If you've made the decision that 2020 is going to be the year to achieve your career aspirations, there is one task that stands between you and your goal - writing a resume. To put your best foot forward, you need to create a resume that does justice to your experience and skills – one that presents you in the best light and sets you apart from other candidates.
However, standing out from the competition is not easy when you are trying to figure out how to properly format, organize, and create content for your resume. And all the contradictory information on the Internet makes even the most experienced professionals dwell over every single word they type.
If you are looking for a one-stop shop where all your questions are answered in a clear and understandable way, you've come to the right place!
We've created this step-by-step guide and resume templates aligned with all best practices to make your job search in 2020 easier. From your contact details to the length and formatting, this guide has all your resume-writing questions covered.
Want to skip the reading and jump to the action? Interested in having your resume ready in 15 minutes? Try our resume templates.
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The Resume Writing Guide for 2020 works like a recipe.
You will get information about all the ingredients you need to create a perfect resume. Additionally, you will learn how to combine them to make a resume you are proud of.
The guide is divided into two main sections:
Creating content [part 1]
Polishing the structure [part 2] - coming out on 9th January 2020
In this part, you will find out:
► How to structure your resume
► Which parts should be included in your resume and which shouldn’t
► What to include in your personal statement [template included]
► How to describe your job responsibilities in the work experience section
► How to quantify your responsibilities and key achievements
And much more…
Simply said, you will learn how to create a perfect resume that will win interviews and land jobs in 2020.
Ready? Buckle your seat belt and let's start!
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1. Open MS Word/Mac Pages
...or any other program you are comfortable with.The important thing is that you feel confident with the program you choose, so you can make all the changes with ease.
Additionally, you should be able to save your document as a PDF file. This is the most common document type companies are looking for. It will also preserve your original formatting. Regardless of the operating system readers might have, they will see it in the form you want them to see it.
2. Introduce yourself
The very first thing you will write down should be your name and surname.
Don't include nicknames, no matter how close they are to your heart.This part is easy and straightforward, however, there are two things we want to highlight:
Write down the name from your legal documents to avoid any issues with hiring. Be consistent and use the same name and surname in all your job search documents and communications.
Your name and surname are the first thing employers will read on your CV. You want them to be seen and remembered. So, it should be easy to find them.
Download a pre-made resume template and jump-start your job search!
3. Tell them how to reach you
Contact details should be right below your name and surname.They need to be visible and clear.
Don't confuse recruiters with three phone numbers and two email addresses. One phone number and one email address - those you are always available on - are more than enough.
Also, you don't need to include your full home address.
Ditch the street and home number, leave only the city and country/state. If you are applying for international opportunities, include your country/state too.
Based on the above, you should include the following:
Your contact details section should be brief and straightforward. At this point, you also need to save valuable space for the rest of the content. Thus, the best way to write them is in one row, separated by slash or other symbols.
It should look like this:
Paris, France ● 00 123 0000 000 ● email@example.com
4. Double check your contact details
Are your contact details accurate? Do they look professional? Think about your email address - how does it make you come across?
The most professional addresses always include your name and surname. Avoid offensive, cute or funny nicknames and aliases.
Never include your work email address. From the future employer's perspective, it’s a big turn off. It shows disrespect to your current employer, which is always a red flag.
This rule doesn't apply in case you are looking for internal opportunities within your company. In that case, it is fine to use your work address. ONLY in that case.
5. Include additional information in contact details (optional)
Thinking about including your LinkedIn profile, website or social media? LinkedIn and your website are perfectly fine, if they add value to the information from your CV and if done professionally.
However, social media can be tricky. Do it only if you strongly believe they present you in the best possible light. Otherwise, they will hinder your application.
6. Categorize sections
Take your time to think about your content forehand, before you dig deeper into writing it. Create subheadings for the different sections of your resume. At this point, focus on the content instead of the layout, as you cannot know in advance how long will your resume be.
The sections you MUST include are:
Contact details (if you followed the previous steps, they are already included)
Work history/professional experience
'Nice-to-have' sections are:
And these sections can be skipped:
Interest and hobbies
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7. Ditch objective - write a personal statement instead (spoiler alert – a template is included here!)
