Creating a Resume from Scratch

I would like to make a resume. How can I start?

I'm glad that you are asking how to write a resume. As well as being an essential element of the job hunt, resume writing can be a very affirming exercise, providing as it does an opportunity to raise your awareness of your knowledge and many strengths, abilities, values, and interests. I would be happy to provide you with a very general overview of the resume writing process, as well as some resources to assist you with this process.

First of all, today's resumes are, in general, a marketing tool highlighting your experiences, knowledge, skills, and personal traits which are relevant to a specific job. In writing your resume, you will selectively choose items from your life and work history which you believe the potential employer will find meaningful for the job in view. An individual may even have two or three resumes, depending on their fields of interest.

Resumes typically have four basic sections:

  • Your name and contact information
  • A career summary or job objective
  • Your job history
  • Your education

Other possible sections would include information about transferable skills, certifications, awards, volunteer experience, school projects, internships, foreign language skills, computer skills, international experience, etc. -- always with an eye to what is relevant to the job for which you are applying.

To begin constructing one's resume, you will first need to collect information about your job history, volunteer experience, and even life experiences, focusing on the information below as appropriate. (Not all of this information will go into the finalized resume.) It may be helpful to create a separate worksheet for each job/volunteer/life experience and address these points.

  • Job title, company, dates of employment, beginning and ending salaries
  • A sentence fragment describing the nature of the business
  • One or two sentences briefly describing your position.
  • Major duties of the position
  • The skills and knowledge you used to perform each of these duties
  • What personality traits did you use while performing your job?
  • Scope of your environment or position, i.e., the size of the company, annual sales per year, number of people you managed, number of widgets you sold per year, etc.
  • Verbal comments made about your contributions
  • Different levels of people with whom you worked and how you interacted with them
  • Your biggest achievement(s) in this position (both individual and as a team player).
  • Types of technology used in this position and your level of expertise
  • Raises, promotions, or awards that you received
  • What do you think your co-workers and managers would say about you when asked about your strengths

You will also need to collect information pertaining to your education, certifications, membership associations, and other credentials.

When you are ready to assemble your resume, you will need to decide on a format, of which there are several (see the resources below for a thorough discussion of resume formats). Since the reverse chronological is one of the most common and space does not permit a comprehensive discussion of all possible formats, I will limit this discussion to the reverse chronological style.

In this most well-known type of resume, one commonly begins with a career summary, either a paragraph or several bulleted points detailing your most relevant qualifications for the position in question. The purpose of the summary is to provide your reader with a very quick overview of what you have to offer them. (Although this would usually appear at the top of your resume, it's quite possible you would write it last, after you are clear about what you have to offer.) Here is an example for a food service professional adapted from David Noble's Gallery of Best Resumes.

Well-qualified food service professional with strong management, decision-making, supervision, and leadership skills. Proven ability to delegate, problem-solve, prioritize projects, and meet deadlines without compromising quality.

The next section of your resume, the job history, is arranged in reverse chronological order with points under each job which are relevant to your job goal. Each job would include the company name and your dates of employment. You might also include a sentence fragment describing the company and a short paragraph describing your position. Following this, using the information from your job history worksheet, bulleted points are used to describe skills, accomplishments, scope of work, etc. Here is another adapted example from Gallery of Best Resumes:


    Better Living, Inc., Norman, OK            1994-Present
    Global food-service management company

    Food Service Manager

  • Oversee food-service operations at two local high schools; provide lunch for student population of up to 950 at each location
  • Recruit, train, schedule and perform employee evaluations
  • Responsible for payroll, documenting man-hours, and tracking sick leave and vacation time
  • Maintained 100% rating on county health inspections

The last portion of your resume would commonly include your education and certifications, association memberships, etc.

  • Bayside Community College, Brooklyn, NY
    Food Service Management Certificate

Some General Guidelines:

  • As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to place the most impressive information at the top of the resume. The same is true within sections.
  • Whenever you have lengthy lists of bullets, provide some organizing text so the reader can quickly see groups of related skills.
  • It is best if you can quantify your accomplishments whenever possible, i.e., "Sold 15 homes per year" instead of "Sold homes."
  • Length: A general rule of thumb is one page for every 10 years of experience.
  • If you are an experienced worker, your education would most likely be near the bottom of the resume. If you are a recent graduate, your education would be at the top (assuming it is your most impressive qualification).
  • When writing resumes, in the interest of being succinct, is it customary to use sentence fragments instead of complete sentences. This is partly accomplished by omitting pronouns (I, he she) and articles (the, an, a).

There are many, many variables which come into play when constructing a resume, and every individual’s experience is different. Without knowing more specifics about your situation, it is difficult to advise you further, so I would encourage you to seek out some of the resources below for more assistance:

  • Resumes That Knock 'Em Dead (Martin Yates)
  • Resumes for Dummies (Joyce Lain Kennedy)
  • The Resume Catalog (Yana Parker)
  • Gallery of Best Resumes (David Noble)
  • Use the links on ChicagoJobs.org to locate people who can work with you in crafting your resume (often on a volunteer basis).
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