When you’re job hunting — or even if you’re happily employed but casually looking or waiting for an opportunity to come along — having a resume that’s up-to-date, well-formatted and ATS-friendly is essential. In fact, it’s one of the most important tools in a professional’s arsenal. After all, even if you have all the right skills, they won’t mean a thing to a prospective employer if they’re not well-presented. To help you create a resume that will impress hiring managers and recruiters, we’ve broken down the key components below.
Your contact information should appear as a header on your resume. Generally speaking, you should include your full name, email address and phone number. You might also include your website or a link to your online portfolio, blog or work samples, as well as your LinkedIn profile. If they’re relevant to your work, you can also add your other social media handles. You don’t need to list your mailing address (prospective employers will most likely either call or email you) but you can if you want; just be careful of using up space.
There’s some debate as to whether job hunters should still include a resume objective or summary. Some people think these statements are a bit outdated and unnecessary and take up too much space, while others swear by them. In some cases, they can be particularly helpful, such as if you’re applying for your first job, your reentering the workforce after time away or you’re changing careers. If you do include one, put it right under the header with your contact information.
The bulk of your resume, the work experience section should describe relevant jobs you’ve had, including your title, the employer, the dates that you worked there (month and year) and your major accomplishments and responsibilities. Be specific when detailing your achievements. If you have numerical data to back them up, such as percentages of growth, sales figures, website traffic and so on, be sure to include it. This will do a better job of demonstrating your qualifications than vague adjectives or nonspecific accomplishments.
In most cases, you’ll want to put your work experience in reverse chronological order. However, there are some instances in which it might be preferable to use a different format, such as a functional resume. This format focuses on your skills and abilities rather than work history and can be helpful if, for example, you have employment gaps, are changing careers or are just starting out in the workforce.
For the most part, the education section should include your postsecondary degrees (college and graduate). If high school was the highest level of education you completed, then put your high school diploma with the school and dates. Otherwise, include your degree, the name of the school and your year of graduation (some people also include the location).
When you’re relatively new to the working world, you might want to emphasize your education a bit more than a seasoned professional will. For instance, you could include clubs in which you were an officer, your GPA (assuming it’s at least 3.5; otherwise, it will harm you more than it will help) and awards you won. You can including special distinctions, such as Phi Beta Kappa or graduating with honors, either way.
Don’t overlook the skills section — it’s more important than many job hunters realize. When you read a job ad, you’ll see that many employers are seeking particular skills, so you want to make it clear that you have the ones necessary. You should add both technical skills — hard skills that can be learned and evaluated, such as coding — as well as soft skills, which generally involve human interaction and are more difficult (but not impossible) to learn and evaluate, like critical thinking.
Pay attention to the qualities the employer is looking for, and be sure they’re highlighted on your resume. Don’t lie, of course, but do make a point to emphasize that you have many of the skills a prospective employer is seeking. Make sure the terminology reflects that of the job ad to make it more likely that an ATS system will pick it up.
In some cases, should the situation call for it, you might choose to add other sections to your resume. These are usually one that most people don’t include because they aren’t relevant to their specific roles or situations, but they can be important for your work. Some common ones include:
• Certifications (you can include these in the education section or in a separate section)
• Volunteer work
• Memberships in organizations or associations
This breakdown isn’t set in stone, of course. There are several different formats and styles tailored to different circumstances and situations. For example, people with extensive experience might use a combination resume, which presents your qualifications first, before your work history, while others may opt for a more traditional chronological format. You should take some time to consider which one is best for you based on your experience, skills, work history and other factors.
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