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The Easy 2021 Guide to How to Make A Resume

Marissa Bergen

Freelance Writer, Blogger, & Musician


When you apply for a job, your resume will be the first impression an employer gets of you, and we all know how important it is to make a great first impression!

Your resume will show your experience in a way that lets the employer know you are qualified for the position you are applying for. It lists your skills, education and other assets. It must be free of grammatical errors. It should have a layout that is well organized and easy to understand. 

A resume must do all it can to show you in the best light possible. After all, the future of your career is on the line. 

If you are wondering how to make a resume, read on for some great tips that will help your resume stand out. 

Choose a Format

The first step of how to write a resume involves choosing a format. There are three basic formats to choose from: chronological, hybrid and functional. Here’s a rundown of each. 

Chronological: A chronological resume puts your job experience first (after your contact information). It is familiar to employers and it’s a good choice if you have a lot of relevant experience for the position you’re applying for. It goes in reverse chronological order listing your most recent job first. 

Functional: A functional resume focuses on your skills. It’s the way to go if you don’t have a lot of hands-on experience for the job you are applying for, but you feel you have the skills to make up for it.  

Combination: A combination resume places equal emphasis on your skills and work experience. It’s best for applicants who have a diverse skill set. It will be favorable for individuals that are applying for a job that requires various skills. 

Note: When making decisions on how to create a resume, it’s a good idea to create resumes in a variety of formats. That way you can choose which is best to submit based on the job you are applying for. 

What is the Best Layout for My Resume?

How to make a resume template

When thinking of how to create a resume, the layout is important. Employers want a neat looking document. If the layout is sloppy, they may pass you over, no matter how much experience you have. 

As you ponder over how to make a resume, here are some things to consider in creating a layout that looks as professional as possible. 

Keep it to One Page: The most important part to consider when figuring out how to create a resume is that it needs to be short. It’s likely the employer is a busy person. They won’t want to spend time reading a resume that is more than one page long. Keep it brief and to the point. If your resume is running over a page in length, determine what information can be deleted. 

Use Section Headings: An employer is likely to skim your resume looking for the points they think are most important. Make this as easy as possible by using bold section headings (H2) that separate skills, education, professional experience and so on. Further break these down into subheadings (H3) for every job, school, skill, etc. 

Use the Proper Spacing: An employer may get turned off if the text on the resume is squished onto one page. You may have limited space, but it’s better to leave out superfluous information to get a layout that’s easy to read. 

Use a Clear Font: If you’re an expressive person, the creative font may be one of the first things you thought about using when deciding how to create a resume. Despite what anyone may tell you, a creative font is not the way to get your resume to stand out, especially if the font is unreadable. Stick to the classics (Calibri, New Times Roman, Roboto, etc.), and for the love of your career, stay away from Comic Sans. 

Use the Right Font Size: If you are trying to squeeze a lot of information onto your resume it may be tempting to go for a small font size. But using a font that’s so small it’s unreadable is a bad idea. It’s advisable to use a 10–12-point font for the text and a 14 -16-point font for the headings. 

Save Your Resume as a PDF: Word is a popular application but saving your resume as a PDF will be less likely to cause formatting issues. 

What Should I Include on My Resume?

When thinking of how to make a resume, the document should be divided into sections that include the following: 

  • Contact Information
  • Resume Summary or Objective
  • Work Experience
  • Education 
  • Skills 
  • Optional section for other achievements such as certifications, languages spoken, etc.

Here’s a comprehensive explanation of what you will want to include in each section. 

Contact Information

Your contact information should be listed at the top of your resume. Remember, if it contains any errors, it will be impossible for the employer to get in touch with you to let you know if you’ve made it to the next round. 

The contact info section should include: 

  • Your first and last name
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address
  • Your location

It’s not necessary to list your exact address, but you should include the city you live in. That way, your employer will know how long it will take you to get to work if you’re applying for a brick-and-mortar position. It can also provide insight on your background. 

You may also include your title, which will look especially favorable if you have some sort of degree. 

