It seems unfair, but while you might spend several hours writing your resume, a hiring manager will only spend an average of 7.4 seconds reading it!
This means your resume needs to be easy to scan. The best way to do this is to organize your information into resume sections.
The way you use resume sections is one of the first things hiring managers and recruiters notice when they read your resume.
“I’m looking at the logical flow of it,” a healthcare recruiter told Jobscan. “How do you categorize the information, how does it read? The quality of the presentation tells me something about you.”
In this article, we’ll show you the five essential resume sections you should always use and what order you should put them in. You’ll learn:
- How to write your resume sections for maximum impact.
- How to create a strong visual hierarchy that guides the reader through your resume.
- How to add optional resume sections depending on your experience and the job requirements.
By using resume sections correctly, you’ll stand out from the competition and get more job interviews!
Use Jobscan’s free ATS-friendly resume templates and start building your resume that gets noticed by recruiters!
What 5 sections should a standard resume include?
Your resume is like a snapshot of your professional life. It should highlight your skills, experience, and accomplishments in a way that speaks to your future potential.
The best way to do this is to use the following five resume sections:
NOTE: Don’t get fancy when writing your resume section titles. In other words, label your work experience section “Work Experience” and your education section “Education.”
Let’s take a closer look at each section and what information needs to be included.
1) Contact information section
You want potential employers to be able to get in touch with you easily, so make sure your contact information is prominently displayed at the top of your resume.
Here’s what you should include in this section:
It’s important to use your full name and include any titles or professional designations you hold.
Your name should be the most prominent part of your contact information, positioned near the top of the page and in a larger font than the rest of your text.
Your Home Address
It used to be standard to include your full address in this section. This is no longer required by most employers as it could lead to discrimination and privacy concerns.
However, while you don’t need to include details like your street name or apartment number, you should still include your:
- Town or city
- Zip code
Employers are usually interested in knowing your general location, especially if you are required to commute to an office.
“I generally would like to keep my search under a 20-mile radius,” a tech recruiter told Jobscan. “Sometimes I would even do five miles.”
But what if you’re willing to move to a new city?
If you’re living in San Antonio and trying to relocate to Seattle, having only “San Antonio” on your resume could knock you out of consideration.
Meanwhile, only having “Seattle” in your contact section despite all your work experience being in San Antonio could be a red flag.
Be transparent by listing both on your resume with something along the lines of “Seattle, WA (relocating from San Antonio, TX)” or “San Antonio, TX (relocating to Seattle, WA).”
Explain your situation in more detail in your cover letter.
Your email address
You should always include your email address on your resume, but there are some things to watch out for.
- Never use your current employer’s email on your resume. Businesses won’t approve of you using company resources for job-searching purposes.
- Don’t use an old-fashioned email address. Unfortunately, age discrimination exists, and there’s no better way to signal your age than to use an aol.com or yahoo.com email address. Try using a Gmail address instead.
- Do not include sexual, political, or religious references in your email address. This is inappropriate and unprofessional.
If you already have a personal Gmail address that incorporates your name and sounds reasonably professional, that should be fine to use. For example, JohnDoe@gmail.com.
You might want to create a unique email address that you only use for your job search. This will allow you to keep your personal and professional emails separate.
Your phone number
You should include your primary phone number in your contact information.
This can be your landline number or your cell phone number. It’s not necessary to include both as this will only confuse the hiring manager.
Make sure the phone number listed is one that you feel comfortable having potential employers contact. Additionally, make sure that your voicemail greeting is professional and appropriate.
Your LinkedIn profile and/or website address (optional)
In many cases, it can be helpful to include your LinkedIn profile on your resume. This gives employers additional insight into your experience, education, and skillset.
You might also want to include a link to your website or portfolio, especially if you’re a graphic designer, artist, writer, or other professional creative.
If you’re a software engineer, you might want to include a link to your Github profile.
However, this may not be necessary. For example, if you are applying for a manual labor position or a customer service role, including your LinkedIn profile and/or website address may not be appropriate.
Here’s an example of what a contact information section might look like:
2) Professional summary section
Hiring managers only spend seconds scanning your resume, so it’s important to include a brief professional summary near the top of your resume, under your contact information.
Think of your professional summary as an “elevator pitch.” It should consist of 1- 4 sentences that give employers a quick overview of who you are and why they should consider you for the position.
