If you’re wondering what sections to include on a resume, you’re in the right place…
We’re going to go step-by-step through the most important resume sections and recommended titles and headers to use.
We’ll also look at how to write each section, and a few optional sections that you can use to get more interviews.
Let’s get started…
This is the first essential section of your resume and should appear at the very top of page 1, before any of your other information. It’s essentially a document heading intended to clearly show your name and relevant contact info.
Keep it simple and include your name, address (if you want), and email address. You can include a phone number too if you’d like. Finally, consider adding a link to your LinkedIn profile if you have one.
This resume heading area usually requires no title at all – you can begin with your name and contact info.
However, if you want to include a section title, your best option is “Contact Information”.
Here are two examples of what this section of a resume would look like:
Name & Contact Info Example 1:
Notice that you can include your city/state without your street address, if you want employers to see that you’re local but you’re not comfortable sharing your exact street address for privacy reasons. So this is an option to be aware of.
Now let’s get into the other main resume sections to include…
Your resume summary or career summary is the small section at the top of your resume, immediately following your header and contact info.
This is one of the shorter resume sections and should be three to four sentences for most job seekers, giving a high-level overview of your career and abilities while naming several of your key accomplishments.
This resume section exists instead of a resume objective. You should not include a resume objective since a hiring manager knows that your objective is to obtain the position you’ve applied for.
It’s also a good idea to list one or two of the job titles you are targeting within your resume summary section, as this is a key area scanned by an Applicant Tracking System.
If you want more info and examples of how to write this section, read this article on resume summary examples.
Resume section headings to use:
You can jump right into your summary without a title, or you can use either, “Career Summary” or “Professional Summary” for the header of this resume section.
If you have work experience, employers are going to want to see it near the top of the first page of your resume.
In fact, you should even consider positioning it before your skills section.
Why? Most hiring managers prefer to see the dates and jobs where you performed each task (and built each skill), instead of just seeing a general list of all your skills.
So they look immediately to your work experience section after opening your resume, to see if you’re a fit for their job.
This makes the work experience section one of the most important section of a resume (if not THE most important).
This section should take up more space than any other section on the typical resume, and should provide plenty of detail about your past work.
Be sure to include bullet points to make this resume section more skimmable.
When writing this section of your resume, remember that you don’t have to include every single job that you have ever had.
In fact, you should only include the most relevant information or the last 10-15 years of job history.
If there is relevant job history prior to this, it can be included in a section called Earlier Career History and dates should be removed to avoid any possibility of age discrimination.
For college students or recent graduates, include any part-time work or internships you’ve held here. Then, in your education section, put plenty of detail into your coursework and class projects.
If you have no formal, full-time work experience, then your academic work is your work experience, and hiring managers will look to see more detail about that on your resume.
If you want examples and more tips for this, here’s an article full of great resume work history examples.
Resume section titles to use:
Use either “Employment History,” “Work History,” “Work Experience,” or “Experience.”
The next must-have resume section is your skills. Highlight a list of your top skills and abilities that you’ve learned/used across all of your experience. Focus mainly on discussing skills that will help you in the jobs you want next.
Review the job description of the position you want before writing your skills section and try to match the employer’s needs.
As an example, if the job requires “Management Abilities,” and you currently have “Supervisory Skills” listed in your skills section, then change yours to reflect “Management Abilities.”
This will allow you to better pass the ATS process.
If you want more information on how to tailor your resume to a specific job to get more interviews, read this article.
Note that some people recommend swapping sections #3 and #4 above. So if you’d like, you can place the Skills section above the Work Experience section.
Or, at least include a small area highlighting your KEY skills (maybe 5-10 skills) that are most relevant to the specific job you’ve applied for. That could be a good small piece to add before your work experience section.
Resume section titles:
You can label this section as either, “Skills,” “Core Strengths,” or “Core Competencies.”
Your resume education section should typically follow your professional history and skills sections. Remember that you do not need to include a graduation date with your education.
In fact, I discourage clients from including a date, as this could begin to “date” you at some point in the future. The only time that Education should be placed prior to Professional History is when someone recently graduated from college and has little to no professional experience.
Recommended headers/titles for this resume section:
Use the header “Education.”
We’ve now looked at the top 5 resume sections that hiring managers look for and expect. You’ve also seen the recommended section titles/headers to use so that a hiring manager can quickly identify each section.
There are a few other optional sections of a resume that job seekers can use to stand out further, though, so now let’s look at the best optional resume sections.
This is a section that can be utilized to outline any volunteer activities, leadership positions, or significant impacts that you have made within the community. While this section is not a requirement for a resume, it is often a way to develop talking points or showcase your interests outside of work.
Resume section titles:
Use either, “Community Involvement” or “Community Engagement.”
This item is optional and not required for every job seeker.
However, some job seekers split their skills into two sections of their resumes.
They have technical skills, and then all other skills.
If you are in a highly-technical field like software engineering, this may be a good way to organize everything. Here’s an example of what it would look like. Notice the two separate sections and unique titles.
Along with your education section (mentioned previously), some job seekers opt to have a separate resume section for certifications, courses completed, and other continuing education.
This can be a good idea if you’re in an industry or position that requires you to maintain certifications or attend ongoing training in key skills.
If you have an important certification (i.e. a CPA or PMP) or have attended seminars in your field, it is beneficial to show hiring managers that you are up-to-date and ready to work for them.
Examples of fields where certifications and continuing education matter include healthcare, psychology, accounting, and more.
The resume section heading here can be:
“Certifications” or “Continuing Education.”
If you are looking for a way to differentiate yourself further on your resume, consider providing a third-party testimonial or endorsement; a quote from one or two people who know your work and can speak highly of your skills.
You can include a testimonial or two from former colleagues and managers, and/or customers who you’ve served in past jobs.
This is another way to highlight your core competencies and what you can offer to a potential employer.
Most job seekers are not doing this on their resume, and no hiring manager will require or expect it, but including this optional section on your resume will help you set yourself apart and grab the reader’s attention at first glance.
If you’re going to include a short testimonial section on your resume, put it high up on the first page to make sure it is seen.
Titles for this resume section:
“Testimonials” or “Endorsements.”
If you speak more than one language and think it might be relevant to the employer, definitely include that. It’ll set you apart and they’ll probably ask you about it in the interview, so it’s a good conversation starter too.
Creating a resume is both a science and an art. There is no one “right” way to outline your professional background; however, following this list of must-have resume sections and including each one will help you get the attention of hiring managers so you can get more interviews.
Keep this section title simple and choose one of the following:
“Languages” or “Languages Spoken.”
No matter which specific sections of a resume you use, and what order you write them in, ensure that you’re writing your professional experience in reverse chronological order.
This means that you should list each job title with dates of employment, and with your most recent/current job appearing at the top of the list.
Do NOT use a functional resume format that places your list of former jobs in a separate section from the work performed. Employers always want to see where you performed each piece of work, and when.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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