There’s so much conflicting information online about how to write a resume that deciding what to put on a resume can seem impossible.
Do I need a resume objective? How much work experience should I list? Do I include my picture?
We’ve outlined the essentials to show you exactly what needs to be on your resume (and what doesn’t). Let’s get to it.
1. What to Include on a Resume: The Basics
At its core, a good resume should include:
Everything else, including certifications, volunteer work, hobbies, and style elements like photos and icons might be great additions, but are optional.
With that said, let’s explore the finer details.
Should I include a resume objective?
A resume objective is a great way to show employers exactly what expertise you have to offer.
However, it also takes up space that’s better spent describing your relevant job experience.
Before you decide to include an objective, ask yourself:
Will an objective add anything to my resume that can’t be communicated in my experience section?
For example, if you’re applying to jobs with little to no experience, or are trying to change careers, including a resume objective is a good way to explain how your skills are transferable.
But if you’re already an expert in your field, you’re better off skipping the objective and adding more detail to your experience section.
2. What to Include in Your Contact Section
Even the best resume will never land you a job if employers can’t reach you.
So your contact details, understandably, are essential.
At a minimum, your resume header should include the following contact information:
- Full name
- Email address
- Phone number
Today, a mailing address is unnecessary since most employers don’t need it to contact you.
Should I add social media?
While optional, social media is a good way to give employers a look at your professional history, and can be a positive addition to your contact information.
But be careful about which profiles you put on your resume:
|DO INCLUDE your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a great networking resource for professionals in any field.|
|MAYBE INCLUDE your Twitter handle, but only if you regularly tweet about topics relevant to your profession.|
|DO NOT INCLUDE platforms such as Facebook, Reddit, or Tik Tok, as these platforms are rarely relevant to work.|
Additionally, if you work in a creative field, a link to your website or portfolio is a good thing to put on a resume.
3. What to Put in Your Education Section
Unless you work in academia, your resume education section should only list your highest level of education, and the name of your degree (if applicable).
1. Should I include my high school?
Only include your high school education if you’re currently enrolled in high school, or don’t have a college degree.
Otherwise, leave it off.
2. Should I describe my coursework?
You don’t need to describe your coursework on your resume. Simply listing the type of degree you hold is enough.
However, remember your goal is to show the hiring manager you’re qualified for the job. If you lack experience or have coursework that’s relevant to the position, include it.
3. Should I include any awards?
If you have any academic awards or honors, consider including them in your education section — especially if you’re a recent graduate.
Graduating as salutatorian or summa cum laude can be impressive additions to your resume, and show employers you’re diligent and motivated.
Here’s an example of a properly formatted education section with honors:
|B.A. in Political Science
Towson University — Towson, MD
Honors: magna cum laude
Additionally, only include your GPA if you’re either a recent college graduate or are applying to jobs in academia. In the example above, the candidate opts to leave their GPA off their resume.
4. What to Include in a Resume Experience Section
Your professional experience section is the meat of your resume.
It quickly shows hiring managers what you’ve accomplished over your career, and highlights the knowledge you’ve picked up along the way.
To write an experience section that will impress recruiters, list the relevant jobs you’ve held with the most recent at the top. Under each role, write 3 to 5 concise bullet points that demonstrate the skills and experience you developed working that job.
Do NOT include every job you’ve ever held. A resume isn’t an encyclopedia of your professional history.
Instead, think of it as an advertisement of your abilities. Every position you list should show you’re qualified for the specific job you want.
Check out this example of a well-written resume experience section:
What makes this example outstanding is that each bullet point:
- is concise
- uses strong resume words
- illustrates a specific concrete example of what the candidate accomplished
- backs up those examples with hard numbers
1. Should I add internships?
If you’re a recent graduate or have limited work experience, you should add internships to your experience section.
However, if you already have years of professional experience, it’s time to start cutting internships from your work history section. It’s better to use your resume’s limited space to describe your professional experience in depth, rather than fill it with internship work.
2. Should I include volunteer work?
If you can include volunteer experience without making your resume too long, you should absolutely include it.
