How To Write a Great Resume That Stands Out in 2024

How To Write a Great Resume That Stands Out in 2024
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After submitting dozens of applications, you’re wondering why you still haven’t gotten at least one interview invite. We’ve all been there.

Competition is tough and more likely than not, you’re competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other job seekers for that same dream job. If you’re wondering what you have to do to stand out from the crowd, the answer is simple: get your resume done right. Writing a strong resume can get you out of the job-hunting rut and significantly boost your chances of reaching that first paycheck.  

Here’s a guide on how to take your resume writing to the next level. Below are some of the sections covered in this guide, click any of the links to jump directly to that section.

1. Choose a resume format

To make a good impression, you want to make sure that you choose the right format that best showcases why you’re the perfect fit. There are three main types of resume formats commonly used by job seekers today: chronological, functional, or a combination of both (also called “hybrid”).

Types of resume formats

Each resume format has its own use, focus, and advantages. Knowing the differences can help you see which one would be the best fit for you.  

Chronological resume format

This type of resume gives special importance to your work history. Using this format allows you to display your job history in reverse-chronological order with your most recent job shown at the top. This is the most common type of resume, which makes them more familiar to recruiters.  

Pros:  

  • Immediately lets recruiters see the advancements in your career  
  • Shows your most relevant work experience from top to bottom  
  • Most recruiters prefer this format  

Cons:  

  • Does not give a better emphasis on skills, talents, and abilities  
  • Makes employment gaps easily visible  

Using the chronological resume format would be a good option in the following cases:  

  • If you’re someone who has a long record of accomplishments in your industry  
  • If your career advancements have been consistent  
  • If your work history is highly relevant to the job you’re applying for  

Functional resume format

This format focuses more on your relevant and applicable skills for the position rather than your work experience. Its key feature is the “Skill Section,” which takes up the most significant part of the resume and highlights all your relevant skills and accomplishments. A detailed work experience is replaced in favor of this “Skill Section” that arranges your experiences under the relevant skill category.  

Pros:  

  • Shifts the focus on your skills and abilities  
  • Puts less weight on work history  

Cons:  

  • Does not appeal to recruiters looking for industry-related experience  

If the following apply, it’s in your best interest to use the functional resume format:

  • If you’re switching industries  
  • If you’re a recent graduate or have no relevant work experience  
  • If you have big employment gaps in your work history  

Combination resume

A combination or hybrid resume is a mixture of the essential components of a chronological and functional resume. It places equal emphasis on both skills and experience and highlights your skills like a functional resume would, while still providing plenty of space to focus on your job experience.  

Pros:  

  • Combines the most valuable elements of a chronological and functional resume  
  • Gives more space to utilize resume keywords  

Cons:  

  • Less traditional layout that blends both resume styles, which may put off certain recruiters  
  • Can become repetitive if identical skills are often mentioned in different positions  

Use this combination resume format if the following apply:  

  • If you have a diverse skill set  
  • If you have transferable skills backed by a detailed work history  

Best practices and tips to keep in mind with resume formats

While you may have sorted out the contents of your resume, finding the perfect look or feel is another story. Hiring managers can be particular about a resume’s visual appearance, so just having the right content isn’t always enough to get you hired. Here are a few tips and best practices to apply when laying out your resume:  

  • Be brief and concise. Keeping everything contained to one or two pages is the best approach if you want your resume to look concise and professional. Chances are, hiring managers won’t be interested in reading through a lengthy resume.
  • Use clear and easy-to-read fonts. Stay consistent with one font, and make sure your section headers stand out by making them bold or capitalized with increased font size. While commonly used fonts like Calibri and Times New Roman remain good options, don’t hesitate to use other readable fonts such as Bell MT, Arial, Garamond, or Ubuntu. Avoid using Comic Sans and other less professional fonts.
  • Use the proper white spacing. White spaces are areas in your resume used to separate sections and paragraphs and can be found around the margins. Make sure to strike a balance between too much and not enough spacing.
  • Save your resume as a PDF to ensure that your resume retains all formatting regardless of which tool the recruiter uses to view it. This makes it a better choice compared to other alternatives such as a Word document.  

2. Add your contact information

A cleverly formatted resume isn’t much use if it doesn’t provide the means for recruiters to get in touch with you. Your contact information is a vital portion of your resume.

Examples of contact information that needs to be on your resume

The contact information section of your resume should include your full name, city, phone number, and email address. If you run a personal website or have a relevant social media page like LinkedIn, include those URLs as well.

