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How to Write a Resume in 2021

Published on: July 28, 2021

Everybody can write a resume, but not everybody can do it right! At My Perfect Resume, we're here to help you write a professional resume that will put you in front of a hiring manager. Our writing guide (with examples) will show you step-by-step how to present your most impressive accomplishments.

Table of Contents

  1. Before You Start Writing
  2. Understanding Resume Basics
  3. Choose from the 3 Resume Formats
  4. Write an Attention-Grabbing Resume Summary Statement
  5. Choose the Right Skills for Your Resume
  6. Capture Your Work History Highlights
  7. Completing the Rest of Your Resume
  8. Proofread and Check Your Formatting
  9. Why You Should Include a Cover Letter
  10. FAQ
  11. Let's Get You Hired

Step 1 – Before You Start Writing

There are a couple of things you need to do before you start writing your resume. Remember: Each resume you write should be tailored to the job you're applying for – it's not a one-size-fits-all document. With that in mind, here are some tips that will help you:

Tip 1 – To write a professional resume, you need to be prepared. First, make a list of:

  • Major accomplishments from previous jobs
  • Skills: soft, hard and technical
  • Details about past employers, date of hire, location, job title and responsibilities
  • Qualifications such as a college degree, certifications or licenses

All of this information will be used when you write your resume — having it noted beforehand will save you a ton of time later and will not disrupt the creative writing process.

Tip 2 – Find time to dedicate solely to crafting your resume.

Tip 3 – Sit in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and can concentrate.

Tip 4 – Write and don't stop to perfect your prose along the way. That will happen later.

Tip 5 – When you get it all down, step away for a few hours and come back with fresh eyes to perfect your writing.

Now let's start!

Step 2: Understanding Resume Basics

These are the key components of every resume. They each serve a different purpose and, based on your experience, might be placed in different areas of your document – but more on that later.

  1. Contact Information
    Include your name, phone number, professional email address, and the city where you live.
  2. Summary Statement
    Present your strongest skills, experience, and what you bring to the job in two to three sentences.
  3. Skills
    Include a bulleted list of six to eight skills that are relevant to the job you're applying for. In some cases, you can use the "Summary of Qualifications" or "Summary of Skills" section to talk about a specific set of skills you learned on the job that qualify you for the new role. Not every resume will have this section — it will depend on your years of experience.
  4. Work History
    Write your work accomplishments in concise bullet points, with your current or latest job at the top.
  5. Education
    List your educational credentials. If you graduated more than 10 years ago, you don't need to include the graduation year.
  6. Certifications/Training
    List any additional certifications you possess or training you have completed.

Step 3: Choose from the 3 Resume Formats

Now that you know the basics of what goes in a resume, it's time to talk about choosing the best resume format. A resume format is essentially the way your resume is organized based on your years of experience.

Functional Resume Format

Functional resume format for a cashier position

create resume

The functional resume format is excellent for first-time job-seekers or people with less than two years of experience. It highlights your skills and training, focusing on the abilities you possess that can make you a great addition to the team.

Combination Resume Format

Combination resume format for a store manager position

create resume

Also known as the hybrid resume, the combination resume format is a mixture of the functional and chronological resumes. It's ideal for people with three to seven years of experience, as it includes a balance of your work history and displays your relevant skills.

Chronological Resume Format

Combination resume format for an operations manager position

create resume

The chronological resume format is the most commonly used format. It's perfect for people with a lot of professional work experience because it emphasizes work history, focusing on your top achievements and career progression.

Step 4: Write an Attention-Grabbing Resume Summary Statement

A summary statement is where you present yourself in two to three sentences. It's the first thing recruiters or hiring managers read, so it's important to make a strong statement right off the bat that aligns with what they're looking for. Avoid using personal pronouns (I, me or my) and feature your top skills and qualifications, using keywords and phrases found in the job description.

For example, if you're applying for a UX designer job and the employer lists knowledge of Figma and Adobe Creative Suite as a major requirement, you could write:

"Creative and solutions-driven UX Designer with 3+ years of experience in user-centered designs for mobile and web applications. Proficient in Figma and Adobe Creative Suite. Committed team player ready to tackle new challenges and provide customer satisfaction."

