How to write a professional resume | Ultimate writing guide & tips 2023

how-to-write-a-professional-resume
Resume writing guideline and tips in 2023

Crafting a professional resume is crucial to make a good first impression on potential employers. However, job seekers may need guidance to create an impressive resume that captures recruiters' interest. Fear not, as CakeResume — the best resume builder, is here to guide you through the process of writing a professional resume in 2023. In this blog, we'll cover everything you need to know to write and create an astounding resume that can help you land your next career move.

What Is a Resume?

A resume is a brief summary of skills, experience, and education. Its purpose is to impress potential employers and lead to an interview. While it won't guarantee employment, a well-crafted resume can convince potential employers of suitability for the job. In order to do so, you'll need to have 9 essential key sections on your resume. Keep reading to find out what they are!

It's important to note that a resume and a CV serve different purposes. While a resume is typically used for job applications, a CV is usually used for academic pursuits such as post-graduate or PhD programs.

You can create a resume using many different tools, like the traditional Microsoft Word, design tool like Canva, or resume builder like CakeResume. Later one, we’ll instruct you to choose the best online resume builder that is not only free but also help you with all you need!

📖 Further reading: What is a resume? [Definition, elements, writing tips, and examples]

Resume Writing Do's and Don'ts

When writing a resume, there are two common issues that bother us all. Whether you’re a seasoned employee with years of work experience or a fresher who just graduated with no work experience. They are:

“What to include in a resume?” and “What NOT to include in a resume?”

A professional resume should be able to serve its ultimate purpose, which is to help you land interviews. After reviewing your resume, recruiters and hiring managers should at least be able to learn the three following information:

  • Is the candidate qualified for this job position in terms of skills, knowledge, and experience?
  • What can the candidate contribute to the company based on previous work experience and achievements?
  • How to contact the candidate if they’re qualified?

In order to do so, there are five fundamental sections you must include in your resume in order for it to be deemed as “good.” They are:

  • Contact Information
  • Work Experience
  • Education
  • Skills (technical & soft)
  • Achievements and Awards

While you can skip sections such as interests and hobbies, some jobs might require it. So you can read this article to know about the occasions when it's suitable to mention hobbies and interests.

What to Include in a Resume:

  • Contact Information
  • Profile Summary / Career Objective
  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Skills and Qualifications
  • Awards and Achievements

What to Exclude from a Resume:

  • Marital status
  • Photo (headshot)
  • Religious preference
  • Irrelevant Experience
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • Complete mailing address

9 Must-Have Resume Sections

1. Resume headline/title

A resume headline which is located in the header section of a resume, summarizes your working experience, strengths, and qualifications. It is often used to show recruiters that you’re a perfect fit for the vacancy. To quickly catch the recruiters’ eye, remember to carefully tailor your resume headline/title according to the job applied

Here’re some tips for you to refer to while writing a resume headline/title:

  • Utilize keywords: You can refer to the job post and read the description carefully. What are the required qualifications or skills? If you have any of the skills or experience the employer’s looking for, include them in the headline.
  • Keep it concise: A resume title should be short but concise. An ideal headline should be within 10 words.
  • Customize: It is necessary to customize the headline for each resume when you are applying for different job positions since every company has diverse job requirements (even when they’re hiring for the same profession!).
  • Capitalize: In order to catch a hiring manager’s attention quickly, it’s suggested to capitalize the headline.

💡 TIPS

While adding certain details, such as a profile picture or personal background, may enhance your resume, they can also become a deal-breaker in some cases. As a rule of thumb, only include information that is directly relevant to the job requirements. Adding photos or personal details are typically unnecessary unless specifically requested by the employer.

If you still have no idea how to write a professional resume title, here are 2 easy formulas for you: 

Resume headline writing & formulas:

📍 [An adjective describing your personal trait] + [Job title] + with + [Experience]
📍 [An adjective describing your personal trait] + [Job title] + Skilled in/Specializing in +  [Skill/Qualification]

Resume headline examples:

  • Creative Digital Marketer Specializing in SEO
  • Detail-Oriented Baby Sitter with First Aid Training
  • Multilingual Translator Skilled in Website Translation
  • Chartered Accountant with Analytical and Interpersonal Skills
  • Goal-Oriented Sales Representative with 5 Years of Experience in FMCG

📚 Further readingResume Headline|Examples, Templates, Writing Guide

2. Resume summary/Resume career objectives

A professional resume objective can be seen as an extension of your resume headline, more like a resume summary statement. 

Initially, a career objective on a resume was used to express a job seeker's professional aspirations. Nowadays, the purpose of a resume objective has evolved to become a concise summary of a candidate's qualifications and achievements, highlighting what they can bring to the table.

