Each section of the resume is important and they should flow in sequence that makes it easy for any HR Manager to read. Follow our in-depth guide bellow and discover which sections will optimize your resume.
A resume, by definition, is a document that describes a person’s academic achievements, professional qualifications and relevant skills. Think of it as your career diary that you should continually update.
Each section of the resume is important and they should flow in sequence that makes it easy for any HR Manager to read. Be sure not to include irrelevant or misleading information in any of these resume sections. Before reading this guide, make sure you download a free resume template.
Without a well-formatted resume your chance of getting most interviews decreases significantly. Therefore we highly recommend a resume should possess the following sections:
Contact information section
This may be the most under-appreciated and commonly overlooked section of a resume. Your contact information is the first thing employers will see and also how they will get in contact with you. It must therefore be polished, accurate and professional.
Use your legal name unless you have a foreign sounding name and your target job requires a mastery of the English language. If this is the case, use your nickname. A resume is not a legal or binding document so it is perfectly acceptable to use whichever name you feel the most comfortable with. Just remember which name you are using on the resumes being sent out so that should someone call asking for that name you will be prepared to answer confidently.
Keep it simple with First and Last name. Including a middle initial is also acceptable, however writing out the middle name is a bit unnecessary and may clutter the top of your resume.
Use your current address if you are applying to local jobs. If you are applying to a job outside of your current location, it is advantageous to put down the address of a relative or friend near the job. Employers in general would rather hire local candidates. It is better to get the interview and explain your desire to relocate than to not have the opportunity at all.
If you are applying overseas specifically in the country location of your past job experiences consider including the country in the address, unless you position requires relocating, then consider including an international address concurrent with the job posting, as relocation will be inevitable. Do not give an employer a reason NOT to grant an interview.
Whether you decide to provide your mobile or home phone number is up to you. You will want to be able to answer in a professional demeanor, such as “Hello, Peter speaking. What can I do for you?”. Make sure your voice mail message is professional as well. If living with roommates or sharing a residence that uses a common phone make sure to notify all tenants of expected phone calls so that you can be notified should it be someone else answer an employers call.
Consider changing profile pictures of messaging apps that are connected to phone numbers. For example, if you use “Whatsapp” or “Line” instant messaging services, change your profile to a professional picture, as some employers could call from a mobile phone, and after entering your number, view your messaging application pictures.
Regardless of your occupation you should provide an email address. Make sure your email is suitable for work, preferably using your full name in the email address itself. For example, [email protected] is much better than [email protected]
If you do not have a professional email consider creating one specifically for your job hunt. Use a common and popular email provider and set up a very simple and direct address that you can use on all job application processes. This will also have the effect of helping to organize your correspondence into separate addresses, making job tracking a much easier and efficient process.
The Resume Objective is one of the most overlooked aspects of a resume, but also has the potential to be one of the most important parts of your resume. Career objectives can also be referred to a Career Goal, Mission Statement, or Career Purpose.
A career objective is a succinct statement ranging from 1 – 2 sentences that are different from a summary of qualifications. Instead, the career objective should focus on the employer’s wants and how you as an applicant can fulfill them. It should be short, as excessive length will detract from the objective’s impact. Check out our resume samples to see some professionally-written objectives.
Objectives should be customized to individual applicants and can be worded differently depending on the previous work experience and career level of the applicant. Four of the most common objective formats include:
Types of Career Objective
Entry-level or Student
Entry level and Student Career Objectives will focus more on educational history, including relevant classes, degrees or honors that can be applied in a professional setting. A well-written entry-level career objective will contain the following points:
- Highest degree earned and from what institution
- Cumulative GPA if above 3.0
- Course focuses or curriculum emphasis
- Internship or relevant study/work experience
A general Entry-level Mission Statement would read like:
“B.S in International Marketing from Brown University with a 3.8/4.0 GPA. Possesses comprehensive digital and print marketing expertise, with an emphasis on sales verticals. “
Re-entering the workforce
People who are re-entering the workforce will focus more on their cumulative years of industry-specific experiences in their objectives. If applicant was recently retraining or attained further educational or certification, this is also suitable for a Re-entering the Workforce resume. An effective re-entering the workforce career objective will contain:
- Summarization of total years previous experience
- Technical or postgraduate training or certifications
- Highlight notable achievement or employer
- State desired objective/goal in new employment
A general Re-entering the Workforce Purpose Statement would read like:
“Human Resources Manager with 12+ years of experience seeking to re=enter the workforce in a HR Director function. Posses HR experience with multiple Fortune 100 firms and a MBA from American University.”
