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How To Write a Resume in 10 Steps

Amber Krosel

Updated June 30, 2023

In this article, we’ll share what employers look for in a resume, how to describe your work experience and proofreading tips to make your resume shine.

What employers look for in a resume

Your resume is often your first and best chance to get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers. Your goal is to make it easy for them to see that you have the qualifications they seek in an ideal candidate. Because they may be reading through hundreds of applications, a recruiter or hiring manager might quickly scan your resume to see if those qualifications jump out.

How to write a great resume

Follow these guidelines to write a resume that’s easy for employers to find and read:

1. Carefully read the job description

To identify which qualities, skills and experience an employer requires, carefully read the job posting. Take note of the words and phrases they use to describe an ideal candidate and write down those that apply to you. When tailoring your resume, include those keywords in your resume summary, skills and work experience sections. If you don’t meet the exact requirements, list your related or similar skills.

It’s also important to note that online job applications are often sorted through software called an applicant tracking system (ATS). This software scans resumes and cover letters for relevant experience, skills and other keywords so qualified candidates are easy for employers to identify.

Employers often use the same keywords from the job posting when they proactively search for candidates on Indeed Resume. By ensuring you match your resume to what employers might be searching for, you’ll increase your chances of being discovered. If you don’t have many of the required skills and experience listed, you may want to refine your job search to find a better match.

2. Use an easy-to-read format

When writing your resume, the goal is to make it as easy as possible for employers to identify the reasons why you're a great candidate. That means featuring the most important and relevant information first and removing irrelevant or outdated information, such as jobs you held 10+ years ago.

Be sure to include your name and contact information at the top, a resume summary and your work experience, skills and education. Complicated or over-formatted page layouts with columns, charts or images can be hard for applicant tracking systems to read. Remember to use a simple, professional font such as Arial, Calibri or Georgia at a 10- to 12-point font size.

The order of those sections may vary based on your background and the jobs for which you're applying. Here are three of the most popular resume formats that position each differently:

  • A chronological resume format is the most common, listing your professional history section first. A chronological resume is a good option if you have a rich work history with no gaps in employment.

  • A functional resume format emphasizes the skills section and is a good option if you're switching industries or have some gaps in your work history.

  • A combination resume format is a mix of functional and chronological formats and ideal if you have some professional experience where both skills and work history are equally important.

3. Write a brief resume summary

Beginning your resume with a headline or resume summary statement (sometimes known as a resume objective) is one way to clearly call out your most relevant qualifications. This short description should quickly advertise your skillset and professional goals to any reader.

A headline is the shortest version: sum up your achievements in one line. In a summary or objective statement, you can get a little longer: one or two sentences are typically a good length.

(Note: when you build your resume with Indeed Resume, there are two fields at the top: one for a headline and one for a summary. Both are optional. You may choose to leave them blank, use one or the other, or use both.)

To get started, think back on your proudest career accomplishments and what defines who you are in the workplace. Carefully read the job descriptions that you’re considering. Do they require a specific certification or years of experience? Your headline is the place to let the employer know you meet these requirements.

For example, a customer service representative with a track record of customer satisfaction might write: Customer success agent with 10+ years' experience delighting clients in the retail industry.

Similarly, an experienced dental assistant could write: Certified dental assistant with 12+ years in direct patient care.

These are both great examples of engaging and descriptive headlines. If you want, you can pair that with a slightly longer summary of your skills and career goals.

Resume summary and headline examples

Headline: Customer success agent with 10+ years' experience delighting clients in the retail industry.

Summary: Experienced in resolving client concerns via chat, email and phone; routinely recognized by management and peers for assertive and enthusiastic spirit. Excited to continue my career in ecommerce.

Headline: Certified dental assistant with 12+ years in direct patient care.

Summary: Extensive experience in charting, scheduling and delivering best-in-class customer service. Vast knowledge of clinical procedures and dental terminology. Looking for new opportunities in private dental practice.

Headline: Aspiring financial services professional with a degree in business administration. Summary: Advanced Excel and intermediate SQL skills, excellent written and verbal communication, pursuing entry-level roles in financial services.

Headline: Graphic designer with strong experience as a creative lead in an agency setting. Summary: Mastery of Adobe Creative Cloud and familiarity with Sketch, InVision, HTML, CSS and Javascript.

4. List your professional work experience

Once you’ve written your resume summary, the next section is your work experience. (Note: in some cases, your education may be listed before your work experience. Today, it’s more common for education to come at the end of the resume, though it depends on your industry and when you received your education. We’ll cover education further down.)

