Comprehensive resume writing guide for 2020

Table of Contents

The Definitive Guide (2020)

This is the comprehensive resume writing guide in 2020. You can learn every bit of resume writing from zero to hero no matter what your current state of knowledge regarding resume writing.

In this comprehensive guide I’ll cover:

  • Introduction & fundamentals of resumes
  • How to choose right resume format
  • How to write summary section
  • What to include in skill section
  • How write perfect professional experience section
  • What to do with your education and certificates

So if you want write perfect resume that can help you to land you on your dream job, you’ll love this guide.

Let’s get started.


Chapter 1: Basics of Resumes

resume basics

In this chapter I’ll cover the process & fundamentals of resume writing.

First, you’ll learn exactly what resume is (and why it’s really hard for most of the job seekers) and what happened once you click submit button on online application

I’ll also show you the fundamentals you should learn before you start to write your awesome resume.

What is a resume?

resume is a brief sheet of paper which used to present their background, skills, education and accomplishments throughout their lives. Resume can be used for a variety of reasons, but most often they are used to secure new employment. A typical résumé contains a “summary” of relevant job experience and education.

Resume writing is hard if you do not follow proper guidelines. For a lot of people, it’s tough. It isn’t very comfortable. It’s an uncomfortable style of writing, and for most of us, it’s super complicated.

You may have following questions. If you have one of them you are not alone. Many job seekers have one or many of them.

Common question in resume writing
Common question in resume writing

Now you can understand why resume writing is hard for even the most put-together people.

Once, the professional writer contacted me, as in people who earn their livings based on their writing capabilities. Because even they can’t figure out how the heck to write a great resume. Resume writing is a dreaded assignment for pretty much all of us. But here’s the good news. We’re going to make the process of writing a resume down on paper a lot more understandable and completely survivable.

in order to have a great resume

The path of resume through recruiting process

It makes absolutely no sense to start writing your resume before you understand how your resume is likely going to travel through that recruiting process. 

You need that information so you can make sure that you address the every point and the time you invest in this new resume is time incredibly well-spent. The finished product market your professional qualifications to your target audience and lines you up for that job you want to land. Alright, let’s do this. 

In most instances, your resume is first going to drop into that company’s resume scanning software. If the software decides that you’re a match for that role, you’ll come out the other side of the process along with all the other “Best-match candidates”. 

These are the only resumes that will be reviewed by real people if you apply online as opposed to emailing your stuff directly to a contact within that company.

This is why you need good understand of your resume writing. Company’s resume scanning software, which again is called the ATS, sucks in all of the applicant resumes, parses the information into data fields, and then looks for what is there versus what is missing using whatever instructions the person who programmed the thing has said go and look for this.

The resumes with the highest match scores will be at the top of the pile. The ones missing a lot of details that software is going and looking for, gone. Just gone. Never see light of the other side. They’re not even going to make it to the human reviewers. 

Once the scan is complete, only the top 10 or 20 resumes will move forward in the journey. So given this, you can quickly understand how important it is for your resume to pass that resume scanning software. It is really important. That is why I write this Resume Breakdown ultimate guide to help you.

For now, let’s say your resume has made it through the software. Well done. 

It’s now moving on to the humans. Who exactly is that first person going to be? In larger companies, that person is often someone on the HR team, and it could be the very same person who programmed the ATS on what it should go and look for when it scanned your resume. 

In the best case, that HR person has an intimate understanding of the role you just applied for and knows exactly what it takes to be great at that particular job.

However, HR people are often managing a several different searches at the same time. And sometimes they don’t really develop a deep specialization in any one type of job or another, so it could be that they’re really just comparing your resume against the job description and deciding if you’re a super obvious fit for that position. 

A lot of job seekers assume that the HR persons are just going to magically deduce how you make sense or how something that you’ve done in one role is directly transferable to something you want to do in this next job.

But it doesn’t really work that way due to couple of really important reasons. 

Resume writing tips
Resume writing tips

Those are the people that company is going to reach first. So in addition to the ATS itself, you also need to factor in that first human gatekeeper when you construct this new resume.

Your resume’s destination on this journey is the hiring manager. But this only happens if you make it through both the ATS and the first human review. This is where you need to make sure your resume is just riveting to the person who’s got the ultimate authority. Where you’re going to be a YES or a NO for an initial interview.

And that, by the way, that’s the exact purpose of your resume. Your resume is the self marketing tool that you’re going to use to help you land interviews. It’s the tool that you’re going to use to make your dream into reality. So my mission with Resume Breakdown ultimate guide is to make sure you’re creating something that’s going to land you in the dreamland. 

Fundamentals of Resumes

With my years of experience, I can say that most resumes that I review are pretty bad. Some of them are really bad. If you feel like yours might be one of these, don’t beat yourself up over it for even a second. Because it is not because of your writing skills or your talents. They’re bad in large part because crafting an awesome resume is hard for nearly everybody.

So why exactly are resumes so hard? Well first, many job seekers don’t understand the game that we have to play while we are in job hunting as discussed in chapter one and how important it is to factor that game into what you put down on paper. And second, because a lot of people cringe when it comes to writing about themselves in a way that truly showcases their talents and their strengths to a hiring manager or a recruiter.

So, let’s first cover a few key fundamentals of an awesome resume.

Fundamental number one.  

It’s a marketing document, not your autobiography. When you sit down to make this new resume, swear to me that you’re not going to write out a list of everything you’ve done since your first job during high school. You should start to write your resume with mind that you’re making a marketing document and that your aim here is to get a certain audience’s attention and then persuade these decision makers in so that they will invite you in for an interview.

resume tips
Resume Tips

Writing out the stuff that you are or were in charge of in each job is certainly important, but if you fail to make it right way and tell that audience I did this, and here’s why that will be important or interesting to you, then you’re missing out on a major opportunity here to market yourself.

Also you’re creating harder situation for your audience to connect those gaps between here’s what they need and here’s what you could walk through their doors and deliver.

you have to think like a marketer through this entire resume development process. So that you can market yourself to audience in proper way that will enhance your opportunity to land on your dream job.

