Resume 101: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Kern Carter

November 30, 2021

7 minutes

Back button
Back to Blog

No matter what industry you’re in or what position you’re applying for, the importance of a resume remains the same. It’s the first impression you make on employers and the key to getting you an interview, which is one step closer to being hired. 

That’s a lot of pressure for one document, which is why we put so much emphasis on how to write a resume. And in reality, it’s so much more than just writing a resume. It’s also about including the right points to make sure you stand out from other applicants. You’ve worked so hard to become a valuable asset for any employer, and your resume should reflect that. 

In this article, we’ll show you what it takes to write a standout resume, including creating the proper format and detailing what to include in it.

What is a resume? 

The purpose of a resume is to communicate your skills, education, and achievements to prospective employers. It’s a document that’s meant to show why you’re qualified for the position you’re applying for. 

What goes on a resume? 

Every resume should be tailored to the specific position you’re applying for and the employer (more on this later), but there are some key elements that are foundational to any resume you create. All resumes should include: 

  • Your name and contact information
  • Your work history and any relevant experience
  • Your educational background
  • A summary of your skills and accomplishments

Again, there are variations to resumes that will determine the specifics of what to include, but these points shouldn’t be left off any resume. 

How long should a resume be? 

For students and new graduates, it’s best to keep your resume to one page. Because you likely haven’t built up a career of experience, you want your resume to be detailed, but brief. Employers look at hundreds of resumes for a single position, so assume they won’t spend too much time on any single resume. That said, if you do have achievements and experience that you know should be included, then don’t be afraid to use another page. Just be sure to format it correctly, which we’ll discuss in detail later in this article. 

What’s the difference between a resume and a CV? 

You’ve probably heard the terms resume and CV used interchangeably, but they are two different documents. While a resume provides insights into your skills, experience, and qualifications for a specific job or position, a CV details your history of accomplishments. It can include academic credentials, professional experience, certificates, or any real-world experience you may have obtained throughout your life. 

The main difference between a resume and a CV is that a resume is tailored to a specific job while a CV is like an information dump of your life achievements. Both have a role, but in most instances, employers want a resume that shows skills and experience specific to the job posting.  

Formatting your resume 

When writing a resume, you can construct it according to the format you choose. There are four main types of resume formats, each with its own purpose. 

Chronological Resume

This is the most common type of resume. A chronological resume lists your experience from most current and goes in reverse chronological order to as far back as you feel is necessary. This format is useful for most job seekers. 

Functional or Skilled Based Resume 

If you want to remove the emphasis from your work history and experience, a functional or skilled based resume is your best choice. It focuses much more on your skills and abilities rather than any specific jobs. As a college or university student, this type of resume can be ideal because they allow you to be more detailed in your introduction and highlight skills that are relevant to the job. 

Combination Resume 

As you might have guessed, a combination resume combines aspects of a chronological and functional resume. If you’re someone with extensive experience in your field, maybe through internships and part time work, and also have a number of skills that a job post demands, then take advantage of a combination resume to showcase why you’re the ideal candidate. 

Tailored Resumes 

A tailored resume means you create a resume specifically for the position you’re applying for. In actuality, all resumes should be customized for the job, but a tailored resume means ignoring anything that isn’t relevant to the job description and only listing those skills and achievements that are required to do the work. 

How to write your resume 

Now that you understand the different types of resume formats, we need to discuss what to write in your resume. Here are some guidelines to make sure you grab the attention of hiring managers who are likely to skim through your resume. 

Write a resume summary 

A resume summary sits at the top of your resume and gives a brief statement about your qualifications and experience. It should be no more than two sentences and only highlight the best features of your experience, skills, and accomplishments. 

List relevant experience and achievements  

Directly below your resume summary, you should list your experience and achievements. This can be done in point form and should be relevant to the job you are applying for. Focus on achievements that really stand out and show your ability to perform in the role. Your experience doesn’t have to be directly related to the job, but there should be a connection the employer can see clearly. 

List your skills 

Considering that your job experience is probably light, this part of your resume becomes even more important. Think through all of the relevant and transferable skills you may have and list them in order of importance. As a college or university student, this part of your resume could decide whether or not you get a call. 