On the other hand, a resume summary is a brief paragraph consisting of 2 to 3 sentences that encapsulate the candidate's relevant qualifications, career objectives, and desired job title. It should emphasize the candidate's skills, experiences, current job search status, and career vision to grab the attention of potential employers.

💡 TIPS

It is suggested that freshers and career changers include a career objective or summary in their resume.

Like resume titles, resume summaries, and objectives are not strictly required for a resume. However, a good summary/objective can spice up your resume and catch the attention of recruiters.

A good resume summary and objectives should be concise, eye-catching, and, most importantly, should be closely related to the job position and the culture of the company you’re applying for. 

Concise, eye-catching, and most importantly, it should be closely related to the job position and the culture of the company you’re applying for. 

How to write a summary/objective for a resume?

  • Keywords: Read through the job post carefully and collect keywords of required skills, experience, and personal traits that match yours. Use them wisely in the personal statement to catch a recruiter’s (or an applicant tracking system’s!) attention.
  • Growth (optional):State your career goals and how the job/company can help you achieve them.
  • Value: Instead of only gabbling about what you can gain from the company, an employer cares more about how you can add value to the company.
  • Accomplishment: Remember to include your accomplishment at work to beef up your objective statement. It can be certification, license, and award that’s relevant to the position. If you would like to highlight any outstanding work performances in the past, don’t forget to utilize numbers!
  • Place at the top: Depending on the format, a career objective should be placed under the resume title or contact information.

Here are 2 simple formulas for freshers and career changers to write a good resume objective/summary: 

Resume objective writing formula for freshers:

📍 [Your major] graduate with [required skills for the position] skills.
Currently seeking a position as a [job title] at [company name], to [career goal].
Gained [required experience or ability] experience at [academic/extra-curricular activities], receiving/achieving [achievements or awards].

Career objective example for freshers:

  • Computer Science graduate with proven front-end coding skills. Currently seeking a position as a Frontend Developer at Amazon to leverage coding & UX skills to help improve user experience and conversion rate. Gained application development experience at Tata Consultancy Services in internship programs, receiving Best Intern Award for excellent performance.
  • Marketing graduate with outstanding analytical skills. Currently seeking a position as a Marketing Strategist at Facebook to apply my passion & knowledge for content writing and marketing strategic planning. Gained social media and offline marketing experience at the student association as Marketing Lead, receiving Student Organization Leadership Awards for outstanding performance.
Resume summary writing formula for career changers:

📍 [Previous job title] with [required skills for the position] skills.
Currently seeking a position as a [Job title] at [company name], to [career goal].
Built [required experience or ability] experience at [work experience], receiving/achieving [achievements or awards].

Resume summary examples for career changers:

  • Patient and detailed-oriented customer service agent with proven communication & organization skills. Currently seeking a position as a Product Manager at SoFi, to enhance customer loyalty and user experience. Built problem-solving & UX research experience at Delhivery as a Customer Care Specialist, achieving a 30% increase in user retention rate in 3 months.
  • Elementary education teacher with lesson planning & classroom management skills. Currently seeking a position as a Classroom Teacher at Merion Elementary School to apply my 10 years of teaching experience to create better educational content.

💡TIPS

A professional summary/objective for a resume should be around 30 to 50 words. A summary/objective with more than 100 words is considered too lengthy.

3. Personal details

When crafting your resume, it is important to avoid including any irrelevant personal information. Instead, focus on including key details that will help you stand out as a qualified candidate. 

These details should include:

  • Full name
  • Email address
  • Mobile number
  • Country and city you’re currently in
  • (Optional) Active links to your portfolio
  • (Optional) Active links to your LinkedIn profile

However, there are certain personal details that should never be included in your resume. These details are:

  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religious preference
  • Social Security number
  • Complete mailing address
  • Irrelevant social media links

📕 Further reading: Personal Details in Resume|Samples, Formats, Writing Guide

4. Skills (personal skills/technical skills)

When it comes to listing skills on your resume, it's essential to tailor them to the job you're applying for. You should categorize your skills into bullet-point lists based on different skill sets and highlight the ones most relevant to the job requirements.

There are generally two types of skills to include in a resume: technical skills (hard skills) and personal skills (soft skills). When selecting which skills to include, refer to the job description and highlight the skills that are particularly critical for the position. For instance: hard skills are especially important in a technical job. However, for jobs with no specific hard skills required, like teachers or baristas, you might consider adding computer skills or language skills to your resume.

If you have gaps in your employment history, consider using a skill-based resume format (functional resume), which focuses on your skills and qualifications instead of your work history.

Remember that it’s not about the number of skills you list but rather the quality and relevance to the position/industry. Ensure that the skills you include can answer the following questions:

  • How are they relevant to the job requirements? 
  • How can they make you qualified for the work? 
  • How can they add value to the company?