Resume tips
Resume Tips

Fundamental number two.

It’s about them, not about you. At the beginning of this game, the hiring manager doesn’t care what you want out of this deal. I know that might sound tough, but it’s the truth you have to face. When companies hire new employees, they’re doing so because they need someone to help them with their heavy workload.

They need someone to help them make money or fix something that’s broken or grow into new markets, build things for them, or just generally make their lives easier. They aren’t hiring you because they want to fulfill your dreams or help you buy a nicer house or a car or a vacation in Hawaii. They’re hiring you with the intention that you’re going to satisfy a specific business need. Before you get agitated, hear me out. They will care. They’ll care a lot once they meet you, love you, bring you on board and realize that they need to make sure they don’t ever lose you.

But at that point of introduction, it’s really all about them. So, keep this in mind as you get started on your new resume. You want to showcase loud and clear how you can meet their specific needs. You want to hammer it home that you’re the solution to the very things that they need solved. Leave off all that extra fluff that tells them what you want for now, including the dreaded objective statement.

Fundamental number three.

Your resume needs to be strategic, but not blatantly inaccurate. Almost no one gets through their entire career and then at the end of it all says to themselves well would you look at that, that was one perfect career I just had. I’m so glad I never made a bad move or got myself into a job I hated. People with flawless career paths are almost non-existent. Most of us has flips and bloops along the way in our professional lives. Jobs that we wish we didn’t take, gaps that we’re not sure how to deal with, maybe degree that you didn’t quite finish.

resume tips
Resume Tips

However, it’s important that I emphasize something that might be totally obvious to you but I’ve seen it enough times that I got to say it anyway. Strategizing around a career mulligan or a gap isn’t the same thing as flat out lying about what the real situation is. No matter your circumstance, you can’t fabricate stuff on this new resume. If you do, you may lose out on a job that was almost yours or you might even get fired if it’s discovered after the fact.

Fundamental number four

You can be professional without being stuffy. Somewhere along the line, life trains us that we have to write resumes in this entirely terse, dull, and overdone tone that in a lot of instances, says very little about our true talents or as I like to call it, about our so what.

Resume Tips
Resume Tips

So it’s okay to find different compelling yet completely on point ways to spell out the stuff that you’re best known for, most proud of, and can walk through the doors of your future employer and deliver.

Also, you can really lose the big pretentious words and phrases in most instances. I’m not suggesting you construct this thing in Pig Latin here but if you’ve done this right, your resume is going to be reviewed by a human, and most humans are conversational by nature. But the point is, my bottom line is it’s okay to talk to people like a real person on your resume.

Resume Tips
Resume Tips

Okay, when you write a resume, your name and contact information is right at the top of that page. Given this, it is assumed that you are, in fact, the author of it, so it’s really just weird and unnatural to talk about yourself in the third person on a resume.

Fundamental number five

Try to every word you write has their own value. Your challenge with this new resume is this. Say enough to get your resume through the ATS, and compel the human decision maker. Don’t say so much that it becomes hard to get right to the meat of this thing. The magic of a ridiculously awesome resume is that it says what it needs to without being too brief and without being too wordy. When you err on the side of brevity in a resume because say you’re trying to keep this sucker to a page yet you’ve got more than a page worth of experience, when you do that, the decision maker can’t easily figure out what you’re all about and why you make perfect sense for that role.

If they can’t figure this out, you’re going right to the no pile. Likewise, when you babble on or stuff this resume with way too much information, you make it really hard for that person to see quickly how and why you’re a solid match. So your goal with this new resume is this: make the words earn their spot. For sure, say what you need to say, but make every word earn its spot. So that’s the fundamentals.

With that, it’s time for chapter 2.

Chapter 2: Resume formats

resume formats

In this chapter I’ll cover the resume formats and layouts.

First, you’ll learn how to choose right style for your situation according to needs, education and work experience in your current industry or trying to get in to.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choose format for your resume. But there are some industry standards which are used by many job seekers. You may have head exploding concerns when you have to choose resume formats. Let’s see what are they.

Should it be fancy or just the facts? What are the best fonts to use? One column, multiple columns? What should the headers be? Graphics, no graphics? Should I use a photo, yes, no? Do I put the education first or last? Career objective, summary, functional resume? Word format or PDF?

Don’t try Googling all these questions unless you really want to spend your precious time because you’re going to get way different opinions, some of which will directly contradict something that you’ve just read. It’s totally mind bending thing for most people, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s try and make this whole thing lot simple.

I’m going to break things down here because the resume formats topic has multiple components and depending on your specific situation, your industry, and your method of distributing this resume, the answer is going to vary.

Let’s put things into three main camps

Formatting the resume for the ATS

Formatting the resume for the human reader

Choosing how to order your specific resume sections

Camp 01

Formatting resume for the ATS, or again, applicant tracking system. You know what? This is such an important one and it’s one that people get really confused about. If you’re planning to apply for jobs via online application system of the particular website or company, you’ve got to format this thing with the ATS in mind. And these systems were simply not designed to account your custom design logo or figure out which end is up when you use some unusual format or a highly stylized font.

And these systems were simply not designed to account your custom design logo or figure out which end is up when you use some unusual format or a highly stylized font.

Most job seekers do not understand that how impossible it is for the ATS to read the  resume and the correctly import relevant data from the resume to the system. The very people who are making the most effort to stand out with a highly graphic intensive resume, they’re often the ones that are most at risk for never being contacted and that’s because the ATS doesn’t know what hit it when you send this super complex resume with flooded graphics right through the system. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard to make your resume look awesome, you really should, and there certainly is a time and a place to use that well design resume, especially if you work in an industry or a role that puts a high value on design flair or creativity.

However, when you’re applying for a job through an online application, meaning you’re filling something out and hitting that Apply Now button versus just emailing the stuff or handing it over to someone who works directly at that company, well, then you really need a resume that’s specifically designed to play nice with the ATS.

