among my favorites (no, not because of my name). Century, Georgia, and Helvetica are other nice ones.

3. Put your resume to work. Depending on the publication you read, only 2% of applicants from an online posting receive an interview, and up to 85% of jobs are still filled through referrals. Use your network and get your resume, in PDF format, to your contacts!

4. There is a TON of conflicting information as to what format to use when applying for a job online, PDV or Word. The best practice here is to see what the job description asks for. The ATS itself may ask for a specific version to upload as well. If it doesn't, I suggest you use a Word document.

A footnote to recruiters - just because your ATS likes a PDF better than a Word or a Word better than a PDF, doesn't mean another system is the same. Do jobseekers a favor and tell them what format to upload in the job description. Let's remove as much ambiguity in the job searching world as possible!

Recent Blog Posts

4 Essential Ways to Create a Smoother Layoff Process

Navigating a layoff is hard, but these tips can help to ease the process of letting an employee go.

Read more
Reflecting on 5 Years!

5 years of delivering world class resume writing, career coaching, and outplacement services.

Read more
How Long Does a Recruiter Look at a Resume?

We asked recruiters how long a resume should be and how long they look at it.

Read more
PARWCC Conference Thoughts

How I became a better resume writer and career coach at PARWCC Thrive 2024.

Read more

Cart

Your cart is currently empty.

Select options