Resumes are the first impression you get to make with recruiters. Your resume is used to grab the recruiter's attention and encourage them to want to meet you to learn more. However, the tricky part about resumes is that the standards of what makes a great resume are constantly changing. There are so many trends in resume writing, and every person needs something slightly different depending on their industry and experience. We are going to detail everything you need to know about how to make a resume in 2024, including offering examples and tips. Keep reading to learn more!
In this article, we’ll discuss:
The current resume trends that will help you impress a recruiter.
All about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and how they should influence your resume writing.
What companies look for when reviewing a candidate pool.
Do you really need a resume for a job?
One thing we can say with absolute certainty is yes, you really do need a resume to get a job. The one exception would be if you were able to be hired by a family, friend, or network connection. Even so, though, they will likely ask about your experience first.
A resume is a professional standard for reaching out to a recruiter about a prospective job. It provides a streamlined overview of your qualifications, simplifying the search for the recruiter.
Although you may be able to sway a recruiter through a great interview, you won’t get to that point if you don’t have a resume to submit. It’s how you catch their attention and entice them to learn more about you.
How do resumes help you get a job?
Without a resume, you are left to describe your experiences verbally. But since most job applications today are submitted online, you will never be given the chance to speak directly with someone from the hiring team without a resume.
The key to getting noticed by a recruiter is using keywords from the job description (this is called tailoring your resume) and wording your previous duties so they read as achievements. Without those steps, a recruiter won’t know to reach out to you because they don't know what you offer.
The perspective of a recruiter
Try looking at the hiring process from the perspective of the recruiter. In today’s workforce, a recruiter receives dozens of applications (or even hundreds, depending on the industry) for any given job posting. The recruiter will only take a small percentage of those applicants to the interview level. Resumes are how they decide who to advance. Your resume must be informative, clear, and filled with achievements that help you stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. A recruiter should want to learn more about you from just reading the first section of your resume.
What gets a resume past the ATS and impresses a hiring manager
Key elements to include in a resume are proper formatting, education, skills summary, achievements, and, most importantly, work experience. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Resumes in 2024 don’t look like the resumes from decades past. Today, there is an expectation that resumes be easy to read through, have appropriate spacing, and make effective use of lines and sections. Generally speaking, the sections of your resume should be laid out like this:
Back in the day, it used to be common practice to include an objective statement at the top of your resume. These statements were vague proclamations of intention. For example, “Seeking a role in the design field as a graphic designer where I can leverage skills, experience, and education to make a lasting impact on customer satisfaction and company branding.” In 2024, we are ditching the objective statement and replacing it with a skills summary.
The skills summary section includes the title of your resume, the summary paragraph, and the areas of expertise (also known as skills or core competencies). These three things should be among the first sections the eye is drawn to when looking at your resume. It is the overview of your professional identity, highlighting the skills you’ll bring to the table for the new employer. The skills summary captures the attention of a recruiter so that they’ll want to continue reading into the details of your work experience. It would look like this:
It’s no longer best practice to simply write out the duties from your previous work. Now, the expectation is that you detail your achievements. The point of listing duties as achievements is that you are showing how your skills actually benefitted your past employers. Coming up with achievements is simple; just think about it as quantifying your skills.
If one of your duties was to answer phone calls, you could rephrase it into an achievement by identifying the skill and company benefit. When you answer calls, you are engaging in customer service. Great customer service benefits the company by driving client retention and customer referrals. Now that you have the skill and benefit, quantify it. Add numbers to make it measurable.
Suddenly Answered phone calls becomes, Drove client retention and customer referrals by 20% quarterly, through effective customer service, including answering phone calls and in-person interactions.
When you list your work experience, begin with your current or most recent position and work backward from there chronologically. To show advancement in your career, the first position listed should have the most information and slowly taper back as you work back in your experience.
For some industries, your educational background is an essential qualification. In such cases, education would be added front and center on a resume. In other industries and positions, education doesn’t make or break your chances of landing the job. For those resumes, placing your education on the end is normal.
For most professionals, even entry-level, you can omit your high school from your education section. While a feat nonetheless, it’s generally understood that a high school education isn’t specifically relevant to most career paths. In 2024, every element of your resume should be intentional and relevant.