Things to consider when resumes formatted for ATS

So the question is, what exactly is the ATS going to be looking for?

1. it’s going to be looking for key words. First and foremost, it’s going to be looking for the key words that company HR team has programmed into the system and told it to go back in and look for.

Most likely, that person is making decisions on what to program in based on blaring terms within the job description itself, so this is the very first place you should look when you’re deciding on which key words to include on the new resume.

When you're reviewing that job description to find hints, don't look for things like detail-oriented or out of the box thinker. Look for specific terms like cross-functional team leadership, project management, cost controls, or even specific software platforms like SAP,, or SharePoint.

If you line up a few job descriptions and see that certain terms are common across all of them or most of them. Then it’s safe to believe that these are the key words you want to make sure are front and center on the new resume, both within the overall text and within a specific areas of expertise or key skills section. And we’ll cover that more in chapter four.

The ATS will be looking at both the context in which these terms are used and the number of occurrences, so be sure and make the ones that appear to be vital prominent and without being totally obnoxious or redundant about it, use those terms multiple times.

2. The resume you use when applying for jobs via online application needs to be divided into sections, ones with standard titles. So, what do I mean by standard? I mean there are industry standard terms for these titles, use them. Otherwise ATS will not recognize it as the way HR team thinks.

For instance, call the summary section at the top of your resume a career summary or something similar rather than a little bit about me or stuff that I'm known for. Likewise, label your experience section something super straightforward like work experience or professional experience, for instance, rather than places I've worked or stuff that I've done.

Now, again, if you’re applying for roles within industries or companies that will value that kind of originality or creativity, you can, and in fact, you probably should, have a second version of your resume with catchier headlines and maybe a more captivating layout. Just don’t send that one through an ATS because it might not have a clue what it’s reading.

3. When you’re formatting for the ATS, you should also be aware that it’s going to try and calculate years of experience. So, say you’ve just found your dream job description and it calls for five to seven years of experience in account management or customer service or whatever that thing is that you do, however, you only have three years of experience.

How do you deal with this on your resume? Well, you can do a couple of things here. First, you could consider finding and endearing yourself to someone on the inside of that company. So, maybe you don’t even need to submit your resume through the ATS in the first place. Or you could consider adding years to your experience if you’ve maybe done something similar as an intern or somewhere on a part-time basis throughout your career.

Just realize this for now, the ATS is likely going to be comparing the number of years experience that this job description calls for against the number of years you have working in similar roles and this result will be a part of your overall match score.

Specific skills for number of years

4. Likewise, the scanning software is going to be looking for the number of years you have with certain required skills, like Java or user experience design or Google Analytics, for instance. Thus, if you see specific skills like this called out as requirements on a job description and the job ad lists number of experience for that particular skill, you’re going to want to make it clear where you’ve used these tools or gained that specific experience and when.

5. And last, the ATS will probably be programmed to go and look for required degrees or certifications that are listed in that job description.

So, if you have them, be sure and spell them out in the same way that you see listed on the job description. And if you lack a required degree or certification but really, really still want that job, you’re going to need to find a way to apply for it without going through the ATS. In other words, you’re going to be best served by finding an in at that company and then appealing directly to the decision maker. There are no gray areas with applicant tracking systems, it’s black or white, yes or no, so for that resume version that you intend to use when you apply for jobs via online application, you’ve got to construct this thing in a way that takes into consideration how the ATS works and how it evaluates candidates.

Things to avoid in resumes formatted for ATS

As for the format itself, for your ATS-friendly resume version, you should eliminate the things that tend to make the ATS kind of crabby and confused.

Number one, graphics, pretty much any kind. That includes logos, photos, snazzy icons, and design elements, stylized section dividers, really, any pieces of flair because the ATS can’t read them, it can’t parse them, and it might overlook some vital information while it’s trying to deal with them. It’s just not worth the potential cost.

Number two, special formatting characters. Simple bullets are fine, custom designed one, not so much. Leave the special characters off, even if you think the standard ones are a little bit boring. Also avoid abbreviations and jargon. Remember, when in doubt, spell it out for the ATS.

Number three, multiple column formats. You know, I’ve seen some breathtakingly cool two and three column resumes, and these might be great when you’re handing one of these bad boys out directly to a contact because people like pretty, they like original, they love style, however, the ATS is just going to choke when you try to put a multiple column resume through it, so stick with a simple, straightforward format instead.

And if you want to see a sample ATS-friendly format, just click on the below link. This is a Word formatted template that we’ve tested through our own ATS, so feel free to use it if you like the style and at the very least, it will give you a feel for the simplicity that you need for your own ATS-friendly resume.

Number four thing that you’ll want to avoid when constructing this resume is unusual fonts. The ATS just can’t read them. Stick with standard PC fonts that are common and widely used, such as Arial, Verdana, Georgia, Tahoma, or the dreadfully boring Times New Roman.

Now, if you want to go with a wild, pretty one, go ahead, but save that for your second more stylized resume, the one that you distribute directly to recruiters and other decision makers.

Camp 2

Things to consider when resumes formatted for human reviewers

Now let’s talk about formatting your resume with the human reviewer in mind. We need to wow these people with this resume, too. The human reviewer is looking for many of the same things that the ATS looks for, such as obvious signs that you’re qualified to do this job, number of years of experience that you have, and key words that match up to the job that you’re hoping to land, but the humans, they’re also looking to be emotionally moved.

They want to be able to quickly detect that you’re a high performer, that people like working with you, and that you’re someone who will likely fit in around the place if they hire you. In short, the human reviewer is looking at both your hard skills and the softer ones like personality, level of performance, and cultural fit. Humans also appreciate visually pleasing resumes, ones that don’t force them to go on some 20-minute research mission just to get to the meat of what makes you special.

Ones that help them see almost immediately that you’re worth calling in for an interview. All that said, when you’re formatting for the human reviewer, you want to make sure your resume includes these key ingredients.