6 things to keep in mind when adding contact information to your resume

  • Always use your personal phone number. Avoid using office or work contact info.
  • Make sure to have voicemail set up on your phone so that you won’t miss a call from a recruiter. Always keep your voicemail sounding professional and include your name so the caller knows it’s you.
  • Some hiring managers are more interested in local candidates. Always include your city and state for local jobs.  
  • Use your personal email address and make sure that it sounds professional. Do not use the email address from your current place of employment.
  • Make sure to keep your LinkedIn profile strong and up to date as hiring managers often browse profiles when shortlisting candidates.
  • Be sure to proofread for any typos or errors. A single typo can prevent you from being contacted entirely.  

NOTE: If you are creating or updating your profile on Upwork, check out our article, “9 Tips to Help You Create a Freelancer Profile That Stands Out.” If you are communicating with a hiring manager for a job through the Upwork platform, please note that sharing your personal contact information, such as email address, phone number, or LinkedIn profile, is not permitted. Additionally, all communication should take place through the Upwork Messages feature. Learn more about using Upwork Messages.

3. Write a resume headline

A resume headline is a short statement at the top of your resume just below your name in the header section. Getting this section right is crucial if you want to catch your reader’s attention right off the bat. This one-sentence phrase summarizes your skills and should be powerful enough to grab the hiring manager’s curiosity to compel them to give a more detailed look at your entire resume.

Best practices to consider for your headline

  • Keep your headline statement brief and concise, ideally under 10 words.  
  • Capitalize each word to make your headline stand out.  
  • Avoid clichés if you want to be original. Many recruiters have become familiar with them, which can make you look less unique.
  • Use keywords directly from the job listing, particularly the job title. This increases your chances of being seen as a good match.    

Examples of great resume headlines

Here are some examples of good resume headlines that provide concise descriptions of who the applicants are and why they’re perfect for the job:  

  • Professional Editor Specializing in Web Content  
  • Detail-Oriented Project Manager and Part-Time MBA Student  
  • Team-Oriented General Manager with 10 Years of Experience in Retail  
  • PE Licensed Mechanical Engineer with Extensive Oil Industry Experience  
  • Award-Winning ____ Experienced in ____    

4. Develop a resume summary section

After creating your attention-grabbing resume headline, the next step is developing a summary to describe your skills and professional experience further.  

A resume summary is a brief 3-5 sentence paragraph that expands on your headline statement and further highlights why a recruiter should hire you. This section is ideal if you already have professional experience under your belt.

Tips on writing your summary section

  • Highlight your most important and relevant skills.  
  • Feature the notable accomplishments that you intend to repeat for this new role.
  • Show achievements that are quantifiable by using percentages, sales figures, and other quantities that provide a realistic view of your professional accomplishments.
  • Make sure your resume summary statement briefly demonstrates and establishes why you are the ideal candidate.
  • Be sure to include keywords from the job description.  

2 Examples of a great resume summary section

REGIONAL SALES DIRECTOR  

12 years of successful and stellar sales management in the consumer products industry. Leads by example in motivating sales teams to unprecedented year-over-year gains.  

  • Increased sales in the southern region by 20% through creative vendor partnerships and instituting sales incentives.
  • Hired, mentored, and inspired an award-winning sales force, generating profits at 10% above the company average.  
  • Organized and initiated customer satisfaction surveys and recommended product improvements approved and adopted by senior management.  

ADMINISTRATIVE PROFESSIONAL   

Multifaceted, efficient, and reliable administrative professional with 6+ years of experience supporting sales personnel, managers, and executives to boost internal operations efficiency for small businesses.  

  • Proficient in CRM applications and design programs.
  • Diversified skill set covering administrative support, client relations, writing, human resources and recruiting, research, account management, and project management.
  • Excellent interpersonal, phone, verbal, and written communication skills.  

5. Include your work and employment history

While a headline and a summary are used to capture the reader’s attention, your work and employment history will do the job of actually selling you as the perfect fit.  

This part of your resume is deemed the most valuable for many recruiters and would likely get the most viewing time. This is where they can get an informative view of your career as it displays your recent jobs and job titles. Whatever style or format you choose, just make sure to always be consistent in the list.  

Here is an example of the information to include for every entry in your employment history section:  

  • Job title/position  
  • Company name, location, and description  
  • Duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments (~3 bullet points)
  • Timeframe of employment  

6. Add your work achievements

Apart from listing all the information in your work history, make sure to leave space for your professional achievements. Many job seekers fail to fully utilize their work history section by excluding their relevant accomplishments and awards.  