This is especially true if you:
- Have limited professional experience
- Are changing industries
- Have an experience gap in your resume
- Have career-relevant volunteer experience
- Need to highlight leadership skills that you haven’t developed as a paid professional
Bottom line: volunteer experience is a good way to add substance to an otherwise sparse resume. Including such experience can help you stand out from other candidates, even if you are an experienced professional.
5. What to Put in Your Resume Skills Section
Hiring managers are always looking for candidates with a diverse range of skills.
That’s why a thorough, to-the-point resume skills section is the perfect companion to your experience section, and can even set you apart from other candidates.
1. What are good skills to put on a resume?
Not sure what skills to put on a resume? No problem.
First, take a look at the job listing for the position you want. Typically, a job ad mentions any skills required for the position, as well as skills the employer wants you to have.
Then, compile a list of your own skills that meet these requirements, as well as any specific technical skills you have that might boost your application.
If it’s still unclear what skills you should list on your resume, these general hard and soft skills are applicable to nearly any job:
- People Skills
- Leadership Skills
- Communication Skills
- Interpersonal Skills
- Organizational Skills
- Customer Service Skills
- Computer Skills
- Time Management Skills
2. Do hobbies belong on a resume?
Depending on the situation, listing personal interests on your resume can be a great way to add personality and flair to your application.
However, use discretion before describing your passion for watercolor painting.
If you already have enough professional experience to fill a full page of your resume, or you’re applying for a job at a more formal company, don’t include hobbies.
That said, if you have minimal experience, or are applying to work at a company with a more casual office culture, then hobbies are a harmless, fun way to spice up your resume.
6. What NOT to Put on a Resume
Now that you know what to put on a resume, here are the things that are guaranteed to turn off recruiters and ruin an otherwise great application.
1. Irrelevant experience
There’s nothing hiring managers find more tedious than an endless list of irrelevant experience.
Not only does it make your resume too long, but it also makes your application look thoughtless and generic.
If you have a long work history, remove any positions that you held a long time ago, or are irrelevant to your target job.
For example, if you’re applying for work as a sales manager, a cashier position you held 10 years ago is best left off your resume.
2. A photo or headshot
Especially if you’re applying for work inside the United States, including a resume picture is seen as inappropriate and unprofessional.
However, this varies by country. For reference, here are some countries that use resume pictures and some that do not:
Do use resume photos in these countries:
- South Korea
- Most European nations
Don’t use resume photos in these countries:
- United States
- United Kingdom
3. An unprofessional email address
Nothing will get your resume thrown out quicker than an unprofessional email address.
The email address you use for work should simply include your first and last name, or your initials.
Even if it’s been your go-to email for decades, no hiring manager will interview you if your email address is “XxskullcrusherxX@gmail.com” (unless you’re applying for a marketing job with the band Slayer).
4. Inappropriate personal details
Details like your religion, disabilities, political leanings, and racial background should NOT be included on your resume.
There’s no benefit to adding such personal information, and at worst it makes it more likely employers will discriminate against your application.
5. Clipart or images
While it may be tempting to spice up your resume with fun graphics, most hiring managers just see this as distracting and unprofessional.
Worse, graphics can confuse the applicant tracking system (ATS) software that many companies use to sift through resumes. If this happened to your application, it would automatically get discarded before a human even set eyes on it.
6. Hard-to-read fonts
Many job seekers think using a creative font on their resume will help them stand out.
However, the reality is that it will look distracting, and make your resume difficult to read.
Not only that, but — much like images — uncommon fonts often confuse the ATS, and result in your application being thrown in the trash.
Instead, the best fonts for resumes are timeless and formal: Garamond, Calibri, and Georgia all being great options.
You should not include references on a resume.
The vast majority of employers don’t require references up front, and will simply ask for them later if they’re interested.
Your resume has limited space. It’s better to ditch an unnecessary references section in favor of a longer list of skills, a resume summary, a longer experience section, or pretty much anything else.
7. You Know What Should Be On a Resume. Now What?
Now that you know exactly what should go on a resume (and what shouldn’t), it’s time to start fine-tuning your job applications.
But before you start reaching out to jobs, learn how to write a cover letter that pairs well with your resume.
And if all this sounds like a lot to handle, try our easy-to-use resume builder and cover letter builder. Our software will build you a flawless application in mere minutes that is guaranteed to catch the attention of any hiring manager.