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5 steps to writing a resume that stands out.

Follow these tips to write a great resume that gets you noticed.

How do I write a good resume?

Everyone’s perfect resume looks a little different. When you’re ready to dive into your resume, start by checking out some samples from people in your desired industry — you may come across a template you’d like to follow. Following a resume example can be helpful, but remember to customize it to fit your needs. 

Put your best foot forward with a professional resume.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Get ready for the future you want by crafting a resume that helps your unique talents, experiences, and goals shine.

1. Decide what to include from your past.

Your resume should encompass the past two to five years of your life and should only take up one page — or two at the very most. Personal, professional, and academic experiences can be relevant, as long as they fall roughly within the past five years.

How to start out in a new industry.

It can be tough to know what to put on your resume when you’re starting a new career. This is true for young college graduates looking for their first jobs after school as well as anyone looking to advance their career or break into new industries. Without an existing work history in your chosen field, what you include in your job application is even more important.

 

Don’t include everything you’ve ever done. Try to highlight transferable skills, which are skills that relate directly to the job you want. For example, managing the social media account for your college choir wouldn’t be relevant for an application to a biology research position, but it would be important to include in an application to a marketing position.

Quick tips

  • Keep your resume to 1 page only.
  • Use experiences from the past 2–5 years.
  • Highlight skills that can transfer to your ideal position. 
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2. Map out the following sections in your resume.

The information on your resume should be organized in the following six sections. Don't worry if some of the resume sections feel light. If you’re still building up your experience, an entry-level resume can highlight your education, soft skills (strengths and personality traits), and relevant non-work activities. Focus on your talents and willingness to learn. If you like, start from a template and then edit each section in it to match your experience.

 

  • Contact information
    Make it easy for the viewer to find your name, email address, location, phone number, and website URL (if you have one) by including that information in the header. If you’re sharing a digital resume, for instance in PDF format, include a link to your website or LinkedIn profile.
  • Resume objective
    Sometimes referred to as the resume summary, the objective is one to three sentences that summarize your career goals and your value as a teammate. It’s a good idea to focus on your talents and willingness to learn.
  • Education
    No matter your level of education, it’s not necessary to include every detail about your school experience if it ended more than five years ago. You can simply list the names of your degrees, the years you received them, and the schools or institutions you attended. If you want to, you can also list your area of study and any relevant coursework or additional certifications that relate to your desired career field. And if your schooling was within the last five years, and you feel it reflects well on you, go ahead and include your GPA (grade point average) and any academic achievement awards, like graduating with honors.
  • Work experience
    Your employment history belongs in a work experience section, including the dates of employment at each position. Include any part-time work and internship experience that feels relevant. For each entry, include the company name and your job title, and describe duties or achievements that show you have relevant skills for the job you want. It’s most common to list your jobs in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent position.
  • Skills
    Write down all the professional skills and capabilities you bring to potential roles. The skills section of your resume should include a mix of hard skills (technical skills, like proficiency in Microsoft Excel), and soft skills, like creative problem-solving or a positive attitude.
  • Activities
    Use the activities section to highlight your interests and charitable work. Include extracurricular activities and volunteer experience. Identify ways you showed leadership, organization, and collaboration. 

Resume format tips

You want your resume to be easy to scan (both by humans and by computer programs), with a legible font, roomy spacing, and no wacky formatting. Bullet points help viewers digest your information quickly. Start each bullet point with verbs so your list reads smoothly (e.g., “Speaks fluent Spanish. Types 100 words per minute. Is proficient in Microsoft Excel.”).

 

If you have less work experience, consider putting your education section higher on the page. Once you build up more professional experience, you can swap the positions of these sections.

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3. Optimize your resume for each job listing.

Some companies get so many applicants that they have to sort through resumes quickly, choosing appropriate applicants in only a matter of minutes. Some companies may even use an automated applicant tracking system that looks for certain keywords. To help your resume stay at the top of the list, add relevant skills, experience, or goals you have and phrase them in the same way they were phrased in the job description.

 

With Acrobat for Google Chrome, you can save online job ads as PDFs, highlight keywords and add comments, and store them in the cloud to reference later as you edit your resume and cover letter. 

What hiring managers and recruiters look for.

For your first job, hiring managers look to see who you are holistically — including how well you follow the application instructions. Presenting well-thought-out, well-organized hiring documents increases your chances of getting an interview. Job seekers can also show they’re computer-savvy by filling out and signing applications online instead of using an old-school printer and pen.

Make your documents easy to edit and share.

It’s easy to convert documents between formats, for instance from Microsoft Word into PDF (and vice versa), with Acrobat. Work in the application you’re comfortable with, and know that you can share it in the format an employer prefers. If you have the choice, share your resume as a PDF to preserve your formatting. Then, no matter how the recipient opens the document, they will see your resume exactly as you intend. 

Quick tips

  • Mimic the way a desired job listing phrases certain skills.
  • Follow application instructions exactly.
  • Share your resume as a PDF to protect its layout. 

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4. Prepare additional materials.

A resume isn’t the only important document. Prepare your resume and other application materials as soon as you can, so they’re ready before you start your job search. There’s no need to wait for your graduation date or for the perfect job posting to appear. Depending on what industry you’re going into, you may want to create the following to help you get noticed:

 

  • LinkedIn profile. Consider your LinkedIn profile to be your online resume. Transfer the information you’ve gathered for your resume into LinkedIn to create an online presence potential employers and colleagues can find.
  • Cover letter. A cover letter is how you introduce yourself. Start a separate document in which you explain how you would thrive in a particular role. This is a chance to show your personality and tell your story.
  • References. Compile a list of two to three professional contacts who will speak highly of your skills, experience, and professionalism. If you don’t have past employers who can vouch for you, use professors, school advisors, internship supervisors, or leaders at organizations where you did volunteer work.
  • Portfolio. Represent your skills and accomplishments in a digital portfolio — especially if you’re in a creative field like graphic design, writing, or architecture.
  • Website. Hiring professionals will research candidates online during the hiring process. A website can put your projects and accomplishments at the forefront of your online persona, and can double as your portfolio.

Merge a resume PDF with other application files.

If you need to share a resume, cover letter, references, and portfolio all at the same time — try the Merge PDF function in Acrobat to combine multiple files into one single PDF. (Don’t worry, it’s also easy to split your PDF up into separate files later if you need to.) You can easily reorder or extract pages as well. And if you have an image-heavy portfolio, the Compress tool will help you shrink the file size so it takes up less space when it’s downloaded.

Quick tips

  • Prep your application materials ahead of time.
  • Combine documents to create one easy-to-share PDF. 
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5. Get feedback on your application documents.

Share your resume, portfolio, and cover letter with friends, family, and mentors. They can point out missing information about your talents and help you proofread to prevent typos. With a free trial of Acrobat Pro DC, you can share PDFs for review, and everyone you send it to will be able to leave comments at one convenient link. Then you can make changes to text and images directly in your PDF.

 

A carefully crafted professional resume is your ticket to set out on your next career journey — especially with a cover letter, portfolio, and references ready to go. Search for open positions in any number of places, including on social media, LinkedIn, college job boards, or the websites of companies you admire. Your dream job might be just around the corner.

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