Listing out your experience is not as simple as writing down everything you’ve done in your career. Instead, you want to only include the details of your past work that are especially relevant to the work you want to do next. Use bullet points rather than paragraphs to organize your work experience. Lead with strong action verbs and follow with an accomplishment rather than a task. Employers are interested in what you’ve achieved, not just what you’ve done.

What’s the difference between an accomplishment and a task? Here are a few examples:

Example 1 Task: Greeted customers Accomplishment: Provided friendly and helpful service by greeting customers

Example 2 Task: Analyzed marketing campaign performance Accomplishment: Reported on ROI of marketing campaigns, improving campaign efficiency by 20%

Example 3 Task: Took patient vitals and updated charts Accomplishment: Performed routine clinical procedures while ensuring patient comfort and updating charts via an EMR system.

Add quantifiable results whenever possible

This helps employers better understand your contributions. For example, an operations manager might write, “Identified and implemented supply chain improvements that decreased fulfillment costs by 17%.” Similarly, a retail sales associate might say, “Regularly evaluated showroom inventory and refreshed displays with stock, increasing daily sales by 22%.”

Not every bulletpoint on your resume will have a quantifiable result. For every item you include, ask yourself if there's an applicable number that can help potential employers see your achievements clearly.

Provide details for the most recent work

Include more details about your most recent jobs and fewer details from the roles you held earlier in your career. If you have many years of experience, it’s reasonable to only include information from the last 10 years. Employers are most likely to be interested in your current accomplishments.

Fill any employment gaps

If you can, fill employment gaps with other experiences, such as education or freelance work. Did you take classes, earn any certifications or volunteer during the time you weren’t formally employed? If you worked on personal projects or as a freelancer, you can put “Self-employed” where you would otherwise list an employer. The same guidelines about how to write out your accomplishments apply here, too.

5. Include an education section

It’s common for education to be listed at the end of your resume. Exceptions to this may be if you’re applying for jobs that require specific certifications (as in the health care industry, for example), or are a recent graduate.

In the education section of your resume, list all relevant degrees or certifications that make you qualified for this job. If you've attained a degree, list your degree type and field of study followed by the name of your educational institution and the city and state. List honors, if you have them. You don’t need to include your GPA, especially if it’s under 3.5 or you graduated five-plus years ago. Unless you’re a recent graduate, you also don’t need to list your graduation date. For example:

Example 1

B.A. in History University of Arizona, Tuscon, AZ Honors: Magna cum laude

A.A.S. in Cardiac Sonography Bunker Hill Community College, Boston, MA Honors: Dean’s list

If you have multiple degrees, list your highest level of education first.

Example 2

If you've attended a program of study but didn’t graduate, you can list the credits you received. For example:

Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN Completed 75 credits toward a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration

Example 3

If you're currently in a program of study, you can list the degree you’re pursuing and your expected graduation date. If you’re still in school and applying for internships, potential employers may want to know your GPA. For example:

B.S. in Computer Science, degree anticipated May 2020 Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA GPA: 3.8

6. List relevant hard and soft skills

In your skills section, you want to list the professional skills you have that make you qualified for the jobs you’re applying for. Employers will indicate the skill sets they are looking for in their job descriptions. Look closely at the posting.

In general, there are two types of skills: soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills include things like interpersonal communication, organization or attention to detail. Hard skills are more often tied to specific tools, software or knowledge (speaking a foreign language, for example). Hard skills will vary by industry or job type while soft skills tend to be more universal.

You can list your skills in a single paragraph with each skill separated by a comma. Start with the skills you’re most proficient in. You may choose to call out your levels of mastery, for example:

Advanced in Excel, Quickbooks, ProSystems. Some familiarity with SAP and Checkpoint.

Pro-tip: If you’re applying for a job where a specific skill is often taken for granted, don’t list it. For many jobs, one example is Microsoft Office. Instead, focus on proficiencies within that skill. For instance, instead of listing “Microsoft Office,” you could list “Macros, pivot tables and vlookups” if you know how to do these things in Excel.

To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.

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Proofreading your resume

After taking the time to write a great resume, you don’t want typos and spelling mistakes to get in the way of submitting a winning application. Reread your resume from top to bottom and then from bottom to top, correcting mistakes as you find them. It’s also a good idea to ask a friend or family member to read it for you—they will look at it with fresh eyes and may find mistakes more readily.

Once you’ve proofread your resume, you’ll be ready to apply for jobs. You can use Indeed Resume to apply for jobs quickly. If you like, you can also set your Indeed Resume to searchable so employers can reach out to you about relevant job opportunities.

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