Lastly, you could list social media links such as LinkedIn, Introviews and blog pages, if you think they are relevant. If you put these on your resume, make sure the content the employer will find there is professional and appropriate. 

You won’t want or need to include a headshot, a date of birth or an inappropriate email (like hotstuff91@gmail.com) on your resume. These will work against you making you look unprofessional, and they are unnecessary. 

Objective or Resume Summary

Your objective or resume summary is very important to remember when you are collecting information on how to make a resume. Your objective or resume summary is where you get a chance to show something unique about your professional situation. It should show your best assets while getting straight to the point. 

If you choose to list your objective, you’ll want to show what you are looking to get out of the position. For example, when writing your resume, you can include something like, “Recent graduate looking to take the first step in my career as a financial planner.”

The resume summary will be more telling of who you are and your professional skills. It may state something like, “Financial planner with years of success helping people grow their wealth.”

As you can see, an objective is ideal for someone starting out in their career while a summary is better suited to someone with experience under their belt. Summaries and objectives should each be 2-3 sentences long. So while the examples here are good starting points, you will want to build on them to make your resume look impressive. 

Work Experience

Your work experience should be listed with your most recent position listed first and going in reverse chronological order. It should be published in the following format.

  • Job Title/Position: This will list the position you held at the company. 
  • Company Name/ Location/ Description: List the name of the company, its location and its industry. You won’t need to put down the exact company address. The city and state will be sufficient.
  • Achievements and Responsibilities: In this section, you’ll list your duties at the position. You’ll also want to include your achievements, which is what some people call a wow statement. This is an opportunity to tell your employer how you were an asset to your former employee. Examples include introducing more efficient systems, boosting sales, etc. 
  • Dates Employed: If you’re not exactly sure when you were hired and left the company, don’t worry, an estimate will do. Employers are not looking for the exact dates you started and left. A month and year will be sufficient.

How Much Work Experience Should I Include?

With limited room on your resume, it may be difficult to determine how to make a resume that strikes the balance between a one-pager and showing all your best attributes. It is always hard to know what work experience should be included and what should be left out. Here are some guidelines that will help you decide.  

If You Are New to the Job Market and Have No Experience: If you are applying for your first job ever, it can be difficult to figure out how to make a resume because you aren’t able to fill it up with job experience. Instead, you can leave work experience out and focus on skills instead. If you have done any volunteering or internships, be sure to include that in your resume. 

Entry Level Applicants: If you’re an entry level applicant, it’s likely you don’t have a lot of relevant experience in the field. Make up for it by including all the job experience you’ve had up to now. You never know what might strike a chord when your employer reviews it. 

Mid-Level Applicants: Mid-level applicants should list relevant work experience only. 

Senior Applicants: Senior applicants should go back no more than 15 years when it comes to listing their experience. Going back further than that is unnecessary. 

How Should I Deal with Gaps in Employment History?

Not everyone has been consistently employed throughout their working lifetime. It’s possible that you took a few years off to study or travel.

There’s nothing wrong with taking some time for yourself. But when an employer looks at your resume, they may wonder why there is a gap. They may assume that you’re lazy or that you weren’t able to find employment due to personal or professional circumstances.

The last thing you want to do is be dishonest about gaps in employment. If you try to fudge your dates of employment, it’s likely the employer will find out when he or she checks your references. Then you’ll really be out of the running. 

Instead of resorting to dishonest tactics, tell the truth. Include a line or two explaining why you were out of work during that period of time. If you have a valid reason, your employer should understand. 

Education

When considering how to make a resume, education must be included. Employers will be most interested in your college education. If you have a college degree, it will be unnecessary to include any information on your high school education. However, if the highest level of schooling you completed is high school, it will need to be included on your resume. 

If you go back to school and get a degree beyond a high school diploma, take your high school education off your resume and update it accordingly.

