What to Include in a Resume
If you’re reading this article, then you’re probably also in the process of applying for a job. In that case, you’ve found the right place! Here at Inklyo, we know that even the mere thought of creating your resume can be daunting, so we’re here to help. Resumes do take time and patience, but if you’re equipped with the right tools and resources, you’ll have no trouble breezing through the resume writing process . . . and who knows, you might even have fun along the way! This resume checklist will discuss what to include in a resume and will focus on the following topics:
- Sections (or headings) to include
- Information to omit
- Design elements
- Spelling, grammar, and punctuation
- Additional tips to make your resume stand out and help land you that dream job
The Resume Checklist
Feel free to read this checklist as you’d like—from beginning to end, or just the sections that pertain most to your resume writing needs. You could also skip ahead to the point-form infographic if you’re looking for a quick guide to use when reviewing a resume that has already been written. We do, however, suggest reading through the tips to the end—you’ll find some great advice that will really take your resume, and resume writing skills, up a notch!
What to Include
✓ Contact information. Full name, address (street name and number, city, state, and zip code), phone number (home or cell; choose the one you use most often so it’s easier to reach you), email address (keep it professional), and a link to your LinkedIn profile (if you have an account; optional). Depending on your industry, you can also include a link to your professional website (if you have one) or a portfolio of your work.
✓ Summary. A few brief but comprehensive sentences at the top of your resume highlighting how your skills and accomplishments will benefit the company you are applying to. Try to match this information with the qualifications outlined in the job description.
✓ Relevant knowledge and skills. A concise bulleted list of your knowledge, skills, and attributes that apply to the position at hand.
✓ Work experience. A comprehensive summary of your work history from the past 10 to 15 years. These must be listed in reverse chronological order, which means listing the newest positions first. For each job, include the company name, your position, the dates you worked there (months and years), and a few bulleted points outlining your duties and accomplishments in your role.
✓ Education. Also list your education in reverse chronological order. Unless you’re in high school, it is not necessary to include your secondary education. Rather, focus on your post-secondary education (university and/or college).
✓ Volunteer experience (optional). List any volunteer positions you have held, especially if they’re relevant to the job you’re applying to.
✓ Industry-specific extras (optional; list each under its own heading). Licenses and Certifications, Publications, Professional Affiliations, Professional Memberships, Awards and Recognition, Portfolio
What to Omit
✓ Non-job-related social media profiles. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.
✓ A “Career Objective” section. Instead, write a summary that explains why you’re qualified for the position and what makes you the best candidate.
✓ A “References” or a “References Available upon Request” section. If a potential employer needs references from you, they will contact you.
✓ Pictures, tables, graphs, or charts. They are unnecessary and will cause confusion for both readers and applicant tracking systems (ATS).
✓ Gender, age, or marital status. These personal details are not necessary to include, as employers are not allowed to make decisions based on an applicant’s status.
✓ A photo of yourself. Save this for your LinkedIn profile, and make sure it’s professional looking.
✓Fraud, padding, and exaggeration. Don’t lie!
✓ Clichéd words. Avoid words such as try, love, seasoned, experienced, creative, and innovative. Many of these words are vague, over-used, or have lost their strength. Focus on showing your skills rather than telling about them.
✓ Document type. Unless the employer asks for a specific format, prepare your resume as a Word document (.doc or .docx). Word documents, as opposed to PDF or other file types, are the most common and are, therefore, the easiest to be emailed/attached, opened, and read.
✓ Format. Write your work experience and education in reverse chronological order. This means listing your positions from the newest to the oldest.
✓ White space (or negative space). This refers to margins (the areas between the main content and the edges of the page), gutters (the vertical space between columns), and the spaces between lines of type and graphics or figures. Having a balance between white space and content will keep your resume from looking cluttered while drawing the reader’s eye to certain sections.
✓ Font style, size, and color. Use a font that is easy for both ATS and a real person to recognize: Arial, Calibri, Verdana, Times New Roman, Georgia, Lucida, Tahoma, or Trebuchet—these fonts were designed for the web. The font size should be between 10 and 12 point, and the color should be consistent throughout (black).
✓ Margins. Use 1-inch margins all the way around your resume. This will ensure that no information gets cut off if a paper copy is printed and that no information will be lost to ATS if it falls outside the margin.
Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation
✓ Attention to detail. Spelling and grammar are important indicators of a candidate’s attention to detail; they highlight defects rather than spotlighting qualities. It is nearly impossible to recover from spelling errors on your resume.
