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How To Write A Resume: 11 Easy Steps For 2021

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Stephen Greet, Co-founder

September 10, 2021

When you're looking for your dream job, chances are that other people are as well. That’s why you want to make sure your resume gets noticed by recruiters out of potentially hundreds of other candidates.

Starting a resume from scratch is time consuming and can result in improper formatting that won’t pass the initial ATS scan, which means that your document may never be read by a human. Similarly, using a word-processing resume template may result in funky characters or improper alignment after hours of work, especially if you try to personalize it by making changes to the document.

You can avoid frustrations and get peace of mind knowing that your resume will pass the ATS and grab the eye of a recruiter by using our resume builder. By simply filling in the requested information, you’ll have a great document to showcase your talents in a way that’s easy for recruiters to skim.

In addition, when you use our resume builder, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, potentially up to three hours, over using a resume template from word-processing software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Because relevancy is key to potential employers when skimming these documents, you’ll want to have a separate resume for each position you want to apply for. Our resume maker allows you to create multiple resumes in a snap. 

While a resume should be a marketing tool to land you an interview, it can be difficult to know where to start when you’re constructing your resume. We’ve boiled the process down to 11 steps in order of importance to make it easier and faster for you to create the perfect resume for the position you want.

Step 1: Choose your resume format

Resume format refers to the way you display pertinent information in your document. You’ll want to include contact information, a job title, work history, skills, education and any other information that will show the potential employer not only how your previous employment qualifies you for the job, but how you will be an asset to their company.

The way you set up this information can make it easier or more difficult for the recruiter. There are multiple ways you can format your resume, but there are three styles that are most common among job seekers.

  • Reverse-chronological format is the preferred style for recruiters as it highlights your most recent relevant employment and accomplishments that relate to the new position. It’s also the best format to pass through ATS.
  • Functional format is good if you have little work experience or employment gaps. It’s great for emphasizing skills for an entry-level position, but it can highlight a lack of actual work experience.
  • Hybrid format is a way to show how your transferable skills relate to the new position, which can be beneficial if you’ve switched fields a time or two over the years.

Comparisons of reverse-chronological, functional, and hybrid resume formats

You may be tempted to choose a resume format based on your experience and the type of job you’re applying for. Just remember that recruiters will only spend about seven seconds skimming your resume before deciding if you deserve additional consideration or if you’ll be passed over without reading further to see if you’re a good fit for the position.

While each format has its pros and cons, nearly anyone can benefit from choosing the reverse-chronological format because it’s well known, and recruiters know exactly where to look for specific information, making their job much easier. When potential employers can see that you’re possibly a good fit in a quick skim, they’re more likely to read further.

Understandably, there are times when you might feel that it’s in your best interest to use one of the other popular resume formats. The other two styles may not pass through ATS, they can be confusing for recruiters who are searching for something in particular, and they definitely raise red flags regarding your work history. If your document passes through ATS and the recruiter can’t find what they’re looking for quickly, you can expect that your resume won’t get a second glance as it makes its way to the circular file. That’s why it’s always a good choice to put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter when formatting your resume.

You don’t want all of your hard work creating the perfect resume to go to waste. Even if you have little or no actual job experience, gaps in your career or various fields of work, the reverse-chronological resume format can be made to work to your advantage. Using a resume builder makes it easier to utilize applicable skills from other areas, such as from volunteering, internships, military experience, and even hobbies you pursue on a regular basis.

Step 2: Choose a simple resume template

While format is how you present your information, a resume template is a pre-made guide you can use to input your information in the format you choose. It can be tempting to select a template that uses pictures, diagrams, or complex patterns to portray your unique style, but these features just get in the way and won’t make it past the ATS. It’s best to choose a simple resume template as the words you choose will be what sets you apart from other applicants.

Simple doesn’t mean that your resume will look bland and devoid of character. On the contrary, a resume that’s formatted in a simple layout will pass through ATS with ease and will draw the recruiter’s attention to specific areas of focus for enhanced readability.

A simple resume template will allow you to:

Tips for choosing a simple resume template

Our simple free resume templates make it easy for you to add or remove information and manipulate sections for personalization without affecting the overall layout of your resume. If you choose to work with a resume template through a word-processing program, making changes can throw everything off kilter, often causing you to have to start from scratch to correct the problem.