2020 is the year to ditch the objective in your resume. There, we said it!
The sentence ‘Looking for a challenging role to progress both professionally and personally’ simply doesn’t add any value – you are just stating the obvious. What’s more, you are making it all about yourself.
Surprisingly, resumes are not about you – they are about employers and the benefits you can bring to them.
So, instead of a me-oriented personal objective, write a summary of your career to show employers how your skills, experience and previous achievements translate into their success.
Even though this section is not a mandatory part of a resume, we highly recommend starting with it.
When done correctly, starting your resume with a personal statement is the most efficient way to show employers you are the person they are looking for.
The thing is; recruiters, hiring managers and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) all work like scanners - they quickly skim your resume looking for the right keywords. So, the most important thing is to fill this section with the same keywords that you found in the job description of the role you want to apply for. Make sure to reference them in the first three sentences of your resume.
If you tick all the boxes from the job description, let them know it right from the start.
Start with a sentence or two describing your experience and areas of expertise. The next two sentences should be your key selling points. Think about the experience, skills or achievements that make you perfect for the job. Finish with a sentence about your career goal, focusing on long-term personal and career development.
You can write a brief description of your work experience and skills by using the past-present-future formula.
If you need inspiration, this template can help:
A/An <adjective 1> and <adjective 2> <current job title> with more than <number> years of experience in <industry 1> and <industry 2>. Strong <key strength 1> combined with the ability to <skill 1> and <skill 2>. Extensive experience of <area of expertise 1>, <area of expertise 2> and <area of expertise 3>. Currently looking to broaden experience and utilize the existing skill-set in <specific industry/company/role>.
When you include relevant keywords here, it can sound like this:
Certified and analytical accountant with more than 10 years of experience in FMCG and the banking industry. A strong commercial awareness combined with the ability to analyse and produce high-quality management reports within tight deadlines. Extensive experience in developing cost-saving practices, budget management and forecasting. Currently looking to broaden experience and use the existing skill-set in an IT firm.
...or like this:
Highly motivated and detail-oriented recruitment consultant with more than 5 years of experience in the IT industry. Strong communication skills combined with the ability to adapt to changing requirements and to re-prioritize with ease. Extensive experience in leading end-to-end recruitment processes, managing projects and senior stakeholder management. Currently looking to broaden experience and utilize the existing skill-set as a recruiting manager in ABC company.
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8. List your employments
The work history and/or professional experience section is the most important part of your resume. Hiring managers even tend to skip everything else and read only the information about your previous employment.
Every word you include here counts. So, this section needs to nothing less than perfect.
The most common way to structure it is to apply reverse chronology, starting from your current job and then listing older ones.
For all jobs you include in your resume, you need to have the following information:
Also, if you have any gaps in the employment history, include them in an overview of your work history and explain briefly what you have done during that time (e.g. building your business, studying, travelling, taking care of a family member).
It’s better to make it clear than to omit or hide something that might raise questions and concerns.
9. Describe your responsibilities and achievements
Describe each job in 5-7 bullet points. As you go back further into the past, you can reduce the number of bullet points to two or three.
Wondering how you can describe everything you’ve done in 3-7 bullet points?
Here are some guidelines:
Customize descriptions to the job. Use the job description as inspiration. Include in your lists only those responsibilities that mirror the content of the job posting by using same keywords (note: ‘mirror’ isn't the same as copy-pasting the content).
Be critical. Think about every bullet point you include in each job. Ask yourself if it is showing valuable experience, achievement, knowledge or skill - those you could use in this job. If the answer is "no", "not sure" or "maybe", remove it or tweak it.
