What do jigsaw puzzles and resume sections have in common?
Well firstly, a jigsaw puzzle is easy to solve if you understood the bigger picture and had all the pieces organized so you know where they belong.
If it’s like this, then I always thought it would be satisfying to see the end result.
Not far off when it comes to building your resume.
A well-organized resume solves the missing equation which can earn you the right for an interview.
Now, you can try to stitch everything up together, and eventually, through trial and error, see where each piece is needed. Or, you can save time and make the process easier by understanding the bigger picture.
After you go through this ultimate guide, you’ll pretty much have everything you need to know about how to build your resume.
OR, you can skip ahead and start by using a free resume builder with proven feedback that’s gotten others hired at competitive companies such as Tesla and Spotify. You can find one tailored to your job title by clicking below – what’s there to lose?
What Are The Basic Sections Of a Resume?
There are different sections on a resume to consider. However, the main ones that are compulsory for every resume are:
- Resume Header
- Career Summary or Objectives
- Work Experience / History
- Skills and Expertise
Another factor that determines how good your sections in a resume are, is the resume format itself (which we’ll look at in more detail later). Although there are other resume sections, these are the ones that are absolutely necessary.
Optional Sections To Consider
Unlike the main resume titles above, the ones listed below aren’t compulsory but still very useful:
- Volunteering Experiences
- Awards and certifications
- Hobbies and interests
- Client Testimonials
- Professional associations
- Resume references
You won’t see these sections in every single resume format since they differ depending on your industry.
Word of advice: just because these are ‘optional’, it’s far from useless.
Things like extracurricular activities can make the job recruiters keen on learning more about you, so don’t be afraid to bring them up.
The job recruiters will take notice of this.
If there are parts of your background or areas you lack in such as work experience, you can use these sections to make up for it. For example, even though you haven’t got work experience on your nursing student resume, you can make up for that by implementing a volunteering section.
Most people consider volunteering a waste of space to include on a resume.
But, at the end of the day, you did work. You’ve honed skills and got involved in a working environment.
The main point is that, if you fall short on something like work experience, you can show you’re still equally qualified for the job by including a relevant resume section that demonstrates why.
Hiring managers want to see the value you can bring over to their organization. That’s the soul of your resume – value.
Just before we get into it, there are two questions to help you dive deeper into specifics, benefits, detail, and value to add on your resume. Keep these questions in mind when going through your resume sections to reel the recruiter in to continue reading.
Which Resume Sections Are The Best to Use?
Now you know what resume sections you can use. But the question arises, what resume section should you highlight or include that will make your hiring manager keen on working with you?
To help you determine an answer for that, there are 2 key questions you need to consider:
“Do I Need This? Is It Really Relevant, Important, and Worth Mentioning?”
Adopt the “use it or lose it mindset”.
This shouldn’t just apply to the minimalist resume format but all resume formats in general. Having this mindset helps you pinpoint the critical and most important pieces of information you need to include, and whatnot.
It also helps prevent you from wasting space and building a resume that doesn’t show any real value.
Is it scannable, readable, and valuable?
When you realize the specific details you need that aren’t fluff, you make use of the white space you have strategically and effectively.
So, only include the things that are important. Don’t try to force extra information in unless it’s something you need to mention.
And, don’t worry if you end up having a one-page resume.
In fact, these are more preferable and perform better since they offer a more positive reading experience.
In the case of large organizations, they’ll use an ATS (applicant tracking system). So, by asking yourself if something is really relevant and worth mentioning makes it easier to prioritize the keywords and phrases you need to be using.
And, not just the keywords and phrases. But also the buzzwords and actionable words that make it clear you’re capable of taking on the job responsibilities.
“What Value Can I Bring To The Table?”
Without value, your resume isn’t going to make it far – it’s the pinnacle of your entire job application. If you’re not showing any or enough of it, be sure to go back and edit your resume accordingly.
You’re pretty much trying to sell yourself on your resume.
When you’re constantly asking yourself this question while you’re filling in the different resume sections, you’re answering the question “why should we hire you?” throughout your resume.
Imagine the hiring manager wants to know about you (similar to how the interviewer might say “tell me a bit about yourself”).
Technically, they want to know more about you but not in the same way that everyone would assume. For instance, it doesn’t mean you should start talking about your life story and how you learned to ride a bike.
The real question they’re asking you is this:
“What can you do to add value to our organization? Why should we hire you, and how will you benefit us?”
It might help to see your resume sections as interviews but in written form. The things they want to know and the questions they’re asking are almost always going to be on the job board description. This is why background research is important because you’ll understand what you’re getting into and what the employers are looking for.
The way I like to go about doing this is through three simple steps:
- Keep asking yourself what value you can show to make employers conclude it’s a no-brainer to hire you
- Check if what you’re saying on your resume demonstrates that value and correlates with the job requirements
- Don’t forget rule #1 and #2
You’re not an expense and something they’re paying for because you want a job or need money.
They’re hiring you because you’re an asset who’s going to help their company gain more profit one way or another.
If you can’t find an answer, try using Enhancv’s resume builder. You can access a resume template for almost every job in every industry so you can easily rephrase or take inspiration from what’s proven to work. It’s free to use, so why not?
The Main Sections On A Resume You Need to Include
This is the first resume section at the top of your resume that serves as a way for the job recruiters to know who you are and how to contact you. It’s the first thing an employer should see.
Think of them as the resume version of a business card.
What it needs to include is:
- Your name
- Phone number and email address
- Full address
- Website or portfolio links, and LinkedIn profile
While it’s not necessary, including a short, snappy statement to engage the reader leaves a positive impact on your recruiter.