You need to make sure that you break up each section in a way that’s easy to read, makes good use of white space, and utilizes bold or italics consistently through the entire document. If you’ve got inconsistent formatting going on, the reviewer is probably going to assume that you’re either careless or lazy and these are pretty much the last things that you want them to conclude when they look at your resume.

Next key ingredient of a human-friendly resume is a font size that’s actually readable. It always kills me when I see a resume that’s written in eight or nine point font and typically this happens when someone is trying like mad to keep their resume into one page because somewhere along the line, someone brainwashed them into believing that the world’s just going to fall to pieces if their resume exceeds one page. And so, rather than constructing a legible two-pager, they cram everything into one page in a teeny, tiny font with very little white space.

Seriously, don’t do this. You’re going to annoy pretty much everyone and for those human reviewers that maybe don’t have great eyesight, you’re going to prompt them to bail out on this thing altogether.

Number three ingredient is strategic placement of your most important information. Realize that the humans are moving really quickly through dozens and dozens of resumes most of the time, so they need to see that your an obvious match the instant their eyes hit that page.

So, with this in mind, you should strategize on which sections go where so that that reviewer can quickly see this clear evidence of how and why you’re a match. An example of this would be, say I’m an engineer who now wants to be an graphic designer. I’ve just finished my Digital Media degree and I’ve been working as a freelance graphic designer for a local business in town while also holding down a day job as an engineer. I would encourage this person to put the education section right at the top of the resume, as well as the part-time graphic design work.

Number four key ingredient of a human-friendly resume, work experience that’s divided up in a way that allows the reader to quickly see the stuff that you’re most proud of or that you consider your best accomplishments. So, for the clients that we work with through our resume service, we typically create a sub-section within each job that our client has held that showcases select highlights or key accomplishments.

We do this so it’s very easy for the eyeballs to get right to the information that you feel is going to be most important or most compelling to this audience.

You may want to take a look at our sample resumes. Again, click on the links so you can get a feel for what a human-friendly resume looks like and an ATS-friendly resume looks like.

And we’ve also got some downloadable sample templates in the bonus materials that you might want to use to design your own resume.

facts to consider for perfect resume

Chapter 3: Summary Section

resume summary section

In this chapter I’ll cover the most important section in the resume, the summary section.

I’ll guide you how to format resume summary and what are the facts that you should consider when you write your summary.

Also, you’ll learn the importance of your titles and how to choose your titles to best fit for your dream job.

How to format Career Summary section

At first, we’re going to take it from the top here, and for pretty much anyone going through this guide, no matter what your background may be, the top is going to be where you add your name and your contact information.

After that, I recommend that you begin with a career summary section. This section is so important for tons of reasons. First, it could be the only thing that a recruiter or reviewer even looks at.

Most recruiters are moving very quickly through hundreds of resumes and they want to determine if you’re a okay or not within just a few seconds. If you don’t get their attention at first glance, don’t expect them to get through your entire resume. The summary section is also super important because it sets the tone for your entire resume. This is your first opportunity to announce your professional brand and provide the human reviewer with an instant snapshot of who you are and what you specialize with your target audience in mind.

The summary is also your most valuable real estate of the resume when it comes to connecting the dots for a recruiter. Remember, you want to make sure it to very easy for them to quickly connect their, needs, to your deliverable. You can do that in this section and in many instances you can do that even if your experience or your job titles don’t line up perfectly with the jobs that you’re pursuing.

And I’ll show you how to do that in just a bit. In short, you want to make the absolute most of this first section and here’s how you can do just that.

Job titles

You see a sample portion of a resume that we created for one of our own clients. At the top of the page, underneath the name, you see three job titles running across the top. Why are these here? The job titles are there for two important strategic reasons. First, they help make the resume robust in key words that the resume scanning software may be looking for.

But of equal importance or even more, they’re there to give the human reviewer an immediate impression that you are what they’re looking for. For this reason, I recommend that you select titles or terms that describe the roles that you’re targeting in a generic capacity, even if they’re not the exact titles of the job you hold today or you held in the past.

Now don’t get it wrong in this. You can’t just flat out lie and give yourself titles that are completely outside of your skills and expertise.

Likewise, you don’t want to throw in random titles that don’t thematically tie together in any way because this will just confuse the reader more than help them develop an immediate picture of who you are as a professional.

So for instance, you’re not going to list out cleaner, mathematics teacher, and mechanic, because that would just confuse the hell out of everyone. Let me give you a realistic example here which should help you construct your own titles across the top of your new resume.


So say you’re a senior marketing manager, but you’ve got this random title like head of marketing experiences sensors and boards. In other words, it’s something specific to your company so it won’t probably make a lot of sense to the general population what exactly you’re doing in that job. And now let’s pretend that you’re targeting director of marketing roles and you have a specific interest in using your skills as a marketing strategist and digital analyst. Take a look at a few job descriptions that appeal to you.

What are the generic titles that you’re seeing most often on these job ads? You can either choose three titles or terms by doing some research on what the jobs you’re going to be applying for are actually called, or you can make an educated guess, and from that assessment, you’ll probably end up with three titles that read something like this. Director of Sales, Sales Manager, and Account Executive. Again, you want to choose readily understandable terms and ensure that they both summarize you as a professional and have your target job in mind.

Career Summary

Let’s get into the career summary itself. Consider this the best of you section. A simply strategy you might want to use is one that will culminate any three to five bullet summary.

I typically try to stick with four, but there’s really no hard and fast rule here but do not think to include 15 bullets here. Keep it tight and keep it on point.

At first

First bullet. This one’s a biggie. You want to construct an overarching statement about who you are professionally and in what you specialize. Consider that first bullet your elevator pitch.


Your second and third bullets, or second, third, and fourth bullets, however this nets out for you, will each highlight a specific strength you bring to the table or experience that you have that aligns directly with your target employer and what they’re looking for.

And again, we figure this out by studying job descriptions that capture our attention and then making educated guesses about what we think is most important to showcase.

