On average, 250 people apply for one job posting, but only 2 percent get interviewed. That’s why writing a resume that stands out from the crowd and creates a strong first impression is crucial. 

Deciding what to put on your resume can be tricky and intimidating. With so many things to consider, how do you craft a resume that positions you as the best fit?

In this guide, you will learn what to include in each section of your resume based on your career stage.

What to include in your resume

These are the important sections of your resume:

NOTE: If you’re building your resume from scratch, try Jobscan’s free resume builder. There are no hidden costs and it allows you to build an ATS-compatible resume in no time!

1. Contact information

Your contact details are crucial for recruiters to get in touch with you regarding your application or to arrange an interview.

Here’s what you should put in your contact information section:

  • Name (first name and last name)
  • Location (city, state)
  • Professional email address
  • Contact number with area code
  • LinkedIn URL
  • URL to your professional website or portfolio, especially if you are applying for a creative or technical position

Here’s an example of the contact information section of a resume.

2. Resume headline

Recruiters only spend about 7 seconds scanning your resume. So, you must catch their attention quickly and make a strong first impression.

The resume headline is a short sentence at the top of your resume that summarizes your value proposition. 

Through your headline, recruiters can quickly see what you can offer. This helps them decide if you’re a good fit.

Here’s a simple formula to help you craft a standout resume headline:

Professional title + Years of experience + Top accomplishments/skills/experience

Here are 4 examples of effective resume headlines:

  1. Civil Engineer with 11+ Years of Experience in Infrastructure Design, Construction, and Project Management 
  2. Software QA Tester Ensuring Flawless User Experiences 
  3. Retail Sales Associate with Experience in Customer-Centric Sales and Visual Merchandising
  4. Elementary School Teacher with 8 Years of Experience in Curriculum Development and Classroom Management

Read more: How To Write A Resume Headline

3. Resume summary statement

Another important section of your resume that recruiters read first is the resume summary. It is a brief snapshot of your strengths, work experiences, skills, and professional goals. 

Here’s a list of what you should include in your summary:

  • Professional title (if relevant)
  • Key experiences (including the number of years worked)
  • Key accomplishments (include measurable results)
  • Top skills or unique values relevant to the job or industry

Here is an example of an effective resume summary:

This resume summary is effective because it:

  • Highlights key measurable achievements such as generating a 20% increase in revenue.
  • Mentions the professional title.
  • Uses strong action words.
  • Showcases technical skills needed for the job, such as lifecycle management, agile methodologies, and market analysis.
  • Mentions years of experience.

Read more: How to Write a Resume Summary (with Examples)

4. Skills section

Another important section of your resume is the skills section.

According to a LinkedIn report, one in five job postings no longer require degrees. Furthermore, over 45 percent of recruiters and hiring managers on LinkedIn explicitly used skills data to fill their roles.

With the rise of skills-based hiring, it’s crucial to showcase your skills on your resume.

Here’s what you can put on your resume skills section:

  • Hard skills that are relevant to the position you are applying for
  • Technical skills relevant to the industry or field
  • Soft skills directly relevant to the job
  • Certifications and other specialized training relevant to the job

Here’s an example of a skills section of a resume:

Resume skills outlined in a bullet list

How to find out which skills employers are looking for

When you submit your resume, it usually goes into an applicant tracking system (ATS). This is software used by companies to streamline their hiring process.

Through the ATS, recruiters can then screen for strong candidates by searching for certain keywords. 

Keywords can be:

If your resume doesn’t have the right keywords, you might be overlooked, no matter how qualified you are.

Read more: Skills Employers Are Looking For

How to find the right keywords to include in your resume

To find which keywords to include in your resume, you need to study the job description carefully. Then, note the specific hard skills, software, or industry-specific jargon mentioned. 

You also need to pay special attention to those keywords that are mentioned repeatedly.

Here’s an example:

Suppose you are applying for a Fintech Developer position at a company. A job description might look like this:

What you need to do next is take note of certain job-specific keywords found in the job description.

