Print out of master resume on a clipboard next to a pen, computer, and mouse.

You’ve probably heard that you should customize your resume for every job you apply for. If you start from scratch every time, though, that’s a whole lot of unnecessary effort. 

Using a master resume can help you speed up the process of tailoring your resume for the jobs you want, showing employers the skills that make you a strong fit while minimizing repeat work on your part. 

What is a master resume?

A master resume is a single document containing all the information about your career you may wish to spotlight in a tailored resume. 

It includes the full breadth of your work experience and professional accomplishments so that you can pick and choose the most relevant parts for a specific position. With a little copying and pasting, creating a fresh, customized resume for each new job you pursue is easy. 

When to use a master resume

When applying for jobs

Most of the time, you’ll create a resume to apply for a job. Customizing your resume for the job you want gives you the best chance of receiving an invitation to interview. A master resume can help you zero in on the best keywords and beat the automated applicant tracking systems that employers use to screen candidates. 

When applying to grad school

If you’re using your resume to apply for post-secondary education, you’ll want to highlight different aspects of your history than you would if you were applying for a job. Education takes center stage in a grad school resume, and things like internships and research are given more prominent placement. 

Having a master resume makes it easy to move pieces around to optimize your application materials for an admissions committee. 

When changing careers

If you’re making a career switch, it might be appropriate to use an alternative resume format, like a functional or combination resume. Your master resume can help you decide how best to organize your information to spotlight your relevant skills versus your previous job titles. 

Other purposes

There are several other scenarios where you might use your resume, like when making a professional introduction, applying for a grant, or seeking an elected position. Having a master resume at the ready ensures you can quickly compile your relevant qualifications into a seamless presentation without having to rush to pull everything together. 

Looking for a professional resume writing service to do the heavy lifting? We suggest using BeamJobs!

Benefits of creating a master resume

Saves time

Between identifying keywords, writing compelling descriptions of your accomplishments, and formatting the document itself, preparing a resume takes a lot of time. A master resume ensures you don’t waste hours repeating the process every time you need to send a version of your resume to someone. Instead, the bulk of the work is already done. 

Enables a high level of customization

Recruiters review dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes for every open job. The more you can highlight the precise qualifications they’re looking for, the greater your chance of receiving a response. Your master resume serves as a solid foundation you can then enhance and polish to best showcase the qualities a prospective employer wants to see. 

Because your master resume is an ever-evolving document, it can help you identify trends in your career progression you might not have noticed otherwise. This brings insight into your unique value proposition to employers, which you can incorporate into your job application and interview. 

Aids in goal setting

Updating your master resume over time forces you to analyze your accomplishments and the timeline on which they’ve happened. This can help you set new goals to further strengthen your resume or progress to the next level of your career.  

What to include in a master resume

Remember, your master resume is an exhaustive professional record–everything in it will not be included in every secondary resume you create. Rather, you should pick and choose the most relevant elements based on your goals. 

With that in mind, here are the contents your master resume should include:

Contact information

Include your full name, phone number, physical address, professional email address, and any relevant websites like your online portfolio or your LinkedIn page.

Objective or summary statement

A resume objective sums up your professional goals, while a summary statement encapsulates the qualifications that make you a great candidate for a job. When creating a tailored resume, use one or the other, but not both (you can also opt for neither).

Learn how to create a resume summary that stands out in this guide!

Work experience

This section will probably take you the longest to build. It should include every position you’ve held in your career, including company names, job titles, and dates of employment. 

For every position, create a list of your responsibilities and noteworthy accomplishments. Use stats and metrics to quantify your achievements whenever possible. Focus on various duties, including technical, interpersonal, and leadership qualifications. 

For a master resume, more is better–this gives you plenty to choose from when you go to create a tailored resume later on. Here’s an example of what a job entry on your master resume might look like:

Legal Assistant, Bateman & Bateman – January 2018 to November 2021

  • Provided administrative support to a team of three attorneys and five associates
  • Composed and edited legal documents, including memos, briefs, motions, affidavits and addendums
  • Conducted research on an average of five cases simultaneously using Westlaw, Nexis, et al.
  • Managed client communications for more than a dozen clients via phone, email, and text messaging
  • Created a system to streamline billing processes, clearing a six-month A/R backlog
  • Maintained a client satisfaction rating of 4.9 out of 5
  • Implemented an online scheduling system, accelerating new client onboarding by an average of 4 days
  • Assisted with training and developing new administrative staff

When applying for a job, you’d only want to include three or four bullets under each position. But, since this is a master resume, it includes a broad mix of administrative, legal, and technical accomplishments, making it easy to select the most relevant bullets based on the next job you want. 


Include the school’s name, degree you obtained, major(s) and minor(s), and graduation date. You may also choose to highlight relevant coursework, noteworthy projects, academic honors, and pertinent extracurriculars. 


Create two lists: hard and soft skills. This list will probably be long, but that’s a good thing. Again, it’s more ammo to use when crafting the perfect resume to achieve your professional goals.

Learn how to showcase your strongest selling points with this guide on how to create a resume skills section.

Certifications / continuing education

Keep a log of any credentials you’ve obtained. This can include technical certifications, courses, and other accomplishments demonstrating your professional expertise. 

Since this is your master resume–for your eyes only–you can also include any other information you think might be useful, like volunteer work, philanthropic participation, and even hobbies.  

How to create a master resume

1. Assess your career objectives

Your master resume is a living document that will change over time. Still, drafting it with your current career ambitions in mind is good. 

Are you applying for new jobs? Looking to get into grad school? Making a career change? These objectives will give you direction as you build out the various sections of your master resume and decide how to position your qualifications. 

2. Gather useful information

Make the process of creating a master resume go a little more smoothly by gathering prior resumes, paystubs with previous employer details, and job listings for positions you’re considering applying to. You can reference these materials as you write and edit. 

3. Draft and format

Since you’ll be creating a fresh document for the resumes you actually send out, the format of your master resume is completely up to you. With this in mind, following a chronological resume format can be helpful, as this is the most common resume layout and may expedite your work in the future.

4. Ask for feedback

Just as it’s helpful to have a second set of eyes on your cover letter or a public-facing draft of your resume, you might want to enlist the help of others when creating your master resume. Professors, colleagues, managers, mentors, and friends can all contribute suggestions that make good material for the document. 

5. Update your master resume regularly

Contribute to your master resume regularly. It’s a great idea to consistently update it every few months, not just when something big like a job change happens. This way, you’re less likely to forget about projects you worked on and can record noteworthy achievements soon after they happen. 

By identifying the full scope of your skills, experience, and accomplishments in a master resume, you’ll save time and increase your customization capabilities when applying for jobs and other professional opportunities.

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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn