Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out in the working world, any prospective employer wants to know what you’ve accomplished in your career — however long or brief it may have been so far. That’s why it’s important to include your career highlights on your resume. While a designated section for these achievements is optional, many professionals choose to include it to emphasize their key accomplishments. How do you create a standout career highlights section on your resume, and what should you include? Here’s what to do.
The career highlights section is essentially a summary of your experience that lets a prospective employer know about your major accomplishments in your work history. It’s important to tailor this section (and your entire resume) to the position you’re applying for; this demonstrates that you’ve read the job description and researched the company, so you know what the hiring manager is looking for and have the necessary qualifications to perform the responsibilities.
Therefore, you should emphasize achievements that align with these expectations and leave off those that aren’t particularly relevant, even if they're important in your overall work history. You should especially highlight the qualifications that overlap with the ones specified in the job description, adjusting the language to match that in the description to ensure that an applicant tracking system (ATS) will pick it up. Essentially, rather than focusing on yourself, consider how your career strengths will help the employer and meet their needs.
Your career highlights summary will generally either be a bulleted list of 4-6 qualifications, including measurable achievements, major responsibilities, significant job titles and more. For example, if you’re a marketing professional, you might include sales growth you contributed to in a major way or an increase in website traffic or social media followers.
You can also present this summary as a paragraph or a couple of sentences followed by a short list of achievements. Another alternative is to present a list (with or without bullets) and a short explanation after each qualification. You may choose one format over another if space is an issue; a short paragraph will probably take up the least amount of space on your resume.
Your resume objective is different from your career highlights section in that it describes what you want to accomplish, as opposed to what you’ve already achieved in your career. Like your career highlights, it should be adjusted according to the job for which you’re applying. You should use language and keywords from the job description to emphasize that the position aligns with your goals and suggest how it might.
An objective usually appears at the top of your resume, right under the header. It should come before a summary of qualifications or career highlights section.
To create your career highlights section, consider your major work milestones, especially ones that are quantifiable. Be as specific as possible while also being economical with language. Check out some examples below:
Marketing manager with eight years of experience spearheading major campaigns. While managing a team of nine employees, increased Twitter following by X% and Facebook following by Y%. Improved website CTR by Z% through efforts including website redesign and overhaul.
Human resources representative with six years of experience recruiting and developing successful employee programs for [company]. Career highlights include:
The number of skills you should list on a resume really depends on the job, the length of your experience — and ultimately how many relevant skills you have. If you’re a professional with decades of experience, you probably have numerous skills to list, including certifications, technical skills and soft skills. If you’re still an entry-level professional, you may have fewer skills under your belt, but you may choose to emphasize them because you have less work experience.
You should also only highlight skills that are related to the job to which you’re applying and ensure that they’re not outdated. For example, there are many technology programs that are no longer in use, and you should leave them off your resume so as not to appear as though you haven’t kept up with the times.
Ultimately, even though there’s no real limit to the number of skills you can list, you do need to be mindful of the space. Make sure every skill actually contributes to your resume and qualifications section in a significant way so that you’re not wasting space on filler content that doesn’t have real value.
Don’t assume technical, hard skills are the only ones that count — soft skills, those hard-do-define abilities that are difficult to teach and quantify are just as important and have a place on your resume, too. There are plenty of helpful soft skills (not just seven), but some of the most important are:
Different employers will prioritize different things, so again, be sure to tailor your skills section to the job description and include the ones they emphasize, making sure you’re demonstrating how you can meet the needs of the employer while still being honest.