Use our 2, 5, and 30-minute resume writing tips to quickly improve your resume. Actionable examples included. Read more!
What to put on a resume? Here are the key items to include:
- Contact Information
- Opening Statement: Summary or Objective
- Work History
- Soft Skills and Technical Skills
- Certifications and Professional Memberships
- Achievements and Awards
- Additional Sections (Community Involvement, Volunteering, etc.)
Is the template above too vague? What about career goals? A cover letter?
You still feel you're forgetting something...
Here is a complete guide and list of the most imporant things to cover on a resume so that you can be sure that you’ve got everything you need.
But there's more! This guide will also tell you what not to put on a resume.
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You already know that the "must-have" resume sections are: Contact Information, Resume Profile, Work History, Education, and Skills.
There are a few optional sections that you can add as well, including achievemets, certifications, or a hobbies section.
You can also move sections around depending on how you want to prioritize your information. For instance, when writing a high school student resume, or a resume for your first job, it will make sense to put your education above work experience.
Also, depending on how you format your resume, all key sections will go in different places on your resume.
Whatever the section order you decide on, remember—
Each section has essential elements that you should include on your resume.
Let’s take a look.
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1. Contact Information
The contact information on your resume includes:
- Your Name
- Professional title
- Phone Number (The one you answer.)
- Professional Email
- Social Media Handles (Twitter and LinkedIn)
- URL to Your Personal Website, Blog, or Portfolio
Adding your address is optional these days, especially if you are applying for a job in a different state or country.
If the job you’re applying for is not local, excluding your current address will help you avoid confusion.
And that’s all you need!
Pro Tip: Whenever you update your contact information, don’t forget to update it on your LinkedIn Profile as well.
Having an optimized LinkedIn profile that is updated to reflect your resume is crucial, as the platform continues to be the most popular social media site for professionals.
2. A Resume Summary or Objective
Tricky question - what do you put at the beginning of your resume after your contact information?
Starting a resume with a summary or objective is a golden opportunity.
But which do you choose?
The resume objective is better for resumes for:
- entry-level candidates
- candidates without work experience
- career changers
- job seekers with career gaps
Everyone else should use a resume summary.
Both are short, snappy introductions that should highlight your career progress and skill set.
And if you don’t have much career progress, write two or three lines that tell a recruiter where you are and where you’re going professionally.
The most important thing to keep in mind when writing both is that you no longer tell an employer what you want.
Instead you tell them that you’re going to give them what they want.
3. Experience Section
The experience section is going to make up the body of your resume.
To begin, you do not need to list every job you've ever had.
Only add jobs that you had in the past ten or fifteen years or are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Just don’t leave large gaps in your job history.
So, what should you include in your experience section?
A list of relevant jobs in reverse-chronological order, starting with your current position.
If you've worked for a no-name company, it might be a good idea to briefly describe it.
Write one or two lines about what the company is and does under the company's name and before you dive into your bullet points.
Up to six bullet points describing your roles and responsibilities at each job.
Try to add responsibilities that reflect the skills listed in the job description and are most relevant to the job for which you are applying.
When you write your bullet points, lead with an action verb. Paying attention to how you construct your bullet points makes your resume more readable.
Start with an Action Verb. Make a Quantifiable Point. Follow up with a Specific Task.
Action Verb: Spearhead
Quantifiable Point: Newsletter registration up 15%
Specific Task: Made a marketing campaign
Spearheaded an email marketing campaign that drove newsletter registration up 15%.
Achievements illustrated with facts and figures.
After you list a responsibility, think if you achieved anything significant while carrying out that task. Did you increase sales or customer satisfaction? Did you complete a project ahead of time?
If you can add numbers or tangible details to illustrate the achievement - even better.
Numbers draw the eye of the recruiter to the achievement, and details help them imagine you achieving the same results for them.
That's why adding your achievements to your resume is one of the best things you can do for your experience section.
Internships - but only if you have limited work experience.
If you're a fresh graduate, it's more than okay to list your internships. In fact, that's when they should go on your resume.
But if you've been working for several years, it's time to for the internships to go bye-bye.
The only exception to the rule is if you had a high-profile internship in a widely recognizable organization that's relevant to the job to which you're applying.
Add key skills throughout your experience section and make sure you include experience that matches what is required by the job offer. Whatever important information you find in the ad is potentially a keyword for your resume.
Also, feel free to list “non-traditional” work such as volunteer jobs or freelance work, especially if you haven’t held a regular job in a while.
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When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
4. Education Section
Your education section can either come after your experience section, or you can add it before if you've recently graduated.
What should you include?
A list of your degrees and schools.
Your education section is also written in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent degree appearing first.
If you have higher degrees, you do not need to add the high school you attended.
A description of your course of study.
You don’t have to add a description of what you studied, but you can if you’re a fresh graduate, want to emphasize it, or find particularly relevant to the job.
