Your resume is the first thing a company sees when you apply for a job. Usually, it’s the deciding factor in whether you get an interview or not. On your resume, you’ll list your contact information, skills, prior work experience, education, and any other relevant information pertinent to the role you’re applying for.
You should tailor your resume any time you apply for a role, even if the job appears highly related to your current and prior work experience. Insert relevant keywords and phrases from the job description, but rephrase them so your tailoring seems entirely natural. Of course, you want to remain honest in your application, so don’t include skills or experience you don’t possess. If you do, the hiring manager will likely discover your misstatements during an interview, and this may cause them to reject your application.
The following are all the components you should include in your resume to ensure you put your best foot forward in the application process.
If you’re wondering what to put on your resume, this article is for you.
I’m going to share everything you should include to get more interviews.
We’ll look at:
- Resume Basics
- What to put in a resume for experienced candidates
- What to put in a resume if you have no experience
- What NOT to include in your resume (mistakes to avoid)
- How to address employment gaps on a resume
- My best tip for getting your resume to stand out from other job seekers so you can land a better job in less time
Here’s exactly what to put on a resume, based on my experience as a recruiter…
Your resume is a one- or two-page document that outlines your experience, education, and skills related to an open position. Recruiters and hiring managers will review your resume to determine whether you are a suitable fit for the job. Remember that they’re likely looking at many different resumes — not just yours — so it’s crucial to showcase your strongest attributes and tailor your resume to suit the specific job position.
There are three basic types of resumes: chronological, functional, and combination.
A chronological resume starts with your most recent work history and works backward. It’s the most common type of resume people use when they’re presenting their professional background.
A functional resume is skills-focused and is more appropriate for individuals with less experience who are looking for a job in a new profession. Applicants also turn to functional resumes when they’d rather not emphasize a few gaps in their work history.
A combination resume provides an equal balance of skills and work history. Typically, it will start with critical skills related to the position before following with the applicant’s work history.
Watch: What to Put on a Resume
What to Put on Your Resume if You Have Experience
If you’re entering a job search with prior work experience, the following sections should be included on your resume.
(And don’t worry, I’ll share what entry-level job seekers should put on their resume coming up later in this article).
For job seekers with work experience, these are the 9 key types of information that a resume should include:
- Name and Contact Info
- Resume Summary Paragraph
- Employment History
- Social Media
- Community Involvement (Optional)
- Awards/Achievements You’ve Received (Optional)
Now that you know the 9 main things to include in a resume, let’s look at these sections step-by-step so you’ll know how to write each one.
1. Name and Contact Information
At the top of your resume, put your full name and a professional-looking email address. Your phone number and street address are optional, but for most people, I’d recommend including them. If you’re applying for jobs out-of-state, it might make sense to leave your address off.
Now, for formatting and design…
I’d keep it simple and “clean”-looking. No distractions. Not too many fonts and colors. In fact, this is good advice for how to format your whole resume.
Here’s an example from our Free Resume builder of what a simple resume header with your name and contact info might look like:
You can add a bit more in terms of design, but don’t go overboard.
2. Resume Summary Paragraph
This is the next section of your resume, and should go right after your name and contact info in most cases. This is a two or three sentence summary of your qualifications and accomplishments throughout your career (or throughout your education if you just graduated).
Note: this is not an “objective” section. I’d advise against putting an objective on your resume. Hiring managers know your objective is to land a job in their industry that will utilize your skills, etc. So put a summary paragraph instead.
If you need help writing this paragraph, here’s an article filled with great resume summary examples.
You can also include the job title right within your resume summary in some cases, which will immediately show employers that you have some relevant experience. For example, let’s say the job title on the job ad is “Senior Account Analyst”. You could write your summary like: “Senior-level account analyst with five years of experience in…”
It’s okay if you’re not a resume writing expert. Just use these examples here to craft your own resume summary.
Lets take a look at another example from our Free Resume Builder:
3. Employment History
If you have held any previous jobs (including internships), your experience section is where to put them. Focus heavily on this experience section, as it’s one of the first places a hiring manager looks on your resume.
Write the section in reverse chronological order, which means your most recent work should be at the top.
Include job titles, company names, and dates. You can choose whether to put just years, or months and years for each job; just be consistent throughout the document. And always begin this section within the top half of the first page of your resume.