By listing your major accomplishments, you can show employers that you’re someone capable of adding value to the company.  

Examples of work achievements to include on your resume

To stand out from everyone else, be sure to focus on results and outcomes that have benefited your employers. Including quantifiable results and values such as reached quotas, increase in sales, improved efficiencies, etc., can go a long way in solidifying your value and landing on the recruiter’s shortlist.  

If you only list your basic duties and responsibilities, you’ll have a slim chance of standing out from other applicants with similar work experience.  

Do this:  

Notable Accomplishments:  

  • Successfully handled QA campaigns that decreased rework by more than 30%, saving the company $200,000 in annual production costs  
  • Won the top sales rep of the year award for the western region with over 2.1 million in goods sold
  • Constantly exceed monthly KPIs by 15% or more  
  • Implemented Lean Management directives, which cut overall operating expenses by 30%    

Instead of this:  

Notable Accomplishments:  

  • Managed quality assurance programs to reduce production expenses  
  • Implemented systems and processes that decreased operating costs  

When listing your accomplishments, keep your wording unique and make sure you don’t just simply repeat phrases from your work history or any other section of your resume.    

Consider hiring an independent resume writer to help you improve the wording of your achievements and work history. These resume writing professionals have often worked with hundreds of job-seekers and reviewed thousands more resumes. They will be able to provide helpful tips and meaningful advice to improve your resume.  

Not everyone has enough experience to list impressive accomplishments. If you’re new in your career or work in a field that doesn’t provide a way to perform tasks that can distinguish yourself, you may not have a chance to include this list. Focus instead on writing a compelling list of skills and how they apply to the job’s responsibilities.  

7. List your ‘hard and soft’ skills

Employers are always looking for candidates with relevant skills that are must-haves for the position. There are generally two categories of skills for a resume: hard skills and soft skills.  

Hard skills  

Hard skills are learned through education and work experience and are often measured through results. These abilities are usually industry or job specific.  

Soft skills  

Soft skills are less defined and are often considered universal as they can be applied to more than one specific job. These are often personal skills such as communication, adaptability, leadership, problem-solving, or any abilities that will make a candidate a good fit for any workplace.  

Best practices when choosing which skills to feature

  • Make sure to tailor your skills list specifically to the job position. Even if you are proficient at a certain skill, exclude it if it isn’t relevant to the job. Be sure only to list relevant abilities that will boost your qualifications for the position.  
  • It’s always a good idea to supplement your hard skills with proficiency and experience levels. For every hard skill you add, classify them based on expertise (beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert). Always be honest about your skill levels—misleading your potential employers never works in the long run. Some hard skills can also be considered universal (computer literacy, writing and communication skills, photo editing, etc.), so you’ll want to include those as well.
  • Don’t forget to include universal soft skills. These are skills that you can apply to almost every job. Having these skills are often considered convenient for a team or independent work environment, and chances are they can complement the primary skill requirements of the job you’re applying for.  
  • View Upwork’s list of the top 100 skills to consider for your resume.

8. Add your education, certifications, and training

Though many consider education less important than experience, including this section still lets hiring managers know about your academic progress and any significant training and certifications you have that can contribute to good job performance.

Here are some tips when writing your education section:  

  • List all your education information in reverse-chronological order, just like you would in the work experience section. This lets employers see the most relevant information at the top. If you have a master’s or bachelor’s degree, make sure to list it first.
  • Include your college experience even if you’re still in the process of earning your degree. The credits you have accumulated along with your pursued major are still important information, especially if they match the skill requirements.
  • Break down your additional certifications and training under their own sub-section. This is your opportunity to showcase external certifications that match the job description and highlight any non-traditional or continued education.
  • Consider expanding this section of your resume with a new online program or certification. Check out Upwork’s suggestions for digital marketing certifications, IT certifications, and online education courses that help you stand out to potential hiring managers.  

Common Resume Writing FAQs

What are hiring managers looking for in a resume?

Hiring managers typically sort through tons of applications every day, so it only makes sense for them to skim to the most relevant information. They’ll look for specific keywords or phrases from the job post. Many hiring managers also want to see career progression—this demonstrates that you’re likely to continue developing your skills and knowledge.  

For the majority of hiring managers, the most vital information is what you would expect: Your work experience, previous job titles, and relevant training and education indicate if you are qualified for the job. Be sure to make these sections clear and engaging. Be careful not to over-embellish your writing as experienced recruiters can see right through exaggerations.