Using one of BeamJobs’ simple templates

  • Makes it easy to personalize your document
  • Assures your resume will pass through ATS
  • Is quicker and easier than using word-processing software
  • Allows you to update your information without affecting the layout

Using a word processing resume template

  • Creates a resume that looks like that of everyone else
  • Doesn’t allow you to make changes without frustration
  • May not let your resume pass through ATS or may affect how the document is translated
  • Can take hours to create the perfect setup

Step 3: Decide your resume length

While it’s tempting to include as much of your work-related experience and skills in your resume, keep this information to one page [1]. Knowing this from the start helps you consider only relevant information and decide on ways to keep the information short and sweet. Recruiters have a limited amount of time they can spend reading resumes from quite possibly hundreds of candidates, so a one-page resume is generally the best choice. 

A one-page resume:

Why a one-page resume is best

However, if you’ve worked in the same field for more than 10 years, you might find you need to use two pages to show a progression in duties and responsibilities in your field. Additionally, if you’re a high-level executive, scientist or professor, you may need additional room to provide enough information for a potential employer to gain a full understanding of how you’re the best candidate for the position. If you must use two pages, be sure that the second page is full for consistency.

You might notice that some employers ask specifically for a resume, a CV or use resume/CV. Whereas a resume is meant to be short and to the point, a curriculum vitae, or CV, is designed to provide more in-depth information. There are a few differences between a resume and a CV:

  • Length: A resume is usually one page while a CV typically takes up anywhere from three to 10 pages, though there is no restriction on length.
  • Content: Whereas a resume is designed to summarize your relevant skills and work experience, a CV tells more of a story.
  • Purpose: Depending on your geographic location or the field of the position you're applying for, one of these documents may be preferred over the other. For example, if you’re applying for an academic position, a CV might be requested.

Step 4: Include your contact information in a header

The contact information section is the easiest part to complete, so its importance is often overlooked. This section should always be prominently displayed in a header at the top of the page. Because you don’t want to miss a call or message from hiring personnel, make sure all your contact information is up to date and spelled correctly.

Contact information to include on your resume

Step 5: Describe your work experience

This is the meat of your resume and the part that’s the most important to potential employers. Your job history should be laid out in a reverse-chronological order beginning with your most recent job first. The number of positions you include will vary based on how long you’ve been working, but in most cases, you’ll want to list your last two to four places of employment. Remember, you want to keep your resume to one page, so this should be sufficient to give the recruiter an ideal snapshot of what you have to offer the company. Depending on your experience, you may need to restrict yourself to the last 10 years.

Keep in mind the work you’ve done and your accomplishments for this section as you’ll want to limit yourself to using four to six bullet points for each job position you’ve held. If you’re listing four relevant past jobs, you may wish to use four bullet points for each position or include six points for only two jobs. The important thing to remember is to be consistent with your layout for each position you include in your resume.

If you’re wondering what type of information to include in your work history section, a good way to get some ideas is to check out some resume examples for your field of expertise and years of experience.

When crafting your document, be sure to include specific information from the job ad but only if you actually have that experience. Because the ATS will automatically search for appropriate keywords and phrases, you can readily find what employers are searching for in other resumes and the ad for the job you’re applying for. Also, look at other ads for similar positions to find industry-specific keyword information to include.

What details should I include about my job?

While recruiters may not take time to read every aspect of your previous work history, there’s some information that’s expected to be included in your resume. As with every other section of your document, make sure the spelling is correct and that there are no errors as this can ruin your chances of getting hired.

  • Company name: When listing the name of each place of business you’ve worked for, be sure to use the legal name of the company and not any variation that may have been used when you worked there. The only exception is that you don’t have to include “Inc” or “LLC” unless you’re in the legal field.
  • Job title: Next, you’ll add the job title or titles you held while you were employed at each company. Depending on space or layout, you can list multiple titles one after the other or on separate lines. If you’ve only worked for one company and had completely different job duties for multiple titles, you may want to list these separately as your two to four cases of past employment.
  • Employment dates: You don’t need to list the exact day that you started or ended your job. The month and the year are sufficient. If you’re currently employed, list the month and year you began working and write “current” or “present” instead of an ending date.
  • Location: Finally, you should include the city and state where the business is located. This is especially important for large corporations that may have multiple establishments.

What do I write in my job description bullet points?

This is the area in your resume where you can get creative to help you stand apart from other applicants. If you simply list your job duties, your resume will look just like those of everyone else. Additionally, if you’re applying for a position with a similar title, the recruiter already knows the job duties for that position. You want to show the potential employer why you should be chosen for the position. You’ll need to provide specific examples that show a measurable impact.