Ageism is, unfortunately, a type of discrimination that does exist in the workplace. It is illegal for a recruiter to inquire about your age during the interview process. However, a common place they gain that information from anyways is by looking for the graduation year on your resume. There are multiple ways to approach this trend, though.
For some, indicating their graduation year can actually benefit them. For example, you want medical personnel to have the most recent available information on industry advancements. If you can see when a candidate went through med school, you can gain insight into the type of knowledge they have. On the other hand, in industries like tech or marketing, being up-to-date is crucial. If your most recent education was twenty years ago, you might not come off as a strong candidate.
Because of these considerations, it's important to be strategic in how you write the education section of your resume. The general rule of thumb is that if you graduated more than ten years ago, don’t include the date of graduation.
How do I make my own resume?
The decision is yours whether you make your own resume or hire a resume writer. While you will likely end up with a higher margin of success by having a professional write your resume, you can absolutely achieve it on your own too. Follow these tips on making a resume on your own.
Is it hard to make a resume?
The hardest part for most people when making a resume is just using the computer! Formatting can be tricky and frustrating to get right. But if you’re patient with yourself and learn what sections are important to include, then no, it isn’t hard to make a resume.
There are also hundreds of templates available online for you to use. Search through the free templates on Word, Docs, or Canva. You can also do a Google image search for resume templates that you can use as a visual reference if you’re interested in making your own from scratch. When you search for a template online, avoid choosing a heavily formatted, creative template.
Use the language of the industry
One of the most important elements in making a resume is using appropriate language. An industry-specific language is an excellent tool for displaying your value to the team. It shows that you are perceptive, knowledgeable, and experienced.
It also will likely gain you a higher ATS score to use language from the industry because those are the same keywords the ATS will be programmed to search for.
Make a resume for each industry, and update it for each new position
As an extension of using industry-specific language, it's recommended to make a targeted resume for each industry you apply for. It weakens your candidacy to add content from multiple industries on one resume because it can lead recruiters to see you as inconsistent in your career route. Play it safe and try to fill up a whole resume with details from only one industry at a time.
It’s also recommended to tailor your industry-specific resume for each new position you apply for. This, again, goes back to ATS. One of the easiest ways to be noticed by a recruiter is to use words that are pulled directly from the job description. To increase your chances, make changes to your resume so that you are speaking to each individual posting.
But I have no work experience. What do I do?
Everyone has to start somewhere. If you are limited by your lack of previous work experience, there are options for you still! Use these tips to make a resume look good, even with limited or no previous work experience.
1. Volunteer and non-paid experience
Volunteering is the perfect way to gain relevant experience without being employed. It reads similarly on a resume too. Depending on the type of volunteer work you pursue, you can gain knowledge on processes, behavior, and skills that are appropriate for the industry.
You can create an entire resume using only volunteer experience. Instead of calling the section ‘Work experience,’ try naming it ‘Relevant experience’ or Transferable Experience.’ If you’re asked directly, you should always be honest about your work being unpaid (it could look bad if they do a reference check and find out you were never actually employed).
Describe the courses you’ve taken in college or professional development programs to showcase your insight even if you don’t yet have employment experience. This is particularly helpful in technical fields, where a lot of qualifications are determined based on knowledge. A lot of coursework also comes with hands-on experience too, so that provides some experience without employment as well.
To create a coursework resume, you can have a section relating to any hands-on experience and a separate section for knowledge. Call the hands-on sections ‘Relevent experience,’ and the other section can simply be called ‘Coursework.’ Your objective with both of these sections is to paint an image of someone with enough experience to benefit the company as a new hire.
3. You probably have more experience than you think
At the end of the day, chances are that you have gained enough experience through life to create a good resume. The key is being creative with how you represent your experience.
Maybe all of your experience so far is babysitting as a teen and taking care of your grandma as a young adult. Look at both of those experiences through the lens of professional skills. In babysitting, you are assessing risk, practicing leadership skills, building a clientele, and managing activity programs. As a caregiver for a grandparent, you probably do all those same skills plus more. Perhaps you also administer medication, coordinate appointments, and use creative problem-solving. These are all expandable and look great on a resume.
