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The Ultimate Resume Cheat Sheet: A Detailed Guide to Writing a Great Resume

A resume is a crucial document for any job seeker. It's the first thing an employer sees that can make or break your chances of landing an interview.

This article will guide you through everything you need to know about resumes - from deciding on the best resume format, and writing your contact details and resume headline, to polishing your resume design. We'll also explore common resume mistakes and provide tips on what to do when applying for jobs with online application systems (ATS).

Supported with detailed resume writing guides and best resume writing practices, this is the only resume cheat sheet you'll ever need! This resume cheat sheet covers:

  1. Choosing the Best Resume Format

  2. Writing a Perfect Resume Content

3. Polishing Resume Design

4. Optimizing a Resume for ATS

5. Avoiding Common Resume Mistakes

Alright, let's get into it!


Choose the Best Resume Format

Before you start working on your resume, it's important to choose the most appropriate resume format.

The resume format determines how the information is displayed.

Since having logically displayed information is vital for a resume's success, choosing the right resume format is an important decision that can significantly impact the success of your job search.

There are three standard resume formats to choose from:

  • chronological (or reverse-chronological) format

  • functional (or skills-based) format

  • combination (or hybrid) format

The chronological resume format is the most common format that lists information in reverse-chronological order.

The functional resume format emphasizes skills putting them at the top of the page and highlights skills acquired rather than jobs held.

The combination format, as its name says, combines the previous two formats. It starts with a skills overview and then lists the work history.

Considering the unique career paths job seekers may have, the resume format that can help an individual succeed in a job search may vary. Your particular circumstances will dictate the optimal resume format for you.

Choose the best format for your needs with the help of the complete guide on resume formats.


Write a Perfect Resume Content

Content of a resume determines its - and your - success in a job search.

With professional, relevant, specific and tailored content, you'll easily win over any hiring manager. To do so, your resume should include all mandatory information such as contact details, resume headline, resume summary, work history and education.

1. Contact Details

Contact information is the first thing a recruiter or hiring manager will see on your resume.

This section is a mandatory part of each resume, as it gives employers information on how they connect with you if they are interested in your job application.

Even though it may seem like an easy and simple part of a resume, the stakes are high since this is the first thing they'll see.

The most important thing to note is that they need to be professional, concise, straightforward, and up-to-date.

To make it right, follow these tips:

  • Include your name, surname, location (city and country/state), phone number and an appropriate email address.

  • Make sure your email address sounds professional. An inappropriate email address can cost you the job.

  • Optionally, include Skype or Zoom details and a link to your LinkedIn profile or other social media if you find them relevant to the job.

  • Ensure that all social media profiles are as polished as your resume, updated and provide consistent information.

  • Make it concise. Put all the information in one to two lines to save space for the rest of the content.

To make sure you're starting your resume on the right foot, read additional resume tips for contact details.

2. Resume Headline

Coming right after the contact information, a resume headline is the first opportunity to present your value as a job candidate.

A resume headline is a short snapshot of your professional background. It covers and combines a few keywords which you want to bring to the reader's attention immediately and be associated with yourself when employers review your application.

Despite being the shortest element of a resume, many job seekers struggle with and fail to write a compelling headline that grabs the hiring manager's attention.

To write an effective headline and get the readers hooked right from the start:

  • Compare a job posting with your skills and experience and list the overlapping areas.

  • Carefully select two to three items from the list focusing on your strongest assets in the context of a specific application.

  • Combine your key selling points in a concise and compelling tagline to grab the reader's attention.

Do you need help with writing your resume headline? Read the complete guide on writing a perfect resume headline and get inspired with dozens of word-for-word examples.

3. Resume Summary

After a resume headline, continue building your personal brand and providing value to recruiters and hiring managers by writing a tailored resume summary (i.e. personal statement, professional profile, career summary).

The resume summary is essentially a summary of your career.

This short intro paragraph at the top of your resume displays who you are and what you can bring to the table in a concise, engaging and effective way.

In 30 to 75 words, this section should answer the following questions:

  • What are your relevant areas of expertise?

  • What job-related and transferable skills can you bring to the job?

  • What have you achieved in your previous jobs?

In other words, it should explain to readers why you are a great fit for the job.

When done correctly, this section skyrockets the effectiveness of a resume and success in a job search.

Write a perfect resume summary with the complete guide to a perfect personal statement (a template and specific examples included!).

4. Work Experience

When reviewing job applications, recruiters and hiring managers spend most of their time looking for relevant skills and experiences in the resume work experience section.

So, to create a successful resume that impresses employers and leads to interviews, this section of your resume needs to be nothing short of perfect.

Essentially, this section should include:

  • previous companies

  • current and previous job titles

  • dates of employment

  • brief descriptions of each job

It's best to start the list of your professional experience with the current or most recent job. Then list previous positions following the reverse-chronological order.

Keep this section concise, informative and engaging. The best way to do it is to focus on achievements rather than daily tasks and duties. Also, cut out empty phrases and instead start each bullet point with an action verb.

For more resume writing tips on how to write about work experience in a way that impresses employers, read the full guide on describing work experience.

5. Education

Education on a resume is the second most important part of it, right behind the professional experience.

As evident from its title, this section contains information about your schooling background, such as the schools you attended and the degrees you obtained.

Qualifications are always specified in job descriptions among the main requirements, signaling that this information is essential for employers when screening candidates. It gives them insight into how skilled job applicants may be for the open job position.

To provide employers with the crucial information, make sure to include:

  • Name of the school and location

  • Degrees, diplomas or certifications obtained

  • Major and minor

  • Graduation date

If needed, extend this section with your GPA, relevant coursework, honors and awards, extracurricular activities, and other pieces of information related to the job posting.

Go to the full guide on listing education on a resume to learn where to place the education section and find examples for various educational backgrounds.


Polish Resume Design

While resume content is essential in proving you have the skills and experience needed to succeed in the job, resume design is vital in attracting an employer's attention in the firs