Consider these tips when completing your bullet points:

  • Abandon personal pronouns: Don’t begin each bullet point with a personal pronoun, such as the first person “I.” Worse yet, don’t even think about using third person “he,” “she” or your name. The recruiter knows who you’re talking about, and these words just waste valuable space.
  • Utilize action verbs: Because the first five words of the sentence are the most important, start each bullet item with an action verb. Words such as “created,” “led” or “managed” show the recruiter that you left an impact. To avoid sounding repetitive, make the thesaurus your friend when writing your bullet points.
  • Avoid passive voice: Using passive voice is wordy and often unclear. For example, instead of saying “The company’s sales were increased by me,” you would say “Increased company sales by 12% over 6 months.” One way to ensure active verb use is to start your sentence with “I” then remove the pronoun when you’re done, or you can run your resume through our resume checker to locate any instances of passive voice.
  • Nix filler words: Although you may wish to show off your personality, wordiness makes it hard for the recruiter to quickly identify your strengths. Instead, use clear and concise sentences that only provide pertinent information. In addition, terms such as “hard-working,” “detail-oriented,” “on time” and “team player” are filler because employers expect you to have these skills [5].
  • Limit the information used in bullet points: While it’s tempting to include everything you’ve done for your previous employers, the recruiter doesn’t want to read an entire story. Keep your information to two or three lines for each bullet point by choosing accomplishments that are relevant to the position you want.
  • Employ keywords: Bullet points are a great place to show you have the right qualifications. Review the job ad to make sure you include relatable information.

5 ways to quantify your impact

Numbers represent facts that can’t be denied. When you put numbers on what you’ve accomplished, this stands out in the eyes of recruiters and builds your credibility. 

5 ways to quantify your impact on your resume

What if I don’t have work experience?

If you don’t have any work experience or have just a little under your belt, don’t worry. You’re not alone. There are many cases where you may not have actual paid work experience. If you’re a student or recent graduate, it’s understood that you’ve likely spent your time and focus on completing your studies rather than dividing your time between school and employment. In the same manner, you may be a homemaker or military personnel who is trying to enter or re-enter the job market, or you may be changing fields.

So what can you use for work history? Volunteer work, freelancing and odd jobs, specific courses, research papers, achievements, extracurricular activities, foreign languages, certifications, hobbies and interests—whatever you’ve been doing, you’ve gained valuable hard and soft skills that can be used in your bullet points. Quantify your achievements where possible, and choose skills relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Volunteer work, freelancing, and odd jobs can be set up just like a paid position in reverse-chronological order along with any work history. Include the company name or use self-employed, the job title, dates of service and location.

Other activities or projects are a little trickier to add to the work experience section, so it’s important to include the appropriate information. Start with the project name, the company or who the activity was completed for and the date of the project. Use the list of bullets to describe the project and the role you played. As with other paid employment, quantifiable information stands out more than generalized statements.

Here are some examples. If you completed a successful project using software such as Java, SQL, or Python, you’ll want to describe this when applying for a technical position. Leadership skills are highly desirable and transferrable, so you’ll want to include any team projects that you spearheaded. If you excelled in a public speaking course, this could be relevant for a position where you’ll have a lot of face-to-face interactions with the public.

Begin by making a master list of your activities and projects. Now choose those that fit in with the job you’re applying for. You’ll go back to the master list to make it easier to find what you need when applying to other positions. Get inspired with more ideas by looking at resume samples that focus on projects and other types of experience.

Step 6: Add your skills

The skills section lets you showcase the abilities that make you a perfect match for the job. When considering skills for your resume, only include those hard and soft skills that are relevant to the job position you’re applying for. The posted ad will most likely let you know at least some of the skills that the company is seeking in an applicant, so you can start with those. If there’s not enough information, look at similar job ads from other companies to fill in the gaps. Better yet, call the company and ask directly. Who knows? You may speak with the job recruiter, making a solid first impression through your initiative to do a little sleuth work. 

It’s important to use industry-specific skills in your resume to pass through the ATS scoring system. Choosing skills to include can be difficult, especially if you have varied experience, so select those most pertinent to the job you want. Your skills include both hard and soft skills, and you want to include more hard than soft. The only exception to this is if you have little or no actual work experience, in which case you can include more soft skills. Hard skills include your know-how and experience that are specific and quantifiable. Soft skills, on the other hand, are those you develop yourself through life experiences.

Some hard skills you might want to include involve any software or technical skills you may have, such as bookkeeping, scheduling, content management systems, UX/UI design, foreign languages, data analysis, public speaking, or even your typing speed. Soft skills employers find desirable consist of time management, leadership, active listening, communication, responsibility, interpersonal and problem solving.

