Anatomy of a Resume: How to Make Each Section Shine
You’ve heard it time and time again: your resume is your most valuable asset in your job-search tool belt. That’s why it is important to put a lot of effort into creating a resume that shows off your skills and experiences to hiring managers. According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, an estimated 40 percent of hiring managers spend less than 60 seconds reviewing each resume they receive. Make those seconds count by polishing each section of your resume to perfection.
Before we dive into each section, we wanted to include some resources for individuals creating their resume from scratch. Many word processors, such as Pages and Microsoft Word have resume templates that are easy to modify and customize. There are also many free templates available online on sites like ResumeGenius, Hloom and Canva. Keep in mind that a strong resume has consistent formatting and design throughout. Templates help you follow that recommendation, while also allowing for you to add your own personal touches. However, if you do decide to use a template, make sure you are also considering what will show off your skills and experiences the most effectively.
To begin, you’ll want to decide the arrangement of the sections on your resume. The order in which you do so is discretional and will be different based on your industry and stage of your career. For example, a recent graduate might want to feature his or her education at the top of their resume, whereas a more experienced technical professional might want to include his or her hard skills at the top. Whichever way you decided to structure your resume, you’ll want to make sure that it is the best representation of you and your skills. Below is our in-depth guide to making the most of each section on your resume.
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1. Basic Information
Following your name, your contact information should be located near the top of your resume and easy for hiring managers to locate. Included should be your phone number, email, and current home address. These items are extremely important to feature, as it will allow potential employers to easily identify if you are in the right location for their job opportunity as well as make it simple for them to contact you. For both the hiring manager’s and your own convenience, we recommend using one phone number and email for your job searching efforts. By keeping these methods of communications consistent, you may avoid misplaced correspondence and will have the ability to manage your conversations all in one place. Optional elements to include in this section are your social media profiles such as your LinkedIn URL and/or your online portfolio link.
Make Sure You Have:
- Your Name
- Your Primary Phone Number
- Your Primary Email Address
- Your Location (City & State at Minimum)
- Optional: social profiles, portfolio links, etc.
Pro Tip: When job searching, use a professional email that is not your work email
2. Profile/Professional Summary (Optional)
Recruiters and hiring managers have debated the use of a profile/professional summary for years. Whether or not it is right for you is discretionary – here is a helpful article from The Job Network to help you decide if this section is right for you. If you choose to include a profile or professional summary on your resume, we recommend keeping it concise and tailored to the job you are applying to. This will give you the opportunity to briefly show the hiring manager the reasons why you would be a good fit for the role. If you have a lot to say, a cover letter might be more suited for you.
Make Sure You Have:
- A Concise, Tailored Profile (Optional)
Pro Tip: If you are working with a recruiting firm (like us!) they will create a summary on your behalf
Your experience section is the meat of your resume and likely will be the longest out of all of the sections. First, you’ll want to identify what positions you’ll want to include. Think about your career journey and which experiences will tell your story to hiring managers. Again, this will be discretionary and vary based on where you are in your career. Once you’ve identified where to start, it is common practice to list your relevant experience in order from most to least recent.
For each position, you’ll want to include your job title, company as well as the city and state where you worked. It is also important to include the timeframe that you worked at the organization. We recommend using month and year for each beginning and end of the positions listed. Next, your descriptions of your experience should be clear and concise. Use bullet points to highlight your responsibilities and accomplishments at each position. This is also a good area to include keywords in your resume. We will touch on the importance of these later in this post. Regarding the length of your descriptions, we recommend sticking to 4-6 bullet points for each position.
Make Sure You Have:
- Each Relevant Position Listed
- Job Title
- Company Name
- City & State
- Duration at Company (Month & Year Started – Month & Year Finished)
- 4-6 Bullet Points for Each Position
Pro Tip: Having difficulties creating 4-6 bullet points? Think about the responsibilities that take up 80% of your work week
The education section may get looked over for other sections like skills and experience. However, like those other sections, it’s important to spend time on making it shine. Here, you’ll want to include your highest level(s) of education, including the school name and location. Additionally, we recommend adding the degree(s) you earned as well as month and year you that graduated. After adding these items, consider the areas you stood out. Did you have a high GPA, receive latin honors or were you involved in any organizations? These are great to incorporate in this section. If you are earlier on in your career, consider adding relevant coursework and achievements to further show your interests and knowledge. Incorporating all of this information will help recruiters and hiring managers better understand your experience and technical acumen.
Make Sure You Have:
- School Name & Location
- Degree(s) Earned
- Month & Year Graduated
- Optional, but Recommended: GPA, Achievements, Honors & Relevant Coursework
The skills section is a great area to show off both your hard and soft skills. Whether your area of expertise is more technical or not, this section is an opportunity to show hiring managers more about your abilities. We recommend featuring your hard skills first. As a reminder, hard skills are specific abilities that can be measured and evaluated. Do you know any programming languages or software systems? These are definitely important to include, especially if they overlap in the job posting you are applying to. Many organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that crawl your resume for keywords. The skills section is a great area to include keywords that recruiters will be searching for when sourcing for their position. If you don’t have very many hard skills to include, consider incorporating soft skills in this section. Soft skills are interpersonal skills such as “leadership,” “time management,” or “communication” and are harder to quantify. In conclusion, try to narrow down the skills that portray your abilities best for the position you are trying to land.
Make Sure You Have:
- Hard Skills (programming languages, software systems, technical abilities, etc.)
- Soft Skills (decision making, problem-solving, conflict resolution, etc.)
- Keywords That Match the Job Posting
Pro Tip: Recruiters use keywords in their searches within their ATS systems – incorporate them in your resume to make it easier for recruiters to find you!
6. References (Optional)
Whether or not you decide to include references on your resume is up to you. Perhaps it makes more sense for you to use that space for other sections. Either way, we highly encourage you to have a list of references separately for your own convenience. Hiring managers may ask for your references at any stage during the hiring process, so having yours readily available could be beneficial. However, choosing references for your resume can be difficult no matter what stage of your career you are in. Here is a helpful guide to selecting references from online career platform, The Muse.
If you’ve decided to include references on your resume and have identified 2-4 individuals who can honestly and effectively communicate your value, it’s time to list them. You’ll want to include the references’s name, title, company and contact information (usually email and direct phone number). When included, this section is usually featured on the bottom of the resume for hiring managers to locate after reviewing the other areas where your experience and abilities are featured.
Make Sure You Have:
- Reference’s Name
- Reference’s Title & Company
- Contact Information (Phone Number & Email)
7. Other Optional Sections
Depending on your profession and experience, you might want to consider adding relevant awards, publications, certifications or volunteering experience on your resume. These items are also opportunities to include keywords that recruiters and hiring managers may be searching.
While the tips listed above are suggestions and recommendations by our team, there isn’t one right way to craft a resume. Each person has a unique set of skills and experiences that should be featured on his or her resume. Take the time to put effort into polishing each section of your resume and you’ll shine to hiring managers and recruiters alike.