How to Start a Resume from Scratch

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Whether you have been working at the same job for years or you are transitioning to another industry, writing a resume from scratch can be very intimidating. Tackling one section at a time is the best way to avoid becoming overwhelmed during the process of writing a resume. The following tips will save you time and better prepared you for a job search.

The most difficult part of writing a resume from scratch is the work history section. Since the information you include in this section determines what you write in the others, it is best to start here. There are two formatting options when it comes to work history: chronological and functional. As the name indicates, a chronological format calls for putting work history in chronological order. This is the best format for showing how you have progressed throughout your career.

If you are looking for a job in the same industry you already have experience in or you have experienced periods of unemployment, writing a resume in a functional format is a good choice. This format allows you to place your work history in order of relevancy to the job you are applying for. No matter which format you choose, you need to use the same format if you choose to add an education section.

When it comes to writing about work history, be concise. The jobs that are placed at the top of this section should get the most attention and be more detailed than the jobs at the bottom of the list. Since a resume should only be one page in length, try to limit your job descriptions to three lines. Descriptions need to list the dates of employment, job title, job duties and what you learned from that job.

After the work history is out of the way, decide which sections you want to add to your resume. Popular resume sections include education and awards, professional organizations and volunteer work, a skills section and an objective statement. The education section is more important if you have completed a degree or received industry-specific training. Along the same lines, writing a resume with an objective statement is usually helpful for a job seeker entering a field with limited experience. For more experienced job seekers, the work history section speaks for itself. The skills section – although technically optional – is important for securing an interview. Limit this section to the skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

After the process of writing a resume is completed, the next step is deciding how to format the resume. Studies have repeatedly shown that resumes that are well-organized, concise and easy to skim are the ones that get the most attention – and time – from employers. Keep in mind that you can elaborate on your work history and skills in your cover letter.

The most import thing to remember after you have written your resume is you still need to customize your resume to each job posting you respond to. However, writing a resume before your job search saves you time because you only need to make small changes for each job posting. With an accurate and up-to-date resume, you will be fully prepared for your job search.


(Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


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