💡TIPS

Another point to keep in mind is that listing skills are a way to showcase your strengths, so there's no need to include weaknesses unless it's explicitly requested.

When organizing your skill section, group them into categories based on the qualifications required for the job. Here are some examples of skill categories for software engineers and designers:

skill-section-in-resume-example-1
Created via CakeResume
skill-section-in-resume-example-2
Created via CakeResume

💡 TIPS

It's not suggested to use bars, charts, or ratings to display skill proficiency. These methods lack credibility and are not compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Instead, list skills in bullet points and include objective proof such as licenses, certifications, awards, or accomplishments.

5. Educational qualification

An education section can be a vital factor in your resume, especially if you just graduated from college. 

How to list education on a resume?

Educational qualifications should be listed in reverse chronological order, starting with your highest level of education. Usually, it is not recommended to include high school education on resumes. However, if it is your highest degree, it should definitely be included.

What do I put for education on a resume?

  • School name
  • School location
  • Degree level
  • Major & minor
  • Graduation year
  • (Optional) GPA
  • (Optional) Relevant coursework
  • (Optional) Academic honor (award, scholarship, publication)

The content and placement of the education section can be adjusted accordingly to a job seeker’s seniority. Freshers with no or little work experience should make the most of the education section to highlight their achievements and knowledge learned.

Some of you might wonder whether it is ok to leave education off your resume.

If you’re a career changer with more than 5 years of work experience, simply state the school name, major, and graduation year of your highest level of education. Also, for experienced employees, placing the education section after the work experience section is suggested.

How to list education in progress on a resume? 

If you’re currently in college, you can still list the in-progress degree on your resume with relevant coursework you’ve done. Simply note the expected graduation date beside the starting year.

Should I include education on my resume if I didn't graduate? 

If you did not complete the degree (and you're not going to), it is not suggested to include it on your resume, unless you don't have any other education or training. To list an incomplete degree, you can include the name of the school and program and also relevant coursework you finished. Do note that you should not mislead employers in believing that you've graduated.

📖 Further reading: Education on Resume|Examples, Templates, Writing Guide

education-section-in-resume-example-1
Created via CakeResume

6. Work experience

Work experience is the most important section of a resume. It can fully demonstrate your competency, qualification, and experience in a proper manner. In this section, full-time/part-time/contract/freelance work and internships can all be included as long as they are relevant to the position.

How do I write my work experience on a resume?

  • List the past work in a format of reverse chronological order, with 3 - 5 bullet points for each experience to indicate the skills learned and goals accomplished.
  • Use past tense while describing work and goals you’ve achieved, no matter if they’re in your past or current jobs. It is allowable to use present tense for current jobs, but do notice to keep the tense consistent under each item.
  • Make use of action verbs to construct strong statements. Also, adopt active voice instead of passive voice to write sentences, which can create a positive image.

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when writing the work experience section

  • Customize: Tailor-make the resume work experience section for different positions and companies. Read the job description carefully and do research on the corporate culture and industry trends to select the experiences and accomplishments that will help you stand out from other candidates.
  • Consistency: Make sure your work experience appears to align with your career goals or path. “Should I include irrelevant work experience on a resume?” Since there’s a length limit for resumes, it’s only wise to exclude experiences that stray from the current career path. Trial and repeated job duties should also be removed.
  • Keywords: To catch recruiters and Applicant Tracking System’s attention swiftly, insert keywords (e.g., specific skills, qualifications, and requirements) from the job post directly in the sentences.
  • Quantify: Numbers can be eye-catching among a pile of words. Quantifying your achievements and experiences enables employers to understand your value more quickly and precisely.
  • Explanation: Since recruiters can’t be experts in all fields, try further to explain some abbreviations, proper names, and statuses when necessary. Besides, if the resume is meant for a foreign company, do utilize further explanation to highlight your experience.

How many years of work history/experience should be on a resume?

It depends on the candidates’ seniority levels. Generally speaking, there should be 3 - 5 relevant work experiences (jobs) included on a resume, which can be traced back to 10 - 15 years ago for some senior-level job seekers.

💡TIPS

If you are a fresher just out of college, you can include your academic, extra-curricular, volunteer, and internship experiences in college. However, it’s not suggested to add high school experiences on resumes if you’re a college graduate.

How to include work projects in resume?

CakeResume is the best online resume builder. Users are able to include maps, links, videos, images, and slides in their resumes to showcase skills and profession. Adding projects and portfolios can make your resume more appealing and professional, especially for designers, software engineers, and marketing professionals.

work-experience-section-example-1
Created via CakeResume
work-experience-section-example-2
Created via CakeResume

📖 Further Reading: Work Experience on a Resume|Samples, Formats, Writing Guide

7. Declaration in resume

Resume declaration is a statement where job applicants assure their potential employers that everything included on the resume is accurate and without any misleading information. It usually comes with the writer’s signature and the date.

