How to Write a Master Resume

writing a master resume

As a part of my clinical internship at a major university in Denver, Colorado I led a job search meet-up group for students and recent graduates. Our topic of discussion for the first two weeks was on master resumes. I’m not sure many of the students I work with know what a master resume is, let alone have one – which makes me think this may apply to others in my LinkedIn community. Below I have detailed what a master resume is and how to create one.

What exactly is a master resume?

A master resume encompasses your entire educational and professional history, all your qualifications, your accomplishments, and any training you may have completed. Depending on your history and experience this could be a lengthy document, comprising many pages. A master resume is also the type of document you might use to create or update your LinkedIn profile.

Are there times you may submit or upload your master resume? Yes: if you post your resume on job boards you may want to upload to your master resume. This is because your master resume will display the depth and breadth of your experience. However, you would not send your master resume to an employer regarding a specific job; rather you use your master version to create a targeted or tailored resume.

Once you’ve created your master, make sure you spellcheck and proofread it several times. It may also be helpful to have your friends, family, or mentors review it – these people know you and can give you valuable feedback. If you have access to a career center (like your school’s career center!) get your master resume reviewed by a career counselor.

Be mindful about updating your master resume on a regular basis, this will make any future applications for a job, school, scholarships, internships, etc. much easier. All your information will be stored in a single place, in a usable format, which will make any application process easier and faster.

Below are three reasons you should create and maintain a master resume:

You don’t have to spend hours remembering past jobs and responsibilities.

You only have to do this once, when you are creating your master. Once you have your massive document detailing every job with each responsibility and duty listed, you can easily pull and modify this data for tailored resumes. List any titles you may have held, and go through your job description to list individual duties/responsibilities. If you were responsible for tasks or duties not listed on your original job description, you may also include these items on your master resume.

You can easily create individual, specific, tailored resumes.

Are you applying to a new job, grad school, or for a scholarship? Re-inventing the wheel is much harder than modifying one that already exists. Your master is the wheel; modify it to make individualized versions for specific applications. You only record your experience once, then you can cut and paste from your master to easily and quickly create new, tailored versions.

This tailored resume will look different to recruiters. It’s pretty easy to tell if someone used a generic resume, one that is too general or vague. If you can customize your master resume into a one- or two-page specific resume, you can stand out as an ideal candidate due to your use of skill and experience keywords. Plugging keywords directly from the job posting into your resume will help separate you from other applicants.

When you review your master, you may notice themes, patterns, and your favorite tasks.

Students often feel like their previous professional history has nothing to do with what they want to do post-graduation. Many individuals in the professional field may also feel this way. Creating a master resume might help you spot connections and hidden themes throughout your experience. Seeing a pattern will help you connect your “random jobs” and transform them into a unique and diverse background to qualify you for your next job.

It’s easy to forget about small tasks that may have been left off your original job description. When you take the time to document every task, responsibility, and project, you can start to reflect on more than the responsibilities required of you; you can list the things you did well and the things you truly enjoyed. Becoming aware of these connections and favorite tasks may influence the types of jobs for which you apply, and the type of work you want to pursue.

Brainstorming master resume ideas

What could be included in a master resume?

All education, including:

  • degrees
  • certificates
  • specialized training programs
  • classes/course work
  • major class projects/assignments
  • scholarships/awards

All your professional experience, including:

  • summer, part-time, and full-time jobs
  • internships
  • volunteer experience

Special projects


Professional organizations/affiliations, including offices held

Publications, presentations


Specific objective

Summary or short biography

Blank slate: how to start your master resume

How to get started on your master resume?

1. Make a list and include dates

  • List every job you’ve held and the titles you held in that job.
  • Every internship in which you’ve participated
  • All volunteer experiences
  • Any training you’ve completed
  • All education
  • All work-related skills, responsibilities, and activities
  • Classes you’ve taken
  • Projects on which you’ve worked
  • All publications/presentations to which you’ve contributed
  • Any awards you received
  • Conferences you’ve attended
  • Memberships or affiliations with professional organizations
  • Hard skills (math, programming, editing, foreign language proficiency, etc.) and soft skills (communication, time management, prioritization skills, work ethic, etc.)

2. Create headers and chronologically organize the items in your list under those headers.

  • For example, your education section would include the most recent education first, and oldest education last. This is the same organization style used by LinkedIn.
  • Prioritize your headers. List what you think is most important at the top and least important at the bottom. For example, I find education for recent graduates is important, so I suggest listing education first. Membership in a professional organization might not be as important as education and professional experience, so that section may come later in the master.

3. When you begin to organize your list in an electronic document, use a plain, unformatted word document. This makes future editing, updating, copying, and pasting much easier.

4. Use bullet points to easily list individual ideas and concepts. Paragraph format makes it harder for a recruiter to quickly read through your resume when initially reviewing applications.

5. Use keywords. For example, if you managed a group of 4 people, your master might read:

  • [Managed, guided, supervised, directed, lead] a team of four.

You can then pick one of the keywords to use in your tailored resume, based on the job posting:

  • Directed a team of four.

How to decide what to remove from your master for your tailored resume

Once you’ve created your master, how do you convert it to a tailored/individualized resume?

  1. Open your electronic master version and save as a new resume. The goal is to convert your old master resume into a new, 1-page (2-page max) specific resume. Remember, if you are applying for a job (especially one online), the recruiter sifting through all the applications may have hundreds to review. Keep your resume as short and to the point as possible. Bullet points are the easiest to read.
  2. Be ruthless. Review the job description/posting you are applying for and delete everything from your master that does not apply directly to the specific job description. Remember, you can bring up your other accomplishments and duties in your cover letter or during the interview. Just because they don’t show up in your resume doesn’t mean you can’t discuss them at a later point.
  3. Plug keywords from the job description/posting into your new tailored version. Recruiters will look for these keywords.

Connecting the Dots

“Wow, I really have accomplished a lot!” is a common reaction from students wrapping up the first draft of their master resume. It’s easy to forget about all the work one does over the course of a life; a master resume is a great place to track personal and professional accomplishments.

This was my first article posted on LinkedIn originally on September 27th, 2017. See the full post here.

Interested in working with me to create your master resume? Read more about my resume services here.