Writing a Great Resume: A Crash Course

Practical tips for writing a great resume. Includes examples, a resume workbook and a resume checklist to communicate your achievements in style

A resume is a snapshot of your professional career and your skills. It is one of the key components that a recruiter will go through before making the decision to offer you an interview. This guide offers practical advice on how to build and create a resume. It has a resume workbook, examples and concrete guidance to build a great resume.

Let's get started.

What is a great resume?

Before we start building a great resume, it is important to understand what makes a resume great. A great resume helps you with two things:

  1. Getting a shortlist for interviewing with a company
  2. Provide enough points to talk in an interview

Qualities of a great resume

We just saw that a great resume should get shortlists and provide talking points in an interview. In order to achieve these, a resume should have three major qualities:

  1. It should stand out. With so many people applying for a job, the resume should have something different that makes you stand out from the rest of the applicants.
  2. It should be relevant. You can make a resume stand out in many ways. But the only way to get a shortlist is by making it stand out in a way that is relevant to the job that you are applying.
  3. It should showcase your achievements. Achievements can come in many forms: Academic achievements like GPA, Papers published, Awards, Recognitions, projects, extra-curricular achievements and many more.

The rest of the guide is divided into two sections:

The first section provides you with tools and ideas to strengthen your profile, while the second section provides you with the resources to present your profile in the best way possible.

Building your profile

This is the most important step in writing a great resume. The idea of building your profile is to have enough points that can stand out, be relevant and can be showcased. Let us look at some of the ways we can create such points.

Ways to build your profile

The following are the five major ways of building your profile.

  1. Gaining previous experience.

    Your previous professional experience can be a big strength to your profile in case it is relevant to the current job that you are applying to. For example, if you have been a developer before, then it will add great value when you apply to developer or test engineer positions. Unpaid internships are a good opportunity to gain in a specific role of your interest.

  2. Working on Projects

    Projects are the single most important way to build a strong resume for students or recent graduates. We have also seen even experienced candidates using side projects as excellent talking points. But not all projects add strength to your profile. They need to be big and interesting enough to catch recruiters attention.

  3. Awards and Recognition

    An award or recognition showcases your achievements. This can range from being an academic achievement such as being a topper in a course to winning a national level competition showcasing your skills.

  4. Paper presentation

    Presenting a paper at a conference or at an event adds strength to your profile. This shows that you are technically strong and at the same time you are good at communicating ideas. The ability to communicate what you have built is one of the most important skills for someone to advance in their career. That is why we encourage and help all our users to build a project and present it in our blog. (Reach out to blog@crashcourse.io in case you have already subscribed to any of our courses or plans and are interested in getting featured)

    Note that, paper presentation or getting featured is easy when you have a unique project that you can showcase.

  5. Certificates & Extra-curricular achievements

    Having a certificate in the relevant field of work might catch recruiters attention. But remember, merely having a certificate will not be as effective as having a project that showcases your skills.

    Here is a good rule of thumb to choose a certificate program. Will this program help you build something that you can showcase in your resume apart from just listing the certificate? Go ahead with any certificate program only if this is true.

    Extra-curricular activities are good to have on a resume. These might include being a representative of a class, member of a club, achievements in sports or organizer of events.

Picking a project to work on

There are two major criteria you need to use while picking a project to work on:

  1. The project you choose should be interesting for you to work on.
  2. The chosen project should be of the right difficulty level.

In case you choose a project that is way too difficult, chances are that you might get lost or give up in the middle of the project. Hence, in some cases, it is better to build at least some of the required skills before starting the project.

Projects that resemble real-world tools are very likely to catch recruiters attention. For example, building a mini media player or a small version of WinZip will help in making your resume stand out. In order to implement such projects, we need to shift our thinking a bit. Most times when we think of a project we think of a language first. For example: “I want to do a project in C” or “I want to build a system in Java”. This is a mistake.

