The Only Resume Guide You Need (FREE Templates Included)

Writing your resume doesn’t have to be complicated. Your resume should be simple, specific, and in the end, clearly communicate why you’re the best person for the job. 

If you’ve been submitting your resume and getting no responses, it’s not your fault. School teaches how to write a resume if you were an applicant in 1974, and most online help consists of resume software companies trying to get you to use their service.

Writing your resume doesn’t have to be complicated. Your resume should be simple, specific, and clearly communicate why you’re the best person for the job. If you follow this idea, your resume will go right through the ATS filters.

Before we begin, remember that you should be tailoring and personalizing your resume to each job you apply for. This means you are reading over the job description and seeing how you can mirror it in your resume. This can be as simple as taking keywords from the job description and using them in your resume where applicable. 

Think of this article as explaining how you’re going to write your “generic” resume. The generic resume will get you 80% there. The last 20% will be when you find a job you want to apply for. That's when you'll make a copy of your generic resume, and personalize it to the job you’re applying for.

How Your Resume Should Look

TLDR: Your resume should look simple, clean, and modern. Most people only need an Experience, Education, and Skills section. 

Your resume should look something like one of the templates I have listed below. The quickest way to improve your resume is to simply use one of the templates below. They will set you off on the right foot. Choose on, make a copy, and use that template from now on.

Notice how nearly all the templates only have three sections: ExperienceEducation, and Skills. This is all you need. If you have worked on projects that you feel are important to share, you can create a Projects section.

Many people wonder “Can my resume be two pages?” The short answer is no. I’ve seen people who have 2-page resumes, but these are professionals with lots of experience who are applying for jobs they know they have a competitive advantage for.

If you don’t have a lot of experience, and if you feel like there’s a lot of competition for the jobs you’re applying for, make your resume only one page. 

Do I Need a Professional Summary?

TLDR: A professional summary isn't mandatory and won't make or break you, but it can add some context to your resume if there's something you'd like to explain.

You might be wondering if you need a professional summary. You can really go either way on this one. I’ve never used one and done perfectly okay. Though as I gain more experience I may add one next time I’m job searching. 

The professional summary can help you add a little more context and personality to your resume. Also if there is a specific field you’re trying to get into or a niche you’re in that you want them to be aware of, you can do that in the professional summary.

The David Paykin template has one that you can model yours after. I took the personal summary from that resume and turned it into a template below. You can use this to help you write it. If you want your personal summary to be longer or you have more to say, you can duplicate the template and add more details the second time around.

{an adjective that describes you, extra credit if you use one found in the job description} {noun: leader, customer support professional, project manager} experienced in {an action or process that is your domain. Look at the job description you’re applying for and mirror it.}.

How to Write the Experience Section

TLDR: List your past three experiences and specifically describe the results you achieved (instead of your responsibilities.)

This is the section that most people get wrong.

Oftentimes when I review someone’s resume, I don’t have a clear understanding of what they actually did at their job. I’ll see vague statements like “Answered phones and emails” or “Maintained documents and spreadsheets.”

If you answered phones, what did you accomplish during those phone calls? If it’s easier, you can list your responsibilities first, then convert them into results. So if you worked in customer support, you might list your responsibilities like this:

  • Resolve customer issues over the phone and prevented future issues 
  • Handled return requests and ensured the product truly wasn’t a good fit
  • Educated customer on the product to ensure satisfaction prior to purchasing 

Now we can turn those responsibilities into results:

  • Increased first-contact resolution by 30% by thoroughly resolving customer issues
  • Reduced return rate by 15% through better understanding customer issues and educating them on the product
  • Ensured satisfaction with product by educating customers prior to purchase resulting in a 95% CSAT rating

See how much more there is within the phrase “Answered phone calls and emails”? You can reference any of the resume templates linked earlier to see examples of the experience section.

The best resumes are a list of accomplishments. The worst resumes are just a job description with someone’s name at the top.

How to Write the Education Section

TLDR: List out your education and any relevant certificates.

The education section is simple for most people.

If you only finished some college and didn’t get a degree, list the year(s) you attended. For example, Pasadena Community College, General Studies, 2014 - 2015.

If you did something else during college, maybe you were the president of a club or you had a particularly high GPA, and you think it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for, you can list that as a bullet point underneath the main headline. See the education section in this template for an example.

If you have little to no education (or experience) I recommend taking some courses related to the job you’re applying for on LinkedIn Learning. With each course you’ll get a certificate that you can list on your resume. For example, if you’re applying for customer support jobs, search for “customer support” and take a few.

How to Write the Skills Section

TLDR: List out your general skills (writing, project management, graphic design) and specific skills (Google Docs, HTML/CSS, Photoshop), then choose the ~10 most relevant to the job you’re applying to and put those on your resume. 

I go in depth on the Skills section in this article, but all you really need to do is think about your general skills and specific skills. 

General skills are things like project management, customer service, sales, data analysis, or communication. These are general because they aren’t tied to any specific technology, tool, or action. 

For example, a general skill is graphic design. A specific skill within graphic design is Adobe Photoshop. Data analysis is a general skill, whereas Excel or SQL is a specific skill. 

You can list a combination of general and specific skills that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for, but you mostly want to lean toward specific skills, since those are more concrete.

Conclusion

Remember that the principles to follow are to be specific when describing your experience and that your resume should communicate why you're the best person for the job.

Before applying to a job, I recommend using this resume scanner tool to make sure your resume will get through the applicant tracking system.

If you’re looking for a remote job, check out my guide How To Get a Remote Job: A Step-by-Step Guide.

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