Building a Resume & Cover Letter in 14 Easy Steps

Cover letter

Creating a resume can be challenging when you start thinking about all the information you need to share with prospective employers. Your employment history, educational background, skills, and qualifications need to be presented in a way that will help you get picked for a job interview. Rather than a simple list of the jobs you have held, it’s important to include information specific to the positions for which you’re applying.

What’s the easiest way to write a resume? If you look at resume building as a step-by-step process, it will be easier to do and much less overwhelming. Once you’ve created your first resume or refreshed your old one, you can simply tweak it to match it up with a job when you’re applying for an open position.

Plan the Framework of Your Resume

Next, consider the basic framework of your resume. More isn’t necessarily better, so aim for conciseness over length. Employers are looking for a synopsis of your credentials, not everything you have done in your career. In many cases, a one-page resume is sufficient. If you have extensive experience, longer may be necessary. In general, shorter is better, with a few bullet points for each job, brief sentences, descriptions that are action and accomplishment oriented, and plenty of white space on the page.

Your goal is to wow the hiring manager and present a document that promotes you as an ideal candidate for the position. Review these tips for building a resume that will help you get job interviews.

Compile Your Personal and Employment Information

Collect all the information you need to include before you start writing your resume. It’s much easier to write, edit, and format a document when you have all the details you need in front of you. Make a list of the contact information you want to use, all your jobs, your education, certifications, and other credentials.

Write Your Resume

When you have compiled all the information you need, it should be listed in the following order. Don’t worry about fonts and formatting your document yet. Once you have everything down on paper, you will be able to adjust the font size and type, spacing, and add formatting options to your resume.

Resume Heading

Full Name (Jane M. Applicant or Jane Applicant)

Street Address (options for listing your address)

City, State, Zip

Email Address (don’t use your work email)

Telephone Number (make sure you have a professional voicemail message for missed calls)

Profile or Objective

Adding a profile or an objective to your resume gives the employer a brief overview of your qualifications. This is an optional component of a resume. If you include it, focus on what prospective employers are seeking rather than what you want in your next job. Hiring managers want to know what you have to offer.

Summary of Qualifications

A summary of qualifications is another optional section of a resume. It’s a statement that includes your skills, abilities, experience, and what qualifies you for the position.

Experience

Your work history is the most important component of your resume. Employers will want know where you have worked, when you worked there, and what responsibilities you held in each role you have had. They will be looking to see how your experience lines up with what they are looking for in prospective employees.

List the jobs and internships you have held in reverse chronological order, with the most recent positions first.

For each position, include: job title, company, location, dates of employment, and a bulleted list of the strongest accomplishments for each job.

Verb tense should be present tense for your current job if you are employed, and past tense for prior employment.

If you’re not sure of employment dates, here’s how to recreate your employment history. It’s important to be accurate because employers do conduct background checks.

Volunteer Work

If you have volunteer experience that’s related to the jobs you’re applying for, or if you have volunteered to avoid an employment gap, list volunteering as you would the jobs you have held. Review these tips for including volunteer work on your resume.

Education

The education section generally comes next. You need only to list degrees earned, with the highest first, when you have been out of school for a few years.

If you’re a student or recent graduate, the education section of your resume can be listed above your employment history. If you have work experience, list it below that section. Education should be listed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent and advanced education first. Include the name of the school, the degree earned, and the date you graduated.

Whether you include your GPA on your resume depends on how long ago you graduated and how high your GPA is. Here’s when to list your GPA on your resume.

Certifications

The next section of your resume includes any certifications you have.

Awards and Accomplishments

Don’t be shy about mentioning awards and achievements you have earned. They show the employer that you are a well-credentialed candidate who has been recognized for your accomplishments.

Skills

This section of a resume includes the skills you have that are directly related to the job for which you’re applying. Employers typically list required or preferred skills in job listings when itemizing the qualifications for the position. List your most closely related abilities here, using a bulleted list format.

Personal Interests

If you have personal interests that are strongly related to the position you’re applying for, list them here. This can be helpful if you’re applying for jobs where you don’t have a lot of related work experience, but you do have expertise achieved in other ways.

Cover Letter

The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce yourself to an organization, demonstrate your interest in the company or a specific vacancy, draw attention to your resume and motivate the reader to interview you. Often this letter is the first contact you have with a prospective employer. Your cover letter should be three paragraphs, starting with an intro, a brief overview of accomplishments and a closing that requests an interview.