Declaration for resumes is common during the job application process in India, and it can also be found in companies or organizations with formal application processes (e.g., Traditional enterprises, government agencies, and academic institutions).

💡 TIPS

Keep your resume declaration statement short and genuine. It's not necessary to have a lengthy statement. Being honest and authentic is key to securing an interview.

How to write a declaration in resume?

Here’s the resume declaration sample and format.

Resume declaration sample and format

I, [You Full Name], solemnly declare that all the details above in my resume is true and accurate. I take full responsibility for the correctness of the information mentioned.

[You Formal Signature] [Date]

📖 Further reading: Declaration in Resume|Formats, Examples, Writing Guide

8. References on resume

Reference on a resume is not strictly requested in general cases. Adding references in resumes used to be common in the past, but the trend is now fading out. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that references are not important during the job search process anymore.

When should I put references on a resume?

If the recruiters specifically request applicants to add references to resumes, or it is clearly indicated on the job posting, you should for sure put references on your resume or attach a reference page/sheet in the mail.

How to put references on a resume?

It is appropriate to list 1 - 3 references on a resume with the following information:

  • The referee’s full name
  • The relationship between you and the referee
  • The referee’s current job title
  • The company at which the referee’s current working
  • The referee’s contact information (e.g., Email, phone number)
  • (optional) A short description of the projects you worked together on

💡 TIPS

Remember to start the reference list with the one you had the best working relationship with and to previously confirm the referees’ willingness.

If you’ve decided to write references in your resume, your next question might be, “Where to add references in resumes?”. Here are some suggestions:

  • Add a reference section at the end of the resume
  • Add a reference page/sheet with the resume
  • Attach another reference page/sheet with the cover letter mail

Since the ideal number of references is around 3 (it’s not suggested to list more than 5 referees considering the quality), simply adding a reference section in a resume would be adequate.

📕 Further reading: References on Resume|Formats, Samples, Templates

9. Hobbies

This is one of the most common questions asked by job seekers, “Should I put hobbies on a resume?”

Generally speaking, it is not suggested to include hobbies in resumes since usually, they can’t directly prove you’re qualified for the job. However, the following 2 conditions can be the exceptions:

  • Your hobbies and interests are highly related to your profession or the position you’re applying for. For example, writing, blogging, and podcasting can be attractive hobbies on resumes for Brand and Marketing specialists; volunteering and community service can be good hobbies on resumes for people applying for jobs at NGOs; and sometimes, even playing video games can be the best hobby if you’re trying to get into the gaming industry!
  • Your resume is less than a page, and you have nothing else to put on it.
    If you’re writing your very first resume, and you don’t have any skill, work experience, or major achievement to write in it, the section on hobbies for a resume can be your savior. Due to the lack of experience, the only things you can leverage are your personal traits, characters, and personalities, which can also be associated with your soft skills.

Make the most of the hobbies and interests section in your resume to show your future employers that you’re a responsible person, a self-starter, a fast learner, a team player, and even a leader!

📒 Further reading: Hobbies and Interests in Resume|Examples, Formats, Writing Guide

What are good hobbies to put on a resume?

Here is a list of hobbies and interests to write in resumes:

Hobbies & InterestsPosition/Company/Industry
Pet CarePet industry
Child CareTeacher position / Child Care Services Industry
PhotographyPhotographer position
Cooking, BakingRestaurants and Food Services industry
Art, Sketching, PaintingDesigner position
History, Culture, TravelingTour guide position / Tourism Industry
Reading, Writing, BloggingWriter position / Publishing industry
Networking, Public speakingSales position / Business development position
Languages learning, TravelingTourism Industry
Writing, Blogging, PodcastingMarketing position
Computer games, Video gamesGaming industry
Sports, Exercising and healthcarePersonal trainer position / Fitness industry
Video production, Filming, MoviesVideo editor position / Film and Television Industry
Volunteer work, Community involvementSocial enterprise / NGOs
Listening to music, Making music, Playing an instrumentMusic industry

The Best Resume Builder

CakeResume is the best free resume builder tool that can help you build an attractive and professional resume in just 10 minutes. With CakeResume, you can easily create a custom resume that reflects your skills, experience, and achievements. Whether you're a seasoned professional or just starting out in your career, CakeResume provides a range of customizable templates and formatting options to ensure that your resume stands out from the crowd. By using the best free online resume builder, you can be confident that you're presenting your best self to potential employers and increasing your chances of landing your dream job effortlessly.

Start your CakeResume journey today!

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