Your college education must be listed in the following format:

  • Program Name: For example, B. A. in liberal arts
  • University Name: Simple as it sounds, this is the name of the university you attended.
  • Years Attended: You won’t need to list the exact dates you started and completed school. A month and year format is acceptable. 
  • GPA: Including your GPA is optional, but it could work to your benefit if it was exceptional.
  • Honors: Honors are also optional, but if you have them, list them.
  • Academic Achievements: This is another optional category, and it may include courses you’ve excelled in or impressive papers you’ve written
  • Minor: If you have a minor, include it on your resume

Skills

The skills you list can make your resume shine, especially if you don’t have a lot of work experience to fall back on. 

Skills can be divided into hard skills and soft skills. Here are some examples. 

  • Hard skills: These are skills you may have taken a class to learn. They include a mastery of software programs such as Photoshop, Word, Excel, etc. Writing or cooking may also be listed in this section.
  • Soft Skills: Soft skills refer to the skills you were born with or developed naturally. Communication skills, attention to detail and critical thinking are some examples. 

It’s also best to include how proficient you are in each skill. To let the employer, know your proficiency level, you can simply write beginner, intermediate, advanced or expert in parenthesis after each skill that is listed. 

If you are unsure what proficiency to list, here are some tips that will help you determine the level that is most suitable. 

  • Beginner: A beginner will have some familiarity with the skill. You may have had some classroom education or a bit of hands-on experience. 
  • Intermediate: Intermediate level means you are competent enough to use the skill in a work environment. 
  • Advanced: If you are advanced, you will be able to educate others so they can learn the skill. 
  • Expert: Expert level means you have used the skills in various applications and are in the same class as highly trained professionals in your field. 

Keep in mind that you can play around with your skills to make them fit the job you are applying for. For instance, if you are interviewing for a financial job, emphasize your math skills. If you are interviewing for jobs that requires strong English, focus on writing skills. 

But no matter what skills you choose to include and leave out, it’s important not to lie about them. If you are dishonest, it’s guaranteed to come back and bite you at a later date. 

RELATED CONTENT: Top Skills for Resumes: The Most Common Resume Skills by Industry

Other Sections

When thinking of how to make a resume, you may want to include an additional section to make the employer aware of other characteristics and skills you have that may make you a good candidate. Here are some to consider adding. 

Languages

Being bi-lingual or multi-lingual is advantageous in just about any job. If you know any languages other than the one primarily spoken in your country, list them on your resume noting how proficient you are in the language. Proficiency can range from beginner to basic to fluent to native. 

Certifications and Awards

Certifications can be just as important as education when it comes to the information you want to include on your resume. Have you received a certification in a specific software program? Or maybe you know CPR. You never know what an employer may be looking for when he or she looks over your resume. 

Publications

If your writing has been published online or in print, it could establish you as an expert in your field. 

Hobbies and Interests

Hobbies and interests will give the employer insight into your character. If they are relevant to the necessary job skills, even better. What’s more, you never know when your hobbies and interests may strike a chord. 

For example, if you love video games, and your employer loves video games, then he or she just might want to know more about how you can be an asset to the company. 

Volunteer Work

Any type of volunteer work will look good on your resume. It can also be seen as work experience. 

Internship Experience

You will only want to list internship experience if you are fresh out of college and haven’t held down many paid positions. If your internship is you’re only applicable work experience, you may want to put it in the work experience section instead. 

Projects

Briefly list any projects you are involved in that will make your resume stand out. 

Include Keywords That Will Be Recognized by an Applicant Tracking System

When an employer puts out a help wanted ad, they are likely to get a lot of applications, many of which won’t suit their criteria. Instead of spending a lot of time sorting through each one, they use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

The ATS finds resumes that are best suited for the position based on keywords, and if your resume does not contain these keywords, it may be left unread. 

So how do you figure out what keywords to use in your resume? Look at the original ad. The ad will list the skills the employer is looking for. 

If the ad lists the most important skill as online marketing, boom! You’ll want to include the phrase “online marketing’ in your resume. If they are looking for accounting skills, make sure ‘accounting appears on your resume. Additional skills like ‘detail oriented’ and ‘punctual’ may be included if they are in the ad. 

