Whether you’re a fresh graduate, working towards a Master’s degree, or have a few years of professional experience, it’s crucial to have a solid resume in your arsenal.
But writing a resume can be painful.
It takes an insane amount of time and effort. Most people have no idea where to begin and resort to the path of least resistance: copying a template from the Internet to get it over with.
If you want to stand out from the rest of the crowd, however, you need to learn how to write a resume outline—and a solid one at that.
Wait, what’s a resume outline? Why do I need it? How do I write it?
First off, relax. You’ve already taken the first step by finding this article. I’ll guide you through this process so you can learn how to apply for jobs online the right way!
What is a resume outline?
A resume outline is a format you plan out for the CV you’re about to make.
What do we mean by that? Let’s say Ben wants to make a great resume. Ben has all the information he needs to craft it and he’s confident in his ability to define what he has to offer.
But creativity won’t mean much without the right execution. That’s why he needs to make a plan—so he can arrange this information in a way that demonstrates he’s the right person for the job.
This is where the resume outline comes in; it will help you craft an easy-to-read resume that highlights your relevant experience and qualifications.
Remember: you don’t need to make a new resume outline for every job. It’s a one-size-fits-all deal. You simply need to tweak the information in the resume for each application.
Now, to address your second question: Why do you even need one?
Why do you need a resume outline?
We won’t lie to you, writing a resume outline is a tedious process. But trust us, it’s worth every second you spend on it. Why? Here are four reasons:
It gives you a framework
The first benefit of writing up a resume outline is that you’re not just spewing out facts without context. The outline helps you organize your qualifications concisely and thoughtfully. You’ll write exactly what each section demands.
Structure is key
A proper structure makes your CV look neater and more polished. You won’t insert random information wherever you want, making the resume easier to read and follow.
It ultimately saves time
You don’t need a new resume for each application. Simply input the relevant information into the outline, and you’re good to go.
Your effort won’t go unnoticed
Your prospective employer will definitely be able to pick out your resume from the heap of unstructured and boring CVs.
If you craft a good resume outline (and stick to it), the time and energy you put behind your work history will be evident and appreciated.
So, now that we’ve covered your first two questions, it’s time to tackle the big one: How do you write a resume outline?
How to write a resume outline
The process of writing a resume outline is pretty simple, but before we start discussing our main agenda, here are a few things to note:
A common mistake many newbies make is lying about their experience or skills on their resumes. Just don’t do it. Ethics aside, people can almost always tell. You didn’t run 5 miles in 20 minutes or ghostwrite The Fault in Our Stars—just stop.
Here’s a fun fact: According to a survey, 75% of employers have caught applicants lying in resumes. What makes you think you think you’ll be a part of the lucky 25% if you lie?
Not the same thing, but highly discouraged nonetheless. A lot of times, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Before we know it, we overestimate ourselves.
A simple way to avoid this is to show your resume to family and friends who can honestly evaluate your skills. Fibbing won’t help you here. It also doesn’t help that 85% of employers already think you’re inflating your skills.
Watch your grammar
Thank every grammar nazi you’ve ever met because they’ve been preparing you for the harsh reality that simple grammatical errors can cause the opportunity of a lifetime to slip away.
77% of the resumes rejected by employers either have typos or are laced with grammatical errors. That stat is scary for those of us who aren’t the best at English.
The fix? Proofread like it’s the only document in the world. Use apps like Grammarly and WordTune to boost your writing quality.
Keep it short and simple
This is very important. And I have two very interesting stats to back this up:
- 24% of all employers spend less than 30 seconds per resume
- The average word count for a resume is 489 words.
With these facts, it’s pretty clear your employer doesn’t have all day. So, don’t beat around the bush.
Now, let’s get to the technical aspects of a resume: hard skills and soft skills.
What are hard skills?
Hard skills are the qualifications you earn through studying or real-world experience; the things that make you a fit for the post you’re applying for.
A few good examples of hard skills are business administration skills learned through a BBA degree, legal expertise earned during an LLB course, or even SEO knowledge gained in a content writing internship.
Try not to mention any hard skills irrelevant to a job. Your double major in English and Sociology won’t do any good when applying for a mechanical engineer position.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills refer to the personality traits and characteristics you have that make you suitable for a job. They complement your hard skills.
Soft skills include your manners, communication abilities, time management/punctuality, and temperament. Again, avoid adding unnecessary traits. For example, your temperament won’t really come into play while writing research papers.