Tailor your resume to each job description 

Tailoring your resume to each job description can be done in a couple of ways: 

  • Read over the job posting and ensure you include skills, achievements, and experience that matches what the posting lists under the description. 
  • Scroll through your list of skills and choose which ones are most relevant for the job opportunity presented. 
  • Prepped has a resume optimizer that can scan your resume and provide feedback on how it compares it to the job posting. 

The reason it’s important to tailor your resume is because of what’s called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). ATS is AI technology that ranks resumes before any human gets a chance to see it. If your resume isn’t properly tailored, you won’t get past the ATS and you’ve just conceded your chance at getting that job. To get past an ATS system, you need to include specific keywords related to the job posting, include headers so your information is easy to search, and ensure that your resume is properly formatted. 

Resume templates are another great way to write and structure your resume. They make it simple to plug your information into whatever structure you feel best suits the job posting and your overall skills and experience. Templates remove the formatting part of writing and creating a resume, and let you focus on adding your info. 

Tips to make sure you’ve written a strong resume

Before you press send on that email or job posting, take a moment to make sure you’ve done all you can to create the best resume. 

Create a resume checklist 

Doesn’t matter if this is your first resume or 100th, creating a resume checklist ensures you’ve covered everything. What should be on this checklist? 

  • Is your resume one to two pages? 
  • Did you include all the necessary information, including contact info? 
  • Did you run a spell check? 
  • Did you put your resume through an optimizer like the one Prepped offers
  • Is your resume formatted correctly without odd spaces or indentation? 

Remember, in most cases, your resume is your first impression with an employer. You want to make sure you represent yourself accurately and that you’re judged by your qualifications––not because you spelled something wrong. 

Common resume mistakes 

It’s easy to misunderstand what your resume should look like. To make sure you stand out from other job applicants, avoid these common resume mistakes

  • Do not put the word “Resume” or “CV” at the top of your resume. Your employer knows what it is and you need all the space you can to include valuable information. 
  • We know it’s tempting, but don’t lie or even stretch the truth. If you haven’t achieved something, then work until you have. In the meantime, apply to positions that match your skills and experience. 
  • Don’t use too many acronyms or include jargon. Maybe you know what IYKYK means, but you don’t want employers guessing at what’s on the page. Keep it simple and write in plain language. 
  • Don’t list hobbies that aren’t relevant to the job. Yes, you want to show off your personality, but save that for your interview. Your resume is all about proving your capabilities in handling the job. 

Don’t let your inexperience stop you 

Writing a resume with little to no work experience can feel discouraging. We’re here to tell you that you do have relevant experience–– you just need to know how to identify, then communicate it. 

Here are four tips to help you land a job with no experience

  • Identify your transferable skills. Many times, these are soft skills taken from other activities that can be valuable to the position you’re applying for. Review the job posting and see how many of the key skills you already have. 
  • Use a functional resume. Remember those? We described it earlier in this article. A functional resume deprioritizes your work experience and highlights your skills and achievements. 
  • Write a stand out cover letter. If you’re not super confident in your resume, that’s all the more reason to explain your capabilities in detail through the cover letter. This is your chance to get a little bit more personal, as long as it relates to the position you’re applying for. 
  • Upskilling is about learning new skills that will help you better perform or prepare for a job. If you know that a job requires you to be proficient in Adobe, learning that software is one way to upskill so you become a better candidate for the position. 

How should a university student write a resume?

Employers understand that, since you’re still in school or just completing your program, you likely don’t have a history of experience. The only way to get that experience is to work, but until then, don’t be afraid to include your university or college experience in your resume. 

Here are some examples of what to list on your university resume: 

  • Any volunteer experience
  • Travel abroad experience
  • Being student president or playing on any sports teams (more points if you were captain!)
  • In your coursework, did you conduct a lead or contribute to a project that had made an impact? 
  • Are your courses in the exact field you’re applying for? 

All of these can be relevant. The key is to analyze the job description and include experiences that are closely related to the posting. 

Get prepped to write your resume and cover letter 

There’s a lot that goes into writing a good resume. From formatting to knowing what skills and achievements to include, getting a resume right takes a lot of attention to detail. Cover letters are no different. They deserve just as much attention as your resume and play an important role in getting you hired. 

Our role is to prepare you as best we can. Prepped’s Premium Plan offers everything you need while you’re active in your job search. Our learning modules, our resume and cover letter templates, plus the AI resume and interview tools are all available when you start a Premium account. 

Sign up to Prepped today and turn up your job search.