How to write an effective resume

Having collected all the information needed to build up your skills and achievements, you are now ready to start writing your résumé.

This section begins by covering layout requirements and then details the contents for each section. Step-by-step instructions for building your résumé follow.

A place for everything and everything in its place

The layout and the sections of your résumé are standard. They only change slightly between recent graduates and young professionals. If you have less than 2 years of experience, you will need to put your education first and vice versa.

Font should be Times New Roman, Arial or any other standard font.

The layout should have following characteristics:

  • One page,
  • Margins between 8 mm and 16 mm,
  • Your name in bold, centred at the top, in a bigger font,
  • Email address and telephone number below your name,
  • Headings for each section in upper case - bold and underlined.

You can download our resume template here.

Contents

Personal information

This section should only contain the three essential pieces of information needed to get in touch with you:

  • Your name with increased font size and in capital letters as recruiters are more likely to remember it,
  • An institutional or standard email address (name.surname / surname.name),
  • Your mobile phone number.
An example:

MICHEAL TSANG

+44 747 644 2234 | mtsang@uniabc.ac.uk

Education

Even though education has probably been your main commitment in your life so far, do not be tempted to include everything about it. Focus on what shows you have the right skills for the position you are applying to (e.g. analytical, communication, problem solving). Include qualifications prior to university, if they are either very good or requested by the employer. The information you must include in this section is following:

  • Institution, city (only if not included in the university name) and country.
  • Degree name (and qualification - UK). Include your qualification only if it's very good or outstanding (equivalent to 2:1 and higher).
  • Coursework (e.g. Managerial Economics, Game Theory, Corporate Finance).
  • Class rank / (GPA – US). Include class rank or GPA only if it's very good. If you think the recruiter will not understand your degree class, include an approximate percentile.
  • International exchange programmes.
  • Scholarships. Include awarded scholarships, without exceeding one line.

Example:

2012 - 2015
  • ESCP EUROPE, Paris, France,
  • Msc International Management, First Class Honours,
  • Coursework: Managerial Economics, Strategy, Incentives in organizations,
  • Ranked among top 10% students, GPA of X.X/X,
  • Awarded full merit scholarship for academic excellence.

Work experience

Your goal is to show that you have developed an appreciation of the business world along with a set of valuable competences through previous employment or internships. The core of this section will be two to five achievement based bullet points in which you outline your key achievements. Employers understand that if you have less than five years’ experience, you will rarely have had the chance to manage life-changing company turnarounds; the achievements they expect will most likely focus on exposure to top management or independence.

The sections to be included are:

  • Job title, company name, city and country.
  • Dates. If your experience is relatively long (2+ years), only use years - while if your experience is shorter or you have some relevant short internships, use abbreviated month and year (eg. Feb. 2005). Whichever choice you make, be consistent throughout your CV.
  • Company description. Only if you think recruiters will not recognise the name of the company you worked for.
  • Achievement-based bullet points. Through your achievements, your bullet points should highlight the best mix of competencies required for the job you are applying to. Structure them in the most eye-catching way as shown in Build your achievements . Do not exceed five bullet points for every position you covered and 2-3 lines for each bullet point. In general, you should include more points for more recent jobs, unless previous jobs or internships are more relevant to the position you are applying to.

    Example:

    2012 - 2015 McKinsey & Company, Berlin, Germany: Business Analyst Intern
  • Revised end-to-end value chain of the back office of a European Insurer identifying 12 initiatives leading to €150 m savings in 5 years. Pitched initiatives to top management and created multi-phase implementation plan.
  • Redesigned processes to improve by 30% productivity of 2k claims handlers in a European Insurer. Co-led a 15 people client team in successful implementation on 200 employees.

Leadership and volunteering experiences

Employers like well-rounded individuals who stand out of the crowd: it makes a lot of difference whether you were elected as a student leader or volunteered on a regular basis. Structure your bullet points so as to highlight what you have achieved. Only create a section for leadership and volunteering experiences if you have a considerable number of significant experiences or if you would like to offset a weak work experience. Otherwise you can include your leadership experiences in the Additional Information section.