You then need to incorporate the keywords into your resume when applicable. Be careful not to overstuff your resume with keywords!

To save time, you can use tools like Jobscan’s resume scanner.

Using AI resume technology, Jobscan analyzes your resume and matches it with the job description of the position you are applying for. It then gives you a resume score.

Here’s what it looks like:

You can improve your resume score by including the specific words highlighted, like “API development,” “fintech,” and “business value.”  With the scanner, you know you won’t miss an important keyword.

Jobscan also offers more tips to improve your resume and optimize it for the ATS. This saves time and makes it easier for recruiters to find you.

Make your resume stand out and get noticed

Upload your resume to see what’s missing and get a free match rate.

View full results and optimize your resume

5. Professional experience

Your professional experience or work experience section outlines your responsibilities and key achievements in your previous or current roles. 

Recruiters and hiring managers spend 67 percent of their time on this, so you have to make this clear and impactful the best way you can.

Here are important things to include when writing your professional experience section:

  • Job title – Include the job title of the role you had.
  • Name of company
  • Location of company (city and state)
  • Start and end dates – Make sure the dates can be properly read by an ATS by using the MM/YYYY format. 
  • Measurable achievements – To have more impact, quantify your achievements.
  • Skills used – Mention how you used certain relevant skills, software, or tools in creating impact in your previous roles. 

Here’s an example of a high-impact work history section:

This example of a work experience section is effective because it:

  • Includes measurable achievements, such as percentages of increased operational efficiency, reduction in processing time, and cost savings.
  • Highlights relevant technical skills such as data analytics, agile methodologies, and system enhancements. 
  • Uses strong action verbs like “implemented,” “directed,” and “produced.”
  • Mentions recognition received for exceptional work on documentation, which improved customer satisfaction.

Read more: How to Add Work Experience to Your Resume

6. Education section

Your education section shows recruiters and hiring managers your credentials and background. 

53 percent of recruiters check your educational background when vetting candidates, so you must include this, especially when your education is directly relevant to the position you want or if you’re applying for entry-level roles.

Here’s a list of things you can include in your resume education section:

  • Your degree or field of study
  • Name of your school
  • Location of your school
  • Graduation year
  • Your GPA 
  • Relevant honors, coursework, or awards relevant to the job

Here’s an example of a resume education section:

Read more: How to Format Your Resume Education Section

7. Additional sections

Here are some additional sections you may include when writing your resume.

  • Volunteer experience – List your volunteer work and community service when relevant to the job.
  • Projects – You can include relevant projects you’ve worked on.
  • Achievements or awards – You can also mention some key achievements and recognition to demonstrate your competence and expertise.
  • Certifications – You can also include certifications that are relevant to the job or industry.

Read more: Where and Why to Include Volunteer Work on a Resume

a breakdown of the best resume structure
Here’s how you can best structure your resume to stand out.

11 tips for writing a standout resume

Here are 11 tips to help you create a resume that effectively showcases what you bring to the table.

  1. Craft a concise and clear resume headline showcasing your key skills or expertise. 
  2. Incorporate specific and relevant keywords from the job description into your resume.
  3. Quantify your achievements.
  4. Keep the layout clean and easy to scan.
  5. List your work experiences and education, starting with the most recent.
  6. Use strong action verbs.
  7. Include both hard and soft skills in your resume’s skills section.
  8. Review for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  9. Ensure your details are correct and easy to find.
  10. Demonstrate how you’ve applied skills in your work experience section.
  11. Tailor your resume to match the job description.

Read more: How to Create an ATS-Friendly Resume in 2023

Why do you need to tailor your resume?

Tailoring your resume is important to prove to recruiters and hiring managers that your skills, experiences, and accomplishments align with what the job specifically needs.

Here are 4 more reasons why you need to tailor your resume:

  1. Each job has unique requirements and qualifications. Your goal is to closely match what the company or organization is looking for to increase your chances of landing a job interview.
  2. Tailoring your resume shows recruiters that you took time to understand what the job needs. This also demonstrates your diligence and effort in presenting yourself as the best candidate for the role.
  3. Most companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) when screening resumes. When you tailor your resume to the job description, you only include keywords and skills that are directly relevant to the job. This way, you increase the chances of having your resume noticed by real recruiters.
  4. Tailoring your resume makes you stand out from the crowd. A tailored resume creates a strong impression on recruiters and improves your chances of being called for an interview.