Or if a company is looking for a distribution manager with experience leading a warehouse team, your summary could be:

"Problem-solving Distribution Manager with 10+ years of experience leading teams to deliver unparalleled customer service. Proven ability to work in a high-level distribution center and oversee warehouse operations, including freight, returns and transfers. Highly skilled in strategic planning, training and motivating."

For more tips, check out our How to Write the Best Summary Statement page.

Step 5: Choose the Right Skills for Your Resume

As with the summary statement, your job skills section should be tailored to the job you're applying for. Aim to include six to eight relevant hard and soft skills – and in some cases, a summary of qualifications. Not sure what these are or how to determine the right skills to include? Here's a handy guide:

  • A hard skill (or a professional skill) is an ability acquired through practice, education, and repetition that is job-specific. For example: operational planning, translation, video production, Microsoft Word, budgeting or analytics.
  • A soft skill is an intangible ability or personal trait that isn't tied to a single job and generally helps you thrive in the workplace. For example: organized, team player, critical thinking, excellent communication, or problem-solving.
  • A summary of qualifications consists of a couple of short sentences where you talk about the top set of skills you learned on the job and the accomplishments that qualify you for the new role you're applying to. This section is used on functional and combination resume formats only, for junior to mid-level job seekers.
  • The employer will tell you what skills they're looking for in a candidate in the job description. Read it thoroughly and make a list of the skills you possess, both hard and soft, relevant to that specific job. You can also research similar job roles and take note of the most sought-after skills.

Consider the following examples of skills sections with a mixture of soft and hard skills:

Bank teller

Example of a single skills section:

  • Transaction processing
  • Account systems and software
  • Problem-solving
  • Banking laws and regulations
  • Account analysis
  • Strong communication skills
  • Customer relationship development

Example of a standalone summary of qualifications:

  • Proven experience of consistently maintaining a balanced cash drawer and processing deposits and withdrawals, etc.
  • Focused on applying bank security policies and keeping the confidentiality of bank records and client's information.
  • Excellent customer service and problem-solving skills; answer questions and assist customers with issues and requests.

Medical receptionist

Example of a single skills section:

  • Medical billing and coding
  • Infection control procedures
  • Patient care
  • Time management
  • Insurance claims
  • HIPAA guidelines
  • Medical records management
  • Account management

Example of a summary of qualifications and skills list combination:

Summary of qualifications:

  • Proficient in serving patients by greeting and answering questions, scheduling appointments, and maintaining records and accounts on MS Office suite applications.
  • Experienced in practicing urgency at all times with patient's and doctor's time.
  • A team-oriented and patient-focused individual; excellent interpersonal and communication abilities.

Skills:

  • Medical office administration
  • Pre-hospital care
  • EMR & EHR software
  • Detail oriented
  • Filing and typing
  • Positive and upbeat attitude

Looking for skills to include? Here are some of the Top Skills Employers Value.

Step 6: Capture Your Work History Highlights

Organizing and writing about your work experience may sound like a daunting task, but just follow these pointers and you'll have a convincing work history section in no time.

    • Make it relevant to the job you're applying for. We've mentioned it before, and it still holds true here: Be relevant to the job you want. Use keywords found in the job description and tailor your work experience to the new role. For example, if you're aiming for a managerial position, include examples of leadership experience.
    • Focus on accomplishments instead of daily tasks. Did you play a vital role in a project? Did you go above and beyond your regular duties? For example, an assistant operations manager could write: "Set up and improved accounting systems and processes to maximize the effectiveness of operations."
    • Use quantifiable metrics to highlight your achievements. Numbers help recruiters or hiring managers see what you're capable of doing and what you can bring to the company. So instead of writing something like: "Compiled general ledger entries," a statement with a quantifiable metric would look like: "Compiled general ledger entries on a short schedule with 100% accuracy" or "Served an average of 6 tables per hour on 8-hour work shifts."
    • Use action verbs to begin your statements. When describing previous or current job experiences, always start your bullet points with  action verbs. Stating "Was responsible for project X …" makes less of an impact than "Managed project X" or "Oversaw project X." Some other examples of action verbs you can include in your resume:

A bulleted list of some of the key resume action verbs

  • If you don't have a lot of experience, think outside the box. Work experience isn't just a regular 9-to-5 or part-time job. It can also be relevant internships, volunteer programs, or personal projects related to the position you're applying for. Remember, having relevant experience is valuable.