2012 - 2015 ESCP Europe Entrepreneurship Society, Treasurer
  • Doubled budget for Conferences from £ 5k to £ 10k by securing 2 new sponsorships with emerging start-ups.

Additional information

Do not forget that this section is your chance to impress your recruiter. You can expect at least 30% of the content of interviews to be based on this part. You thus need to consider carefully all your extra-work achievements, and select the most relevant and interesting ones.

One of our customers included the following bullet point:

“EBay: raised more than 5k € in 9 months by selling recipe books and UK-imported goods in Spain”

During his interview, all the recruiters asked him questions about that experience. Questions about our achievements are almost 100% safe, since we know what we are talking about very well. Such questions are also extremely effective for convincing the interviewer that we have well-rounded personalities.

Before starting to fill this section, think carefully about the set of competences required for the job you are applying to and try to find out which competences you did not sufficiently showcase in your Work and Education sections. Your additional information section should be made of four to six bullet points, each one or two lines long. Typical areas you could cover in the Additional Information section include:

  • Standardized test scores, possibly with percentiles (e.g. GMAT score: 730, 96th percentile),
  • Volunteering activities,
  • Sports achievements (e.g. Won Dutch rowing championship),
  • Awards that you did not include in the Education section,
  • Positions in students societies / clubs / student councils (e.g. Elected student representative), if leadership and volunteering section is not present,
  • Entrepreneurial activities not included in Business Experience,
  • Interests and passions.

Typical points which should not be included in this section are:

  • Language certificates,
  • High school grades,
  • School competitions you won when very young (unless at national level).

Structure your bullet points to highlight what you achieved. As always, do not focus on the role you covered, but on the results you achieved - as shown in the example below:

  • GMAT score 730 (96th percentile).
  • Board member and fundraising chair for Kelston Area Big Brothers Big Sisters in Newark, New Jersey (2016-2017).
  • Planned and implemented the first annual city-wide Salt Lake City Marathon (2015-2018).
  • Interest in Chinese studies: organized a seminar on the impact of China on the imbalances leading to the 2008 financial crisis.

Language and IT skills

Include your languages and IT skills in 2 lines:

Languages: List your languages starting from English, followed by the language(s) spoken in the country in which you are applying, and then by any other languages you have some level of proficiency in. Choose a level between Native, Fluent, Business and Basic. Do never overemphasize your certificates - employers on average do not care about whether you have 5 English certificates hung up on the walls of your room, but about whether you are able to talk with a client or negotiate a contract in another language. If you still want to include your certificates do not substitute them with your level of fluency, but keep both (e.g. Fluent English (First Certificate), Business French (Delf B1 Certificate).

IT skills: Essential IT skills include the Office Pack (Word, Excel & PowerPoint). If you have knowledge in advanced IT programs, mention what they are without going into too much detail. Make sure not to delve too deep into your knowledge of sophisticated Engineering programmes: the HR Manager who will select you will most probably have a background in Psychology.

And this is it. After finishing writing your resume, go through our checklist to make sure you are not missing anything.

Checklist

  • Conquer hearts and minds. Make sure every single line on your résumé matches the required competence set necessary for the job you are applying for.
  • One page. Strictly keep your résumé within a single printable page.
  • Bullet point based. All the achievements listed in the work experience, volunteering experience and additional information sections should be structured in bullet points.
  • Concise. Do not exceed 2-3 lines for every achievement-based bullet point.
  • Consistent in style. Use one font style and one single font size (with the only exception of your name at the top).
  • Nice-looking. Margins should not be narrower than 13 mm and font size should not be lower than 10 pt.
  • Consistency over style. Make sure all the bullet points start coherently with a verb in the past tense.
  • Proofread. Check that the spelling 100% correct.

Find out about our resume editing services