As a recruiter, one of the top mistakes I saw job seekers make was burying their employment history on the bottom of the first page, or even the beginning of page two. It should be much higher up, and should be visible when they open your resume on a computer without having to scroll down.
Hiring managers will typically look here even before your skills section, so always be looking for opportunities to highlight technical skills and relevant job skills here. Ask yourself: “What have I done in recent jobs that will show a hiring manager that I’d do well in their job, too?” That’s the mindset to take when writing your work history. It’s all about writing your resume to fit the job you want next. And since hiring managers and recruiters are busy, they don’t want to read big, bulky paragraphs. Instead, put bullets highlighting what you did in each job. I’d suggest five to eight bullet points per job.
You can write a small introductory paragraph for each job, but most of the content should be in bullet format. In these bullet points, don’t just talk about job duties; talk about what you actually accomplished. There’s a big difference.
Here’s an example…
Rather than saying, “responsible for managing 5 sales associates”… say, “successfully led 5 sales associates to achieve 139% of team sales goals for Fiscal Year 2020.”
The image above is an example of a resume work experience section with accomplishment-driven bullets. Take the time to understand the difference and you’ll be far better than most job seekers at resume writing.
This is the next big section to put on your resume in any job search.
You might be tempted to put your skills before your employment history… and other people may have even told you to do this. But the only time I think it makes sense to list skills first is if you have absolutely no work experience. (I’ll share more about what to put on a resume with no experience coming up, by the way).
But if you have any prior work at all in your career… hiring managers don’t want to see a long list of technical skills without being able to see where you used each skill (and how recently you used them). This is why they’re much more likely to scan your resume looking for recent jobs before anything else. And that’s why you should put it higher up, so they can find this key info that they’re looking for quickly.
The bottom line is: If you want a good resume, then your skills should come after your experience section.
In your skills section, you can put a list of your top skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, and you can even put them under a few headers/categories if you think it makes sense for your job and industry. You should focus mostly on hard skills. The best skills to put will be found directly on the job description. It’s better to highlight soft skills (like “team player”) in your cover letter, where you can tell a story and share more detail on how you used this skill to succeed.
On a resume, hiring managers mainly look for hard skills and skills relevant to the job requirements.
There’s no perfect number of skills to put. Some people might only need 3-10; others might put 20. It really depends on how long you’ve been working and what field of work you’re in. Make sure you think about what’s relevant for the job though; don’t just list a bunch of skills that won’t help you in their job. And think about keywords too – this is a great place to put keywords on your resume so you can get past online job application systems.
This is what it would look like using a clean format from our Free Resume Builder:
Put the name of your school(s), your field of study, and graduation date – unless you feel your graduation date will leave you open to age discrimination on your resume. If you graduated decades ago, feel free to leave the dates off. You can also put your GPA in this section. I’d only recommend doing that if it was above 3.0/4. Otherwise, leave it off. You might be asked about your GPA in the first few years of your career, but you’re very unlikely to be asked about it again after that, so don’t worry if your GPA is below 3.0/4. Just exclude it from your resume.
6. Social Media
Nowadays, everyone has a social media account — many times on various platforms. In some cases, you’ll want to include your social media account handles if they’re relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Most people have a LinkedIn profile to connect with colleagues and other professionals in their industry. If you have a LinkedIn profile, you should certainly include a link if it’s correctly filled out and reflects similar content to your tailored resume.
Other social media accounts, like Twitter, StackOverflow, Github, and Medium, may also be helpful to include in some instances. For example, if you’re a noted journalist, you likely have a Twitter account you use to share important news or communicate with the community. In this case, it would be appropriate to include your Twitter handle.
Sites like StackOverflow and Github are popular for coders, developers, and data scientists. If you’re very active on these sites, it might be worth including your account on your resume.
Freelancers, content writers, and entrepreneurs regularly posting to Medium should share their channel information. Bonus points if they have many shared articles and comments on their content.
Some companies actively seek to hire employees who are fluent in languages besides English. If you are fluent in another language or know it well enough to speak or write it in a professional environment, include it on your resume.
Languages like Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Portuguese are often especially valuable to organizations with a global footprint, although others can also be beneficial.
8. Community Involvement (Optional)
If you’ve done any volunteer work or helped in your community in other ways, this is where to put it. You can list the location, dates, and your contribution/work. If you haven’t done any volunteering or community-related work, don’t worry – just don’t put this section on your resume.
