Ultimate Guide to Resume Writing

While rewriting your resume can feel like a chore, a well-written resume can help you stand out when looking for your next role. To help you navigate your resume update process, we held a job seeker Q&A with Mulberry’s Senior Talent Acquisition Partners Lauren Francis and Amy Horning, along with Tiela Michalec and Leah Pons, during a recent Mulberry Conversations webinar. Here are some of the best tips you can use to help your resume shine!

Keep Your Resume Content Up to Date

When you haven’t updated your resume in a while, it can feel overwhelming to go back through your past roles and re-write your work history. That’s why we recommend this little hack; update your resume constantly. When you finish a big project or get a new assignment, capturing your achievements on a “living resume” with all the details you might need can save you hours.

Keep a document with contact information, dates and details of employment, and a running journal of your work accomplishments. Then, fill your living resume with concrete examples, metrics, and performance review feedback that you can use in your job search materials. It doesn’t have to follow any of the traditional rules of resume writing: this is more like a database you’ll use to create your real resume.

How Much Do I Tailor My Resume?

This question holds a lot of job seekers back, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re unsure what to highlight or how to answer questions about your experience, you can use your cover letter and interview questions in addition to your resume. Still, you’ll want to be sure your resume helps you get to that first conversation. So let’s start there. Today’s hiring managers use applicant tracking systems that scan resumes and job search materials for specific keywords. But, of course, the best place to look for clues about what keywords they’re looking for is their online job listing.

Use the wording in the job post to identify critical skills and determine what to emphasize or leave out on your resume. You might want to look at several related job posts to make a long list of keywords: be sure to look for both skill words (like writing, communication, time management, or decision-making) and action verbs (like manage, design, train, or analyze). Also, look at examples from your industry or profession.

Between your living resume and list of keywords, you’re well on your way to an impressive, well-tailored resume. However, if you’re making a career change or are concerned you might not have enough experience, consider leveraging the accomplishment-based resume approach.

Ways to Organize Your Resume

There are some standard features that each resume should include; put your contact information at the top along with a summary or professional statement, begin with the essential information, and include a work history in reverse chronological order. From there, you’ll have to make some choices based on the information you have and what you uncovered in your resume keyword research.

To arrange your resume content on the page, remember that we read in an F-shaped pattern. Hiring managers will start at the top, so put the most critical sections up there and then use formatting and spacing to keep their eyes moving down the page. You’ll want to keep your resume to one single-sided page, so only add a new section if you can fit at least three bullet points. Consider combining sections with only a few items like Awards and Certifications.

Resume Sections and Organization

A standard resume will include the following sections, usually in this order: your contact information, objective statement or summary, professional experience, certifications (if applicable), education, and skills.

If you’re a new graduate, you might put your education higher on the page and include internship experience, extracurricular activities, or important projects like your final thesis. Also, don’t be afraid to add details about your concentration, minor, or specific classes you’ve taken, especially with hands-on experience.

If applicable, ascending professionals will want to highlight achievements, association memberships, and publications. However, if you’re making a career change, focus on your most significant recent accomplishments and what’s most relevant to the position you’re seeking.

Here are section headers you might want to consider for your resume:

  • Header/contact information
  • Resume Summary or Professional Statement
  • Skills
  • Work history
  • Education
  • Awards
  • Certifications
  • Volunteer experience
  • Languages
  • Publications
  • Associations
  • Presentations

Resume Design and Writing Best Practices

We recommend several other resume writing best practices for most job seekers at any career stage. One of our best tips is to use powerful verbs and active voice. That means cutting out unnecessary words like “responsibilities include….” While this should go without saying, be honest! The truth has a way of coming out during the hiring process. Finally, have someone review your resume and be open to feedback. Ask them to proofread for errors and use spelling and grammar check tools so your resume is accurate and typo-free.

Using a resume template from Canva or Google Docs is perfectly fine, but remember that many people use those templates. Your resume is a place to distinguish yourself and show some originality, but it’s more of a functional document than a work of art. So stick to just one or two readable fonts and contrasting accent colors. Remember that your resume may be reviewed in black and white, so stick to a high-contrast scheme.

More Resume Writing Best Practices

Here are a few more specific answers to common resume-writing questions:

  • How far back should I go with my work history? We recommend going back about 15 years, depending on your history and the role’s needs. If you’ve worked for over 15 years, the dates on your education history might not be essential, and you can consider removing them.
  • Should I include links to my digital portfolio or other online materials? If you plan on sharing your resume in a digital format, including links is okay, but remember that you might need a physical copy too. Ensure URLs are legible and don’t contain unneeded information (https:// or any information after a question mark; ?)
  • What should I name my resume file? Save your resume with your first and last name (not something generic like “Resume”) to make it easier for hiring managers and recruiters to find it!

Common Resume Issues

While short-term work experiences and large gaps in your resume were once seen as “red flags” for hiring managers, that’s changing: hiring managers aren’t as concerned about resume gaps anymore. But, at the same time, you don’t want to leave them wondering. So offer a simple explanation, but don’t give too much information.

If you have a lot of contract work experience, the easy fix is to label contract work clearly. Knowing that you have contract experience can be a huge plus, showing you can navigate systems, environments, and industries.

Finally, one more mistake we often see is contact information (specifically email addresses) that don’t look professional. If your personal email account has a name like “babygirl87@gmail.com,” take a few minutes to create a new, free account for your job search with your name and a number. It will make a huge difference!

Things to Leave Out

When it comes to resume writing, simple is best! Stay focused on what’s most relevant to the position.

What not to include on your resume:

  • Hobbies and interests (unless you’re applying for your first job)
  • Personal health and identity information
  • Reference
  • GPA, if you have over five years of experience

Ask For Help!

You don’t have to do this on your own. Ask someone to proofread your resume for typos and errors. We recommend having someone in the industry review your resume and provide feedback, maybe during informational interviews. Another great option is to work with a resume writer! We have plenty that we can refer to you!

If you’re getting ready to work on your resume and start a new job search, get in touch with us to meet up with a Mulberry career advisor. In the meantime, check out our job seeker Q&A webinar recording for more tips from our team!

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