Microsoft Word is the best program to use when creating your resume. Here's how to do it so that your resume gets past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and impresses hiring managers.
Microsoft Word comes with some very attractive templates that are ready to use and allow you to fill in the blanks. The bad thing is the templates offered by Word are not usually ATS-friendly. It is best to create your resume from scratch. You can do so without being an expert at using Word or knowing all of the formatting options the program offers.
A simple online search about creating a resume from scratch returns millions of results. Choosing the right set of instructions can be daunting. So, instead of going down that rabbit hole, follow this step-by-step guide on creating a resume using MS Word.
MS Word resume templates
It can seem like an easy answer to pick a template offered by Word. You open the program, click templates, and are presented with hundreds of options. However, considering that ATS can't properly parse information from resumes that have text boxes, columns, images, and charts, those templates are not going to serve you well.
Submitting a non-ATS-friendly resume is the best way to have your resume rejected for a job. When your resume is rejected by the ATS software, the human beings at the company don't even know you exist. It is one of the top reasons job seekers are ghosted by companies.
Format your overall document before you start typing
Believe it or not, an ATS will scan resumes for everything from keywords, experience, and education to margin width and font. There are some pre-typing formatting options you'll need to set to ensure that the ATS can read your document.
Set your margins so that they are no narrower than 0.5 inches all the way around. Alternatively, you can use 0.75 and one-inch margins if you prefer.
Choose the font you want to use. You can use more than one font in your resume to distinguish between headers and body text, but use no more than two separate fonts.
On the “Paragraph” formatting ribbon, set your line spacing to “Multiple” at 1.06 and enter “6 pt” in the “Before” box to ensure that your lines are squished together. You want to create some white space in your resume.
Setting the right formatting options ahead of time can save you some headaches when you're finished typing the text.
As you type out your resume information in your resume, use the “Font” and “Styles” formatting ribbons to customize things like font size, colors, headers, and section separators. Your resume should contain the following sections:
Other (e.g., Affiliations, Licenses, Certifications, Volunteerism)
Your contact section
Type your name on a line by itself. Typically, you want your name to be larger than the other text on the document. You can even put it in all caps or small caps to help it stand out. On the next line, type your city, state, zip code/postal code, phone, email, and any online portfolios you want hiring managers to know about.
It is no longer customary to include your full address. There have been instances of discrimination against job seekers based on their home addresses. It is critical, though, that you include your zip or postal code. Hiring managers can query the ATS for resumes within a radius of a zip code. If your zip code is missing, your resume doesn't get included.
If you use the “Intense Quote” style, your name and contact information will be set apart from the rest of the document with a border along the top and bottom of the text. Highlight your name to increase the size of the font and make it bold.
Title and summary section
As you write the title and summary of your resume, make sure that it is future-facing and targeted to the job to which you want to apply. Type the title on a line by itself and, like your name, put it in all caps, small caps, larger text, and bold text so that it stands out from the rest of the words on the page. It's also a good idea to center it on the line. You can also change the color.
Some rules to use when applying color to your resume:
Color draws attention to the important parts.
Use bright colors (e.g., blue and green) for headers and contact information.
Use complementary colors (e.g., lighter shades of blue and green) for subheadings, position titles, and degrees.
Avoid using red on your resume as red is associated with stopping. You don't want to give someone a queue to stop reading your document.
The summary paragraph should be three to five sentences in length with a focus on what you bring to the table in alignment with relevant keywords from the job description. Be specific, but be concise. Focus on how much experience you have, a few things that you're really good at, and include at least one achievement.
Your skills section
Your contact section, title, and professional summary won't have headers. The skills section is where you'll start including headers to separate content. Type the word “Skills” on a line by itself. Follow the same style for each of the other sections in your resume.
Then, on the next line list out your professionally relevant and job-specific skills. Keep the list to no more than 12 skills and be sure to use a strong mix of hard and soft skills.
Your professional experience section
This is where the bulk of your resume content should appear. In order to properly write your experience section, you should use the chronological resume format. This simply means that you start with your current or most recent job and work backward. There are some general rules of thumb to keep in mind when writing the experience section of your resume.
How to lay out the information for each job: Start with the name of the company and the timeframe you were employed there. It's best to use the MM/YYYY format for your jobs. After that, list your position title followed by three to five achievement bullets. Make sure that each bullet starts with a verb so that you have an action-based resume.
Stick to the last 10-15 years of experience: A great resume represents approximately 10 years of experience. It's okay to go back 15 years, but it's recommended that you avoid going further than that. You can certainly list older experiences under an “Early Career Experience” title, but the roles in that list won't contain bullets detailing your accomplishments.
Use stacking to list multiple roles at the same company: When you have progressed through more than one position within a single company, you'll list the company name first with the total amount of time you were employed there. In the next line, you'll list the last role you had with the company and the time you held that position followed by your achievement bullets. After those bullets, list the previous role you held with the company with the time you were in that role but don't list the company name again. Here's what that looks like:
ABC Company | 03/2007-Present
Senior Leader (05/2015-Present)
Experience that relates to the job to which you're applying.
Example(s) of projects or situations where you used this skill.
1 to 2 accomplishments or measurable results showing your expertise with this skill.
Associate Leader (03/2007-05/2015)
Your resume isn't meant to be a record of your professional life's events.
Talk about achievements that will intrigue a hiring manager to call you for an interview.
Anytime you can use numbers, it's best to do so.
Your education section
End your resume with an education section, which includes your education, professional development, and any credentials you may possess. List graduation dates only if you're still in school or graduated within the last year. You should also spell out acronyms (e.g., Master of Business Administration rather than MBA). You can put the acronyms in parentheses after the full spelling. This holds true for degrees and school names.
If you didn't graduate, you can still list your higher education on your resume. After you type out the degree you were pursuing and the name of the school, put verbiage that indicates the degree is unfinished. Here's an example:
Bachelor of Science in Business Management | ABC State School | Expected completion: MM/YYYY
When you didn't finish and know you're not going back, simply put the number of credit hours you completed in the place of the “Expected completion” text:
Bachelor of Science in Business Management | ABC State School | 98/120 Credit Hours Completed
Additional sections that may appear on your resume
Some jobs require you to be a member of a particular organization. You may have completed some career-related research or have articles published to which you want to call attention. Put a relevant header for any extra information that you want on your resume and type out the information.
Now that you have the content written, it's time to make it look pretty. It's easy to update the text of each header title by enlarging the font and using bold. You can do more, though.
- Shading: Highlight the “Skills” header and click the down arrow next to the paint bucket icon on the “Paragraph” formatting bar. This will allow you to change the shading behind the header. Be sure to use something that complements any color you've already used and don't let the shading make it so you can't read the header text.
- Borders: With the word “Skills” still highlighted, click the down arrow next to the borders button on the “Paragraph” formatting bar (it's right next to the paint bucket icon). Choose to add a top or bottom border (or both) to your header. The choice is completely yours to use one or both borders.
Whatever formatting you decide to finish with on the “Skills” header needs to be repeated on all headers to ensure a level of consistency within your resume. The only header that wouldn't need formatting is the line you created if you decided to list “Early Career Experience.” You can simply bold that and leave it as simple text.
In the end
Now you have a beautifully formatted, from-scratch resume. In the end, all you needed to know how to do was bold text, change the font, and format shading and borders.
If you have questions, TopResume has a team of expert resume writers standing by.
- The Hidden Dangers of Using Microsoft Word Resume Templates
- What's an ATS-Friendly Resume? And How to Write One
- How to Write a Chronological Resume (Tips + Examples)