How to Make a Resume: 2024 Resume Writing Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how to identify important resume keywords, format your resume, and write each section in this comprehensive guide.

[Featured image] Job seeker sitting on a sofa chair with her laptop open in front of her reviews a copy of her printed resume in hand.

Your resume is a document that encompasses your entire professional journey, showing where you currently are in your career, how you got there, and where you hope to go next. Since it’s meant to be a concise brief—often condensed to just one page—that can feel like a lot of storytelling for a small space.

To make a resume that fully demonstrates your experiences and goals, it’s important to be strategic with the language, format, and sections you include. In general, there are three broad steps to making your resume:

  1. Identifying keywords and important skills

  2. Choosing a format

  3. Writing each section

In this resume guide, we’ll offer tips and resources to ease you through the process.

Free resume templates

If you’re starting with a blank page, use these free customizable templates for a chronological resume or functional resume to make your resume in a Google Doc. Simply log into your Google account and select the ‘Make a copy’ prompt.


How to write a resume

The key to making an effective resume is keeping your audience in mind. First, consider who the people (and technologies) are that will be reading your resume.

When you’re applying for jobs online, often your first audience member will be an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is a screening program that uses an algorithm to “read” incoming resumes and sort qualified candidates. After the ATS deems you qualified for a role, a human recruiter—your second audience member—will review your application materials and decide whether to invite you to interview.

Now that we’ve established your likely audience, let’s take a closer look at how to determine the information the ATS and human recruiters may be looking for and how they will best receive that information.

1. Identify keywords and important skills.

You can find a lot of information about a role directly from the job description. Within the listed responsibilities and qualifications, you can get a strong sense of the language and experience that a successful candidate will have on their resume.

As you read a job description, highlight the action words, keywords, and specific workplace and technical skills mentioned. It’s likely that the ATS is programmed to look for the same or similar language as that which appears in the job description, so this analysis can help shape the way you approach writing your resume.

Here are some resources that may help as you research your desired job:

Choosing action words and keywords 

Identifying key job skills

Industry-specific job skills

2. Select a resume format.

When it comes to formatting, there are three common types of resumes—chronological, functional, and combination—along with several more specialized options. With your audience in mind, choose the format that best demonstrates how your experience aligns with your desired role’s job description.

If you’re applying for jobs online, ATS software is generally programmed to interpret chronological resumes. The software may still identify important keywords in alternative formats, but potentially less accurately.

If you’re unsure of the resume format you should choose, a chronological resume with standard 1-inch margins, black text, and a common font like Times New Roman or Arial is typically a safe choice.

For more on resume formats, check out these additional articles:

Types of resumes

3. Write your resume sections.

Guided by your keyword list and format, you’re ready to start filling out your resume sections. You’ll typically want to include sections for your header, work experience, education, and skills, but there are optional sections you can add to amplify the story you want to tell.

Take a look through the below resources for more specific information about shaping each section:

Resume sections

Resume checklist

At this point, you are almost ready to submit your resume. Before you do, let’s do one final check. Ask yourself:

  • Did I write my resume with my audience in mind?

  • Did I strategically select action words and keywords?

  • Have I clearly demonstrated my relevant skills and experience?

  • Are my margins set to 1-inch on all sides?

  • Is my font easy to read?

  • Did I include all of the key resume sections?

  • Did I edit for proper spelling and grammar?

If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, save your resume as a PDF file with a title that includes your name and “resume.” Check that the file saved correctly, then prepare to submit your resume!

For any lingering questions, check out these additional tips and specific resume guides:

Additional tips and resources

Specific resume guides

Next steps

Add a new credential to your resume with a Professional Certificate from industry leaders like Google, Meta, and IBM on Coursera. Learn key skills to prepare for entry-level roles in digital marketing, web development, data analytics, and more. Sign up for a free 7-day trial and start learning today.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

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