Here are some examples you can use as inspiration to write your work history section:

Event manager with 9+ years of experience

Sponsorships and Events Manager | Downtown Long Beach Alliance | Long Beach, California
February 2018 – Current

  • Perform preliminary research to identify and prioritize new prospects and raise awareness of the organization's work.
  • Manage budget and all external revenue sources, including sponsorship, tickets and concessions.
  • Lead team of 27 employees, overseeing hiring, training and professional growth.

Training and Event Coordinator | The Reef Restaurant | Long Beach, California
February 2016 – February 2018

  • Recommended workflow and budget improvements, resulting in 62% savings per event.
  • Cut costs and doubled show volume by working with PR and delivering over 50 effective marketing strategies to optimize outreach.
  • Given smooth training execution by coordinating seminar functions, including site selection, scheduling, marketing, reservations, materials, event management, and follow-up.

Event Staff Member | Epic Talent Partners | Long Beach, California
June 2012 – January 2016

  • Set up 200+ luncheons and conferences, organized supplies and displays.
  • Oversaw more or less $1,000 and confirmed proper balance of cash boxes following ticket sales, maintaining maximum accuracy after each event.
  • Provided general cleaning of venue spaces before, during, and after events.

Personal trainer with 5+ years of experience

Personal Trainer | Equinox, Danville, OK
May 2018 – Current

  • Develop organization systems for personal fitness plans, records and contracts.
  • Supply over 20 exclusive clients with a list of exercises and activities each month.
  • Design specific workout systems for individual clients based on performance ability.

Personal Trainer | Perfect Fitness, Durby, OK
June 2016 – May 2018

  • Educated over 200 customers on preventative care, nutrition, fitness, stress management, and ergonomics each quarter.
  • Taught clients how to operate exercise equipment properly.
  • Created inspirational physical training initiatives to foster healthy lifestyle decisions.

Fitness Attendant | Steller Gym, Salem, OK
November 2015 – April 2016

  • Promoted business and physical fitness by attending over 25 off-site promotional and community events throughout the year.
  • Communicated with patrons in the fitness floor area to build a positive atmosphere and offer exercise and equipment instructions.
  • Greeted and assisted 30+ guests entering the facility to provide general information and answer questions during rush hour.

Social media manager with no work experience

Note: In this particular case, you will show your accomplishments through the summary of qualifications section instead of your work history:

Summary of qualifications:

  • Accustomed to execute campaigns according to clients' needs and creative director instructions.
  • Skilled in actively working with leadership to develop content and aid in calendars' editorial processes with Hootsuite.
  • Excellent written, verbal and interpersonal skills.

Work history:

Social Media Manager Intern | Wunderman Thompson | Lynnwood, WA
June 2020 – Current

Volunteer Content Creator | The H2O Project | Lynnwood, WA
July 2019 – May 2020

For more work history tips, check out our article on How to Write the Perfect Work History Section.

Step 7: Completing the Rest of Your Resume

These sections are the easiest to complete, but they require just as much of your attention. Make sure all of your information is up to date and double-check your wording for accuracy.

Contact Information:

Contact information section of a resume

Use a phone number where recruiters where can easily reach you and a professional email address. You can also include a link to your LinkedIn profile or portfolio site.

Education:

Resume Education section

Write your academic credentials with the latest at the top. If you have more than 10 years of work experience, it's not necessary to include the year you graduated.

