Table of Contents
What to Include in a Resume
The necessary components of a resume differ depending on your industry and the job you’re applying for. When deciding what to include, you should start by considering the nature of your prospective employers, your level of experience, as well as the skills and certifications desired. For example, an LPN may want to add a licenses and certifications section to their resume, while a retail associate would spend more time fleshing out their work experience section. Similarly, a new grad applying for an entry-level job would highlight their exceptional GPA and education accomplishments, while someone who’s late in their career would merely list their relevant degrees and spend more time emphasizing their accomplishments and marketable skills.
Despite the all the different variables, there are basic sections that the majority of employers seek (which you’ll see in most resume samples), and you should plan on including these in your resume.
– Resume summary
– Work History
“Alongside deciding what sections and information you’ll include in your resume, you should also give some thought to which of the two primary resume styles best suit your work history: chronological or functional. In some cases, a hybrid may be best.“
A chronological resume lists your work experience in chronological order, which is best for job seekers who have zero employment gaps and have followed a traditional employment path.
Functional resumes, on the other hand, zero in on acquired skills—rather than previous positions—and are often better for recent graduates, workers re-entering the workforce after a considerable gap (such as stay-at-home parents), and professionals who have been in the same type of job for their entire career (such as teachers).
As you continue reading this guide, look out for additional tips about formatting these styles. You may also want to consult various resume samples to get a better idea of how each approach looks on paper.
How to Write the Resume Summary Statement
Given that employers generally gaze at a resume for mere seconds, a succinct summary statement, which is essentially just a condensed synopsis of your core credentials, can set you apart from the crowd. Like an exciting book, your resume summary statement should hook in the reader instantly.
If you’re unsure of how to put this together, follow these steps:
Craft three short phrases
Avoid using first-person pronouns (so, don’t use “I” or “me”)
Begin with your most marketable professional qualifier
Place this section under your name and contact information at the top of the page
Still confused? Check out these examples and peruse the other resume samples in this section for more:
Seasoned administrative assistant with seven years of experience in human resources and fluency in three languages: Spanish, Punjabi, and English. Devised an effective onboarding program that increased the employee retention rate by 8% to assist the Senior Director. Also capable of event planning and project management.
Certified master carpenter with expertise in architectural drafting and 15 years of experience in a general contracting team. Endowed with exceptional mathematical and design talents. Excels in general troubleshooting, maintenance, and repairs.
How to Write the Education Section in Your Resume
Before you write your education section, research your industry. Banks (such as the illustrious Goldman Sachs Group Inc.) often ask for an applicant’s SAT score (regardless of the hopeful employee’s age), while a technical position may value specific tech certifications alongside an academic degree. Many jobs also require state licensing. Find out exactly what your industry values, consult the job description’s requirements, list all of your educational experiences on a piece of scratch paper, then filter by importance and relevance.
Note that some items—though extremely important in the past—may not need to be included, and would only take up precious space in your resume. If you have earned a college degree, for instance, you do not need to include your high school degree (or GED certification) on your resume. It’s assumed that you obtained a degree in order to attend college, let alone graduate. The same logic doesn’t quite apply to higher degrees, so read carefully: If you obtained a master’s or Ph.D., however, you should still add your undergraduate degree but be sure to place your most recent degree prominently. This means that your undergraduate degree should appear lower and take up less space. See the resume samples to make sure you’re adding education correctly.
In general, focus on your most recent achievements. You may have had an epic GPA in school, but if you’ve been in the workforce for several years, then your GPA is irrelevant to hiring managers. Why not instead include an award you won at your most recent job?
How to Write the Work Experience Section in Your Resume
Remember, there are two resume types: chronological and functional. The beauty of both come into play most prominently in the work experience section.
If you choose to design a chronological resume, list your jobs in reverse order. Your most recent position goes on top, while your first relevant job will sit at the bottom. For each entry, write your title, the company name, and your employment dates on the first line. Below this, craft a bulleted list of your responsibilities and proudest accomplishments in the position. To elevate your resume above those of the flock of other applicants, quantify your accomplishments.
For example, let’s say you are a barista. Instead of writing “Encouraged customers to buy food with their coffee” write “Successfully upsold 50% of customers purchasing a drink.” In the second example, you have provided your prospective employer with a tangible claim that demonstrates your sales skills. For the responsibilities, pick and choose those that would be most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Remember to include words used in the job description for the job you seek. As for accomplishments, list any awards or honors you received.
A functional resume, on the other hand, separates your work history into subheadings and does not include dates. Your goal here is not to emphasize your past jobs, but rather to use the functional resume to illuminate career highlights and accomplishments that would most purposefully relate to the job you are applying for presently. Said subheadings should group these applicable talents into comprehensive lists. If you’re a nurse, for example, your functional resume can be separated by “Clinical Skills” and “Specialty Areas.” (Remember to read the job post carefully so that you share only your most relevant skills.) Below these kinds of accomplishment-driven subheadings, write a concise list of places where you have worked. There is no need to include dates or the specific responsibilities included with each position.
Action Verbs to Include in Your Work Experience Section
How to Write the Resume Skills Section
Now it’s time to showcase your skills. List all talents and unique attributes that set you apart from other candidates on a piece of scratch paper. Review the list, and see which fortes are applicable to the position. You should list these first, and you should also double check the job description to see which skills they list. If you possess any of the mentioned abilities, be sure to include them.
You may also want to list soft skills. For example, leadership experience—whether you coached a kiddie soccer league or served as president to a club—is always a plus. If you have any talents that are not directly relevant to the position—technical abilities (like coding), artistic prowess (like photography) or comprehensive foreign language skills—here is a great place to address them. Just make sure including these kinds of skills doesn’t make your resume unnecessarily long. If you’re unsure of what an ideal length looks like, look at our resume samples.
Should I Include References in My Resume?
If the job posting specifically requests references in your resume, include them. Otherwise, keep a list of references handy but do not include it. Offering references on your resume is nice, but it can occupy valuable space that you can otherwise use to drive home your accomplishments and unique selling points. If your prospective employers specifically requested references on your resume, however, including them is worth the occupied space. Choose references who can speak well of you and answer complex questions. A direct supervisor is a great option. Make sure to give your references a courtesy heads-up prior to listing their information.
Common Resume Fails: Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t rely on spell check. Sometimes a spell check service will “correct” a word in a way that changes its context. If you intend to type “Proficient in all Slavic languages” but misspell “Slavic,” your computer may change this to “Proficient in all slave languages.” Needless to say, proofread your resume extra carefully, and consider asking a friend or family member to glance over it as well. Pro tip: Always read your resume aloud before sending it because you are more likely to catch mistakes when you hear your own voice make them.
Avoid generalizations. Always be as specific as possible. As you can see from the best and brightest resume samples, it’s beneficial to share relevant details and not just make broad sweeping statements that fail to show how valuable an employee you are.
Remember to read the job posting carefully, and employ the words and phrases used in your resume. Many HR departments use automated resume readers that look for these key terms and discard resumes that do not include them.
List information by relevance. Though you may be proud of your CPR certification, it is less applicable at an office job, and so it should only appear on your resume (if at all) towards the bottom of the skills section.
Be mindful of your format. Employers don’t look at resumes for more than a few seconds. Look at the format of your resume with critical eyes. Are your most relevant talents easy to read? Would a hiring manager be intimidated by big chunks of text? Is there a good flow throughout it all? If you’re unsure, go back to the resume samples you started with and use them for some final guidance.