Applicants that are in the process of switching careers, or considering switching careers, are some of the best examples of resumes that should utilize the Career Objective section. A good career-changer career objective will contain:
- Mention of cumulative experience in given industry
- Listing of highest attained title
- Inclusion of industry focus or specialty
- Brief and contained within two sentences
A general switching careers resume objective would read like:
“To utilize my 12+ years of logistics experience as a top coordinator in the shipping industry into a career in office operations management, with a focus on national and international location coordination.”
Varied Work Experience
Having held jobs in many different industries, or a few unrelated industries, composing a targeted career objective can be a challenge. Many applicants have such varied experiences however, and thus writing an effective objective is simple. Like other objectives, state the desired goal and find a skill or experience from a previous, relevant experience to support the goal. Compelling varied work experience career objectives will most often include:
- Identification of a previous experience or employer of current relevance
- Mention of education level if University or above
- Inclusion of any specialized training or certificate pertinent to desired job
Limited to two sentences in overall lengthA general varied work experience career objective will read like:
“Seeking mid-level secretarial assistant position where I can utilize my extensive technical and time management experience. Currently obtaining M.A in Statistics from Berkeley College.”
In summary, a well-written career objective can be the difference between landing an interview and not. Located at the top of your resume the career objective deserves considerable thought regarding what information to contain in the one or two sentences. If you are uncertain of what to include or how to format your resume, please visit the resume builder to assist you.
The qualifications summary section is a concise synopsis of your qualifications and achievements. It is for experienced professionals with sufficient experience, typically five or more years in one particular field.
What you should include
Be selective in what you decide to include. Only include information that is relevant to the employer – typically this will include:
- Area of expertise and number of years of experience. Note: If you include this then you should not include it in the career objective section.
- Key responsibilities and accomplishments.
- Certifications, graduate degrees and licensure.
Make sure that you are in fact the type of applicant that could benefit from using a qualifications summary. Someone early in their career or without much prior experience should stay with the traditional career objective section or avoid an introduction altogether (if also including a cover letter).
Remember to keep the qualifications summary short and concise, you don’t want to include non-relevant information, as it will make the entire resume seem weak. Stick only your strongest and most relevant qualifications in the summary and save the rest for the body of your resume.
TIP: Learn how to beat Applicant Tracking Systems(ATS).
When you should use a qualifications summary section
You should consider using a qualifications summary section if you meet one or more of the following criteria:
- You are at the experienced manager pay grade or above (5+ yrs of experience).
- You have a broad range of skills and experience.
- You wish to highlight some of your experience from earlier in your career that otherwise might not get noticed.
It’s important to note that just because you meet the above qualifications it doesn’t mean that you are required to use a qualifications summary. Depending on the job being applied for an entirely different format may be appropriate, such as the functional resume format.
Alternatively, if you lack some of the criteria above you can consider adding a simple career objective, as this doesn’t depend on previous experience or skills as much as the qualifications summary.
Using any of these terms as the title of your opening “qualifications summary” will suffice as they are essentially variations of synonyms.
Take your time crafting a succinct qualifications summary as it will be the introduction of your resume and set the tone for the entire document as well as make a strong initial impression. A useful tip would be to use action words and/or numerical quantification as well in the opening statement as numbers always stand out and action words establish a proactive tone for the entire resume. Read about our blog post on why a qualifications summary may be better than a career objective.
How to write the professional experience section
Order work experience in reverse chronological order
Majority of employers prefer to see your work history in reverse chronological order (the most recent work experience first). They want to know what you have been working on and what skills you can apply to the new position.
