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How to build the perfect resume (with examples)

CareerBuilder | July 1, 2021

Our best advice for creating the perfect resume, with resume examples to help you along the way.

Sending countless resumes off for different jobs can be a time consuming, disheartening process. You put so much work into making your resume stand out that every time it isn’t successful it feels like a real blow to your prospects.

Well, we say enough of the unsuccessful resume. We’re here to show you how to write a resume that will increase your chances of interview, and may even land you that dream role.

How to build the resume that will get you hired

Resume graphic with green background.

Step 1. Understand who your resume is for

Sending the same resume for every different job is a big no-no. Not only will different roles require different skills (that you should highlight), they’ll also be recruited for via different processes.

If you’re applying for a smaller organization, your resume might go straight to the hiring manager. In which case, check out their social media feeds. This will show you how they speak, what their interests are, and if you’re really lucky, what they’re looking for in a candidate.

You can then tailor your resume to speak directly to them. Mirror their tone of voice where appropriate, highlight your shared goals, and be sure to mention how you meet all their dream candidate criteria.

In larger organizations, your resume might go through the HR department, or in some cases, a computer.

In these instances, they won’t be looking for writing flair or personality quirks. Instead they’ll want keywords pertaining to the job description. You should read the role again and again while writing your resume, ensuring you use the same language in the same way.

If the job posting asks for a hard worker with a keen attention to detail, make sure your resume says you’re a hard worker with a keen attention to detail.

Step 2. Be clear with your skills

Your resume is your first chance to show what you’re capable of. It’s your shop window, the place where your dream job will come and find you.

Make sure you sell yourself.

Pick the key requirements from the job description and detail how you’ve met them throughout your career history. If a job asks for team leadership, be sure to mention your team leadership experience in part of your career summary. If you don’t have that experience yet, talk about how you helped during busy periods, how you took junior members of staff under your wing, and how much you learned by following your manager.

Don’t assume the hiring manager will read between the lines. They could have hundreds if not thousands of resumes to look through. Make sure yours is clear enough to stand out.

Step 3. Prepare your resume for applicant tracking systems

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) have evolved drastically over the last decade, and they’re how many larger organizations handle their hiring processes. They read your resume in a specific way, and if it’s not designed for them, they could just ignore it.

Here are a few things you should know about ATS:

• They can’t read text in headers or footers. Put your contact details in the main body of your resume.

• They can’t read anything in text boxes.

• They can’t read images or video files. Text only.

• Colors won’t be recognised, nor will any text formatting such as bold-face or italics.

• ATS will scan your resume from left to right. Anything in columns may not appear correctly.

• PDFs might not work. Stick to Word.

To format your resume for ATS, use a simple MS Word document and lay your information out clearly. Use the keywords from the job description so that the system knows what to look for.

Step 4. Include a link to your LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a quick and easy way for hiring managers to check everything on your resume is correct. If yours isn’t up to date, or is lacking detail, they might not trust you and could end up with more questions than answers.

LinkedIn can also be a great place to show off your personality and passions. If you can demonstrate that you’re active in the professional community and can back up everything you’ve promised in your resume, you’ll be off to an excellent start.

You can also use the platform to network with potential employers. You might even be able to avoid the traditional hiring process by getting to know the companies you’d like to work with and arranging a quick chat.

Finally, chances are your hiring manager is on LinkedIn. Use their profile to tailor your resume even further.

Step 5. Understand the company’s values

Today, values are everything. If you want to work for a company, it’s important they can see that your values match theirs. If they care about the environment, you should too. If they believe in a fairer future, so do you.

That doesn’t mean copying and pasting word for word what they say they care about. They’ll spot that a mile off. It just means you should make sure you highlight any areas in which your values are matched, and be sure to remove anything they might disagree with.

Step 6. Ditch the introduction

If your resume contains several opening paragraphs of background information, you’re wasting valuable space. The hiring manager is likely busy and short on time, so put the key information at the top of your resume to make it impossible to miss.

A quick opening statement — no more than a few lines — is all you need to introduce yourself. Something like, “<name> is a creative, enthusiastic marketer with xx years of experience across a range of household names.”

It says all they need to know. It keeps your resume at the top of their pile.

Step 7. Make it skimmable

Long paragraphs of text look boring to read, and there’s every chance people just won’t have the time to go through them all.

Use bullet points to break your experience up. Compare the two sections below and see which one looks more engaging:

“At company name, I worked as the manager of a small creative team to help bring ideas to life. My work included taking client briefs and liaising with all parts of the agency to ensure information was clear. I would then lead the team on idea generation before pitching the final idea back to the client. I won a number of awards for my work.”


• Ran the creative team

• Worked directly with clients to take briefs and pitch ideas

• Responsible for all idea development and final execution

• Won numerous awards including xx, xx and xx.

Congratulations, you’ve been invited to the interview.

Step 8. Show, don’t tell

Saying you’ve got excellent project management skills is one thing, but showing it is a whole lot more impactful. Give examples of how you put these skills into practice, detail the results of your work, show how your work made a difference to the company.

Step 9. Remove outdated information

Things like an AOL or Yahoo email address instantly show a company that you’re not technically savvy. Set up a free Gmail or Outlook address and use that for all your job applications.

You should also consider removing any mention of old IT systems that you’re proficient in, as it’s unlikely they’ll be used anymore. The same goes for any unnecessary qualifications, such as college degrees or school grades. These should only be on your resume for five years after completing them. Once that time is up, you should highlight your experience more than your schooling.

Sorry, that high school diploma might still have a place on your mom’s wall, but it no longer belongs on your resume.

Step 10. Proof, proof and proof again

After you’ve spent all that time making your resume career-ready, the last thing you want to see is a spelling mistake. Even if writing won’t be a key part of the job you’re going for, mistakes will make you look lazy, and could be the difference between you or someone else getting the job.

Read through your resume to check for any glaring errors, and consider getting it looked over by a friend or family member. If they help you get the job, you could always treat them to a drink to say thanks.

Resume examples

Take a look at these three resume design examples and consider them when building your resume. Determine which best fits your personality and industry.

Resume template shown using a traditional design.

Resume template shown using a clean, classic design.

Resume template shown using a colorful, modern design.

Resume ready? We could have the role for you

Once your resume is fighting fit, upload it to our site and get applying. We constantly upload the latest roles across a huge range of industries, and you never know, your resume could be the perfect fit for one that’s gone live today.

Our career experts have also offered their 10 best tips to help your resume stand out.

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