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What to Include in a Resume: Top 8 Items

Pamela Fay
August 96 min read
what to include in a resume

To land an interview, your resume needs to stand out. In fact, 98 percent of resumes are eliminated in the initial screening and with hundreds of resumes for each position, busy hiring managers and recruiters first look for a reason to say no. Your challenge is to give them every reason to say yes. By knowing what to include in a resume, you can land more interviews.

It starts with putting together the right content. But before we get into the sections, how long should your resume be? As a rule of thumb, if you have less than 10 years of relevant experience, one page should be sufficient. However, the more relevant and impressive experience you have, the longer the resume can be. Just don’t repeat information or include irrelevant material to make your resume look more important. It doesn’t work, and in fact will likely cause your resume to be rejected.

So in those one, two or even three pages, what should you include? Here are the eight most important things to put in your resume.

1. Contact Information

At the top of your resume, put your name and contact data. Avoid using the header feature in your word-processing program. The applicant tracking systems (ATSs) that many companies use may not recognize the header. Include two methods of contact, such as email and cell-phone number. Make sure that your email address is professional. It’s best to use a variation of your name or initials. Provide at least one phone number with a voicemail set up.

Include your city and state. Your address is unnecessary information and it might be used against you. Perhaps the hiring manager is biased against your neighborhood or believes the commute will be too difficult.

2. Objective or Summary Statement

Located beneath the contact information, a personal statement answers the question “why am I here?” Some people believe these statements are redundant and outdated. When poorly written, summaries and objectives are, indeed, a waste of precious real estate. But when they are customized for the position and packed with relevant information, they make a difference. Moreover, they save the hiring manager time and effort trying to figure out your value proposition. A well-crafted statement can land you in the 2 percent pile.

If you are just entering or reentering the workforce or changing professions, include a brief objective of one or two sentences maximum. State the name of the position for which you are applying along with a career goal. The goal should align with the company’s stated goals. For example, if the company is aggressively expanding into new markets and your personal goal is to work for a growing company, your goals are aligned.

Experienced applicants should use a summary. The summary includes the following:

  • The title of the position
  • A statement that describes who you are, how you are qualified, and what you bring to the job
  • A reference to the company’s specific requirements and the position responsibilities
  • A reference to the company’s goals
  • A succinct description of relevant professional achievements

Example summary statement: “Collaborative team leader with 4+ years as a legal tech consultant inspiring clients to redesign processes and implement low-code platform solutions which captured $2MM of savings in a single year. As a subject matter expert, I bring extensive knowledge of contract management to Acme Corporation in the role of Legal Technologist supporting the digitization of paper-based processes around the globe.”

Remember that the language must be customized, using specific language from the job posting. In the example, the company would have mentioned, for example, its collaborative work environment, the number of years of experience required, its emphasis on contract management and its challenges with paper-based processes.

If you don’t have much experience, include a one or two sentence objective. State the position you are applying for and a career goal. For example:

Example objective statement: “To obtain a position with ABC Company as a Distance Training Analyst for a dynamic legal tech entity with an international footprint and opportunities to grow with the company.”

3. Work Experience

List your job history, preferably in reverse chronological order, putting the most recent first. For each job, include the name of the company, location, dates employed and title. Use bullet points that describe your contributions and achievement, using strong action verbs — for example, “contributed,” “directed,” “improved.” Above all, make sure that you include the most important keywords used in the job posting.

Here’s a deeper look into chronological and functional resume formats for listing work experience.

Chronological Most hiring managers and recruiters prefer a resume format where experiences are listed in reverse chronological order from the most recent to the oldest. It is a familiar and comfortable format that is easily understood. Each job should include the company name, position, dates worked, and a concise description of your responsibilities and accomplishments. Rather than simply listing your duties, highlight the contributions you made.

Functional If you have gaps in your resume, or have switched industries entirely, you may prefer to use a functional format. While the functional resume allows more creativity in how you present your experiences, use it with caution. Some interviewers are frustrated by and wary of the functional format. Use chronological if you can. But if that doesn’t work, here’s how to make the functional format most useful.

First determine the professional competencies you’d like to highlight. For each competency, list your accomplishments in no particular order. For example:

Career Experiences Management

  • Direct supervision of 15 trainers in the development of online training materials for System B
  • Promoted from team lead to department manager in six months, overseeing a $2MM budget

Training and Development

  • Prepared and delivered multimedia worldwide training for ABC Corporation
  • Led 50+ classroom training sessions for clients throughout the southeast region

Interpersonal/Communications

  • Facilitated weekly town halls to address and resolve conflicts during company merger
  • Assigned to chair task force to design yearly Diversity, Inclusion & Equity strategies

The functional resume also lists work history, but in an abbreviated list. The list includes company name, title and dates, but no job description. The abbreviated work history could appear in a separate section either before or after work experience.

If you worked temporary jobs or side gigs that had nothing to do with your current industry, you can leave them out. Also, your history should only go back as far as indicated in the job posting. It’s customary to include 10 years. However, if you believe that an old job experience is relevant, put it in; just minimize the space allotted to it.

4. Education

Academic achievement is not a reliable indicator of future job success. Still, most employers like to see a certain level of education. Place this section after work experience. The only exception might be if your experience is limited and your degree is highly relevant to the position. Unless you are a recent graduate, do not include your GPA. If your GPA is under 3.5, leave it out.

5. Skills and Competencies

You should incorporate your skills into the work-experience section as much as possible. However, if you have very little experience, you may want to include a separate section. Divide skills into:

  • Hard skills, such as programming languages, foreign languages and equipment training
  • Soft skills, such as communication, leadership, problem solving and time management

Group your skills logically and separate them with vertical bars or bullets in a linear fashion to take up less space.

6. Certifications and Memberships

There are several reasons to list certifications, associations and memberships on your resume. These include:

  • Demonstrating continued commitment to professional development
  • Proving your interest or training despite limited experience
  • Satisfying requirements listed in the job posting

List the name of the certificate or position held, as well as the organization name and the dates involved. If there are associated skills that might interest the hiring manager, list these as well. If you have not yet earned the certificate, include the expected date of completion.

7. Achievements and Awards

Achievements and awards are the cherry on top. They are best listed in work experience, because they tell a story about the type of employee you are. These achievements may include time or money saved, problems solved, promotions earned, special projects and more. If you can, quantify your accomplishments to add credibility.

If you have industry awards or publications that don’t fit neatly into work experience, include a separate section in your resume. In reverse chronological order, list the name of the award and the year received.

8. Community Involvement

If your volunteer work is relevant to the job posting, include it in work experience. But even if it’s not, you can put it on your resume in a separate section. You will definitely want to do this for companies that value giving back to the community.

Ready, Set … Blast Off With Rocket Resume

That’s everything that you should include on your resume. Go back and edit and refine, removing any redundant and irrelevant information. Then hand it over to a friend to proofread. You can save time by starting with a Rocket Resume template. Select from dozens of options to find the one that works for you. All you need to do is customize it and you’ll have a professional resume that’s ready to go.

Sources: Workopolis - Why Only 2 Percent of Applicants Get Interviews