6 Steps to a Professional Resume [Free Template!]

An essential list of resume questions we developed to help you showcase your experience, skills, and potential to employers. Plus, a resume template you can download!

woman on computer

Creating a great resume can be daunting: What format looks best? How long should it be? What information should you include?

Below is an essential list of questions we developed for Smartly students and candidates in our career network to help them showcase their experience, skills, and potential to employers. And to make the process even easier, we created this simple, one-page Word template (download here) that follows these recommendations. Copy your information into this template to put your best foot forward in your job search!

1. Is my resume easy to read?
  • Font:
    Use Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Size:
    Use 11 or 12 point font.
  • Margins:
    Use 0.5-1 inch margins on each side.
2. Does my resume tell a clear story and showcase my strengths?
  • Reverse order:
    List experiences in reverse chronological order (most recent position first).
  • Highlight growth:
    List multiple positions for the same employer as individual entries to highlight your progression.
  • Focus on achievements, not descriptions:
    Write concisely and focus on problems you solved, actions you took, and results that followed. Do not describe overall duties. Consider using the following framework: Action verb  + Project (what you did) + Result (what you accomplished).
  • One page per 10 years of work experience:
    For most people, a good rule of thumb is one page per decade of work experience.
3. Do I stand out?
  • Make it personal:
    Include a small “Personal” or “Additional Information” section at the end of your resume. Include language proficiencies, citizenship, service activities, society memberships, or current hobbies. If including interests, be as specific as possible (e.g. “avid Caribbean scuba diver” or “die hard Philly Eagles fan”). Do not repeat information from other sections.
  • Be action-oriented:
    Start each bullet with an action verb, and lead with the most important point.
  • Emphasize outcomes:
    State the outcomes of your work and quantify them when possible.
4. Is my resume error-free and consistent?
  • Format:
    Companies, universities, job titles, and dates should all be formatted the same way. We recommend bolding companies and universities, using italics for titles, and utilizing MMM YYYY–MMM YYYY (e.g. Jun 2015–Jul 2016) for dates.
  • Alignment:
    Spacing between experiences and at the end of bullets should be consistent.
  • Things to avoid:
    Avoid jargon, personal pronouns, objectives or personal statements, photos, and listing “references upon request.”  These just take up space without adding value.
5. Have I proofread my resume?
  • It helps to have a friend or two proofread your resume for you. You can also read your resume backwards to help catch spelling mistakes—start at the last word and use your finger to guide you from one word to the previous. This forces you to isolate each word from its sentence.
6. Is my resume formatted as a PDF?
  • Formatting in Word is variable, so always save your resume as a PDF. This way, the recipient of the resume (your potential employer) will more likely see the resume the way you intended.

Note: This is a general guide that works across many industries and job functions. However, we know that it may not be appropriate for all fields (e.g. design, where the layout also serves as an example of abilities in the field) or experience levels. We hope you find it useful and wish you luck in your job search!

Attachment: Resume Template