Resumes are definitely a key part of the job application process. In addition to your cover letter, interview answers and references, your resume does some heavy lifting in helping you land a job offer.
Resumes mostly serve as a storytelling tool to help recruiters and companies understand who you are, what you’ve worked on, and what you can bring to the table.
We explain what a resume actually is, what the purpose of a resume is, some of the biggest benefits of a resume and how to create one.
A resume helps potential employers better understand your past work experiences, skills, and educational background to see if you’d be worth interviewing. Simply creating and sending a resume won’t necessarily land you a job — resumes are more of a tool to help you tell your story and market yourself for open opportunities.
Resumes are usually designed to be easy-to-read and track your career progression in chronological order. They can be physical (paper copy) or digital.
If you’re hunting for a job, a great resume can:
Your resume maps your career and education history in a way that explains why you’d be capable of succeeding in a new position. It gives employers the highlights of what you’ve achieved, whether you’re applying for entry-level roles or C-suite positions.
Framing your career accomplishments in an impressive way can help you stand out amongst other applicants and put you at the front of the pack.
Most importantly, a resume is your gateway to landing a first-round interview. Without a solid resume, employers may not feel confident that you have the right skills and qualifications to proceed through the screening process. A resume helps you put your best foot forward.
Employers mainly use resumes to assess whether or not a candidate will be a good fit for a job. They do this by looking for certain keywords, metrics, career progression, and hard skills.
Keep in mind that looking at your resume is often the first step that employers take when assessing candidates—so if your resume is well-tailored to the job description, you’re more likely to be contacted for a first-round interview.
For example, for a software engineering job, a recruiter or an ATS system may scan a resume for mentions of certain programming languages, like C++. If there is no mention of C++ on your resume, in this scenario, you probably wouldn’t be contacted for an interview.
Employers may also use your resume to dive deeper into your online branding. If you mention your professional portfolio or LinkedIn profile on your digital resume, employers can learn even more about you and get a stronger sense of your skills and capabilities.
Most job seekers use a resume to apply to a job or introduce themselves to a potential employer. They’re an important networking tool in that they can be sent to recruiters or other professionals for future reference.
However, resumes are also an important tool for keeping track of your professional accomplishments at each role you’ve held. A resume serves as a living, breathing history of your career.
If you’re looking to create an ATS-friendly resume that will give you the best chance at landing an interview, follow these steps as a general guideline.
Keep in mind that there may be some slight variances depending on your industry. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you may be able to have more creative freedom with your resume formatting.
Before you fill in your resume with all your relevant information, you’ll need to consider its overall look and feel. We recommend opting for a simple, left-justified design with black font on a plain white page.
We know that might sound kind of boring, but unfortunately, ATS scanners aren’t designed to read colorful or more unique-looking resumes. Err on the plain and simple side of things to avoid having your resume automatically rejected by a scanning tool.
Some word processors and resume building tools, like Teal, have built-in resume templates for you to use. Feel free to take advantage of these if you feel like it would save time.
Your resume should have your full legal name and contact information at the very top. We don’t recommend including your full address for safety reasons, but listing the city or major metro area closest to where you reside is helpful. Include your email address and professional website or LinkedIn page, if you have one.
Your experience should be the bulk of your resume. For each position you’ve held, mention your job title, the company name, and the dates you worked there. Below this information, list your main responsibilities and biggest accomplishments from being on the job.
If you’re a student, list any part-time jobs, internships, or club leadership activities that you feel are most relevant to the job you’re applying to. The work experience section is incredibly important and warrants its very own guide. Get a full-breakdown of the work experience section in our resume examples, including best practices for writing your own.
Use the job description as a guide for what to include in your work experience section. Remember, recruiters and ATS scanners are likely looking for certain keywords.
For instance, let’s say you’re applying to a managerial role. The job description states that it’s important to have previous experience managing a team. To make sure it’s clear that you’ve had that experience, in your resume bullet points, you’d want to include the phrase “managed a team of ___ people.”
>> Read More: How many bullet points should I list per job on a resume?
If you’ve earned a degree, whether that’s an associate’s, bachelor’s, masters, or doctorate, mention it on your resume. Mention the name of the institution, the type of degree, your major, and years attended.
If you’re working on earning a degree, you can mention your expected graduation date. If you attended school but did not finish, note the amount of credits you completed in the time that you were studying.
>> Read More: Education section of resume
Typos can cost you opportunities, so make sure your resume is error free by proofreading it. Have a trusted friend or family member look it over for a fresh set of eyes, or use a free tool like Grammarly to ensure your resume is grammatically sound.
Most recruiters and websites will expect to receive your resume in PDF format. You can save your resume as a PDF right from your word processor. On the off chance you’ll need to send it in a document format, save a separate copy as a .doc file as well. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Once your resume is saved as a PDF, check it again for any formatting errors. Sometimes, the transition from document to PDF may shift your spacing or line breaks. Make sure that your resume looks exactly like you want it to, and if not, go back to the original document and make edits accordingly.
>> Read More: The best resume format to use
Your resume should highlight your professional achievements and give employers a sense of confidence about you as a candidate. Updating your resume can help you remember what you accomplished at each of your roles.
Creating a resume, however, is easier said than done. Need help formatting your resume and tailoring it to each role you apply to? Teal’s free resume builder can make your job hunt much easier.