If you can include specific objective evidence of your strengths, even better. For instance, maybe you’re a regional sales manager who wants an opportunity to turn around an under-performing market. If you’ve recently revived a struggling territory and then went on to generate double digit growth results, this would probably be appropriate to mention as evidence of your turnaround strengths.


And then in your final bullet if you need this you can spell out specifically how or why your combined background aligns directly with what that target employer is seeking. This last bullet point can really come in handy when you’re maybe not a super obvious on-paper match for a job, or if you’re trying to make a deliberate career change.

You can use this last bullet point as a quick opportunity to marry your skills for and outline your intentions to the reviewer so that he or she can understand how or why you’re a good match.

Remember, guys, no one’s going to deduce this for you. You’ve got to connect those dots. I’ll show you an example of this. So let’s build out a sample career summary. Bullet number one, again, the elevator pitch.

Say I’m just this spitfire of a marketing professional who’s really great at strategy, leading teams, and managing complex projects. I want a job that will allow me to use these strengths and in reviewing a few job descriptions that seem super appealing, I realize that these skills are called for in most of those roles.

So this could be my first bullet in the summary section.

Influential and trans-formative marketing director with 15 years of experience building brands and driving revenue growth through innovative strategy, exceptional team leadership, and meticulous project execution.

See how that works? I’m describing myself in a way that quickly informs the reviewer that A, I’m a marketing leader, B, I’ve got 15 years of experience, and C, I’m strong with strategy, team leadership, and getting down to business in managing projects. Simply it cover overall image of what this person capable of.

The adjectives at the beginning of this bullet point influential and trans-formative, also help paint an immediate picture of who I am, and in what I specialize.

Let’s say that in the job descriptions I’ve been studying, I notice that each of them seems to want or need someone who understands both traditional and digital marketing, and also who can build both marketing strategies and then execute the marketing campaigns. I’m also noticing that relationship building and negotiation skills seem to be a high priority.

So maybe then my second and third bullet points go something like this.

A best of both worlds marketer with deep expertise across both digital and traditional marketing platforms. And an ability to devise and execute integrated campaigns that engage audiences and deliver strong ROI. Superior rapport-building, client relations, and negotiation skills. Drove a 47% increase in revenue and improved brand recognition by forging a strategic alliance with a leading global retailer.

And now the final bullet, which is the one that you can use if you need to spell something specific out or connect the dots for your audience. For our marketing manager here, let’s say that she was a bookkeeper early on in her career, and now she’s planning on looking for a job as a marketing director for a financial services firm. Her knowledge of both marketing and finance may very well help her land that interview, but if her early career experience is just buried or never even mentioned, the reviewer won’t likely put two and two together on how valuable that combined experience could be.

And so we’re going to spell it out for her with a bullet point that goes something like this.

Present a skill set that combines marketing leadership with accounting experience. Specifically interested in meshing these areas of expertise to deliver value as a senior marketing leader within a financial services or accounting firm environment.

In one quick bullet, we’ve tied the current and early career experience together and assuming this person is applying for marketing leadership jobs within financial services firms, that statement is going to help set her apart from competitors who don’t have that bookkeeping background.

Interestingly, that last bullet reads a bit like an objective, doesn’t it? Oh it does, but bite your tongue. It’s not an objective. You don’t ever, never, never, ever want or need an objective on your resume. Why not? Objectives almost always announce what you want out of the deal and nothing else. They don’t support you in any way in your efforts to brand yourself professionally, and they don’t tell your future employer what you’re going to do for them.

Do not use typical objective lines

And honestly, the typical objective, it uses the same hideous, boring words that I just saw the last 24 people use. Seeking a challenging position within an innovative organization that will allow me to make a contribution to the bottom line while growing as a professional. bla bla ba. Don’t do this. You’ll instantly make your resume look so same as others to the person plowing through that pile of candidates that just came in, which is the exact opposite of your goal, which is to be a standout.

Lose the objective, add the summary, and if you want to get super snazzy as you round out your summary section, consider inserting a poll quote or a soundbite from a performance review or LinkedIn recommendation. If someone has said something nice about you that affirms a specific strength you’re trying to highlight, grab that quote and plug it in at the end of the summary. Here’s what that might look like.

“It’s rare to find someone so impact at both strategy and execution. Mary isn’t just a marketing leader. She’s a marketing force.”

Okay, you may want to pause the reading right now and go scribble out a draft of your new summary section. Take your time, and next up, we’re heading into the key skills territory.

Chapter 4: Skill Section

resume skill section

In this chapter you will learn how to format your skill section

First, you’ll learn how to choose right style for your situation according to needs, education and work experience in your current industry or trying to get in to.

If you are thinking where we can add all the people talking keywords that ATS looking for, you are right. It is the skill section. Well you can and should use keywords throughout the new resume. Creating a separate key skills, or areas of expertise section right near the top will help ensure that your resume is loaded with key specs. In the ATS, it’s looking for resumes that are loaded with key specs. So this section will also give the human reviewer a very easy and quick way to see the stuff that you know how to handle.

At we construct resumes with the following goal. If the person who reads your resume never gets any further than the summary section and the areas of expertise, they should have a very good idea of who you are, in what you specialize, and the stuff that you’re good at. For sure we want them to keep going to the end of the resume, but we know that most recruiters and HR people have a ton of other things going on on any given day. And more than likely, a bunch of other candidate resumes to get through.

Why is this really important?

Given this, we want those first few seconds to really count. We also want to help the ATS in deciding to put your resume into the passing pile. Maybe even put it into the great pile. Now we don’t want to overload this section to the point that you look like you’re trying way too hard to trick the system. That just pisses people off. But you do want to lay out skills that you possess and that you know or suspect will be advantageous in your next job.

So how do you pick them? Well go right back into that handful of job descriptions that have captured your attention and study them. What skills are called for across multiple job descriptions? Or are certain skills mentioned more than once? These are the skills you will likely want to include here. Some examples to get you thinking about what to include in this section would be, and this is random. Project management, client relations, business development, market research, P&L, team leadership, training, social media, employee supervision, process improvement, consultative sales, cost controls, and so forth.