9. Awards/Achievements (Optional)
Any time you’ve received awards or other recognition for your accomplishments, you should put it on your resume. However, you don’t always need a separate section for it. That’s up to you… If you got an academic award, you can list it under your education section (beneath your degree, GPA, etc.) If you received an award or recognition for outstanding performance at a previous job, you can list it as a bullet point or a note underneath that specific job in your Employment History section.
So while awards and achievements are a great thing to include on any resume, they don’t always need their own dedicated section. You should also mention awards and recognition you’ve received in your cover letter, especially if it was a work-related award (such as employee of the month, salesperson of the year, etc.)
What to Put on a Resume if You Have No Work Experience
Now, if you just graduated and have absolutely no work experience, here’s what to include on your entry-level resume.
(Note that if you even have an internship or part-time job that you’ve worked while going to school, you should use the steps above! Any work experience at all is worth showing on your resume).
However, if you have absolutely no work experience, here’s what to put on your resume…
1. Name and Contact Information
As mentioned earlier, you should put your full name and professional-looking email address. Your street address and phone number are optional, but for most people, it makes sense to include those too.
The big exception: If you’re trying to get a job in another state. If so, consider leaving the address off.
2. Resume Summary Section
Even if you have no work experience, you can write something like:
“Recent Finance graduate with training in ____ and ____ seeking an opportunity to do ____.”
Or, look at the job title on the job description and try to incorporate that phrase into your resume summary. I discussed this strategy earlier, too, when showing the resume format and what to put for experienced candidates.
For more help, read our full article on resume summaries for students and fresh graduates.
If you have no work experience, then you need to put more information in your education section, to show employers you’re a fit for their job.
Were you involved in any clubs/activities at school?
What were some key projects you completed or coursework you did? (Specifically, key projects that are related to the jobs you’re applying for now).
Your resume should take up one full page, even if you have no work experience, and your education section is a place where you want to provide additional detail to fill out the page.
You can list skills that you learned in your studies or skills you’ve developed on your own. Only put skills you’re really comfortable talking about and using, because it’s very likely they’ll ask about this in an interview. If done right, the skills section can be a powerful tool to help you get more interviews though, for two reasons:
First, it’s a great way to put a lot of relevant keywords onto your resume, so that you get past computerized job application systems.
Second, it’s an easy way to show employers what you know that’s going to help you succeed in their job. Always re-order and re-adjust your skills section to fit what you think this specific employer wants!
More info on how to do that is coming up, but let’s finish the list first…
5. Community Involvement (Optional)
Any volunteer work or community service you’ve done. This shows employers that you’re enthusiastic and involved in the community, which can help set you apart (while also filling up your resume).
6. Awards/Achievements (Optional)
If you have no work experience, these would likely be academic achievements. Go ahead and list them underneath your education section. So don’t put this as a separate section, but do include awards, achievements, and any recognition you received when you write your education section in Step 3 above.
You now know what to include on a resume, even if you’ve never held a job! Keep reading though, because next – we’re going to look at mistakes to avoid.
Ideal Resume Format
Whether you have work experience or not, you should use reverse chronological order resume format. This is the resume format that recruiters and employers are used to seeing and prefer to read.
Don’t get fancy when it comes to your resume writing. Don’t use some unusual format, like a functional resume, that hides dates of employment and the order of the jobs you’ve held. This will only frustrate employers and cost you job interviews. It could also prevent you from getting through a company’s applicant tracking system.
What Not to Include on a Resume: Mistakes to Avoid
Now we’ve looked at what should be included in a resume and how to write those sections to grab attention.
We’re not done yet though – there are a few things that you should leave off of your resume if you want to get interviews… and you may not have been warned about these. So let’s cover that next…
1. Irrelevant Jobs
If you have a long work history, consider removing some jobs that aren’t relevant, or were at the very beginning of your career (especially if you’ve been working for 15-20 years or more). Note that you shouldn’t remove an irrelevant job if it’s going to leave your employment history empty. For example, if you’ve only held one job but it’s not relevant to what you want to do next, you should still keep it.
Why? It’s better to put a job that doesn’t seem closely related to your current job search than to put absolutely nothing in your employment history. And you can always show traits like leadership, accountability, hard work, problem-solving, etc., in your past work history, no matter what job you had! So hiring managers might still find it relevant and impressive.
