What to Include on a Resume
You should always include the following five resume sections:
Everything else, including certifications, volunteer work, hobbies, and style elements like photos and icons are optional additions to your resume.
What you should add to your resume depends on various factors, such as your level of experience, which resume format you pick, and your desired resume length.
Let’s explore the details.
1. Contact Section
Even the best resume won’t land you a new job if employers can’t reach you. At a minimum, your resume header should include the following contact information:
- Full name
- Email address
- Phone number
A mailing address on your resume is unnecessary because most employers won’t contact you by mail.
Social media is a good way to highlight your professional history to employers, and can be a positive addition to your contact information.
But be careful about which profiles you put on your resume:
Your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a great networking resource for professionals in any field.
Your Twitter handle, but only if you regularly tweet about topics relevant to your profession.
Platforms such as Facebook, Reddit, or TikTok, as these platforms are rarely relevant to work.
2. Resume Introduction: Objective vs Summary
A resume objective is the traditional resume introduction used by job seekers. Resume objectives outline your ambitions, and what you seek to achieve in your career.
Resume objectives are best used by:
- New graduates
- Current students
- Job seekers with no work experience
- Career switchers
Here’s an example resume objective:
Customer service representative looking to leverage sales and tech support experience to excel in a customer care role at your call center. My customer satisfaction rating and excellent typing skills will be an asset to your company.
While resume objectives are still acceptable resume introductions, you should instead take time to focus on your target company’s needs at the start of your resume if possible. You can do this with a resume summary.
Resume summaries allow you to emphasize your achievements, and how these accomplishments tie into what the company is looking for from their ideal candidate. Here’s an example:
- Caregiving: Provide quality health care in a 20-patient ward, including daily monitoring, recording, and evaluation
- Knowledgeable: Graduated Sacramento State Nursing program with 3.9 GPA
- Communication skills: Interface daily with 47 team members concerning patients’ treatments
- Empathetic: Commended 3 times for ability to deliver bad news to patients and their family members
3. Education Section
Unless you work in academia, your resume education section should just list your highest level of education, and the name of your degree (if applicable).
Only include your high school education if you’re currently enrolled in high school, or don’t have a college degree.
You can describe relevant coursework on your resume that you did as part of your degree, but only if you have little or no work experience to include.
If you’re unsure how to craft a resume that markets your strengths, look at our college student resume example.
Have any academic awards or honors? Include them in your education section, especially if you’re a recent graduate.
Graduating as salutatorian or summa cum laude can be impressive information to add to your resume, and shows employers you’re intelligent and motivated.
Here’s an example of a properly formatted education section where the candidate listed cum laude on their resume:
B.A. in Political Science
Towson University — Towson, MD
Honors: magna cum laude
Only include your GPA on your resume if you’re either writing a recent college graduate resume or are applying to jobs in academia. In the example above, the candidate opted to leave their GPA out.
4. Work Experience
Your professional experience section is the main part of your resume.
Work experience shows hiring managers what you’ve accomplished throughout your professional career, and highlights your expertise.
To write an experience section that impresses recruiters, list the relevant jobs you’ve held with the most recent at the top. Under each job title, write 3 to 5 concise bullet points that demonstrate the skills and experience you developed working that job.
Think of your resume as an advertisement of your abilities. Every position you list should include something that shows you’re qualified for the job you want.
Check out this example of a well-written resume work experience section:
What makes this example outstanding is that each bullet point:
- is concise
- uses strong resume words
- illustrates a specific concrete example of what the candidate accomplished
- backs up those examples with hard numbers
If you’re a recent graduate or have limited work experience, add internships to your experience section.
However, if you already have 5+ years of professional experience, cut the internships from your work history section. It’s better to use your resume’s limited space to describe your professional experience in depth, rather than fill it with internships.
5. Skills Section
Hiring managers want to find candidates with diverse skills.
That’s why a thorough, resume skills section is the perfect companion to your experience section, and can set you apart from other candidates.
Not sure what skills to put on your resume?
First, look at the job listing for the position you want. Typically, a job ad mentions the key skills required (and desired) for the position.
Then, compile a list of your own skills that meet these requirements, as well as any specific technical skills you have.
