The nature of resume implies great flexibility. It means you can adjust resume sections on your main marketing document depending on your career goals, experience, and skill set. However, tweaking a resume to match prospective employers’ needs is easier said than done. There are many things job seekers can add or change on a resume. However, there are must-have components that HRs want to see on a resume regardless of your career objectives or qualifications. That said, some job seekers are confused as to what they can remove (change) and what they should keep. The question of managing your resume sections wisely then becomes crucially important for those who approach job search seriously.

Resume Sections to Include

As we have already said, there are some things employers want to see on a resume regardless of your past career record. The reason is they want to do a so-called quick background check to see where the candidate is coming from. Even before reviewing (let alone analyzing) one’s qualifications and skills and matching them against the job requirements, the hiring authorities skim through the document to get a general understanding of who the candidate is. It may come as a big surprise but HRs don’t read resumes. They simply don’t have time to read and analyze each of the document (even after an ATS selects the most relevant ones). 

Usually, they prefer checking specific sections to see what the candidate has to offer. Very often the candidates are disqualified at this initial stage if something important is missing or if the hiring manager doesn’t like something. Another reason why some candidates may be discarded at this stage is because their resumes are not easy to read/scan. This is why your main marketing document should be organized into sections with each part clearly separated from each other. It helps employers navigate through the document easily in their attempts to find specific information. Here are some of the resume sections employers want to see at all times: contact information, summary (profile), work experience, educational credentials, and skills.

Contact Information

While contact information may not be considered a section in the eyes of job seekers, it certainly is for employers. The thing is that failing to provide your full contact information may ruin your chances of getting hired. Job seekers should realize that the hiring managers won’t be spending extra time and efforts on trying to find out how to contact them. As the person trying to get a job, you need to make sure your resume shows the way how you can be contacted easily. Therefore, we recommend placing your contact information at the top of the document.

 

Also, there are certain things you should include in this section: full name, physical address (street, city, state, and zip code), email address, and contact phone number. These are must-have components of the first resume section. Additionally, you can add a link to your LinkedIn page and a personal website (portfolio) if you have one. This is the first section employers expect to come across when reading your resume. Therefore, place it at the top and make sure it stands out. You can use a horizontal line to make a clear section separation.

Summary Section

While the contact information section is somewhat a technical part of a resume, a summary section is the first block of content to communicate the message that you are the right match for the job. This section can also be called “Overview of Qualifications”, “Profile”, “Executive Summary”, etc. But regardless of how you name it, it should be your elevator pitch that will make you stand out from the crowd of other candidates. This is the chance to articulate your value by emphasizing your relevant experiences and skills right off the bat.

We recommend organizing this resume section in the form of short statements. You can either organize it in a paragraph or a bulleted list (4-6 statements). This entire section should answer this simple question: what makes you the right candidate for the job? Make sure you tailor this section when applying to different jobs.  A summary section should always speak to the specific needs of specific employers.

Work Experience

In most cases, work experience is the second thing employers want to see after the summary section. So it would be a smart decision to place it somewhere near the top of the first page. Work experience is the meat of every resume. In the end, it all boils down to what you managed to achieve during your past jobs. Besides, this section helps the hiring managers to track your career progression.

Employers are particularly interested to see the employment dates, the name of the companies, and job titles along with the list of accomplishments and responsibilities for each of the roles. This is the section the decision makers turn to when trying to understand whether you actually used the skills you claim to possess. Keep in mind, that you have the freedom to list only relevant experiences. You don’t have to include all of the jobs. 

Education

Unless you are a recent graduate or trying to change the industry, the education section should follow the work experience section. It should list the schools and colleges you attended and the degrees earned. But despite the fact that this is the section employers expect to see on a resume, you can still tailor it to fir your career goals. Obviously, if you are a student or a recent graduate, you may want to incorporate more details in this section.

As a rule, job seekers are expected to include the list of colleges and the degrees earned. GPA score, graduation years, and academic awards are optional (depending on what you are after). If you have earned at least an Associate’s Degree, leave out your high school diploma. You can hardly impress anyone with that. Sometimes, it makes sense to list certifications and licensure in this section too. 

Skills

Usually, the skills section should follow the education section on a resume. It should contain your abilities relevant to the job you are applying for (pretty much like the rest of your resume content). It is better to categorize your skills: computer skills, software skills, language skills, etc. This way employers will be able to quickly find what they need.

Sometimes, however, the skills section on a resume is too important to be placed at the end of the document (just like in the example below). This happens when you apply for the jobs that require a certain set of technical skills. For example, if you are a programmer or an IT professional it would make sense to show off your technical proficiency before you list your work experience. Regardless of where you choose to place your skills section, make sure it addresses the job requirements. 

Resume Sections to Consider

There is no universal path to resume success. Because you are different from the crowd of other job seekers, so should be your resume. This means that sometimes, you may want to add resume sections that will not appear on the application documents of other candidates. And it is absolutely ok. Because effective resume writing process is based on individual career goals and unique experiences the list and organization of resume sections can vary. Apart from the must-have resume components, there are other sections you may want to consider. Including some of them may help you highlight your value for the employers.

Community Engagement/Volunteering –  Listing volunteer work in certain situations can be a great move to set yourself apart from the competition. Employers like people willing to help those in need. No employers have ever complained about people being too helpful anyway.

Projects – If you have not managed to list your project-based work experiences in any of the resume sections, you should definitely create a separate section then. Whether it was a contract or freelance work, it deserves to be on your resume (if it is relevant).

Certifications & Licensure – Employers like hiring people who don’t stop learning new things. Having a Master of Business Administration degree is all nice but completing business or industry-specific training courses can be a great add-on that will highlight your willingness to learn new things.

Publications – Although this section is mostly used by professionals in academia and medical industry, some people who want to show off their writing and creativity skills can also include this section on a resume. There are plenty of opportunities today to be featured in an online magazine, blog, or some other platform. So if you are planning to use your writing skills in your next job and you have publications online, make sure you include those on your main application document.

Memberships – Professional memberships and affiliations can show the hiring managers that you are genuinely interested in the industry. 

Resume Sections to Exclude

Objective Statement. As rule, objectives do nothing but waste valuable space on a resume. Saying that you want to get a job in a reputable company does nothing good whatsoever. It brings no valuable information to prospective employers. Besides, who cares about your career goals and objectives? Let’s be honest, the hiring managers care for nothing but the company’s needs. As they scan each resume, they keep asking themselves “What’s in it for us?” Unfortunately, objective statements usually don’t answer this question and therefore, should be removed from resumes. There are some exceptions though.

Hobbies. In general, employers don’t care about your hobbies (just like they don’t care about what kind of job you are hoping to get). Most hobbies sections we have seen didn’t contribute anything good to resumes at all. Therefore, it is better to leave out your love for singing in karaoke bars. If your hobbies reflect skills required for the target job or they somehow demonstrate your leadership ability, then you can consider adding them on the document. Otherwise, leave them out.

Additional Experience. A resume is not a biography; it shouldn’t include all of your experiences. The purpose of the document is very clear – to generate enough of HR’s interest to invite you for a job interview. Unfortunately, many job seekers believe that it is an absolute rule to list all of the experiences they used to have. 

Awards & Recognition. Now awards are great if they help the hiring managers understand that you are a good match for the position. Nevertheless, job seekers like to include this section on a resume only to list their academic achievements (such as GPA, Cum Laude, etc.). If you have real accomplishments, it is likely you can integrate them into your work experience section (this is the best way as employers will be able to correspond specific achievements with job experiences.