How to write a Perfect resume


Writing a resume may seem intimidating. But, following this guide can help you create a solid resume that avoids common mistakes. On this page, you will find the most important things to consider when choosing a format and when writing each section.

Resume or CV

Your first decision is whether you need to create a resume or a CV. Generally speaking, make a resume if you are applying to jobs in the U.S. or jobs at an American company. Make a CV if you are applying to jobs in Europe or to companies with European headquarters.

Here are an easy reference for all the major regions:

  • Europe: CV
  • U.S.: Resume
  • Australia/New Zealand: Either
  • Asia: Resume
  • South America: Resume
  • Africa: CV

Learn more about the key differences between resumes and CVs.

Correct resume formats

One of the most important things to remember is that recruiters only look at a resume for an average of 6 seconds before deciding whether to consider a candidate. Thus, it’s extremely important to use a logical and generally accepted format. There are 3 main types of formats:

  1. Chronological – Most common format that prioritizes work experience. Ideal for job seekers who have held relevant, full-time jobs.

  2. Functional – Format that prioritizes skills. Ideal for job seekers who have no work experience, who are looking to change careers, or who have had many short-term jobs or “gig” work.

  3. Combination – A hybrid format with prominent skills and work experience sections. Ideal for job seekers who have had extensive work experience or those whose relevant work experience was a long time ago.

Read our guide on resume formats and download free templates.

Resume sections

Now you have made your choice between a resume or a CV, you know which format will be best for your situation and you are ready to start writing! Always keep the following guidelines in mind when writing your resume:

Your resume should never exceed two pages. If you have less than 5 years of work experience, a one-page resume may be most appropriate. With any format you choose, a resume must be easily scannable and comply with all “rules.” We’ve included here the most important considerations for each section.

Contact information

Your name and contact information are extremely important and should be listed first. However, it should not take up much space on your resume. 

  • Resumes – include name, phone number, email address, and location
  • CVs – include name, phone number, email address, physical address, and date of birth
  • If applicable, state a website, driver's license or nationality if it is relevant to the position.
  • Do not include irrelevant information like gender, marital status, or place of birth

More detailed information can be found in our article: Contact Information

Including a photo or not

In the U.S., do NOT include a photo. When applying to jobs in other countries, photos are optional but increasingly common on resumes. The choice is yours!

  • In many countries, having a photo can make you stand out
  • If included, make sure to use a high-quality, professional photo that makes a good impression

Resume objective, summary or profile

A brief introduction to your resume is optional but can make a great impression. Objectives and summaries are common in the U.S., while profiles are more common in Europe.

  • Objective: 1-2 sentences describing your career thus far and what type of job you’re seeking next
  • Summary: 3-4 sentences describing your professional skills and qualifications as they relate to your intended job
  • Profile: 3-4 sentences describing your skills and traits using a more informal and personal voice

Read more about these options and see various examples in our article: Resume Objective

Work experience

One of the most important sections on your resume. Here are some tips on what to include for each job you’ve had.

  • Include the job title, company name, work location, and start/end date (month and year)
  • Use bullets to describe your responsibilities and accomplishments in each job
  • Use reverse chronological order, listing most recent job first
  • Customize the work description to each job you apply for by including the most relevant details and mirroring the language used in the job posting
  • If you have no full-time work experience, include part-time jobs, volunteer work, and internships
  • If you had multiple jobs in a short time, you can bundle similar roles to leave more room for relevant work experience.
  • Don’t lie about previous job responsibilities or dates. If there is a gap in your work experience, you can always address that in a cover letter or interview.

 You can find more detailed information in our article: Work Experience

Education section

Combined with work experience, this is the heart of your resume. If you are in school or graduated recently, you may even list this section ahead of your work experience. Be sure to review the following formatting rules:

  • CVs – Include high school and all post-secondary education
  • Resumes – Only include high school if you have not started any post-secondary education
  • Include the course of study, the start and end dates, the name and place of the educational institution, and the type of degree/certificate.
  • If you are currently in school, write expected graduation date instead of an end date
  • If you did not finish the program, include the educational entry but indicate that you only took coursework and did not earn a degree
  • Use reverse chronological order, listing most recent education first

More detailed information can be found in our article: Education section

Best skills to put on a resume

We recommend tailoring your resume to a specific position where possible, and the skills section is an excellent way to do this. You have complete freedom to choose relevant skills or competencies and explain how you’ve developed or used them.

  • Review job posting to identify preferred or required skills
  • Consider other skills relevant to the position you are applying for
  • List technical skills (i.e. software) with level of proficiency
  • Include specific examples demonstrating your mastery for any non-technical skills (i.e. teamwork) included

More detailed information can be found in our article: Best skills to put on a resume

Languages

Language skills always add value and may warrant their own section on a resume. If you only know one or two languages, those can be included in a skills section. However, even if you have a basic level in a language, it can be worthwhile to include.

  • Clearly list your proficiency level for writing, speaking, and reading for each language
  • If unsure what level you are at, take an assessment
  • Always be as honest and accurate as possible

More detailed information can be found in our article: Languages

Hobbies and interests

Language skills always add value and may warrant their own section on a resume. If you only know one or two languages, those can be included in a skills section. However, even if you have a basic level in a language, it can be worthwhile to include.

  • Clearly list your proficiency level for writing, speaking, and reading for each language
  • If unsure what level you are at, take an assessment
  • Always be as honest and accurate as possible

More detailed information can be found in our article: Hobbies and interests

References

References are indispensable when applying for a job, but it is unnecessary to include them on your resume, unless specifically requested to do so in the job posting. Here are some things to keep in mind when creating a list of references:

  • Many countries forbid potential employers from contacting previous employers without your knowledge and permission, so you are in control
  • If you have strong references or need to fill out your resume, you can include them at the end of a resume or attach a list of references separately
  • The best references are former employers, direct supervisors or former instructors
  • Include name, position, company, phone number and email address
  • Always contact references and ask if you can list them before you apply for a job

More detailed information can be found in our article: References




Vicky Blom

As a recruiter, I have been helping candidates find a new job for over 5 years. On this website I share my knowledge to help you make a good resume.

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