2. An Objective Statement
It’s a mistake to write a resume with an objective. This is outdated and no longer necessary. Employers will assume that your objective is to obtain a position at their company if you’ve applied, so this is not something to include on your resume. Instead, put a career summary section, as mentioned earlier in this article.
You can read more about why a resume doesn’t need an objective here.
3. Anything That Makes Your Resume More Than Two Pages
Unless you have a Ph.D. and are writing an academic CV… or unless you’ve been working for 10-15+ years… your resume should not be more than two pages.
For 60-70% of people, your resume should only be one page. So focus on what’s most important and keep the length short.
As a recruiter, I’d rather see 8 specific skills that are relevant to the job I’m hiring for, rather than a list of 30 general skills that you’ve used throughout your career but might not be relevant to the job. So make your resume laser-focused and target their needs!
4. More Soft Skills Than Hard Skills
As mentioned earlier, employers care mostly about hard skills on a resume. Your cover letter and job interview is where you should be demonstrating soft skills like communication, interpersonal skills, active listening, etc.
So as you review your resume, it’s a problem if you find many soft skills but few hard skills and job-related skills. In fact, you should be looking to highlight these job-related skills in practically every resume section, starting with your resume summary paragraph.
5. Spelling or Grammar Mistakes
Proofread and spellcheck everything.
You are very unlikely to get called for an interview if you have a spelling or grammar mistake on your resume – and nobody’s going to tell you either. So you need to find it yourself, or have a friend proofread it carefully for you!
Here’s a little trick if you proofread it yourself: temporarily change your resume to an unusual font before proofreading. It will help you spot errors (sounds crazy, I know. But it works). Now you’ve hopefully gotten answers to your questions about what should a resume include, and you’ve seen the top things to leave off as well.
Most companies use an automated tracking system (ATS) that scans all resumes before passing them on to recruiters. The ATS will automatically flunk the resumes of candidates who don’t appear to have the appropriate experience or education to qualify for the role. You’ll want to ensure your resume includes keywords and phrases that are relevant to the position so you will make it past the ATS scanner.
How to Address Employment Gaps on a Resume
If you have any gaps in your employment history, you’ll want to explain them — especially if they’re longer than a year.
You can usually “disguise” small gaps of less than a month by simply omitting the month. That practice is entirely acceptable, and if it comes up during the interview, you can explain you took a few weeks off before starting a new job. However, for lengthier leaves of absence, you’ll want to describe what you did when you weren’t working full-time. For instance, if you took off a few years to raise young children or care for an elderly parent, simply list your reasons and the date.
There’s one final step, though, that’s going to get you far more interviews from all of this…
Final Step to Make Your Resume Stand Out: Tailor Your Resume to the Job Description
I recommend tailoring your resume to match the job description before sending it out for each job. Look at the skills and keywords listed on the job description as you’re writing your resume, and include matching information as much as possible.
Recruiters are always evaluating your resume relative to the job opening, so the more you can include skills and professional experience from their job posting, the more interviews you’ll get. Customize your career summary statement, work experience, and even skill list. You can use the job posting to discover new ideas of what to include. You can also reorder your content and even remove one or two areas that aren’t relevant to the jobs you want next.
Here’s a full article on how to tailor your resume for each job.
It will take you slightly longer to customize each job application, but you’ll get far more responses.
Would you rather apply for 50 jobs and hear back from one? Or apply for 25 jobs and hear back from four? That’s the type of difference tailoring your resume can make.
Now you know what goes on a resume and how to make each section attractive to employers. If you follow the steps above you’re going to have a great resume that grabs attention and shows recruiters and hiring managers why they should interview you immediately.
Conclusion: What Should Job Seekers Put on a Resume?
If you read everything above, you now know what sections to include when writing your professional resume. You also know which format to use: reverse chronological order. Plus, you know the top mistakes to avoid, such as including a resume objective.
IF you follow this advice, you’ll have a resume that shows relevant skills and experience, in the order that employers want to see it.
Your resume will get past applicant tracking systems and recruiters/HR, so you can win more interviews for the jobs you want.
Note that you can either do this resume writing yourself or use a resume builder. Either way, you can follow the advice above to ensure you finish with the right resume format.