If you want to change careers, you’re going to need a great resume to show employers why they should take a chance on you.
You need to convince them that you’ll succeed in their role, even if you’ve done different work in the past.
And while you can do some of this convincing in the job interview, you aren’t going to get interviews if your resume or CV isn’t great, too, so it all starts here!
Don’t worry if this sounds intimidating – this article has everything you need to write an effective resume for career change…
I spoke to multiple professional resume writers, coaches, and other experts and put together this list of resume tips for career changers, as well as real-life examples of resumes that got interviews.
Here’s what you need to know…
The best resume format for a career change is the chronological resume (also known as “reverse chronological resume”). With this format, your resume or CV lists your work experience in the order it happened, starting with your most recent or current position at the top.
This is what most hiring managers and recruiters are used to seeing and prefer to see, so it’s the best format to use when switching careers (or in any job search, for that matter).
So the first thing to do with your resume is to make sure you’re using this format. Put your most recent position at the top of your “Work Experience” section, and then go backward from there. You’ll see examples of this coming up – don’t worry.
The bottom line is: You aren’t going to hide something or “sneak” through the process by using a less-common (and more confusing) resume format like a functional resume.
This will just confuse and frustrate the hiring manager or recruiter.
So rather than trying to hide gaps in your experience, you should tailor your experience to be as relevant as possible for the job you’re applying to. That’s how to approach resume formatting as a career changer.
You should not include a resume objective when changing careers (or on any resume, in fact). A resume objective is an out-dated section that should be replaced with a resume summary section – a brief intro summarizing your experience, skills, accomplishments, and anything else you’d like to share.
Coming up next, we’ll look at examples of how to write this “summary” section as a career changer.
Rather than a resume objective, you should include a brief Summary section to show employers what you’ve accomplished and how you can help them in their role.
I asked multiple experts for tips and examples of how to write a resume summary for a career change, so here are some tips from coaches, resume writers, and other experts.
This section is contributed by: Virginia Franco – Executive Resume Writer at Virginia Franco Resumes
When writing a summary section for a career change, think about what you bring to the table that aligns with the role you seek, and what makes you less of a hiring risk for the hiring manager or interviewer.
In this example above, my client wanted to pivot from a business development role at a skilled nursing facility into medical device sales. In writing his summary, I:
In this case, the fact that he:
In other words, I worked to make him seem like a candidate that was a risk worth taking!
This section is contributed by: Austin Belcak – Founder at Cultivated Culture
When your changing careers, one of the biggest resume challenges is getting visibility on the transferable and relevant experience that you have.
Maybe you worked on a relevant project two jobs ago, maybe you took a course that’s buried in your education section, or maybe you’ve been working on a side hustle but are worried about leading with that vs. your current job.
Using resume objectives is a good way to combat this issue.
Resume objectives allow you to cherry-pick the most relevant work experience from your career, education, and side projects and feature it right at the top of your resume. This gives you the chance to lead with the most relevant transferable experience so you make sure it’s seen instead of getting lost in the mix.
This is the exact tactic I used when I was switching careers from medical device sales into advertising/tech.
My day job was in healthcare, it didn’t offer much in the way of traditional skills, but I had been spending nights and weekends learning digital marketing. I took courses, got certified, and even started doing a bit of freelancing. I wanted that to show at the top of my resume so I used an objective to highlight that ahead of my current role:
This section is contributed by: Sarah Johnston – Former Recruiter, Executive Resume Writer, and Job Search Coach at BriefcaseCoach.com
When writing a resume for a career change, it’s important to target your resume for the role that you want. I recommend finding a few job descriptions that interest you and scanning for keywords and themes. Use the target job title or skill set in the header to frame the resume.
The Ladders did an eye tracking study (source: here) that found that recruiters and hiring managers only spend 7.4 seconds scanning a resume before deciding to pass or read more. The heat map showed that better performing resumes have keywords at the top to immediately draw the eye.
Attached is the top of a career changer sample resume. This hypothetical job seeker is wanting to transition from an account manager role to being an executive assistant. The resume plays up her transferable skills and includes a header that references the job that she wants.
As a former corporate recruiter, I am not a fan of functional resumes. Recruiters are taught to scan resumes chronologically. When you take the experience out of context or “order,” it often gives the recruiter the impression you are trying to hide or fudge experience.
This section is contributed by: Madeline Mann – Human Resources Leader & Career Coach, Creator of Self Made Millennial
Consider writing your resume intro or summary in bullet format, as this makes it easier for people to quickly scan it.