4. A skills-based resume
This kind of resume, called a functional resume, emphasizes the skills you possess rather than having a chronological list of work experience. With a skills-based resume, you can list out the professional skills you want to highlight and describe the projects or situations that helped you develop them.
Think of skills like leadership, communication, organization, and management. There are so many situations in our day-to-day lives where we have to tap into these aspects of ourselves. You just have to reframe them so they apply in a professional setting. This type of resume is great for recent graduates, people entering the workforce for the first time, and people pursuing a career change.
A resume format is a predetermined layout for your resume. They differentiate from each other in what information they are designed to highlight. Here are the four main resume formats in addition to the skills-based format.
The reverse-chronological resume is considered the traditional resume format and is probably the image that comes up in your mind when you hear the word resume. The point is that your work experience is listed in reverse chronological order. As in, you list your most recent work first, then work backward in time.
As we mentioned, a functional resume is a type of skills-based resume where the emphasis is put on your skills or achievements rather than your work experience. Do be careful when choosing this format, though, as there is a stigma surrounding it since it is often used by job seekers who are trying to hide job hopping.
For those who want to highlight their professional skills while still providing a reverse chronological display of their employment history, a hybrid or combination resume is perfect. This format achieves a balanced layout that allows the candidate to expand upon their skills more than a traditional resume but also gives space to detail the achievements they’ve gained through employment. For many professionals, this is ideal because what they offer as an employee can’t always be effectively summarized by simply listing their work achievements or timeline.
You should know that the rules of a good resume change when applying for work abroad. Even if you’re pursuing a country that speaks English, the formatting, verbiage, and sections to include will change variably.
For example, a common discrepancy is with contact information. In some countries, it is common practice to include bio information, such as gender, height, weight, and age. In the US, that is illegal information for an employer to request. It’s even encouraged in some countries to include a photo of yourself, which would be considered highly inappropriate in the US.
If you are intending to apply for an international company, take the time to research the resume trends of 2024 for that country. A professional resume writer will also be up to date on resume trends among varying countries. If you want help writing your international resume, consider seeking out a resume writer to help.
Federal and government resumes are shockingly different from standard resumes. They can often be multiple pages, even for an entry-level position. Government jobs require a heightened level of trust, confidentiality, and referrals. Your resume has to reflect that, in addition to providing required information like the job announcement number, your citizenship status, and previous government experience. For federal and government jobs, it is absolutely worth it to have an advisor work with you and give feedback on your documents.
Should I lie on my resume if I have no experience?
In short, no, you should never lie on a resume. The inevitable truth is that it will probably be found out at some point. A healthy work dynamic is built on trust and honesty. To be caught lying on a resume not only discredits your qualifications but it could also hurt your reputation in the industry.
If you don’t have relevant work experience, simply lean into the other experiences in your life and career, and think about the foundation of the skills you learned. Communication, organization, customer service, and teamwork can all be established in many different areas of life.
Can you skip experience on your resume?
Yes, you can skip experience on your resume. In fact, if the experience isn’t relevant to the position you’re applying for, it’s actually recommended that you omit it.
With the large applicant pools that recruiters work with, you want them to be intrigued throughout their entire review of your resume. Keep your resume engaging by only including relevant information that will pique the recruiter’s interest.
How to write a career change resume
The main thing to get right for a career change resume is describing your skills as transferable. Remember, you probably already have a lot of professional skills in your toolkit. While they might not have been learned in the industry you’re entering, they can still be relevant.
All about transferable skills
A skill is transferable when it was learned or practiced in one industry and can also be applied to other industries. Some would argue that all skills are transferable if you highlight the right parts of it.
An example is carpentry and data analysis; two very different industries at first glance, but when you dive into the details, you see that both require attention to detail, mathematical skills, problem-solving, and time management. Transferable skills are the key to gracefully transitioning from one industry to another.
How many pages should a resume be?
This answer differs depending on where you’re at in your career. The general understanding is that all entry-level candidates – those with less than five years of experience – should fill one page. If you are approaching 10 years of experience, then you’ve earned the second page. You should avoid three pages unless you have participated in specialized projects, completed complex research projects, or have a lot of public speaking under your belt. Outside of these career extras, using three pages, even if you’re an executive, can be seen as grandstanding.