Your skills section should feature a mix of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are learned through specific courses or on the job, like a cashier learning how to operate a point-of-sale (POS) system. Soft skills are related to your personality, such as whether you remain calm under pressure.
If it’s still unclear what to list in your skills section, these general hard and soft skills are applicable to nearly any job:
- People Skills
- Leadership Skills
- Communication Skills
- Interpersonal Skills
- Organizational Skills
- Customer Service Skills
- Computer Skills
- Time Management Skills
If you’ve still got some blank space on your resume, consider including one of these optional sections.
Listing personal interests on your resume is a great way to add personality to your application.
However, if you already have enough professional experience to fill a one-page resume, or are applying at a formal company, don’t include hobbies.
But if you have minimal experience, or are applying to work at a casual company, then hobbies are a way to add personality to your resume.
Including awards on your resume isn’t essential, but you can list them if they’re relevant to the job.
Awards, like employee of the month are relevant to most jobs, but you shouldn’t list a high-school poetry-writing award if you’re applying to a server position.
List relevant certifications on your resume if you have them. For example, if you’re a teacher, you might list a first aid certification on your resume.
Include the following information about your certifications:
- when they were awarded
- when they’ll expire (if appropriate)
- who issued them (for example, a college or licensing body)
You can either list certifications in your skills section or education section.
Putting volunteer work on your resume helps demonstrate your soft skills. Volunteering in general makes your application more attractive to employers, because it reflects your drive to be productive even when money isn’t involved.
If you can list volunteer experience without making your resume too long, you should absolutely include your volunteering activities.
This is especially true if you:
- have limited professional experience
- are changing industries
- have an experience gap in your resume
- need to highlight leadership skills that you haven’t developed as a paid professional
- have career-relevant volunteer experience
Volunteer experience helps add substance to a resume lacking it. Including such experience can ensure you stand out from other candidates, even if you’re an experienced professional.
If you’re writing a CV, you should list all of your publications.
On a resume, you don’t need to list publications, unless one is specifically relevant to the job you want. If you do list them, make sure you list your publications on your resume in a professional way.
What Not to Put on a Resume
Now that you know what to put on a resume, here are some things that are common on bad resume examples, and are guaranteed to hurt an otherwise great application.
Irrelevant experience makes your resume too long, and causes your application to appear thoughtless and generic.
If you have a long work history, remove positions you held 15+ years in the past, especially if they’re irrelevant to your target job.
Applying for work as a sales manager? A cashier position you held 10 years ago is best left off your resume.
A Photo or Headshot
Especially if you’re seeking work in the US, including a picture of yourself on a resume is inappropriate.
However, this rule varies by country. Here are some countries that expect you to use a photo of yourself on your resume, and countries that don’t:
Do use resume photos in these countries:
- South Korea
- Most European nations
Don’t use photos in these countries:
- United States
- United Kingdom
An Unprofessional Email Address
The email address you use for work should simply include your first and last name or initials.
Even if it’s been your email for decades, no hiring manager will interview you if your email is “XxskullcrusherxX@gmail.com”.
Inappropriate Personal Details
Details like your religion, disabilities, political leanings, and racial background shouldn’t be included on your resume.
Adding such personal information has no benefit, and makes it more likely employers will discriminate against you.
Clip Art or Images
While it may be tempting to boost your resume with graphics, most hiring managers consider this distracting and unprofessional.
Worse, graphics can confuse the applicant tracking system (ATS) software that many companies use to sift through resumes. If this happens to your application, it would automatically be discarded before a human even set eyes on it.
It’s important you know how to beat the ATS with your resume before sending your application. Avoiding graphics is a good first step.
Many job seekers think using a creative font on their resume helps their application stand out.
However, unusual fonts are distracting, and make your resume difficult to read.
Also, like images, uncommon fonts confuse the ATS.
The best fonts for resumes are timeless and formal: Garamond, Calibri, and Georgia are all great options.
You shouldn’t include references on a resume.
Most employers don’t require references up front, and will ask for them later.
Your resume has limited space. It’s better to ditch an unnecessary references section in favor of a longer skills list, a resume introduction, or a longer experience section.
However, if you’re using a federal resume template, include references under each position in your experience section.