Any honors and awards you received.
Honors BA in English Literature, Purdue University, Salutatorian
Pro Tip: You can skip your GPA if you’re a professional, and you can add it if you’re a student and it’s a 3.5 GPA or higher.
5. Skills to Grab a Recruiter’s Attention
When considering what to put on a resume, skills are the most important.
Your skills section is a list of your best skills.
Also, you should make sure that you list as many skills from the job description as possible.
These are your keyword skills, and they are what recruiters want to see.
But besides the keyword skills from the job offer, what skills need to go on a resume?
There are a few desirable skills that will look good on any resume, and if you have them they should definitely go on your resume.
Here are a few:
- Communication (Written and Verbal)
- Planning and Strategic Thinking
- Analytical Thinking and Research
- Teamwork or Collaborative Work
You will want to scatter your skills throughout your experience section and put your best skills in your skill section. A traditional skills section is the best place for a list of your skills when your resume is up against Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software.
An alternative route to getting skills on your resume is to create an infographic resume. Graphic-based resumes allow you to lay out complex information in a simplistic way. However, infographic resumes are risky business. Applicant Tracking Systems can't parse them and most recruiters don't like them either.
Infographic resumes are only a supplement. You will still want a traditional resume.
Adding a hobbies and interests section to your resume is a very good idea, especially if you’ve got extra space.
Many companies are now placing more of an emphasis on personality and how well they think you’d fit in with their team and the company’s culture.
You don’t have to add a hobby section, but it’s a great way to show off your personality and set yourself apart.
It is definitely something that you should consider including on a resume.
7. Other Additional Sections
Besides a Hobbies and Interests section, there are other sections you could consider including on your resume.
If you're writing a student's resume and are struggling to fill it up, you could consider adding a separate section for awards and honors or additional activities, such as your extracurricular activities.
Certain professionals who are have opted for a resume over a CV might still find it relevant to add sections that highlight their publications or attendance at conferences.
Otherwise, you can add other sections to show a particular strength such as your command of several foreign languages.
Whatever you decide to add, just make sure that it doesn't overwhelm your resume or comprise your resume length.
8. Tailor Your Resume To a Job Description
Remember to tailor your resume to the job description - this point is crucial.
The skills and experience listed in the job description are what recruiters look for when they initially scan your resume.
Add keywords from the job description throughout your resume.
It's also a good idea to add most of the skills verbatim. Put them in your experience or your skills section.
When a hiring manager sees words from the job description, they will know that your resume is relevant and that you have the skill set they want in a potential candidate.
16 Things You Should Not Include on a Good Resume
Here is a brief list of what you should not include on a good resume…
Don't forget that in most cases, even an optional cover letter is necessary. Don't treat this as another annoying hurdle, embrace it as an opportunity. We've got a great guide to help you: Writing a Cover Letter in 8 Simple Steps
In the Contact Information:
- Your exact address, especially if you are not applying for a local job.
- An unprofessional email address.
- Personal information like your sex or marital status.
- A photograph (the US and the UK).
When considering how to write a resume in the United States, be aware that it is not customary to add a profile picture.
You should research the company you want to apply to if you are thinking of adding an image of yourself to see if it would be acceptable.
In the Introduction:
- Do not include a resume objective if you are a professional with a lot of work experience. Instead, go for a resume summary.
- Salary requirements.
In the Experience and Education Sections:
- Every job you ever had.
- Jobs you only had for a very brief period of time.
- Fluff words, especially adjectives and tired verbs.
- Your GPA (with exceptions).
In Your Skills and Hobbies Sections:
- Irrelevant skills that don’t translate to the job. Like your bowhunting and nunchuck skills. They simply take up valuable space without adding value.
- Odd hobbies like cat hoarding. You will come across as weird, not quirky or charming.
- Controversial hobbies that relate to politics, religion, or sex. If the recruiter is not on the same page as you, this can hurt your chances at connecting with them.
- Fluff words, especially adjectives and tired verbs.
- Lies. If you can’t think of how to write a resume without lying, then you are in trouble. It may seem like a small thing to exaggerate to make yourself look more capable, but one day you will have to face the music.
- The phrase “References Upon Request.” You no longer have to add this to the bottom of a modern resume. Recruiters know that they can ask you to provide a reference if they want one, or you’ve already included your references anyway. Technically, you shouldn't list references on your resume anyway. However, there's a way around this in case the job ad asks for them. It's a reference resume page.
Keep these points in mind as you are making your resume:
- Not everyone’s perfect resume is going to look the same.
- While a standard resume will include contact information, experience, and education, the skills and achievements you add will differ based on your job offer.
- Remember that when you are trying to decide what to put on your resume your job description is your best friend. It tells you exactly what a hiring manager expects to see on your resume.
If you don’t include anything else on your resume make sure you add keywords, skills, and experience from your job offer and you can be sure that your resume is practically perfect in every way.