While your summary should be brief, it should also be specific. If you’re not sure how to be brief and specific, here’s a formula you can use:
First, begin with a sentence or two that explains who you are, such as:
“Experienced marketing professional with 5 years of hands-on experience in driving brand awareness, developing marketing campaigns, and managing customer relationships.”
Then include specific, concrete examples that demonstrate your success in achieving measurable results.
Try to use numbers if possible. Numbers are important because they show potential employers not just what you did, but how well you did it.
Here’s an example:
Resume summaries are easier to write if you have plenty of work experience. But what If you’re a recent graduate or just starting out in your career?
If that’s the case, you can still write a resume summary!
Just feature whatever skills, knowledge, and experiences you acquired during school, internships, or volunteer roles that make you a good candidate for the job you’re applying for.
Here’s an example:
You should also include any special awards or certifications you’ve earned, as well as any relevant coursework.
Ultimately, resume summaries are for anyone who wants to demonstrate their value in a clear, concise manner.
Read the full guide: How to Write a Resume Summary Statement
3) Work experience section
The work experience resume section is the heart of your resume and can make or break your job application.
This is where you showcase your professional accomplishments so hiring managers can see whether you have the skills and qualifications to excel in the job you’re applying for.
Here are the steps you need to take in order to create a compelling work experience section:
List your work experience in reverse chronological order
Reverse chronological order means that your current, or most recent, work experience should appear first, at the top.
Then list your previous work experience below that, going “back in time,” so to speak.
Information to include in your work experience
When listing your work experience on your resume, it is essential to include the following information:
- Employer Name
- Employer location (city and state, or country if applicable)
- Your job title
- Start and end dates (month and year)
Here’s an example:
When you list your work experience on your resume, always include the month along with the year for each position. This helps prospective employers gain a more accurate understanding of how long you held each job.
How to list your job responsibilities and accomplishments
When listing your job responsibilities and accomplishments, it’s a great idea to use bullet points.
Bullet points make it easier for employers to quickly scan through your resume and find the information they need.
Begin each bullet point with an action verb. These are words that convey doing, like “managed,” “organized,” or “increased.”
Action verbs help the reader visualize what you did in previous positions. They also make it easier for potential employers to quickly identify and understand the work experience listed on your resume.
If you’re not sure which action verbs to use, Jobscan has put together a list of 500 action words that recruiters love to see, organized by job category.
Include specific results whenever possible
It’s not enough to simply list your job responsibilities in your work experience. Hiring managers want to see the measurable results of your efforts.
In fact, some hiring managers consider an applicant’s failure to show measurable results on their resume to be a deal breaker!
For example, instead of saying that you “managed a team” (which is a job responsibility) say that you increased productivity by 15% by introducing new processes and streamlining existing ones (which is a measurable result).
Always try to use metrics, or numbers, to back up your achievements. If you increased the company’s market share by 10%, mention this number and describe how you contributed to that success.
Metrics are useful because they paint a clear, vivid picture of your experience and accomplishments.
Here’s are examples of how to use metrics in the work experience section of a resume:
Include any awards or recognition you received
If you’ve received awards or recognition for your work, you should include this information in the work experience section of your resume.
To do this, simply list the name of the award, the date you received it, and, if necessary, a brief description of what it was for.
If you have many awards, you may want to create a separate section on your resume specifically for awards and recognition.
Use keywords from the job description
One of the most important things you can do to create an effective work experience section is to include keywords from the job description.
Look at the job description below. You can see that the keyword “marketing” appears numerous times.
If you were applying to this job, you would definitely want to use this keyword in your work experience section – and in your resume summary too!
Using keywords from the job description is especially important these days.
This is because most companies use computer software called an applicant tracking system (ATS) to make the hiring process easier.
Basically, when you submit your resume, it goes directly into a computer database.
Then, when a hiring manager wants to find a good job candidate (maybe for the marketing position above) they’ll type the keyword “marketing” into the search bar of the ATS.
If your resume contains the word “marketing” the hiring manager will see it.
If your resume doesn’t include the word “marketing” your resume will remain in the database, perhaps never to be seen by a human being!
This is why your resume needs to speak the language of the hiring manager and the job description they’ve created.
By using their words in your work experience section, you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting a job interview!
Read the full guide: 6 Steps to Writing Your Resume Work Experience
4) Education section
Compared to other sections of a resume, writing an education section is easy.