Quantify responsibilities that lead to achievements. Instead of merely describing your responsibilities; focus on your actions and results. Add numbers whenever possible. They help employers understand the impact of your actions and it makes the content more impressive. On top of that, numbers can help you save space while improving the quality of content, as they are straightforward, and speak for themselves. e.g. ‘responsible for managing recruitment process for various different business units’ -> ‘recruited for 5 business units, headhunting 50+ (or resulting in 50+ headhunted) new joiners in 2019
Cut out long and empty phrases. Omit phrases such as "I am responsible for/in charge of".Instead, start every bullet point with an action verb that summarizes your activities; such as “led”, “improved”, and “created”. This saves valuable space and time for readers by cutting to the chase.
At the end, sort out bullet points starting from the most relevant to the job to the least relevant. If you have more than 7 bullet points, go to the eight or the ninth one and ask yourself does it really add anything to the description. If not, cut it. Sort bullet points by their relevancy.
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10. List education and make it concise
If you are a student or a recent graduate, your education should be listed at the top of your CV – before work history.
When you have 1-2 years of work experience, it becomes more important than your education. So, start with it and include the education section below your employment history.
Here are the basic rules:
Start with your highest degree first.
Add other degrees in reverse-chronological order.
If you finished college, don’t add your high school or primary school information.
Add other training, qualifications or certificates only if they are relevant to the job.
What information should you include?·
The type of degree you received.
The name of your school/institution
The year you started and graduated
Other information such as GPA should be included only if requested, or if you are a recent graduate with an impressive GPA. Otherwise, no one will pay attention to it.
Additionally, if you are still in high school or college, don’t forget to specify the expected date of graduation. It is an important info that shouldn’t be omitted. Simply state when the ‘expected’ or ‘anticipated’ graduation date is.
11. Describe your skills and areas of expertise – optional
The skills section of your resume includes your abilities that are related to the jobs you are applying for. In this section, you should list skills that are relevant to the position or career field that you are interested in, such as technical skills, software skills, and/or language skills.
To take this section to the next level:
Specify proficiency: It’s not enough to name languages or software you use. Employers need to know how skilled you are. E.g. Instead of listing English and Spanish, add this English (native) and Spanish (B2); instead of MS Office and Adobe Photoshop, write MS Office (advanced knowledge). For languages, use standard framework from A1 to C2 (author’s note: skip all A1 languages), for software, use ‘Basic – intermediate – advanced/working proficiency’ terminology.
Put in context: With soft skills, it’s hard to measure your proficiency. They work better if you explain context where you acquired or developed them. For example: 'Strong communication skills developed through customer-facing roles within a bank branch, that required influencing' or 'Strong analytical skills acquired in multiple analytical roles'
12. Skip ‘References available upon request’
Take out the "References available upon request" sentence at the bottom of your resume.
Employers assume you have references and will ask for them, if necessary - usually at the end of the hiring process.
Including them in a resume is a double-edged sword. If you want to include them on your CV, make sure that your references have a good reputation to avoid a situation where their name is hindering your application. Then, ask for their approval to avoid any awkward situations.
When you get the approval, include the following information in a separate document:
Now, look at what you have written so far.
Congratulations! You have created the content of your resume.
Now comes the fun part – polishing the structure and the layout. They are the cherry on top. When done professionally, they will make your resume pop (unintentional rhyme!).
We'll write more about it next week. Until then...
You can do it on your own! Or... you can save precious time and pick
one of resume templates aligned with all resume formatting best practices!
To create a perfect resume, follow these steps:
Open a new Word or Pages document. Write down your name, surname and contact details. Make it as straightforward and concise as possible.
Plan your sections in advance. Sections that must be included are contact details (already included), work history, education.
Ditch a personal objective and write a professional profile summary (personal statement) instead.
List your employments in reverse-chronological order.
Describe your responsibilities and achievements in bullet points. Create a list of activities tailored to the job you’re applying for. Sort responsibilities by their relevancy. Quantify whenever possible.
List your qualifications. Include only degree, major, institution and year when you finished each level of education.
Optionally, describe your skills or areas of expertise. Specify your level of proficiency in each.
Skip ‘References available upon request’ sentence.
Do you have any questions about writing a resume? Not sure how to describe your skills or achievements? We’d love to help you out! Send us a message. Or if you prefer having a chat, book a FREE conversation with our career coach and get all your questions answered in 30 minutes.