What should first-time resume writers consider?

You may struggle when writing a resume for your first job. But even if you don’t have stellar work experience just yet, you can still write about your education, any extracurriculars, community service activities, or volunteer work. All of these can still make you qualified, especially for an entry-level position.

Here are a few tips when writing your resume for your first job:  

  • Research resume keywords: Begin by carefully reviewing the job description and look for words under key sections such as Qualifications, Requirements, and Responsibilities. Upon listing these words, see if you possess skills and abilities that could fit them. Many companies use an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to receive and sort applications quickly. An ATS will typically sort a resume based on keywords that best fit with requirements of the position.
  • Use the functional resume format: Using this format allows you to put your skills, abilities, and education at the forefront and focus less on work experience.  
  • Write a career objective: If you don’t have enough experience, a career objective can be used in place of a resume summary. Much like the resume summary, this 2-3 sentence paragraph summarizes your relevant skills and how you plan to use them instead of your experience and accomplishments.
  • Create a comprehensive education section: In some cases, employers will place more value on your education rather than experience, especially if you’re going after an entry-level position. Include information on other training, certifications, volunteer work, or any extracurriculars.
  • In addition to your resume, craft a tailored cover letter: A well-written cover letter lets a hiring manager know that you’ve put significant effort into creating your application. Write your cover letter in a way that uses your voice and personality to professionally describe the value you’ll bring to the table.

How to keep a resume simple and concise

A 2018 study by Ladders, Inc reported that “recruiters spend an average of only 7.4 seconds reviewing a candidate’s resume on their initial screening.” This further shows the importance of proper formatting and that a straightforward and concise resume increases its chances of being considered.    

When it comes to keeping your resume brief, removing irrelevant and unnecessary information is vital. Tailoring your resume to the job description and listing only relevant skills and information provides a higher chance of grabbing the manager’s attention. Make sure to use words that hiring managers like to see. For example, consider including words such as:

  • Volunteered  
  • Ideas  
  • Launched  
  • Managed  
  • Trained  
  • Improved  

Avoid using words or phrases that might put them off, such as cliches, fluff, and exaggerations. It’s also important to avoid redundancies in your writing.  

How do you adjust your resume if you haven't worked in a few years?

If you haven’t made a resume in years or if what you currently have is no longer applicable, you might want to look at ways to adjust it to stay relevant and up to date. Here are a few quick tips when refreshing your resume:  

  • Make sure to include your reasons for inactivity in your resume. Employment gaps are subjective, and many employers will interpret them differently. It is up to you to frame the experience in a way that shows you’re a valuable candidate.
  • Consider using a functional or a skill-based format to draw your employer’s attention away from any gaps in employment.
  • Focus on your past accomplishments, skills, and education that make you a good fit for the job.
  • If you were self-employed, highlight all the things that you have learned that can offer value to the company.  
  • If your resume gap is due to caregiving, health reasons, childcare, pandemic-related job loss, etc. it may be beneficial to highlight the skills that translate to the job. You can also emphasize the volunteer work, short-term projects, or any activities that you participated in during the time you were not working.  

How to write a resume after a career change

Career switches happen all the time. If you’re in the process of breaking into a new career or industry, let your resume show why you still have the necessary skills and abilities that can translate to the new job.  

The most widely used format for a career change resume is the combination (or hybrid) format. This format allows you to display all your relevant and transferable skills with less emphasis on your work experience.

Here are the most important things to include in your new career change resume:  

  • A resume summary and headline  
  • A comprehensive skill section
  • Any certifications or training you might have that relates to the job  
  • A modified work experience section that highlights every transferable skill under each job position  
  • Include information about every project that you’ve finished using the relevant skills that are required for the position  

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, congrats! You have the knowledge you need to help you craft a stellar resume and potentially secure your dream job. Always remember that writing a resume is an art form, and make sure you understand these essential skills if you want your resume to stand out.

If you’re looking for more help writing the perfect resume, post a job on Upwork’s work marketplace to get advice from expert freelance resume writers.

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Author Spotlight

How To Write a Great Resume That Stands Out in 2024
Sean Cope
SEO Writer

Formerly a full-time in-house marketing director, Sean Cope began building an SEO and content creation company by freelancing on Upwork. He has enjoyed working with clients in various industries, leading them to achieve their business goals and higher Google search rankings. Sean is passionate about helping new clients in growing their businesses through search engine optimization, content writing, and digital marketing.

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