There are plenty of templates online that you can use to build a standard resume. They all show the basic sections of a resume you should include; however, they don’t show the nuances of structure and content that make the best resume stand out.
The following guide will tell you what resume sections to include depending on where you are in your career journey and the specific job you’re targeting. This article will also provide examples of advanced, mid-level, and internship resumes.
Expert Hint: Resumes should be one page long unless you are in academia or need to show a long work history. Even if you are in a senior position, employers are only interested in what you have been doing recently.
For a basic resume, there are six things you should include:
Resume summary or objective
These are the necessary components of a basic resume only. In reality, each job is different; therefore, you should submit a different or tailored resume for each job that you apply for.
The three resume templates shown here all show the basic resume components. However, depending on the job and where you are in your career, your resume might look a little different.
For example, someone who has not yet graduated and is seeking a summer internship will want to highlight their education and any part-time work. Therefore, the education section is better presented before their work history.
However, most job seekers who have already been employed will emphasize their work history and place that before the education section. The reason is that a hiring manager is more interested in their work experience than the courses they studied in school or which school committees they served on. Let’s look at each section in turn to describe the different ways that information can and should be presented on a resume.
This section appears at the top of your resume and is standard in most cases. However, if a person has qualifications or certifications in the industry concerned, the letters should appear after their name. For example,
Ruth Jackson, MBA
David Piper, CPA
Contact information should include name, email, phone number, LinkedIn, and a website address if you have an online portfolio.
A LinkedIn URL is highly recommended. Most professionals have one, and employers will check you out on the platform. Make sure that the information on your LinkedIn page matches the information on your resume.
Expert Hint: Don’t include graphics or images on your resume. These should be saved for your online portfolio if you have one.
Your resume objective is where you summarize your brand, highlight your achievements, and state why you want the job. The summary should act as a headliner—it should be short yet include a lot of important information. Before you write the job summary, you should research the company and study the job description so that what you say matches what the recruiter is looking for.
Here is an example of a resume objective.
“Adept client-facing CPA with 3+ years of experience in auditing and tax accounting. Seeking an opportunity to use client-facing skills to build client portfolio. 100% client satisfaction in past positions.”
The statement contains three key components: a strong descriptive word; years of experience; and a metric that proves the applicant’s worth.
The example uses “highly adept” as a descriptive phrase to describe the applicant, but you can be creative here. Other words that would work are “detail-oriented,” “passionate,” “analytical.” Think about how you would describe yourself and your approach to work.
For years of experience, check the job description to make sure you have the required number of years. For mid-or advanced-level candidates, accomplishments from decades ago are not that interesting to a current employer unless you are in academia or research where a life study is of value.
So, if you are further along in your career and have had many employers, don’t describe more than 10 years of experience. Ageism is rife in the recruiting world, and three past employers is sufficient. You only need to show the relevant skills and that you will stick around for a couple of years.
The last part of the resume objective tells the employer your value. It is effective to use an example of how you affected either the bottom line or the efficiency of an employer in some way in your past. Therefore, using a monetary amount or a measurable outcome is an effective way of showing your worth.
A recurring theme in all of these sections is to mirror what the job description describes. For example, if the job description calls for “proven product marketing skills,” explain that you have “shortened product-to-market times by 30%” in your past job. This type of presentation should also be used in the work history section of your resume.
The employment history is your career summary. Typically, two or three past positions would be included here. If you are a recent graduate or do not have much work experience, you can include any part-time jobs that you have had, past internships, or volunteer work.
The goal here, once again, is to mirror what is in the job description—if the employer wants it, you’ve got it! Don’t add any irrelevant experience if it is not on the job description unless it would be of interest to the employer. How do you know what would impress the employer? Well, it pays to research the company.
You can learn a lot about a company and its culture by reading its website. An even better idea is to get in touch with a current employee who can tell you more about the company, its culture, and what type of skills or characteristics the job title requires. Visit the company’s LinkedIn page to see if there is an employee you can message through their Linkedin profile for some inside information.
The work experience section should be organized in reverse chronological order by employer with your most recent job first. Give the name of the company, your position, the dates, and then explain your accomplishments. The resume examples show how to format this section.
Use bullet points rather than paragraphs, and three to five are sufficient for each employer. Bullet points are easier to read than paragraphs and pack more of a punch. Each point should be two or three sentences long.
As with the project summary, use action verbs rather than the passive tense, and include metrics to make your professional experience more impactful.
Here are some examples of bullet points. Note that each one uses a metric and an action verb.
Streamlined accounting practices by redesigning spreadsheets resulting in 30% fewer inaccuracies and faster turnaround times.
Managed customer accounts totaling $170,000 with 100% customer satisfaction.
Led a team of five students to win third prize in Google Innovation Competition.
Managed inventory for five distribution centers and placed orders based on real-time analytics.
Redesigned company website and boosted site visits by 30% and improved lead generation by 25%.
Expert Hint: Use words that you find in the job description in your bullet points and other parts of a resume. This will help your professional resume to avoid being tossed out by applicant tracking systems that look for keywords when screening applications.
Under the education header, you should include your degrees and any industry certifications relevant to the position. State the school where you attained your degree. If you earned honors, for example, summa cum laude or magna cum laude, this information should be included.
You shouldn’t include high school information unless you have not yet graduated and you are seeking an internship. In that case, your resume would emphasize your education, relevant coursework, and relevant experience, projects, awards and honors, extracurricular activities, and clubs and organizations.
Some resumes place education in a separate column along with skills and other information, such as awards. This can make a resume format easier to read and more appealing. See the example of the advanced resume at the end of the article.
Expert Hint: Only include your GPA if it is 4.0 or close to it.
For some jobs, skills are vital, and the reader should be able to determine your skills with a quick glance at your resume. This is the case for technical jobs, for example. The resumes below list skills in a separate column so that they are immediately visible. Also, see the resume templates shown in this article.
Here are examples of key skills to include:
Hard skills or technical skills: JAVA; Python; Acrobat; Statistical analysis; Invoicing; Enterprise systems
Soft skills: Management and Communication, Leadership, Problem-solving; Conflict resolution; Critical thinking
A separate section can show off your unique achievements. It might include languages, awards, presentations, publications, volunteer experience, or hobbies if they are relevant. Use a header such as “Languages,” or “Presentations” rather than “Other Information” because it is clearer for the reader.