Typically, six to 10 skills are sufficient. Just make sure you list the skills that you have that fit the job posting, but only include skills that you actually have. For example, if the job ad states that you must be proficient in Jira, don’t include this if you’ve only dabbled in it. You may have to complete a skills test as a part of the interview process, or you could be fired if you’re found out.

Rather than stretch the truth, consider taking online courses or refreshers to stay current with the latest trends. If you don’t have enough of the skills the company is seeking in the job posting, it’s probably wise to look for a position requiring more of the talents you possess.

Step 7: Include your education and certifications

Your education and degrees should be listed in reverse-chronological order just like your work history. If you’ve completed higher education, there’s no need to add high school. Begin with the program name or degree obtained, followed by the name of the institution, the city and state where the institution is located, and the dates you attended. Alternatively, you can just use the year you graduated.

You can include your education even if you’re still in school. Follow the graduation date with “expected” or “anticipated” in parentheses. If you didn’t finish your education, whether high school or college, simply list “years attended” followed by the dates. College coursework you’ve completed that’s related to the position can be listed as well if you’re a recent grad.

Optionally, if you’ve recently graduated, you may wish to add a minor, your GPA if it’s 3.2 or higher, honors, achievements, projects, publications, or extracurricular activities if any of this information is relevant to the position or if you don’t have much in the way of work experience. This extra information gives recruiters more information on why they should choose you over other candidates.

Any certifications or licenses you hold should go in this section if they’re relevant to the job. This is a good opportunity to make sure your certifications and licenses are up to date. Because they vary from state to state and even between different companies within the same field, make sure you don’t disqualify yourself from the position by letting your certifications or licenses lapse.

Step 8: Decide whether to include an objective or summary

The resume objective or summary is located at the top and should provide an overview of the information you included in your document and how it relates to the posted job. This section can either make the recruiter want to continue reading or pass you over for another applicant, so it’s important to make your objective or summary interesting to catch the eye of a potential employer.

Use clear, concise sentences that provide specific information. Vague descriptions and generalizations are just a waste of time for recruiters and may make them think you’re just looking for any job. You need to convince them that you truly want the position that they’re offering within their company.

Because recruiters only take a few seconds to look at your entire document, you want to be sure this person reads a succinct, two- to three- sentence snippet rather than glossing over a substantial paragraph. 

We don’t always recommend you include this section, so keep reading to determine whether an objective or a summary will benefit you.

An objective looks toward the future by focusing on your main professional goals and how your qualifications fit in with these and the position you’re applying for. Here are the main reasons to include an objective in your resume:

  • Little or no experience: If you’re new to the workforce, a resume objective is a way to showcase your transferable skills and how you would be a good fit for the company.
  • Career change: Instead of focusing on your past job titles and work, an objective lets you show how your skills and know-how make you a great candidate.
  • Upwardly mobile: There may come a time when you’re ready to advance into a role that’s higher up the ladder. You can use the resume objective to show how you’re prepared to take on these new responsibilities.

On the other hand, a summary provides a brief overview that highlights any accomplishments related to the position you’re seeking. The focus should be on the company and position you’re applying for. These are the primary motivations to choose a summary:

  • Similar field or position: If most of your employment history is in the same field, a summary allows you to briefly highlight quantifiable information to help you stand out from other candidates. The focus is more on the company and how you match up with what they’re looking for.
  • Highly experienced: A summary allows you to succinctly summarize your entire work history in a way that fits with the job description. This should encourage recruiters to continue reading.

It’s best to save the objective or summary until after you’ve written your job bullet points, skills, and education sections, so you can draw information from these. Be sure to select appropriate keywords and phrases to use in the introduction to tie everything together into the position you want. Use the job description to decide on the specific wording combined with your expertise to make it easier for recruiters to make a match. Take a look at some resume objective examples to inspire you.

Step 9: Decide whether to add other resume sections

Now that you’ve completed the bulk of your resume, it’s time to really stand out. There are some additional resume sections you can add to emphasize your qualifications for the position.

Optional resume sections

You’ll want to include additional sections if you have limited work experience, are currently in school or recently graduated, are applying in a highly competitive field, or need to provide more information to show how you’re qualified for the job. Additionally, other sections can be used as a way to fill up excessive white space for a more balanced appearance for your resume.

While it can be tempting to include as much additional information as possible, you don’t want to stuff your resume with unnecessary information. Not only does this crowd your document and make it look messy, but it also makes it difficult for recruiters to sift through. Carefully choose the additional sections that will strengthen what you’ve already included in your resume as further proof that you deserve the position.