The first couple of bullet points should emphasize the most important keywords from the job description. Get creative with how you integrate these terms into your summary. Such as, use phrases like “experience with” and “knowledge of” to indicate tasks that you have become familiar with inside or outside of your job.
Personal projects, volunteering, and education should all contribute to what you describe here. If the most prominent keywords in the job description are tasks and concepts that you are unfamiliar with, that is a sign that you need to build those skills on your own time. Here is a video on how to build these important skills without getting hired.
The next couple of bullet points should focus on the most relevant accomplishments to the role you are pursuing, which may not be from your most recent role.
This is where the magic of the summary section comes into play. Pull in early-career achievements, side projects, and unpaid work where you did tasks that are more closely aligned to your new career. For example, if you are a Psychology Lab Assistant, and you want to be a Building Manager, many of your lab tasks won’t translate.
But, five years ago you were the treasurer of your sorority (budgeting is a keyword), and you handled many contractors to ensure the house was renovated and maintained (knowledge of the trades is a keyword). While that experience may be buried due to it being 5 years ago and not a paid position, it can hop to the top of your career change resume as a highly relevant accomplishment in the summary.
The summary section is an opportunity for you to truly spell-it-out for the hiring manager where your transferable skills will be too well-matched to ignore!
Editor’s note: Bullets are also a great way to make your resume work history section stand out. This article explains how to do this with 19 examples.
After a brief summary or intro paragraph, you’ll need a powerful employment history section to continue to impress the recruiter or hiring manager. Use the tips below to help you write yours.
This section is contributed by: Kyle Elliott – Career & Life Coach and Resume Writer at CaffeinatedKyle.com
The key to a successful career change resume is to work backward from the job posting. I encourage clients to literally pull language from the posting of the job they are targeting, then massage it until it truthfully reflects their experience. You really want to speak the language of the industry you are moving into.
In the example below, my client was targeting sales roles. However, she has several years of impressive experience from working in higher education that we wanted to include on her resume. So we repositioned her earlier experience as a “customer experience manager” role, pulling language directly from the job postings she was targeting.
This section is contributed by: Susan P. Joyce – Publisher of Job-Hunt.org
When your goal is a career change, be sure that your resume contains the relevant keywords for the career you want. Without these keywords, your resume will not be found in a recruiter’s search of the applications and resumes stored in the applicant tracking system (ATS).
Analyze the job description and pay attention to the job’s requirements as well as the nice-to-have skills. Make a list of the skills and other job requirements you meet. Those terms are typically the terms that will be used most often when the employer is searching for qualified job candidates.
If you have acquired skills or experience outside of work, don’t be afraid to include them, too. These include skills you have acquired while volunteering or participating in other non-work activities, especially if those skills are required for this job (and, thus, important keywords).
One of the best places to start including keywords on your career change resume is your “Skills” section. The Skills section is a way to show employers that you have the skills relevant to the position that are included in the job description.
For example: Assume the job requires hard skills like QuickBooks or SQL, and you have experience with them or have certifications from training you have taken. Include the appropriate term in your Skills section, like “QuickBooks” or “QuickBooks Certified”.
Then, in the “Experience” section of your resume, include those skills in the descriptions of your past jobs (or volunteering) where you acquired and/or used those skills. This will show the employer when and where you demonstrated your skills, which they always want to see!
Repetition of keywords is usually a good thing when the repetition is natural, relevant, and appropriate. So, having these important terms in both the Skills and Experience sections of your resume will help your resume be found.
However, simply repeating keywords at the bottom of your resume is not smart or useful.
You should now have a general idea of how to format and write your resume or CV for a career change.
If you need a great starting point and don’t want to create your resume from scratch (or if your existing resume is outdated and doesn’t look great) then this job search resources page has multiple free resume templates that are great for changing careers.
After clicking the link above, scroll down to the section titled: “ATS-Compliant Resume Templates.” All of the templates on that page are free to use and download.
If you’re planning on switching careers, you should write your resume to make your experience seem as relevant as possible for the job you want next.
Always think of the employer’s perspective when deciding what to put on your resume and what to leave off.
Write your career change CV or resume based on the employer’s job description and you’ll be much more likely to win the interview.
That’s how to get a new job in a new field. Employers want candidates who can step into a role, learn the position quickly, and succeed. They want low risk. The more you can show them similarities between what you’ve done and what they need, the better!
To summarize: Your CV or resume for a career change will be most successful if you start with the employer’s needs in mind, work backward, and think carefully about how to position your own experiences – both professional and personal – to make yourself seem capable of stepping into their job and being a success!