Place emphasis on your most recent experience
Your work experience should demonstrate a progression of responsibility, skills and accomplishments. You want to highlight your most recent work experience and how it pertains to the job you are targeting. Summarize experience from the beginning of your career, focusing primarily on accomplishments rather than responsibilities.
List positions held within each company separately
If you held more than one position at the same company, make sure you separate those out so it is clear on your resume. This demonstrates upward mobility and a track record of promotion within the company. It also allows you to highlight specific skills and accomplishments for each position.
Quantify your responsibilities and accomplishments
Describe not only what your responsibilities were, but the scope of those responsibilities. For example, if you managed a project describe how many people you supervised and what the end result was. By adding scale to your resume you can paint a more accurate picture of your qualifications and achievements.
Meet the job posting’s requirements
As in any sales pitch, you want to match what you’re selling to what the customer wants to purchase. In the case of your resume, you want your qualifications and skills to meet the explicit requirements of the job posting. By creating a customized version of your resume that matches what the employer is seeking you greatly increase your likelihood of landing a job interview.
10 Traits Employers Want
There are several traits every employer is looking for. Using the example of a Sales Manager resume, we’ve listed sample job phrases for each character trait.
1. Ability to Learn Quickly
Example: Acclimated myself and 5 sales executives with using salesforce.com software, improving lead conversion rates by 45% within 3 months.
2. Research, Analyze, and Solve Problems
Example: Produced 6 month sales strategy for emerging regulatory rules regarding the sale of the company’s flagship product.
3. Initiate and Develop New Programs
Example: Created a marketing campaign for the General Motors Account, including sales scripts, brochures and new website.
4. Work Collaboratively
Example: Collaborated with cross functional teams to create quarterly sales forecasts.
5. Lead a Team
Example: Led and trained sales team, including 10 Account Executives and 5 Sales Engineers.
6. Follow Instructions
Example: Executed implementation of corporate office’s new company culture policy, improving staff’s attitude towards excellence and customer service.
7. Meet Deadlines
Example: Met all monthly and quarterly sales goals set by management 4 years in a row.
8. Deal with Ambiguity
Example: Formulated several business cases for competitive threats facing the company and industry as a whole.
9. Make Decisions
Example: Managed roll out of new sales plan, including hiring new staff, outsourcing public relations tasks, and choosing new sales tracking software.
10. Use Time Efficiently
Example: Balanced sales management responsibility with day to day management of the company’s top client account, which represents 10% of overall sales.
How to write the Education section
There are several education scenarios possible:
- No college
- Currently enrolled in college
- Some college
- Completed college
If you didn´t go to college, there are still a tremendous number of occupations available as long as you have a high school diploma/GED. Make sure to highlight your skills and work experience, which often times is just as or more valuable than a college degree.
Currently enrolled in college
If you are currently enrolled in college, there is a proper way to demonstrate that fact on your resume. You do not want to omit the fact that you are in college, nor do you want to jump the gun and say you’ve already obtained a degree. You also need to specify when you expect to graduate and with what degree.
It is estimated that 52% of Americans have completed some college, but did not complete the entire program. Many opt to join the workforce, switch careers, or simply change their mind regarding a post-secondary education. Don´t let partial completion of a college degree go to waste. The fact is you obtained valuable knowledge and experience during your time in coll,ege, regardless if you graduated with a degree or not.
Additional information to include
Whether you have completed a certification course, associates, bachelors, or masters degree, the process is the same. Specify the school/institution, location, degree/program, and month/year of completion.
What to include:
- GPA only if over 3.0 (out of a 4.0 scale)
- Membership in associations, clubs, fraternities/sororities, etc.
- Awards or recognition
- Significant student projects
- Published papers
Relevant coursework (for students/entry level only)
If you are a student or recently joined the workforce and have less than 2 years of experience, it´s a good idea to mention relevant coursework, which are typically advanced courses taken that are applicable to your target job.
TIP: Learn if you should include references on your resume.
The additional skills section is a list of skills relevant to your job function and industry. This may include technical and non-technical skills required on the job. All of them can be easily written in few minutes via the resume building tool.