Licenses, certifications, awards and publications:

Certifications and Publications sections of a resume

If you have relevant licenses, certifications, awards or publications, include them in a separate section below your Education. Our Resume Builder can do the job for you and help you customize sections with just a click.

Step 8: Proofread and Check Your Formatting

Typos and grammatical errors are the most common mistakes found in resumes — and a deal-breaker for about 70% of hiring managers. Reread your resume thoroughly to make sure that everything is written correctly. Our Resume Builder has a helpful spell-checking tool that scans your document and lets you know if there are any mistakes.

You should also make it easier for hiring managers to read your resume by:

  • Making sure that it isn't longer than a page (unless you have 10+ years of work experience. In this case, it can be two-pages long)
  • Using appropriate fonts, like Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica
  • Sticking to a font size between 10-12 on the body and 14-16 on headers
  • Using a straightforward template that employers and the applicant tracking system (ATS) can read

Step 9: Why You Should Include a Cover Letter

Submitting a cover letter with your resume will help you look more professional and enthusiastic about the job opportunity.

A cover letter is a blank canvas where you can complement your resume and market yourself, providing extra details about your history and who you are. You can also include further context on specific projects or work achievements, and give hiring managers insight into your personality and how you can be of value to the company.

Get started with your cover letter by checking out our large selection of Cover Letter Examples.

FAQ

How do you write a resume if you have little to no experience?

No work experience? No problem! The key to writing a resume with no experience is to organize your information and highlight what employers want. Tailor your skills to the job and include internships, extracurricular activities, or personal projects relevant to the job.

How should you handle a gap in your employment history?

The best way to take care of employment gaps is not to try and hide them. Instead, identify and highlight any skills or accomplishments you've gained during times of unemployment, or important skills acquired in past work experiences. Take these transferable skills and relate them to the position you want. Focus on accomplishments. Use a functional resume format that will enhance your skills, and explain any gaps directly in your cover letter.

How can you make previous experiences relevant if you're looking to change careers?

If you want to change careers and don't have a lot of experience in your new job field, identify any skills or accomplishments from your current or past employers relevant to the new position. Use a combination resume to organize these transferable skills and work experiences.

How do I make my resume remote job-ready?

Just like with any application, tailor your resume to the job you want. Most remote work applications will state particular requirements for the job, such as proficiency with certain software, or listing "flexibility" as a needed skill, so make sure your resume's summary, work history and skills sections reflect these qualities. Include any previous remote work experiences, noting in your work history if they were carried out away from the office, and point out notable accomplishments or responsibilities you had while working remotely.

Let's Get You Hired

We know that finding the right job is a task in and of itself. The good news is that you don't have to tackle things alone. To create a resume that turns heads, use our Resume Builder, which takes you through the process step by step, and helps you fill out your information by providing phrases, keywords, and suggestions. We also have a large library of resume templates perfect for any industry.

How do you write a resume if you have little to no experience?

No work experience? No problem! The key to writing a resume with no experience is to organize your information and highlight what employers want. Tailor your skills to the job and include internships, extracurricular activities, or personal projects relevant to the job.

How should you handle a gap in your employment history?

The best way to take care of employment gaps is not to try and hide them. Instead, identify and highlight any skills or accomplishments you've gained during times of unemployment, or important skills acquired in past work experiences. Take these transferable skills and relate them to the position you want. Focus on accomplishments. Use a functional resume format that will enhance your skills, and explain any gaps directly in your cover letter.

How can you make previous experiences relevant if you're looking to change careers?

If you want to change careers and don't have a lot of experience in your new job field, identify any skills or accomplishments from your current or past employers relevant to the new position. Use a combination resume to organize these transferable skills and work experiences.

How do I make my resume remote job-ready?

Just like with any application, tailor your resume to the job you want. Most remote work applications will state particular requirements for the job, such as proficiency with certain software, or listing "flexibility" as a needed skill, so make sure your resume's summary, work history and skills sections reflect these qualities. Include any previous remote work experiences, noting in your work history if they were carried out away from the office, and point out notable accomplishments or responsibilities you had while working remotely.

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