How to Make a Cover Letter

You know the ins and outs of how to make a resume, but your cover letter is an important document that is meant to compliment your resume. This section will educate you on how to write a cover letter so that your resume has proper supporting documents. 

It is traditional for a cover letter to be submitted along with your resume. So if you are emailing a company to inquire about work, you’ll want to send in both a cover letter and your resume. The resume will tell the employer about your skills and experience, while the cover letter provides insight on your personality and reasons for applying. 

While it’s a good idea to bring your resume along with you on interviews, it won’t be necessary to bring a cover letter. The fact that you are there in person will replace any need for a hard copy. 

Like your resume, your cover letter should not be too long. If it is, it will turn off your employer making him or her not want to read it. Ideally, it should take up no more than half a page. 

Here’s a basic format that will make your cover letter shine. 

  • Make a professional and impressive introduction briefly listing your key achievements in your field and telling the employer why you are interested in working at their company. 
  • Explain why you’d excel in the position. Here’s where you can list specific traits and experience that will make you an asset to the company. 
  • Wrap it up with a small call-to-action (CTA). In the wrap up, thank the employer for their time and consideration and a subtle CTA such as “I hope to hear from you soon.”

As with a resume, you will want to make tweaks when you are sending your cover letter to different employers. Tailor it to emphasize the job skills and experience they are looking for. 

A great way to add a personalized touch is to direct the letter to the person doing the hiring. So if you see an ad in the internet that mentions who you will be talking to at the interview, or if the email listed to send the resume to is susansanders@gmail.com, start your letting by writing, “Hi Susan” instead of “To whom it may concern”.

Steps to Take Before Submitting the Resume

Now you know how to make a resume and write the accompanying cover letter. Before hitting send, there are a few steps you can take to ensure everything is as near perfect as possible.

Have it Looked Over By a Knowledgeable Friend: If you are lucky enough to have a friend who has worked in HR or a leadership position, ask them if they’d be willing to look over your resume. They will be able to spot obvious no-no’s and make suggestions for improvements. 

Check the Spelling and Grammar: There are employers who will pass on resumes as soon as they see a hint of improper spelling and grammar. In addition, ATS systems will throw out resumes the are poorly written and formatted. Look your resume and CV over at least twice. While a program like Grammarly may not get the context of the resume, it can be used to detect some spelling and grammatical errors. 

Make Sure All Important Information is Included: Check your resume to make sure all the important information is included such as your contact information, your work experience, your skills and anything else that you think will help you nail the interview. 

Get Familiar with Your Resume to Nail the Interview

When you are considering how to make a resume, it is important to remember that crafting your story doesn’t end once you’ve created your resume and cover letter. When you are called in for an interview, it’s a good idea to have your resume with you. The employer is likely to have seen various applicants that day, and he or she may want to review your resume while they speak to you. If you don’t have one on hand, it will look unprofessional. 

Take along your resume in a clear sleeve or folder so it isn’t wrinkled when you hand it to the interviewer. It is also advisable to look over the resume a few times while you’re waiting to be called in. If you’ve made various versions of your resume, you may not remember exactly what’s included on the one you’ve submitted. If you are asked a question that takes you by surprise, it can throw you off your game. So be sure to prepare yourself in advance by knowing what’s included on the resume.  

Getting Prepared for the Interview

Knowing how to create a resume is only half the battle. Now you need to nail the interview. Here are some tips that will help you succeed. 

  • Dress Professionally: You don’t need to wear a suit and tie to every interview, but it is important to be neat and wear clothing that fits the vibe of the company you are applying to. 
  • Be Confident: Companies are looking for applicants with self-confidence. If you let your nerves get the best of you, it can reduce your chances of getting the job.  
  • Be Yourself: Be yourself and let your natural personality shine through. An honest and translucent attitude will go far in helping you reach your career goals. 

It can be difficult to get noticed in a sea of applicants. If you know how to make a resume, you’ll have a good chance of standing out from the others. Now that you know longer have to worry about how to make a resume, it’s time to get started crafting your resume. Check out these resume templates from University of Virginia.

Happy Job Searching!