Read more: How to Tailor Your Resume Job Description (With Examples)

Is your resume ATS compatible? See how it would do in ATS like Lever

What to put on a resume if you have limited work experience

If you are a recent graduate without work experience or if your professional background is limited, here’s how you can effectively structure your resume:

1. Contact information

2. Resume headline

  • Mention your degree and field of study.
  • List skills or areas of expertise that are relevant to the job or any notable academic achievements or awards.

3. Resume summary

  • Highlight your strengths, skills, and what you bring to the table.
  • Mention your degree and your major field of study. 
  • You can highlight skills you gained from your education, internships, or part-time work. They should be relevant to the job you are applying for.
  • You can mention your career goals.
  • You can also highlight some of your soft skills like time management, interpersonal skills, or work ethic. You can also highlight your willingness to learn and be trained on the job.
  • Incorporate keywords in your resume summary.

4. Work experience

5. Education

  • List your educational background.
  • Include your GPA if it’s impressive, any relevant coursework, extracurricular activities, projects, or any academic accomplishments.

6. Skills section

  • Mention your key skills or competencies that are essential to the role you are applying for.
  • Focus on key skills and competencies that remain current and relevant. Examples include technical skills and soft skills like organization skills or communication.

7. Additional sections

  • Include volunteer experience or involvement in community service activities.
  • List any relevant certifications or training you attended. You should relate these to the job or industry you are interested in.

Pro tip: Include relevant and job-specific keywords and tailor your resume headline to the job

Example of a resume for an entry-level jobseeker

Here’s a sample resume for a job seeker who aspires to get a job in content writing but lacks enough experience.

This resume is effective because it:

  1. Emphasizes notable achievements and responsibilities during the job seeker’s internship and part-time job.
  2. Quantifies accomplishments and tangible contributions despite limited experience.
  3. Shows the job seeker’s GPA in English literature and relevant coursework that aligns with the field. It proves to hiring managers that she has a strong foundation in content writing.
  4. Showcases a diverse set of skills relevant to the job.
  5. Demonstrates proactive involvement and writing abilities through volunteer work.
  6. Showcases certifications relevant to the field.
  7. Is tailored to the job description and contains relevant keywords that recruiters might look for.

Read more: How to Write a Resume with No Experience

What to put on a resume when changing careers

Here’s what you include in your resume when you are switching careers or industries:

1. Contact Information

2. Resume Headline

  • Highlight the transferable skills you gained from your previous roles. These skills should be relevant to the new position or industry.
  • You can also mention your career change goals. For example, you can say, “skilled human resource manager transitioning to project management.”

3. Resume summary

4. Work experience

  • Mention key achievements that show how you used transferable skills. These skills should be applicable to the new role or industry.
  • Use strong action words. Focus on the results you achieved in your previous roles or industry.
  • Include specific and relevant keywords in your work experience section.

5. Education 

  • Mention your degrees, notable certifications, or relevant coursework. Highlight any training or courses taken that are relevant to your new career.

6. Optional sections

  • Mention any volunteer work or projects that are relevant to the new field. You can also include any affiliations or memberships in groups that are relevant to the new industry.

Example of a career change resume

Here’s an example of a resume for a job seeker changing careers from customer service to marketing and communications.

This career change resume is effective because it:

  1. Clearly states that the job seeker is transitioning from customer service to communications.
  2. Highlights key hard skills like market research, project management, and content creation, which were gained from the job seeker’s previous roles.
  3. Includes relevant internship in marketing. This proves to recruiters that the job seeker has some hands-on experience in the target field.
  4. Mentions involvement as a volunteer marketing coordinator. This shows proactive engagement and credibility in terms of marketing skills.
  5. Contains relevant job-specific keywords and is tailored to the job.