What’s more important: soft skills or hard skills?
You must be wondering: this is an easy answer. Hard skills are obviously more important, right?
Interestingly enough, 61% of managers consider both of them equally important. They are complementary.
Now that we know some of the components of a resume, let’s take a look at how to write a resume outline.
Step 1: Decisions
First off, you need to choose between the two types of resumes—a chronological resume and a functional resume.
A chronological resume tracks a traditional career path progressing in a steady line. Use this if you have a lot of work experience.
A functional resume highlights your skills and shows what makes you suitable for the job you’re applying for.
The next decision you need to make is choosing between a custom format or an online format from a template.
The latter will take you no time whatsoever. But speed comes at a price—your resume will be “basic.”
If the customized version still doesn’t seem worth the effort, you can go the easy route. Try the outlines provided by Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or any other word editor. But make sure you have an outline to guide you at the very least.
Otherwise, you risk your resume being disorganized and unfocused.
Step 2: Brainstorming time
Whether or not you follow the ready-made online formats, you need to take some to think before writing the resume. Ask yourself questions like:
- “What makes me a good fit for this job?”
- “Am I qualified enough for this position?”
- “Do any of my personality traits clash with my duties?”
- “What makes me stand out from the rest of the applicants?”
If you can’t find the answer to any of those questions, chances are this isn’t the job for you.
Don’t give up, though. There are plenty of other jobs in the market; you’ve just got to find the one that suits you best.
Step 3: Deciding the sections
This is where you can customize. If you’ve decided to use repetitive online formats, this part won’t interest you. So, what do we mean by deciding sections?
Conventionally, a resume has the following information in this order:
- Your name
- Contact information
- Self-introduction/ summary
- Educational qualifications
- Previous experience
- Relevant skills
This is the format most people use but you can differentiate by adding other sections or rearranging them to your preferred order. Before getting creative, let’s review each section properly.
Your name is pretty self-explanatory. In case you’re confused here, nicknames are a no-go; use your passport name only.
Contact information would traditionally include your active phone number, current address, and email address. If you have reservations against sharing your address, however, you can leave that out.
The self-introduction/summary is one of the most important parts of your resume. This is what defines you as a professional and therefore needs to be well-written. You should spend a considerable amount of time crafting this part.
Education qualifications, previous experience, and relevant skills can be arranged however you see fit. Make sure they are to the point and make sense for the job you are applying to.
When it comes to other sections, it’s your call. This can include a list of awards and achievements, language proficiencies, or a history of volunteer work—as long as these accomplishments are relevant to the position. This is what really makes a resume your own.
Now that you know exactly what each section should include, how do you make your resume unique?
Step 4: Getting creative
For the penultimate step, you get to showcase your inner artist. This step is super fun for those who like to go their own way.
So, how do you display your creativity in a resume? There are two ways to go about it.
Avoid using the thesaurus. Keep it simple, fun, and easy to read. Don’t write boring, long-winded self-introductions.
Make your work history look interesting and substantial. Even if you were just a mall cop.
- Graphic design
This one is slightly tricky but you don’t need to be a graphic artist for this. Learn the basics of any word editing software and you should be able to make your own design for the resume. By the way, here are some important suggestions for the design:
- Don’t make it colorful.
- Keep it classy and minimalist.
- Use an appropriate, easy-to-read font; most people use Times New Roman.
Bottom line? Don’t go crazy with formatting. This is not the time to get fancy—your design should amplify readability and organization.
Step 5: Proofread
The most important step when writing any official document is to read your work at least once. This will help you catch typos or silly grammatical errors because—spoiler alert—they make your resume look dismal.
And there you have it—the steps to write up a fun and unique resume outline that is sure to impress any employer, provided you’ve followed the steps above.
A fun example of creating resumes: Potterhead edition
Have you ever considered what the resume of your favorite fictional character would feature?
For all you Potterheads out there, this is what our protagonist’s CV would look like.
Nice one, Harry!
Hopefully, this article guided your resume outline process (and the action steps will lead you to the right job for you.)
Don’t forget, as you continue to progress on your career path, you need a range of skills and ample experience to land a good job. You can have the best resume outline on the planet, but it doesn’t matter if your qualifications lack substance.
Skill development is a long and winding road, but we’re here for it. Follow our blog for the latest resources in personal and professional growth.