Although resumes vary with industry and experience, there are certain components that hiring managers expect all resumes to include. These elements help provide insights on your qualifications as a candidate and prove that you are an ideal match for the job. In this article, we explain the key components that help you create an effective resume, along with some optional elements that can make an impact.
Making sure to include these components clearly in your resume will make it easier for hiring managers to skim the document and assess your relevant qualifications.
While you will have similar sections as other candidates, the information you provide within them can help you set yourself apart and attract the hiring manager's attention. Leaving out any of these essential components could hurt your chances, as a hiring manager who cannot easily find your qualifications may get frustrated and discontinue reading your resume.
A well-written resume should include the following elements:
Your resume should always include your name and contact information at the top of the document. This information should stand out from the rest of your resume, making it easier for the reader to know how to reach you. Provide the following details:
Your telephone number
Your email address
The city and state where you currently reside
Depending on the type of job you are applying for, you may want to include a link to your professional social media profile or website. These can serve as a resource to provide additional information about your career and examples of your work.
Pick the option that best matches your experience level or career situation. Whichever you choose, you will place this section at the top of your resume, below your contact information but above your professional experience section. Always include information that aligns with the job to which you are applying, as this will prove you are qualified to take on the responsibilities of the role.
A resume objective: One to two sentences that introduce your qualifications and highlights your career goals. It is best suited for entry-level candidates or individuals making a career change.
A professional summary: A short description, about three to five sentences, of your most significant and relevant attributes and achievements. Choose a summary if you have at least three years of professional experience.
Your professional experience will take up the most significant space on your resume, so ensure it creates a clear picture of your qualifications. Avoid focusing on the tasks or responsibilities you held during your previous jobs, and instead offer examples of your accomplishments to prove your value as an employee. Try to include as many measurable details as possible, whether they are percentages related to results you created or quantify the amount of work you accomplished in a particular amount of time.
This section should include the following information:
Your position titles
Name of employers
Location of employers
Dates of employment
Brief bullet points about your significant responsibilities and accomplishments in the role
As a general rule, only include your last 10 to 15 years of professional experience. Limiting the number of jobs you list can help keep your resume concise and allow you to focus on your most relevant experience. Also list other experiences, such as internships, part-time jobs, freelance work or volunteer work, as long as they relate to the skills or requirements of the position to which you are applying.
Your resume should include a section that details the specific skills you have that are relevant to the position. Put this bulleted list under a summary section or in a column on the side of the document. In most situations, you should include no more than 10 skills to avoid creating clutter on your resume. Use the job description to determine which skills are most essential to the job. Remember to incorporate keywords from the description, which will help you pass applicant tracking systems and make it easier for hiring managers to understand your qualifications.
Your education section should generally sit at the bottom of your resume. However, recent college graduates can place this section above their professional experience. This section should provide the hiring manager insights into your relevant educational background and qualifications. Some employers may ask for candidates with a specific degree or training, so be sure to highlight those details.
List the following information in your education section:
Names of schools attended
Locations of schools attended
Degrees received (starting with the most advanced)
Relevant courses (optional)
Your education section will likely depend on your career experience. A recent college graduate (within the last five years) may include their graduation year or GPA, as long as it is above a 3.5. Once you graduate from college, you also do not need to mention anything about your high school education.
An effective resume will provide an easy reading experience for the hiring manager. Each section should have a distinct heading, and there should be enough white space between them to ensure your document does not look cluttered. You can also get creative with your formatting by incorporating some colors in your headings or other design features, but you must maintain professionalism and make choices in line with your potential employer's style.
Most applicants use a reverse-chronological format, where you list your professional experience from most recent to least. However, some career situations may require you to think about using a functional or combination format. For example, you may switch your resume type if you are making a significant career change or have employment gaps.
A good resume will not have any typos, misspellings or other grammatical errors. Always perform multiple reviews of your document and have someone else read it so they can catch anything you might not have seen. An error-free resume will prove that you can produce quality work, along with showing that you have an attention to detail. If you include links in your resume, click on them to ensure they go to the proper location—this will avoid causing any frustration to the reader.
The following elements are optional but can be incorporated on the side or bottom of a resume to display your unique qualifications as a candidate:
Awards and honors: You can list these achievements under your experience section or highlight them separately. They should be related to the position to showcase your professional abilities. It is especially effective to include any industry-wide recognition you have received.
Languages: If you are proficient in more than one language and believe they might be an asset for the position, include them and your level of fluency.
Testimonials: You may want to showcase an impressive client or manager testimonial as demonstrable proof of the value you offer. Make sure that it is brief and does not take up too much space in your document.
Publications: If you have written for or appeared in well-known publications, include a link if possible or the title of your piece. You can also mention any significant speaking appearances you have made. These details can demonstrate that you have expert knowledge in your industry.
Activities and hobbies: Only mention your interests outside of work if they seem to align with the position. They can help prove your interest in the role or provide additional relevant experience not covered in your other sections. For example, if you were applying to a company that sells fitness equipment, you might mention that you are an avid weightlifter.