The skills that you list can be reorganized if you want to highlight something specific for a particular job application. Make it comprehensive, but don’t overload it. People will glaze right over the thing if you overload them. And the glaze-over, that’s not what we are looking for here. So easy enough. That’s how you set up your key skills or areas of expertise section.

Chapter 5: Work Experience Section

resume work experience

In this chapter I’ll cover the work experience section. It is the longest section on the resume.

I’ll guide you how to format resume work experience and what are the facts that you should consider when you write your work experience.

Let’s dive into what for many is the longest and intimidating portion of the entire resume, your work history, or professional experience section. Don’t be afraid. This is going to be very doable.

Your work history section needs to be written in reverse chronological order, meaning the newest stuff and the oldest stuff last.

This is particularly important if you plan to apply for jobs via online application because that pesky applicant tracking system might not understand the format if you do it any other way.

It’s also important because recruiters tend to care most about what you’ve been up to lately, and not what you were doing 14 years ago.

So in this section, you have the opportunity to showcase the specific stuff that you’ve accomplished, the stuff that you’re proud of, and the stuff that you either suspect or know your future employer is going to care about. Just like with the earlier sections, you want to construct your work history with a solid idea of the type or types of roles you’re going to be pursuing so that you can pick and choose what to highlight based on those jobs.

Do not list everything, do some brainstorming

Be very clear that this section is not your autobiography. It’s not a list of every little thing that you do or have ever done in each job. Certainly it’s important for your audience to get a feel for the overarching nature of each role and what you’ve been responsible for, but you’ve got to take it beyond that and make this a true marketing document, a marketing document that’s going to influence the recruiter or decision maker into making that important purchase decision, which is call you up for an interview.

Be specific with statements, talk to the point

That’s our goal here. So here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Rather than saying, “responsible for documenting processes “and troubleshooting software,” or “oversee content strategy and social media marketing,” or “managed an under-performing sales territory,” rather than saying just those things, you want these statements to spell out the significance of why you’re sharing that detail or what the result was.

Structure of work mentions

You need to go beyond the duties and responsibilities and get to that, the way in which we typically structure jobs within the work history for our own resume-writing clients follows this general formula. Obviously, you’re going to start each job by listing out the name of the employer, location, and years or months and years that you worked there. You see also that we’ve added a small blurb underneath that company name that describes this organization very briefly.

This can be particularly beneficial if you worked for companies that aren’t well-known, or if it’s not obvious what they do based on the name of the organization. And then you add your job title. If, by the way, you’ve got some unusual title that may not be easily recognized by the ATS or human reader, you may want to change your title to something that’s more universally recognized, so long as that’s still accurate. For instance, if you’re a social media strategist by trade by the company that you work for calls your job “community collector” or something cutesy or vague, it could hurt you if you don’t translate this into something that the computer and the people will understand.

After the header, Specifics

Okay, once you’ve got the header for your job laid in, now you want to add the specifics. Here’s how we add the specifics. We develop a brief statement that describes the overarching nature of your role and what you were hired or promoted to do. “Recruited to turn around a struggling geographic market “for this global electronics distributor. “Oversee sales and business development within the West Coast region”, with specific responsibility “over lead generation, account management, “contract negotiation and market expansion.”

And then underneath that overview, you want to create a sub-section called something like Key Accomplishments or Select Highlights, and then construct two to four bullet points highlighting the stuff that you’re most proud of and/or that you believe will be most important to share with that target audience.

So in this case, maybe we share these specific details.

  • “Reversed a four-year decline in sales, growing revenue by 45% in year one”. Achieved by swiftly restoring a strained relationship with a critical client and opening 8 new accounts.”
  • “Generated $850,000 in new revenue within the first eight months by identifying and presenting up sell opportunities to existing customers.”
  • “Negotiated an advantageous distribution partnership with a large regional consumer electronics manufacturer, a relationship that is tracking to deliver $25 million in annual revenue.”

It’s important that you use the subsection here to call out specific and quantifiable if possible highlights that demonstrate your performance and capabilities.

The subsection serves a secondary purpose too. It makes it very easy for the person reading the resume to quickly see the most important stuff that you did at each job. And I’ve said this more than once, but it begs saying again.

You should highlight things in this section that will be relevant and important to the particular audience that you’re trying to influence right now.

If you do career change, small things matter.

That said, if the salesperson we’ve just outlined were trying to shift into a job involving, say a business process improvement, then we absolutely would want to dedicate at least one bullet point to something that he had accomplished specifically related to process improvement, because that’s what his audience is going to care about.

This is an important point if you have or you’ve had a job that you feel doesn’t really line up thematically with the direction you’re heading, or maybe it wasn’t enough of a job to even include. I would argue that most jobs, unless they were a really long time ago, or you did them for only just a blip of time, they’re worth a mention, because I’m certain that you did things or learned things at that job that will directly benefit you in what you do next. Think through what those things are and mention those in the Select Highlights section.

Sometimes we have to entry level jobs to make life going, but don’t worry. Most of time it counts more than regular jobs you ever had.

Here’s an example. Let’s say I was a marketing manager for a big company of the East Coast, and then my husband got an amazing new job in San Antonio. So we packed up, moved, and then settled in to our new home. And then I couldn’t find a marketing manager job. So I took a receptionist job at a local yoga studio just so I could keep busy while searching for something more permanent. Once the studio owner got to know me, she realized that I had all of this marketing background, and so she invited me to take on an expanded role doing the company’s social media and email marketing.

I also started shaping an overall marketing strategy for the business on my own time. So the question is do I put this on my resume? In my eyes, it feels like a giant step backwards from that big job I had out east, but what do I do about the growing gap in my job history? And if I do list it, how do I make it look at least a little bit impressive? The answer to that question, do I list this, is oh, hell yes, you do. You list it because not only is it preferable over leaving a gap, but because you’re doing something that’s directly relevant in this job.

