The Beginner's Ultimate Résumé-Writing Toolbox

The perfect résumé is one of the most crucial aspects of every job search. Thankfully, Mark Slack, a career advisor at Resume Genius, has created a comprehensive guide to help you build the perfect résumé.

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Looking for resume advice, but don't know where to begin?

There are so many websites offering resume and career advice that it's hard to choose between all of them. In some cases, you'll find a webpage that contains several links to different resources, but with little explanation about what the links offer.

That's not very helpful.

So I'm going to take a different, more helpful approach. I'll do these four things for you:

  1. Create a step-by-step resume writing process
  2. Curate "Best of the Best" links for each part of the process
  3. Explain how those links can help you, and
  4. Let other experts guide you through crafting the perfect resume

Let's get started.

Step 1: Getting a Rough Draft on Paper

The hardest part of writing your resume (or doing anything) is just getting started. If you've never written one before, it can be intimidating.

Fortunately, there are now resume building software tools that you can use to make your life easier. Resume software will write your rough draft for you. You just need to type in your job titles, and pre-written job description bullet point suggestions will pop up — just click them to add them to your resume draft.

Link pack #1:

How you should use these links:
Use any of these pieces of software to write a draft of your resume. Don't be shy about adding excessive amounts of job bullet points, because you'll cut them down and refine your resume later. Right now, you just need to get rough information on paper.

Once you're finished, don't purchase the finished resume — just use the raw material generated by the software to mold your resume into a professional document. (You can download your resume as a .txt file on any of these sites without entering a credit card.)

If you feel like that's the end of it, you're dead wrong. While this software can give you a quick draft of a generic resume, you still need to edit it up to make it professional and strong.

Step 2: Introducing Your Resume

Now that you've let the resume makers do the hard lifting for you, and your resume is full of raw material, it's time to refine that mess of information into a professional document. The first step is deciding how to introduce your resume to the hiring manager. The way you introduce your resume will largely depend on how much work experience you have.

Link pack #2:

How you should use these links:
Click the link that best represents how much work experience you have. If you have some/significant amounts of work experience, a Qualifications Summary or a Professional Profile are both acceptable ways to introduce your resume. Each link gives an in-depth description for how to write each type of introduction, and why you should choose one or the other.

Read over the content in those links, and use the information to craft an introduction to your resume.

Step 3: Choosing a Resume Format

There are three ways to present information on your resume: in the reverse-chronological, functional, and combination formats.

The format you need to use is determined entirely by the nature of your work experience. Each format was developed to frame information about your work experience in the most positive light possible, (and to conceal "bad" information like work gaps).

Link pack #3:

How you should use these links:
The first two links are similar, though they cover the material differently. The first link gives a basic rundown of the different types of resumes, and why you should use a particular format. The second link does the same, but also gives examples of what each resume will look like. The final link makes an argument against using the functional format entirely. I included it because it makes a persuasive argument that this format is outdated and ineffective.

Your best bet is to stick with a reverse-chronological or combination format.

Step 4: Refining Your Work Experience

If you used the resume software links in Link Pack #1 pack to write a rough draft, you probably have a lot of generic bullet points for each of your job experiences. Kept in their current condition, a hiring manager's eyes will glaze over and they'll put your resume into the "no" pile.

You'll need to spruce this section up with some professional resume writing tips. To perfect your resume, you'll need to cover a lot of territory in this step — but it will be worth it to land that job.

Link pack #4:

How you should use these links:
You'll need to read all of the links in this set. Start from the top, and work your way to the bottom.

The link about keeping your resume relevant will help you to "trim the fat" of your rough draft, allowing you to delete unnecessary bullet points. The write-up about quantifying your resume will help you to change your generic bullet points into achievement-oriented arguments for why you're the best candidate. The action verb link will give your resume a professional sounding tone that hiring managers are used to seeing. Finally, the link about ATS will help ensure that your resume isn't instantly rejected by resume-reading software.

Take care with this step!

Step 5: Refining Your Education

If you're a student, you have an especially hard time writing a resume because you have little to no experience. Don't worry too much — employers are aware that you're a student, and that filling up a page is difficult for you. Nonetheless, you'll need strategies for displaying information about your academic career that will pique the interest of hiring managers — and that is what this link pack will help you do.

Link Pack #5:

How you should use these links:
I would recommend reading through all of these links and giving the student resume examples a glance for good measure. They contain excellent strategies for how to format the education section of your resume to maximize displaying your academic achievements and academic activities in a way that is relevant to your potential employer. The first link tells students of all types (high school, college, professional) how to write the education section. The second link gives strategies for displaying non-career related experience on your resume. The final link gives examples you can look through to help you visually understand how your education section can look.

Keep in mind that if you have plenty of professional experience, your education section only needs to be minimal.

Step 6: Creating Your Skills Section

The skills section may be the most misunderstood part of a resume. Hiring professionals and resume experts have all kinds of contradicting opinions about what is kosher to include in the skills section, and what isn't.

Rule of thumb: You can get away with including irrelevant skills if you're a high school or college student, because your personality traits may matter more to hiring managers if you're young and inexperienced. If you're older with more work experience, just stick with including relevant skills only.

Link pack #6:

How you should use these links:
The first link teaches you what information is important to include in your skills section, and what you should leave out. If you're struggling to come up with skills you can include on your resume, the second link provides a huge list of skills, both "hard" and "soft," that you can use. One link here is probably enough to read, but I wanted to give a selection. The final link is a step-by-step writing guide, if you feel like you still need help.

Step 7: Selecting a Resume Template (or Creating Your Own)

You've got all of your information nicely trimmed and edited, so now it's time to put it into a sharp looking template.

If you read the link about ATS software, (do it!) you'll remember that your resume template should be simple. Keep in mind, simple doesn't necessarily mean boring or ugly. It just means you can't use images or strange icons and fonts.

Link pack #7:

How you should use these links:
Contrary to what you may read elsewhere, using a downloaded resume template is acceptable. People who argue that hiring managers will recognize resume templates and judge you as being lazy also tend to be selling expensive resume writing services. In other words, there's a conflict of interest.

Therefore, I've linked three databases of free resume templates. Choose your favorite design (that is ATS friendly!), and start putting your information into the template.

If you're the Do It Yourself type, the final link gives you resume design guidelines in a step-by-step format. It's perfectly acceptable to design your own layout.


Using the links above, you'll be able to write a professional resume from start to finish. These are some of the best guides and examples on the web, so you can be sure you're getting good advice.

Need a little extra boost of confidence? Make sure you get professionals and peers you trust to look over your resume and make sure it's perfect. Then, send it out with some well-targeted cover letters, and watch the interview requests stream in!