If that seems like a lot, remember that in 2024, resumes should be easily digestible. The use of spacing, section titles, and font size are all tools for achieving this, and they’ll also take up space on the page. You can also stretch your qualifications, making sure to use effective descriptors when detailing your experience.
As a rule of thumb, each page of your resume should be at least 50% full. If you cannot make your information stretch to at least half of the second page, it’s recommended to keep it to one page. This might take some condensing to achieve, but the results are worth it. A partially filled resume appears incomplete, even if the experience described on it is valuable. Keep your resume strong by following the 50% rule.
How far back should a resume go?
To keep your entire document relevant, it’s recommended to only include experience from the last ten to fifteen years.
This can cause some stress for those who are more advanced in their career and want to showcase the full spectrum of their work. Don’t worry; you still can.
In the work experience section, only include the last ten to fifteen years. But then you can add a section at the end of your resume titled, “Additional Experience”. In this section, focus on your key achievement for each role, keeping the total listing down to two or three lines.
How many jobs should be listed on a resume?
It’s less about how many jobs, and more about the value of your achievements and skills. Those are the pinnacle of a resume. If your skills are spread out over many positions, include a full (but relevant) list. If you’ve worked most of your career in the same position, have the one entry but use information architecture to spread out and highlight your skills.
Do keep in mind that it's good to show commitment to the companies that employ you. Listing too many positions over a short period of time can lead a recruiter to question your tenacity. If you fall into this category, try reviewing your experience and look for less significant entries. Maybe you held a position for three months performing the same role you hold later for a longer amount of time. If it feels appropriate, you might consider removing the earlier, shorter role so the recruiter can spend more time focusing on the value of your skills.
What is information architecture in resumes?
Applying information architecture to a resume means using design and formatting to influence how the information on your document is read. The general goal is to have the recruiter read the most important information first while also inspiring them to keep reading. Information architecture in a resume can help you stand out from the rest of the applicant pool.
Use these tips on how to make a resume using information architecture.
Leading the eye where you want it to go
A well-designed resume will lead the reader through the most pertinent information first and work down through the less crucial sections as they move through the document.
Insert a professional summary or skills summary at the top of your resume to intrigue the recruiter and keep them interested in reading more about your background. When you quickly state an achievement, they will want to learn more about the context. When looking for it, they’ll also learn about all the other qualities you bring that make you an excellent candidate.
Think about the other sections in your resume too. If the job you’re applying for requires a lot of certifications, specific coursework, or knowledge of certain computer programs, you should emphasize them using information architecture. On the first page, use a format that allows those sections to be featured, even if it means taking some attention away from your work experience. Not all industries value work experience the same. Take a moment to think about the industry you’re applying for and use that insight to tailor your resume.
Number of bullets/content for recent and relevant positions
Your resume tells a story of your work experience. One of the ways you can use that story to your advantage is by strategically describing your work experience. By writing more achievements with your most recent or most relevant work, you can display professional growth.
An appropriate number of bullets for the most recent job is about seven. You can aim for around five bullets for mid-level positions and taper down to three as you move back chronologically. Every entry should have at least three bullets describing achievements.
Promotions and change of titles within the same company
When you’ve worked in multiple different positions for a company, each title should have its own entry. Regardless if the position follows a traditional hierarchy of growth or has a more winding path, it benefits you to represent them separately. You acquire a new set of skills with each position you operate within. That should be appreciated.
When you separate your roles, you also show career growth. It tells a recruiter that you are loyal to a company and interested in benefiting them in whichever position might be best. It’s a great quality to showcase on a resume.
Use the following example of how to display movement within one company.
Company Name | Complete timeframe you were at the company
Title of most recent position | Timeframe you were in this job
Describe your position here, highlighting the tools you worked with, main responsibilities, and skills applied. This section can be a full sentence. Aim for three to four lines worth of description.
Use the bullet points to highlight your proudest achievements from your work experience.
Your bullet point achievements should be measurable. Find ways to quantify your achievements.
Depending on the importance of the role, you might have five to seven bullet points.