✓ Action words. Use words that convey action, such as advised, examined, oversaw, prepared, resolved, and compiled.
✓ Consistency. Be consistent with your punctuation throughout. This includes putting periods at the end of complete sentences, using only single or only double quotation marks, using the serial comma, and using only straight or only curly quotes.
✓ Acronyms. Always make sure to spell out any acronyms in full upon their first use.
✓ Editing. Make sure to take the time to thoroughly edit and proofread your resume. Even the smallest spelling mistake can have a disastrous effect, so pay extra attention when reading through your resume. You may even want to use a professional editing service such as Scribendi.com to have an extra set of professional, discerning eyes catch any errors you may have missed. Editing is crucial for two reasons: 1) ATS software will miss important keywords and phrases if they’re spelled incorrectly, making your resume more likely to get rejected and 2) A hiring manager who sees mistakes in your resume won’t take you seriously and will think you are lazy, which also makes it more likely for your resume to get rejected.
✓ Punctuation. Make sure to use punctuation marks properly. Know the difference between a hyphen (-), an en dash (–), and an em (—) dash; when and how to use a semicolon (;); how to properly use a comma (,); and how a period (.) should be placed at the end of each complete sentence.
✓ Capitalization. Capitalize words correctly. Do capitalize names; proper nouns; names of cities, states/provinces, and countries; languages; company names; brand names; and months. Do not capitalize job titles (unless they come before a name); college/university majors; important-sounding career words that aren’t proper nouns; seasons; or directions.
Bonus Tips for an Outstanding Resume
✓ Customization. Tailor your resume specifically to each job that you apply for. This means incorporating words and phrases from the job description—as they apply to your skills and experience—directly into your resume. Try to put most of these words and phrases in the top-third of the first page of your resume.
✓ Template. Stay current and use a modern and professional resume format, but avoid using a template. A template will make your resume look too generic, and it won’t stand out to a potential employer.
✓ Pronouns. Don’t use third- or first-person pronouns. For example, instead of saying “Annie prepares” or “I prepare,” just say “Prepare.”
✓ Email address. Make sure your email address is professional and appropriate, and avoid using a nickname. Think firstname.lastname@example.org as opposed to email@example.com.
✓ Metrics: Include performance metrics to show exactly how you helped the company. This could mean percentages, dollars, percentages, or time frames.
✓ Keywords. Include industry keywords in your resume, but not too many.
✓ Cover letter. Supplement your resume with a cover letter, especially if the job description calls for one. If you don’t include this important document when it’s asked for, it’s highly unlikely that the hiring manager will even look at—let alone consider—your resume, regardless of how qualified you are for the position.
Quick Reference: Resume Sections
If you’re a bit unsure about how to structure your resume to include all the required information, here’s a tool you can use to guide you. This isn’t the only way to structure a resume, but it’s a great starting point from which you can expand and personalize as much as you want.
Where Is It?
What Does it Tell the Reader?
|Main Header (Name and Contact Information)||Very top of first page||Tells the reader your preferred name and the best ways to contact you|
|Summary||Top of first page, under main header||Explains why you’re qualified and sums up why you’d be the best candidate for the job|
|Knowledge and Skills||Top third of first page, beneath Summary||Tells the reader how your knowledge and skills match those required by the position|
|Work Experience||Middle of first page, beneath Knowledge and Skills||Explains how your professional achievements could benefit the company you’re applying to|
|Education||Beneath Work Experience||Shows the reader whether you meet the educational requirements for the position|
|Other Information||Beneath Education||Shows how your other assets would be beneficial to the role being applied to. Examples include volunteer work, additional honors or completed courses, etc.|
If you’re looking for a quick reference to use when writing or revising your resume, the following infographic provides a point-form version of this article. Go over this checklist before sending your resume out to potential employers.
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So there you have it—the ULTIMATE resume checklist. Comprehensive? Yes. Helpful? We hope so! Now that you’ve read through the resume tips outlined above, you should be confident in creating an outstanding resume that’s up to date, modern, and exactly what your potential employer wants to read. You now know exactly what to include in your resume and what to avoid, how your resume should be designed and formatted, and how to put it all together. But before you send it off, make sure to edit, edit, edit! Using an editing service like Scribendi.com will ensure your resume is error free so that you land that dream job.
Take these tips, apply them, and share them with your friends! There’s nothing better than that sense of accomplishment you feel after completing something you worked really hard on, and that’s what we want to help you achieve. Best of luck!
Image sources: Unsplash/Pixabay.com, Ian Prince/StockSnap.io