How to Write a Resume Like a Pro

Have you ever sat staring at your own resume feeling frustrated that you know what you want to say, but not how to say it? The team at Resume Target has developed these 5 foolproof methods to help you write your own resume like a pro.

While resume designs and formats may evolve over time, the foundations of writing a strong, value-packed resume stay largely unchanged. Master these 5 concepts and you will be well on your way to writing your own impactful resume.

Tip #1: Choosing fonts and formatting

Resumes need to pass the eye test. You need to build your resume from a solid foundation that will invite the reader to actually read it. That begins with your choice on font type and resume format.

Keep your fonts modern and sans-serif, using the same font-type throughout your resume. As far as sizing, the smallest font you should use on your resume is 11-pt font, which Microsoft Word coincidentally defaults to. Any section headers can be done in size 13 or 14-pt font to help guide your reader through the different parts of your resume.

For formatting, you need to select an ATS-friendly resume format. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), are the scanning software used by companies to pre-qualify your resume based on specific keywords. They are often the first set of “eyes” on your resume.

These systems scan your resume line by line, left to right. When formatting your resume – you want to eliminate any kind of graphics, tables, pictures, columns, and anything else that might impede that scan.

Tip #2: Write in “Resume Speak”

Employers and HR professionals have come to expect a certain type of resume language, which the professionals at Resume Target affectionately call “Resume Speak”. To the untrained ear, this unique writing style can sound a little strange at times.

Resumes follow a concise and administrative tone, where each sentence starts with a verb or adverb. These are action words like “spearheaded” or “championed”, or a word describing the action like “seamlessly” or “expertly”.

You also want to eliminate all filler words from your sentences, including “the” and “a” – as well as any personal identifiers and pronouns like “I”, “they”, “he”, “she”, “it”, and “them”. This is all to make sure you are writing the most concise phrases possible.

Tip #3: Start with a Value Statement

Your resume should start with a Value Statement. This opening 4-to-5 sentence paragraph should sit below your contact information, serving as the first real introduction to your professional profile.

You want to showcase the broader picture of your core skills and employable attributes acquired throughout your career.

You can follow the lessons on “Resume Speak” to start each sentence with a strong verb or adverb in your Value Statement. And while there’s no set formula as to what each sentence should cover, most Value Statements follow this basic framework:

- Sentence 1: Describe how many years of experience you have, in what industry, and at what career level.

- Sentence 2: Highlight the core skills or functional tasks you do that you think best align to the job you are applying to or that best exhibit your unique value.

- Sentence 3: Describe some of your softer, interpersonal and cross-functional coordination skills you use while working alongside different teams, departments, or business units.

- Sentence 4: Allude to your larger achievements or the known track record you have developed through your career that will be displayed later in the Professional Experience section of your resume.

Tip #4: Select your core competencies

We can’t stress enough how much you should keep ATS platforms in mind when writing your resume. Nowadays, your resume will likely run through these pre-screening systems to qualify you based on industry-specific or role-specific keywords before any real human takes a look at your resume.

When reading a job posting, you want to look for key skills and functional tasks you’d be expected to do on the job.

From those functional phrases, you want to transform them into short, impactful keywords to fit into a bulleted list of no more than 12 Core Skills. Group these skills into a section of their own called “Core Competencies” that immediately follows your Value Statement.

Tip #5: Focus on the last 10 years of your experience

The bulk of your resume will be your actual professional experience. Your main goal when writing this section is to showcase the most recent and relevant experience that best aligns with the job you are applying to.

Be sure to list your work history in reverse chronological order (from newest to oldest), and focus on the last 8-to-10 years of your experience.

If your career does not span that long – focus on the most relevant roles you have held. For students, that could be an internship or co-op position in the field you are looking to get started in.

For each role you list, make sure you write the name of your position, the company you worked for, and the month and year for the start and end date of your employment. Underneath each position, you want to list anywhere from 3-to-8 bullet points that speak to your key responsibilities and accomplishments as they best relate to the job or industry you are applying to.

The bullet points for your responsibilities and accomplishments should contain these 3 important elements present in any strong resume statement: 1) a verb, 2) an action, and 3) a result. For each sentence, you want to describe an important job skill or task, and the direct impact or result it had on any business operations.

Tip #6: Strategically list education and specialized training

If you’re well into your career and far past your most recent graduation date, then you can keep your education section short and to the point.

For any formal degrees including undergraduate or graduate education or for any post-grad certifications, simply list your designation, the institution name, and the year you graduated in your education section.

Be sure to list any technical skills and software proficiencies you have, especially if the job posting lists those as requirements or qualifications. You can always make a small section underneath your education to list your technical skills, industry knowledge, and other certifications to better align to those job posting qualifications.

Bonus Tip: Always be editing your resume

As you finish up writing your education section, you’re nearing the end of the resume. Once you’re finished (congrats!), it’s important to keep tweaking and editing your resume as needed based on the job you are planning to apply to.

If you have found a good job posting, go through it and highlight any keywords included. Ask yourself if those keywords and qualifications match up with your resume. If they don’t, you may need to head back to Tip #3 and go through your resume once again with this select job posting in mind.

If your experience does match, then you may only need to tweak and edit the Core Competencies in your resume to meet the specific keywords of your target role. Also look through your education and training to make sure your certifications match up to the must-have requirements of the job.

Watch How to Write a Resume Like a Pro on Spotlight Virtual

If you’re more of a visual learner, then Staples Spotlight and Resume Target have you covered. Watch the How to Write a Resume Like a Pro Staples Spotlight Session below and be sure to follow the Spotlight Studio to catch more great content produced by Staples Canada and Resume Target.


By Christine Chua, Senior Resume Writer at Resume Target

March 3, 2021

Resume Target, Canada’s top-rated professional resume writing service

By Christine Chua, Senior Resume Writer at Resume Target

March 03, 2021

Resume Target, Canada’s top-rated professional resume writing service

sbhq sliver en