Title of next position | Timeframe you were in this job
Again, describe your position here, highlighting the tools you worked with, your main responsibilities, and the skills applied. Still, aim for three to four lines worth of description to help show professional growth.
If this position has less relevance to the position you’re currently applying for, you can include fewer bullets. Aim for three to five.
As you can see, using information architecture to show your roles as separate pieces of employment, you’re able to expand upon each and come across as the experienced professional that you are.
How to make achievements measurable
We’ve mentioned it a few times already, but let’s get into what makes an achievement measurable and how you can apply it to your work experience.
Separate duties from achievements
When you reflect back on your day-to-day job, you can probably list a million tasks and duties that you perform. In years past, it was standard protocol to write out that list on your resume. In 2024 the standard is different.
The ability to perform a duty doesn’t tell a recruiter much about the quality of work you have to offer. Anyone can answer a phone call, but what makes it important to a company is how much your excellent customer service helps drive client retention.
To separate your duties from achievements, try to get to the root of what your skill offers the company. You want to appeal to them as an asset for their success.
Quantifying your achievements
Quantifying means to make it measurable. By adding a measurable component to your achievement, you are applying metrics to your skills. This is essentially adding value to your professional skill set.
To quantify an achievement, look for numbers that can be associated with it. Sticking with the example above of answering phone calls as customer service. We identified that the company’s benefit from that skill is increased customer retention. Quantifying asks you to define by how much and for how long.
The quantified achievement in its final form will look something like, “Performed exceptional customer service through effective and sincere customer interactions, including answering phone calls and greeting visitors, helping drive customer retention by 15% annually.”
Examples of how to write achievements for a resume in 2024
Here are some popular duties and how they can be written as a measurable achievement instead.
What does a weak resume look like?
The intimidating part about resumes is that they are subjective in nature, and can, unfortunately, be easy to do poorly. It should be obvious, at this point, that achievements are of the utmost importance. Format and relevancy follow.
An outdated resume is a huge red flag to a recruiter. Even if you are tossing out a hundred applications, your goal should still be to make each employer feel like you are pursuing them specifically for what they offer as a company.
Check your resume to make sure you are submitting the most updated version from your computer. Open it up and look at your most recent work experience. Is it accurate? Is it relevant?
Just like any piece of reading material, you want the page to be pleasing to look at. Jumbled sections and busy wording can be a lot to work through. You don’t want your first impression to be of giving the recruiter a headache!
Use formatting such as spacing, congruent font sizes, clear titles, and wide margins to spread out the information and make your resume easily digestible.
Some professionals have recently challenged this idea, as a result of ATS. If ATS is parsing the page for keywords, why not cram them all in there, right?
The document itself is like a display of your professionalism. Adding all the keywords you can find might help you get through the ATS scan, but once a human sees it, they might become overwhelmed and not give your credentials a thorough enough look.
Incongruent information on socials
Something that past generations didn’t have to think about was the congruency of the information available to them. Today, because of sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, in addition to personal portfolio websites and social media, professionals are having to check all of their sources for consistency.
Discrepancies between a LinkedIn profile and a resume, for instance, reflect poorly. Plus, with LinkedIn, a recruiter is able to contact personnel from your previous employer easier to confirm the information they have.
Looking for someone to review your resume?
Most people don’t enter the workforce knowing all there is to know about effective resume writing. Unfortunately, it has become something that causes a lot of people stress. Working with a professional writer can relieve that stress and ensure you will make a great first impression.
What does a resume writer do?
A resume writer works alongside job seekers to develop customized professional documents that are formatted with proven strategies. They can work with clients who would like a current resume revised or updated, and they also work with people who need help creating their first resume. Their goal is to improve the applicants' candidacy for a job they hope to be offered.
Resume writers are trained to obtain knowledge of language and qualifications that are specific to a wide array of industries. They also have expert knowledge of current formatting trends and techniques.
Consult with a professional resume writer by submitting your resume here for a free review.
Emma Elizabeth, Resume Writer, Emma Elizabeth, Resume Writer
Emma is a certified employment specialist with over 6 years of experience in career mentorship and employment training. With an affinity for technical writing, Emma is passionate about developing training, policy, and procedure manuals. In 2020 she helped design Colorado’s first state-certified training program for people with disabilities entering the workforce.