Step 10: Tailor your resume for the job

It can’t be stated enough: You must tailor your resume to the specific position that you’re applying for. Don’t forget to search the job description for keywords that you can use in your previous employment bullet points, skills section, and resume objective or summary. You may even need to change your wording in the education and additional sections so they fit.

It’s important to write your resume toward the position you want as listed in the job posting to make sure you pass through ATS and then draw the recruiter’s attention once the document reaches human eyes. Even if you’re applying for a single position across the board, you’ll need to create a new resume for each different company because they may all have different requirements and keywords. While this may seem like a lot of work, you don’t want it to look like you’re sending out mass-produced documents to just anyone and everyone.

At this point, you’ll also want to consider the type of field you’re in. If you’re applying to a highly professional position, you’ll want to keep your wording in line and focus on your expertise. Choose a traditional layout for your resume. However, if the position is with a casual startup in its early stages of operation, you can likely include more creative because the recruiter may be looking for someone innovative and imaginative. In this case, choosing a more modern layout can help you stand out above other applicants.

Make sure your resume fits the bill by using our free resume checker. You’ll get valuable information and tips on how to improve your document to help you stand out.

Takeaway: Create multiple resumes. Since you’ll need a document that’s specifically tailored to get noticed, you’ll want a separate one for each position you’re applying for.

Step 11: Triple check for spelling and grammar

Your resume is a snapshot of you and your abilities. Make sure there are no errors. Proofread your document; then, do it again. Set it aside for a while or overnight, and come back to it to check for errors a final time. It’s wise to have a friend, coworker, or family member go through it as well. It’s hard to catch your own mistakes, especially after you’ve spent so much time writing and rewriting your document.

If there are errors, recruiters may assume you’ll make even more mistakes on the job. It’s imperative to put yourself in the shoes of hiring personnel. They have to look through potentially hundreds of resumes for each position, perhaps reading the same information over and over again. They’re looking for any reason to say no rather than yes just to reduce their workload. Don’t let spelling or grammatical errors give them that reason.

As an added benefit, you can choose one of our resume templates or use our resume builder to take the guesswork out of format and layout for your document. You can easily make changes without messing up the appearance of your entire document. Once again, take advantage of our AI-powered resume tool to help you make the most of active voice, verb choice, quantifying your impact, and consistency, so you can quickly proofread your material.

How to write a resume in 2021

Writing a resume in 2021 is much different than in years past. Instead of creating a single document that you personalize with a cover letter, recruiters want to see that you have what they’re looking for with a quick skim. Additionally, ATS will search for relevant keywords, so it’s vital to tailor your resume to each specific position by looking at the job posting, similar positions and completed resumes within your field.

Take a look at how to write each section of your resume, and be sure to include all of the necessary information. If anything is lacking, your resume could end up in the recycle bin before it’s even fully read by a recruiter. In the same manner, don’t add irrelevant information because it detracts from what’s important. Keep your resume to a single page.

Do your research. Specific keywords and phrases can determine if you get past the initial scan or not. The actual job posting contains valuable information that you should use to your advantage. Consider your experience that’s not related to paid employment for additional emphasis or if your work history is sparse. Always be honest with your abilities and what you’ve done because recruiters will check.

Find ways to stand out over other applicants with a simple resume design. You can use a premade template, but choose one that’s easy to personalize. To avoid layout blunders when making changes or passing through ATS, our resume builder will keep everything in its place. Finally, proofread your document. Get help from a third party, and use a resume checker.

References:

[1] The Muse. (2016, August 10). 20 Basic Resume Writing Rules That'll Put You Ahead of the Competition. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2016/08/10/20-basic-resume-writing-rules-thatll-put-you-ahead-of-the-competition/?sh=5e9ccc5b3923

[2] Caine, A., Gal, S. & Akhtar, A. (2020 November 19). We asked a career expert to build the perfect resume. Here's a template you can use to update your CV and land a dream job. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/why-this-is-an-excellent-resume-2013-11

[3] Gallo, A. (2014, December 19). How to Write a Resume that Stands Out. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2014/12/how-to-write-a-resume-that-stands-out

[4] Sweetwood, M. (2016 April 19). 13 Social Media Power Tips for Getting the Job You Want. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/274595

[5] Jackson, A. E. (2018 October 22). 21 Words to Never Include in Your Resume. Glassdoor. https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/21-words-to-never-include-in-your-resume/