How to include minor jobs and events in the work history

Now you may want to make it clear in a subtle but succinct way that this is an interim job that you took due to your relocation. But you for sure want to include this in your work history. Here’s how I might handle this exact situation on paper. Again, just like in the salesperson example that we went through, we first outline an overarching nature of the job. In addition to that, and this is super-important, the intro makes it instantly clear to the reviewer that I’ve just relocated.

“Following a family relocation to Texas, “accepted a part-time role “with this fast-growing wellness studio.” This makes it totally understandable why a high-powered marketing manager from the east coast is now working at a part-time job in Texas. It also subtly implies that this is an interim or bridge job that I’ve taken while settling in to my new city. And then again, you can see in the bullet points beneath the intro statement how we showcase the specific marketing work I’ve been doing so that the recruiter quickly sees that this isn’t some completely unrelated job after all.

Okay, let’s continue. Once you’ve completed your write up for that first job within your work history, you’re going to wash, rinse, and repeat for each additional role that you’ve held.

Do you need to list them all?

Do you need to include every job you’ve ever had? Oh, for heaven’s sake, no, especially if you’ve been working for a lot of years. Typically, recruiters want to see at most the past 10 to 15 years. If you start going too far back, you’re going to risk looking old. And as much as we don’t want to consider this, and this is especially true for anyone living and working in a Western culture country, age discrimination does exist.

Our culture, like it or not, places strong value on youth and vitality. Certainly employers also value maturity and experience, but only if you also have plenty of youth and vitality to go along with it. So when you list your jobs too far back on the resume, you risk being perceived as a little bit long in the tooth and having the reviewer jump to the conclusion that you are slowing down or winding down, or you don’t have current technology skills, or that your health care costs are going to get to be really expensive.

Yes, it’s ridiculous, and it’s unfair, but it’s real. So if you happen to have more than 15 years of experience under your belt, consider strategizing in a way that doesn’t enable them to do the math on you and jump to an inaccurate negative conclusion. Now there are exceptions to this and here’s an important one. If, for instance, you were a retail manager 15 years ago, and then shifted into a job as maybe a insurance agent, but now you want to be a retail manager again, well then, you absolutely need to list that early career experience so that the reviewer understands that you already have that background.

Chapter 6: Education Section

education section

In this chapter I’ll cover the education section. You will learn how and where to list your education as well as certifications or licences if you work in a field that requires or values them.

Also I’ll touch on additional sections like volunteerism, professional affiliations, technical skills and any other additional information.

This is important. Whatever it is, you need an education section. Even if you don’t have a college degree, you should include an education section on your resume. You may wonder how to do it, let’s see.

Importance of Education Section on your resume

If you don’t include education section the resume, it may score poorly with the resume scanning software. It may also make the human reviewer wonder why the heck it’s missing or what the deal is. So even if you didn’t go to college, I’m certain that you’ve engaged in some educational opportunities along the way that have helped you build or enhance your skills, whether that’s a graphic design class, or a workshop on web designing, or maybe some specialized training that your employer sent you to. Or, maybe you finished half a degree due to financial problems, or left to start family, and now you aren’t sure how or if you should even list that on your resume.

Location of education section on your resume

First of all, yes you should, and I’m going to help you with that. First you need to to decide where on the resume you should put your education section. Normally it will follow your work history, however if you happen to have a degree that’s viewed as very important in your industry, or carries significant importance no matter what the industry, then you might want to bring it up to near the top of the resume, underneath the summary section. Likewise, if your work history shows a gap because say maybe you just spent the last three years completing a degree program in full time, this would also be an occasion in which you may want to move your education section up near the top.

This way, the reviewer’s eyes won’t go right to the fact that your work history ends in 2017, it will go to the degree that you just completed in 2020. And be sure and list the graduation date in that instance, so you can explain that gap. So you have certain situations like this that may prompt you to move the education section up to the top, but as a general rule, you’re going to list the education right after your professional experience. Wherever you decide to put it, you want to make sure you get it right. So let’s take a look at an example.

Right format for your education section on your resume

This one is pretty straightforward. Most recent degree typically goes first, and oldest education typically goes last with exception of when you want to bring something specific up to the forefront for strategic reasons. With our example person here,

education section

you’ll see that she has a bachelor’s degree in clean energy and is working toward her master. She also has taken a few work related classes along the way. So we list the master in progress first, and notice that we specifically mention degree in progress, anticipated completion Fall 2020.

That gets the term master on the resume, which could be a big advantage depending on what role this woman applies for, but it does so in a way that isn’t dishonest or misleading. If the degree isn’t done, you can’t list it as you having that degree. And trust me when I say this, when your potential employer goes and does that degree verification during a background check, that little white lie will become a giant problem for you.

Extra little details matter

Okay back to it. We’re going to list the bachelor’s degree next. Note with this person that she was a top academic performer. You definitely want to include major details like this, but unless you’ve just graduated, go easy here. If you have played any sport, it’s better to mention here. You don’t need to overload it with every little committee or club that you participated in during college. That’ll make you look a little bit green and stuck in your glory days. And finally, we round out this section with some specific classes that our sample person has taken.

We’re going to list classes that show that she has skills that her next employer will probably value like Clean energy and hydro power development.

Do you need to add graduation dates?

Notice too that I didn’t list out graduation dates for this person, but I did show years for her continuing education. Use your own judgement with this, but in general, unless you need the dates to explain something, such as why I have a gap in my work history, or why I have very little work history at all, I’d leave the dates off, especially if you graduated a long time ago.

Again, this is because we want to be very mindful for potential for ageism, and truthfully, once you’ve got the experience the fact that you have the degree and the experience, that just speaks for itself. Now with the one-off courses, I would typically list dates if they are recent so that you can demonstrate an ongoing commitment to learning and illustrate that you have got a fresh skill in that particular thing.

What if you have very little to no work experience in your field of interest?

And the last thing I want to touch on specific to education is this, what happens if you’re a new graduate with very little or no actual work experience in your field of interest? If this is you, I would use your education section to its full potential and showcase specific projects and work assignments that demonstrate your knowledge of or experience within that field you’re attempting to enter.