We need to start thinking about concepts first in order to build interesting projects. For example, a project like mini WinZip (or winrar) will not start with C or C++. It will first start with “compression” as a concept. Once we choose this concept then we can decide on the language we want to implement this in. Below are some examples of concepts.

Encryption is a concept. Now once you understand what encryption is and how to implement a basic encryption project in C, you can try building a variety of ciphers that you might not have tried before.

Similarly, converting text to speech is a concept. Once you understand how to implement that in C or in any other language, you can build projects such as movie dialogue speaker, announcement systems, IVR, Audiobook creators and more.

With this as a headstart, we will now move to the section on creating a resume.

Creating a Resume

Sections in a resume

Let us in this section see what are some good and bad examples of common sections in a resume.

  1. Experience:

    Lists your previous experience and internships if any. This section should focus on your contribution to the company and not the details of the company.

  2. Education:

    Lists your education background along with the at most five courses that you are confident of. Also lists any academic achievements that you might have. Do not make this a list of all courses that are present in the curriculum.

  3. Projects:

    Lists all the projects that you have worked on. Also, provide information on what skills or tools you used to build those projects. If done right, this should eliminate the need for a separate skills section. Also never list Windows, Linux, MS-Word as skills in your resume.

    Instead, if you want to still show that you are a Linux geek, do some project about that instead.

  4. Achievements:

    List any award, recognition or certificates that you might have. Always add links that showcase your work wherever possible. Say a GitHub link or a link to the site where the project is hosted.

  5. Extracurriculars:

    List activities that you might be involved in concrete terms.

  6. Contact details:

    Include your email address and phone number in the resume. Double check that they are right.

Generating good resume points

We saw what kind of points each section of the resume contain. Let us now focus our attention on understanding how to word those points for maximum impact.

In our experience, most people have accomplished a lot more than they think. They either are not able to recall everything they have done or dismiss some of their achievements as trivial without giving it much thought. We have created a workbook to help you generate as many quality resume points as possible.

The workbook has questions in ten different categories. You are expected to answer two things for each of these questions.

  • Did you do anything related to the question that is asked? If yes, what is it?
  • What is the impact of what you did?

We have provided examples to help you understand how answers to these questions can be converted into resume points. It is okay if you are not able to answer every question. Just leave them blank.

Here are a couple of examples to give you a flavour of what’s inside the workbook.

Question Activity Impact
Organised social activities? (Example: Blood donation camps) Organised a blood donation camp in college More than 100 volunteers donated blood
Mentored juniors? Took Aptitude sessions for 2nd year juniors 35 Juniors attended.

Writing a resume point

The workbook that we saw gives us a good starting point to generate points for different sections of the resume. Once we have generated all the points, we need to pick the ones that are relevant to the job that you are applying to.

Once we have the shortlisted points, we can make them more impactful by using verbs. Some of the verbs that will prove useful while building your resume are:

  • Created
  • Designed
  • Implemented
  • Completed
  • Authored
  • Generated
  • Built
  • Solved
  • Evaluated
  • Initiated

Based on what we have learned so far, we will now try to rewrite some of the most popularly listed resume points in a more impactful way.

Old Changed
Was part of programming club events and organized contests. Designed programming contests in which more than 100 juniors participated
Airline ticket reservation system. This is a system designed to book flight tickets online. Implemented an online ticket reservation system that can handle up to 10000 requests at a time using Redis (or some other cool tech here)

Choosing a template

Now once we have all the points that we want to write, then we can choose the template in which all these points can fit.

There are some really good templates that you can find online just by doing a google search. Since you are applying for a job, just make sure you find a template that is not more than two pages long.

If you had followed along until now, you should have a bunch of excellent resume points and a set of unique projects. Now it should be easy to add them and format them in the template that you just picked.

Final checklist

Before using this resume to apply for companies ask one of your friends to proofread it for you. Also, download final resume checklist here and make sure you are not missing anything.

Thanks for reading it this far. Hope it was useful. Please do share it with others for whom this might be helpful.

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