You want a job. You know you need a resume but you think “how do I write a resume”, maybe you google it and then are lost in a sea of conflicting information! Should you do a super formatted “fun” resume that you see all over Pinterest? Or a super pared down resume to get past those resume bots known as Applicant Tracking Systems. I’ve already answered some of those questions but in short, you should have one resume that will get noticed by an ATS but also one that is aesthetically pleasing because after all a human will eventually read it.
But what information do you actually need in a resume?!
I’ve got you covered. I have a list of what you must have in your resume and what you might have in your resume that will ensure that it leads to interviews, and lots of them!
Must Haves Resume Components
1. Contact Information
I know that this seems obvious but you would be surprised! Make sure that your email is professional, that you list your cell phone number. Otherwise some optional pieces of information would be to include your LinkedIn profile link and your address, you could just put the city you live in and leave it at that.
There are some differing opinions on this. However for me it is mandatory. Not everyone will read it (like me for instance) but there will be a lot of people that do. It sets a nice tone for the resume and I like how it looks in terms of the format.
The key to an objective statement is that it is 1-3 sentences long and gives a brief overview of who you are and what you bring to the table (think of it like a micro-elevator pitch).
3. Skills Summary
The skills summary is all about those resume bots. Applicant Tracking Systems are very keyword focused and the skills summary is a great way to increase your chance of making it to the ATS’ list of recommended candidates.
Just don’t make it too long please! Have 6-12 skills and focus on matching the words to the words of the job posting.
You want to start with the most relevant education first so that is what gets noticed.
Are you a New Grad? Then feel free to include further details like course names, GPA scores, scholarships and awards. If you are not a New Grad then please do not include this information, your experience is what matters not the courses you took.
Further training, like courses, certifications and memberships could all be included under the Education section.
This is probably the most obvious section of your resume! The key is to follow the Reverse Chronological with your most recent job at the top.
What gets confusing for individuals is how to format this section and how to explain different working situations. Also, there are tricks you can do to highlight certain details that you want the reader to be drawn to. Ask yourself, what do you want the recruiter to notice first – the job title or the company name? Whatever your choice is put that on the first line, and maybe add some colour! Here is how it could look:
Company Name September 2015 to present Job Title (part-time/contract)
Notice how I used months. As a recruiter I hated it when people didn’t use months, at least for the last 5 years. Why? It doesn’t tell a complete picture. Let me outline why. Say I see the dates 2017-2018. I don’t know if someone worked there for two months (Dec 2017-Jan 2018), one year (March 2017-March 2018) or almost two years (Jan 2017-Dec 2018). I’m less likely to call someone for an interview when these sort of questions are raised.
Now to the content, the hardest part of the experience section. There are two things to focus on: your examples of how you made a difference and your accomplishments that will benefit your potential employer. Think of what you did that you were proud of (in terms of tasks, responsibilities and accomplishments) what skills, knowledge and experience did you use?
Most experts’ state to use an accomplishment based resume and while I fully agree, I also know that nothing about the job search process is black and white. There are many jobs that are very tasked based where you could be doing a disservice by ignoring that in your resume.
The next five components of a resume are completely optional but what I mean by that is for each of them there is a time and a place when they should be included (and when not to).
While volunteering is one of those things that are good to do that doesn’t mean that you need to include it on your resume.
So my first caveat is that if you volunteer and you have some room to fill out on your resume (say it is 1.5 pages) then by all means include it. If the Volunteer section means you will be going on to the next page and it doesn’t add any significant value then don’t include it.
What do I mean by significant value though?
Industry: There are certain industries that value volunteer work (education, arts and culture, not for profit, healthcare) and for those industries I would highly recommend including it.
Volunteer Relevance: If you are applying for a role that requires a skill set that you only used while volunteering then include it.
Career Story: Most entry level, new grads and individuals with a career break lean on volunteer experience to round out their time working, skill set and experience and in those cases you should always have a volunteer section.
I did want to note that Internships and Volunteer are not the same thing, even though both are unpaid work. An internship belongs in your experience section, just note it as such using the brackets (internship).
2. Memberships/Professional Associations
This section is only added when you are a member of a professional association common in industries like Supply Chain, Finance, Human Resources, Engineering, etc.
For streamlining purposes I do find that including them in your Education section is most effective.
List all languages spoken fluently, can included conversational as well if relevant for the job. Can also list in the Skills Summary to save space.
4. Technical Skills
This section is typically used in replace of the Skills Summary for individuals in the IT space.
In 98% of cases I recommend not including interests, even for New Grads. However there are times when it does add value. For example, if you are applying for a job in the arts and you are dedicated to that community include it. If you happen to know who the hiring manager is and their interests then definitely list any shared ones! But this is another section that should not put you onto another page, if it does then please leave it out!
Take the must haves, sprinkle in the optional components that make sense for you and your job search and you will end up with a winning resume that will lead to interviews.
I also have a handy checklist that you can download for free that will help guide you while writing it. Sign up here to get it!
I’m curious, what optional sections have you included that really added value to your resume?
Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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