Just like your work experience, your education should be listed in reverse-chronological order. This section should include the
- Name and location of your school or institution
- Name of your degree/diploma or certification
- Year of completion (or expected year)
Your education section can be as simple as this:
You can also include any awards or scholarships you received during your time in school.
A more extensive education section could look like this:
Is it necessary to list your high school in your education section? What about your college GPA?
If you’re a college graduate, you don’t need to include your high school in your education section.
Listing your college GPA is optional, but only consider doing it if you’re a recent graduate and your GPA is above 3.5.
Read the full guide: How to Format Your Resume Education Section
5) Skills section
Do you really need a skills section on your resume?
Absolutely! The skills section of your resume is the perfect place to showcase the unique abilities that make you a great fit for the job you’re applying to.
Your skills section should include both the hard and soft skills that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Hard skills are specialized knowledge and abilities that can be defined and measured, such as computer programming, web design, data analysis, project management, financial accounting, and other types of specialized training.
Soft skills, on the other hand, refer to abilities related to interacting with others and working productively. Examples include communication, problem-solving, time management, and leadership.
Like the rest of your resume, your skills section should be tailored to the specific job you’re applying for.
To do this, carefully read through the job description and pick out what hard and soft skills are mentioned. Then include these skills in your skills section (as long as you have those skills, of course!).
As an example, here’s part of a job description for a Digital Marketing Analyst.
If you were applying for this job, your skills section might look something like this:
Digital Marketing | Media Planning | Google Ad Manager | LinkedIn Ad Manager | Facebook Ad Manager | Google Analytics | Adobe Analytics | Advanced Excel | Data Analysis | Strategic Thinking | Presentation Skills |
You can also list your skills using bullets if you prefer.
If you have skills that are not relevant to the job you’re applying for, then don’t include them in your skills section.
Read the full guide: Top Resume Skills and How to List Them
How to organize the sections of your resume
We’ve seen the five sections you should always include on your resume, but what’s the correct order to put them in?
First of all, your contact information should always come first, followed by your professional summary.
After that, it depends. Here are some tips for how to organize your resume sections:
- If your education is more impressive than your work experience, consider putting your education section above your work experience section.
- If you have prior work experience in a role that is similar to the role you are applying for, put your skills section after your work experience.
- If you don’t have a lot of relevant work experience, you can put your skills section before your work experience section.
Ultimately, your resume sections should be ordered in a way that best tells the story of your professional experience, education, and skills.
Additional resume sections
Hiring managers appreciate it when you go the extra mile to make your resume stand out, and adding additional sections can help you do just that.
Remember, only include the following additional resume sections if they are relevant to the job you are applying for!
Awards and Honors: Add clout to your resume by listing awards and commendations. If you have multiple awards, this is where you should list them.
Certifications and Licenses: Adding paid or even free certifications to your resume can set you apart from other candidates while adding skills that might be missing in your work experience.
Volunteer Work: Helping out at a non-profit is a great way to add key skills and experience to your resume. Format this section similarly to your work experience.
Hobbies and Interests: Unless your hobby is relevant to the job you’re applying for, this section is typically reserved for recent grads and entry-level candidates who lack work experience.
Additional resume sections typically go between your work experience and education.
What’s the next step?
Once you have written your resume sections, take a look at the overall structure of your resume and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my resume accurately reflect who I am and what I have to offer?
- Are the skills and qualifications up-to-date and relevant for the job?
- Is my formatting clear, concise, and easy to read?
- Have I removed any irrelevant information or outdated experience?
- Is my resume tailored to the specific job I’m applying for?
- Does my resume include the keywords that appear in the job description?
- Does the order of resume sections tell the story of my professional life?
- Is my resume free of typos or grammatical errors?
It’s worth repeating that last question – is your resume free of typos or grammatical errors?
All your hard work can go right down the drain if you have just one typo on your resume. So double and triple-check to make sure your resume is error-free. And then check again.
Now that you know which resume sections to use and how to organize them, it’s time for you to get started creating a resume that will help you land the job you want.
Remember, the ultimate goal of using resume sections is to present your information in a way that is easy to read and comprehend.
Having different resume sections also allows you to tailor each resume to the job you are applying for. Yes, this might take a little extra time and effort, but the results will definitely be worth it!
Use Jobscan’s free ATS-friendly resume templates and start building your resume that gets noticed by recruiters!