If there is one thing every job applicant needs to stand out, it is a solid resume. Your resume is like your introduction to a hiring manager. It shows a little about who you are and what you offer, so they can decide if they want to take a deeper look. This guide will walk you through the basics of creating a winning resume.

Resume writing 101

Writing a resume is no easy task. As you stare at your computer, you will be flooded with questions. You may wonder how to list references on a resume or what difference keywords make. We have a guide that will help you write a winning resume that is sure to impress.

Exploring the sections of a resume

Before you write your resume, you need to know what it should contain. While your resume should be unique and focused on you and your qualifications, there are specific components that any good resume must have. Here is a closer look at each one.

It’s all about you!

First, make sure you list your contact information. This should include your name, telephone number, and email address.

There are specific formatting guidelines you should follow. First, write your name using a bold text size larger than the body text of the rest of your resume. Your name could even be the header or title of the page. The reader should look at the resume and know at a glance that it is your resume.

For your contact information, create an email address that looks professional. The cutesy address you chose when you were in junior high and probably won’t serve you well on a job search. Thankfully, Gmail makes it easy to sign up for a new email address. Consider something like        this: firstname.lastname@gmail.com.

Work experience – Show your qualifications

Next, you need to list your work experience. If it’s extensive, you’ll need to pare it down. Remember, a resume should be just one page in length. Choose work experience that is relevant to the new position you’re seeking. 

List your work experience in reverse-chronological order. Use this format:

  • Job title and position (job title always comes first)

  • Company name, description, and location

  • Dates of employment (formatted as mm/yyyy)

  • Responsibilities and achievements

Format these as bullets or a chart underneath the heading “Work Experience.” Make it easy to scan. Highlight achievements that will make your resume stand out. If your work improved the organization or brought a specific advancement, that should be listed. Accomplishments are more critical than responsibilities in this area of your resume, but you can list duties if you don’t have any specific accomplishments to brag about.

As you craft this section, add keywords relevant to the job description you are applying to. Many recruiters use software to sort applicants at the beginning, so you want to have keywords that will get your resume picked for the shortlist.

How many years of experience should be on a resume? The standard rule of thumb is about ten. Your recruiter or hiring manager may not care about work experience beyond that, but always check the job posting to see what they want.

Resumes with no work history

If fresh out of college, you may not have work experience to add to your resume. In this case, get creative. Look at projects you did in school and the outcomes of those projects or use volunteer experiences that were relevant to your niche or field. The goal is to show you have some work skills and a strong work ethic, so get creative about what you can add here. Remember, too, that internships or externships can be a great perk on a resume.

If you took time away from your profession to raise kids or pursue more education, you will want to address that in your resume. You can list a gap like this:

  • June 2020 – August 2022 – Due to a medical situation, I had to take time off to recover.

  • August 2022 – December 2022 – Delivered my child and had to take time off to provide childcare.

You don’t need a long explanation, but if you ignore gaps in your work experience, it can be a red flag to a hiring manager.

Resume education section

Next, you are ready to list your education. You should include the names of any schools attended, degree(s) earned, location, and years attended.

After this basic information, consider adding achievements or honors if they apply to your job search and help your resume stand out. Only list your GPA if it is 3.0 or above. While bragging on a resume is good, you can overdo it. However, you can use the education section to flesh out your resume if you have minimal job experience.

Resume skills section

If you have any specific skills, like tech skills or certifications, that you didn’t cover in your job experiences, list them in a separate section. Make sure these skills are relevant to the job you’re applying for and leave off any that are not industry specific.

For instance, you may have a teaching certificate, but if you are looking for a career change and want to move into IT, that may not be relevant.

As you consider your skills, some important types to include are:

  • Tech skills – Are you especially skilled at word processing or database programs? Do you have special training in a tech field? Add this.

  • Job relevant skills – Think about the job you’re applying for and list the relevant skills.

  • Industry-specific skills – Similarly, list these if there are skills specific to the industry you’re applying for a job. For example, if you are applying for a healthcare job and have knowledge of HIPAA, this indicates to potential employers that they can trust you with patient information, which is relevant to your industry.

  • Transferable skills – Skills like good communication or problem-solving are transferable skills which transfer from one job to the next. 

Resume references section

Finally, add a list of references to your resume. A hiring manager will use this to check up on the information you provided, so give valid references and let those references know someone might be calling.

Are you wondering how to list references on a resume? Keep this section short, but provide all necessary information. This includes the reference's name, position, email, and phone number. You can list it in two lines, one for the name and title and one for the contact information.

Formatting tips

Here are some basic formatting tips for the different resume sections you have:

  • Use headings and bullet points to keep the resume easy to scan

  • Use a standard, non-script font, like Arial or Times New Roman, at 10 to 12-point size

  • Keep the entire resume to one page at most

  • Use the proper verb tense

  • Left-align your content with a one-inch margin

  • Create clear headings for each resume section

The importance of proofreading

As you are sending out resumes, make sure you carefully proofread them. Your resume may be one of hundreds that the hiring manager sees, and a grammar or spelling error could cause it to go to the “reject” pile. This isn’t a place to cut corners, so consider asking someone else to look over the resume, as well. You want it to be entirely error-free so that you will impress a potential hiring manager.

Need help? Contact CHCP’s Career Services Team

The College of Health Care Professions is here to help you with your career search and resume creation. If you need help determining what to include on your resume or how to properly format it, reach out to the CHCP Career Services team or check out Career Edge, an online resource available to CHCP students. Our trained career counselors will help you create a resume that will stand out from the bunch, so you can get the recruiter to take another look at your qualifications. We also help you prepare for job interviews, write cover letters, and search for a job.