You can read our guide on writing a career change resume to help you craft yours.

You should also include a cover letter with your career change resume. It provides context for your past achievements and transferable skills.

What to put on a resume if you have employment gaps

When you have employment gaps, there are ways to strengthen your resume. Focus on your key skills, experiences, and achievements. Explain what you can bring to the table despite the gaps. 

Here’s how to structure your resume if you have employment gaps:

1. Contact information

  • Include your name, phone number, and professional email address. Also, include the URL of your LinkedIn profile.

2. Resume headline

  • Highlight your key skills and areas of expertise that are relevant to your desired job. Here’s an example of a resume headline for a project manager: “Dedicated Project Manager Seeking New Opportunities.”
  • You can also include your career aspirations in this section of your resume.

3. Resume summary

  • Highlight skills you gained during your employment gaps through volunteer work, freelancing, certifications, and other means.
  • Emphasize relevant skills, achievements, or experiences that make you suitable for the position despite the gaps.
  • Align your resume summary to the specific needs of the job.

4. Skills

  • Mention your key skills or competencies that are current and essential to the role you are applying for. Examples include technical skills and soft skills like organization skills or communication.

5. Work experience

6. Education

  • List your degrees, certifications, and other training you completed.
  • You can also mention any courses you are currently taking or have taken for ongoing professional development.

7. Additional sections of your resume

  • Include any volunteer work you previously held during employment gaps. This will highlight your contributions and skills.
  • You can also list any freelance projects or relevant activities you were involved in during the gaps.

Example of a resume for a job seeker with employment gaps

Here’s an example of a resume for a job seeker who is returning to the workplace and has employment gaps.

This resume is effective despite the job seeker’s employment gaps because:

  1. It emphasizes a diverse set of skills needed for engineering roles such as project management, data analysis, and CAD design.
  2. Despite employment gaps, the job seeker’s ongoing volunteer work as an engineering mentor and her freelance projects show commitment to professional development and demonstrate her skills.
  3. The job seeker’s bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering shows academic background and expertise.
  4. The resume includes measurable achievements and relevant certifications.
  5. It is tailored to the specific job and contains keywords that are relevant to the role.

Read more: How to Explain Gaps in Employment on a Resume

You can also check our collection of resumes for any type of job to guide you as you build yours.

Use Jobscan’s free ATS-friendly resume templates and start building your resume that gets noticed by recruiters!

What not to include in your resume

Here are 10 things you should not include when writing your resume:

  1. Personal information like your age, marital status, or religion
  2. Irrelevant work experiences or outdated skills
  3. Unrelated hobbies or interests that are not relevant to the job
  4. Lies or exaggerations about skills or experiences
  5. References or the statement “References available upon request”
  6. Salary information from previous roles
  7. Generic or overused buzzwords and cliches
  8. Unprofessional email addresses or inappropriate social media links
  9. Spelling or grammatical errors
  10. Controversial or sensitive information

Key takeaways

Here are key pointers you need to keep in mind when creating your standout resume:

  1. These are the key sections your resume should include:
    • Contact information
    • Resume headline
    • Resume summary
    • Work experience with measurable achievements
    • Education
    • Skills
    • Volunteer experience, relevant training certification, and projects
  2. Make sure to incorporate relevant job-specific keywords into your resume.
  3. You also need to make sure your resume is tailored to the job description of the position you are applying for.
Applicant tracking systems scan your resume. Check it first.

Frequently asked questions

What shouldn’t you do with job skills on your resume?

When listing your job skills, make sure you don’t include the following:
• Exaggeration or lies about your skills
• Irrelevant skills
• Industry-specific jargon that the recruiter might not understand

What skills should you put on a resume to stand out?

To stand out and make a strong impression, showcase the skills that align with the specific job you are applying for. Include both technical skills and soft skills.

How do you list your skills on your resume?

When outlining your skills on your resume, you can group your skills under different categories (for example, hard skills and soft skills) and list them using bullet points. Make sure that the only skills you include are those that are relevant to the job description.

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