What to include
- Specialized skills required for the job. This is extremely important as employers are looking for candidates that have specific skill sets. This is not restricted to technical job seekers either. For example, if you are a Sales Resume you could list the different computer applications you used to manage your sales leads.
- Skills transferable or relate to the job. Some skills may not be directly applicable to the job you are applying to but may still be valuable. For example, if you are a Nurse and applying to a healthcare sales position it would be relevant to include your medical device skills. Check out how to write a nursing resume for further information. If you work in a warehouse or logistics you may mention your forklift experience or your ability to use a Global Positioning System (GPS)
- Foreign languages. Make sure you can actually speak and/or write each foreign language you list on your resume including your level (basic, intermediate or fluent). Otherwise, it is better to omit.
- Computer skills. It’s now common knowledge that many people write their knowledge of Microsoft Office software but there are other programs too. If you are a designer think about programs such as Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator and check out our Designer resume samples with extra writing tips for more information.
What not to include
- Overly generalized statements, such as “Excellent customer service skills”. If possessing excellent customer service skills is important to the job, you should highlight concrete examples of this skill within the Professional Experience section of your resume.
- Run of the mill skills, such as Microsoft Word. If the position demands a candidate with superior word processing skills, then you should highlight how many words you can type per minute. Caveat: if you are an older job candidate then you should list out your proficiency in computer software/hardware that you can discuss at the interview but you don’t need to write your date-of-birth on your resume.
- Skills not related to the job. If the position is for a Bank Teller position you probably shouldn’t mention your computer graphics skills. Learn more about what not to include on your resume.
Sample additional skill statements
- Proficient in Microsoft Excel for financial modeling and analysis
- Quickbooks power user with 6+ years of experience
- Experienced with AutoCAD and related diagramming software packages
- Skilled in Microsoft Office (Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint)
- Extremely fast typist (WPM: 90) with live transcription experience
- 15+ years fluent Mandarin and 5+ years intermediate Japanese
When to remove the Additional Skills section
Generally, you should retain an Additional Skills section if you possess a foreign language and 1-2 relevant skills. Don’t be afraid, however, to remove the section if it is not applicable to your occupation and work history.
When to create a new section or renaming the Additional Skills section
If your occupation demands a significant number of specialized skills you should either create a new section or rename the Additional Skills section (to something such as “Technical Skills”).
TIP: Want to show off your professional licenses, awards, or publications? Read our Additional Resume Sections Guide.
What not to include on a resume
We’ve already covered what to include on your resume.
Now, it’s time to discuss what not to include on your resume. This includes certain information that is either inappropriate, or simply does not need to be disclosed in the initial stages of your job hunt. Here is the full list, below:
- Date of birth
- Marital status/children
- Personal data (height, weight, health status, ethnicity, etc.)
- Letters of recommendation
- Salary history/requirements**
- The current date
- Reference list
*unless you are an actor or model, in which case an 8-by-10 head shot, on the back of the resume, is recommended.
**unless you are applying to a government job, which follows a specific set of resume guidelines
It is possible that you, or others that you know, have accidentally included this kind of information in your resume. While including it is not necessarily a “game ender” for your job search, you’ll nonetheless be labeled as a rookie by an experienced hiring manager.
However, you should be warned — including information about your salary history could be considered a dramatic career mistake. First of all, it is inappropriate for a potential employer to even ask you about your previous salary. That is because they will use that information against you during your salary negotiation.
TIP: Should you create a video resume? Find out here.
You can seriously harm your prospects for achieving a higher salary by revealing that kind of information. While including your height, weight, and eye color might be a silly and harmless mistake, including your salary is simply self-sabotaging.
Check out this article written by us for further information on what NOT to include on your resume that goes into further depth on the list above.
If you are one of the exceptions such as an actor or a government official then read our guide on how to write an acting resume or how to write a government resume, which includes a variety of resume samples you can choose from inspiration.
A well-formatted resume should always follow well-structured guidelines so you can have the best chance of getting that interview. Make sure you get somebody to check over your resume when you’re finished, our resume experts are always here to help, don’t give up.