Take a look at this one. This person earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in December 2018.

education section

For a variety of reasons and circumstances, the only jobs and internships he held through college, weren’t directly related to engineering. But he was a high performer and he participated in a couple of complex design projects during his senior year, and was also invited to take part in a prestigious engineering competition. These are things that he should explain in some detail under his education, much like he would highlight within an actual job, so that the reviewer knows he’s done the stuff that emulates on the job experience, and that he was recognized for being really good at engineering while still at college.

And then, in his work history, this recent grad should highlight the stuff he’s most proud of, and the things that maybe demonstrate his transferable skills, like ability to deal with customers, problem solving capabilities, time management, and so forth.

How to deal with certifications and licences?

These matter more in some industries than in others. In some industries you simply can’t have certain jobs without the proper credentials. And in others, it’s a pretty big advantage for you to have them. So if this is you, set up a separate section for your certifications or licenses and list them out in the exact way that you see them being called out in the job descriptions, or the exact way that’s required by the certifying body.

Also if it’s a certification that you know gives you a huge advantage, for instance, if you’re looking at project manager roles and you know that being a certified project management professional, or PMP, is something that employers are specifically looking for, well then you may also want to spell this out in your summary section, or list the certifications way far up in your key skills. It’s a game of real estate and you want to use yours to the best advantage.

Volunteerism and community involvement.

Many, if not most employers, value people who contribute to the greater good of the world and who have interesting things going on in their non-work time. So even if you’re not specifically looking for a job in the nonprofit sector, it’s generally smart to include your volunteer work and your community involvement on your new resume.

Now, you want to make sure that you’re not listing anything that might be controversial or completely polarizing, for instance, if you’re a fundraiser for some political party, or if you volunteer for an agency whose mission could be offensive to some certain parties, or cause someone to prejudge you, It’s better to leave that off.

I’d also leave off really old or super ancillary stuff that you’ve done like picking weeds at your kid’s school, because then you’re going to look like you’re trying way too hard to come across as a do-gooder.

But assuming you’ve got some relatively current and something that community inspire to include, I would for sure add them into this separate section.

Finalizing your new resume

Are you ready to wrap up this long knowledge sharing session and start your own resume? Let’s do it. First, we need to make sure your new resume is polished and consistent in formatting.

Resume quick tip

You may very well be ruled out entirely if you’ve got several going on. Final review is an important assignment here. And by final review, It is not just a run the thing through spell check. Alongside with spell check you also need to read through it carefully to make sure that everything reads smoothly and that spell check didn’t miss something that maybe was spelled correctly, but the wrong word choice to begin with for that particular sentence.

You need consistency in formatting

You also want to make sure that you’ve got consistency in the way that you’re structuring the headers and the sub-heads.

If you’re bold certain text, you want to make sure the same certain texts are bold throughout the entire resume. For instance if you bold company names you worked, you have to bold every company name under experience section. And likewise, if you’re italicizing things. You have to do them for all content. For instance, the short text that describe the company at which you’ve worked. Make sure you’re doing so consistently throughout.

You also want consistent spacing and clean page breaks. And if you’ve got a full two-pager, make sure it’s not so close that on certain operating systems, the viewer may see a couple of dangling lines onto a third page.

You don’t want danglers. If this is going on as you finish the resume, try tightening up the formatting, adjusting the margins a little bit, or cropping out a bit of non-critical content to ensure that it all fits cleanly.

Naming your resume

Once you’ve finished on all of this, you’re ready to save your new resume. All right, so what should you name it? I don’t think there’s one hard and fast, one and only answer to this, but there is one hard and fast answer when it comes to what not to name it.

And that’s My Resume or Resume.docx. Don’t be this generic. A hiring person may not be able to readily find you in his or her system if you’re among 54 others with that similar file name.

You also don’t want to list out version numbers when naming your resume. The reviewer actually does not care which version it is.

I recommend to clients that you go with one of two approaches when naming your resume. If you’re a straightforward, conservative professional, I would just do your name.

Rebecca Morris Resume.doc, for example. Or if you want to use this real estate as a means to begin branding yourself professionally, you might want to go with something like Rebecca Morris Marketing Strategist.docx. Keep it simple but make it clear who you are in the naming.

How should you save it? Which format to use? .docx? .PDF? ot .txt?

You should however get an uproar, at least be very mindful of the file format that you use. People often ask me, ‘What should I sent out? A doc file, a PDF, a text file?’ My answer to this is, it depends.

It depends, because the answer is going to be yes to all three, depending on how you’re submitting your information.

Importance of .docx/.doc formats for resume

A doc or a docx file is your best bet when you’re uploading the document into an online application in its entirety. As in, you’re not copying certain blocks of information and then, pasting them into the fields within that application. The reason that the doc file is the best for these instances is that some applicant tracking systems have a really hard time reading and parsing information from a resume that’s been saved in a PDF format.

And if the ATS can’t read your info, you lose. So save your resume as a doc or a docx file for online applications.

Why PDF is great for your resume?

PDFs are great, because no matter what operating system the person opening this file has or which fonts they have installed on their computer, the formatting is preserved in the universal PDF format. So in addition to saving the resume as a doc file, you should also consider saving it as a PDF.

Why you should have .txt format?

And then, finally, a text file is best for those instances in which you’re copying certain blocks of text out of your resume and pasting them into the various fields within an online application, because the text file strips away formatting symbols that can disrupt the parsing process or end up looking all garbled when you plop them into the application fields.

One resume, three versions. And once you’ve got them all lined up like shiny little ducks right in a row on your computer,

I’d also consider uploading them to, like, a Cloud-based storage option, maybe Dropbox or Google Drive. That way, if your computer implodes tomorrow, you don’t lose all the hard work you’ve just put in to this awesome new resume.

Hey, speaking of your awesome new resume, do you have one now? Are you close? Hopefully, you’re either holding something that you’re going to be proud to start handing out or you now have the confidence and the tools that you need to get this done, so you can start applying for amazing new job opportunities right away.

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