Talk about creating a powerful first impression by being creative…
You’re almost certainly going to catch their interest!
Here’s an example from a marketing resume that got Eric hired at Sidewagon:
If you want the nitty-gritty details, check out our full resume header guide here.
Career Summary or Objective
Once the reader sees this section on your resume, you have about 30-60 seconds.
In this time, they’ll decide whether the good intuition about you from their first impression (because of your amazing resume header) is real or if it’s just a fluke.
After your resume header, the next section is one of the following:
- Resume summary (an overview of your entire work history)
- Resume objective (an overview of your career goals and objectives)
Look at this section as a way to consolidate the first impression you’ve already made from your resume header. Now you need to prove in their minds that you’re the expert they perceive you to be.
Remember: you need to implicate value and show why you’re going to be a beneficial asset and not just another expense.
The hiring managers in large organizations most likely receive many applications that are too identical to one another. It’s one group of collected resumes you don’t want to be a part of.
It’s another reason why it’s important to be able to stand out.
Focus on using fewer impactful sentences that pack a punch instead of long, lengthy paragraphs. Those are more difficult to read and take more energy and time to analyze.
The stronger the correlation is with the job description, the better.
It should be straightforward and quick for them to identify your key qualities gained from your work history or what you aim to achieve. Look at what you can give them and how, not what they can give you.
Don’t give them a puzzle to decipher.
Also, be sure you’re including the appropriate keywords and align them with what they need.
Work Experience Section
What have you learned or developed that’s an asset?
As a general rule of thumb, the work experience resume section should be task-orientated and results-driven. What the hiring manager cares about is how well you managed to perform from your previous job positions.
So, you need to show the results you managed to achieve. How did you contribute and make an impact?.
Your work experience needs to show how and why it’s an advantage to have someone like you on their side. A common mistake that people do is talk about their daily job routines.
It’s not entirely bad, but it’s pretty good if you want the recruiter to doze off.
There are two steps to make this section work:
- Describing your goals and progress from your work experience
- Targeting the right keywords
The Goals and Progress from Your Work History
Are you someone reliable who’s able to carry out their responsibilities?
Can you steadily scale your skills and become more and more beneficial for their company over time?
The recruiters care about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
In other words, don’t focus on talking about the general duties from the previous jobs you’ve worked in. It’s not completely wrong, but the problem is that it’s generic and dull to read.
More importantly, it doesn’t show any real value.
If you want to stand out in this section, focus on talking about the progress achieved and how your duties managed to reach a good result.
Aside from using the right keywords and language, you need to target these three vital aspects for your work experience section to be perfect:
- The results or impact of your skills and expertise
- The learning curve and development of your knowledge and skills
- The progression of taking on more duties, responsibilities and broadening your experiences
Focus on the results aspect of your work experience, not your general routines.
Bring up what good results you contributed towards or projects you focused on that lead to that outcome. Next, use fluff-free actionable language to show you’re an action-taker.
Targeting the Right Keywords
If you’ve read our guide on resume buzzwords, you know what trigger words to use and how to use them properly to draw the recruiter’s attention. You also know what words are overused, rinsed out and all too common, so you have the upper hand just by that knowledge.
With those buzzwords and actionable language, use them when describing something valuable. And, if possible, embed it with the keywords that the recruiter is watching out for.
By doing this, you position yourself as an ideal candidate.
When discussing these experiences, don’t forget to cut down and shorten the description as much as possible. Avoid fluff so you can keep the hiring manager engaged with your resume.
Depending on your situation and job position, the objective for the education section will vary. For example, if you’re a senior or someone who has over 10 years of experience, this section will look a lot different compared to a new college graduate.
Most people believe they only have to include their academic qualifications here and talk about their years in education…
While that’s not technically wrong, the only problem is that it won’t do well in terms of leaving an impression. The main thing to keep in mind is that everything you say should have an impact on the reader.
Extracurriculars also work, particularly for students or recent university or college graduates. Things such as studying abroad and internships are good things to talk about that make you noticeable.
You can check out examples and see our full detailed guide to perfect your education section right here.
Skills And Expertise Section
Do you have the soft, hard, or technical skills they’re looking for? Are they relevant to the job vacancy?
There are 300+ skills employers are currently demanding.
The priority is to bring together the most important skills and core areas that make you an expert in the field.
Don’t overcomplicate the description by trying to go into detail on something with little value or relevancy. Instead, you should be refining and going in more thorough detail about the professional skills that the hiring manager is demanding.
In your skills section, it’s important to only include what’s relevant.
Another way to see this that might help is through the lens of analyzing your resume summary or objectives section. All you’re doing here is going more in-depth and explaining the skills that you’ve mentioned earlier.
The Optional Resume Sections To Improve Your Chances Of Getting Hired
Those main sections discussed aren’t the only thing to determine whether you make the cut or not.
Although these sections aren’t necessary, they’re extremely useful for some of you who might be lacking in work experience. Or, if there’s something relevant to the job position you’re applying for.
You’ve probably heard from people around you saying things along the lines of:
“Volunteering is useless, there’s no point including or even mentioning it…”
Well, that couldn’t be more opposite than saying dinosaurs don’t exist. Hiring managers want to see relevant experiences, and volunteering work is still … work. So, take advantage of it and use it to stand out.
One way or another, you’ve developed skills from that experience which you can easily translate into the new career you’re pursuing.
This section can prove to be useful mainly for students or fresh graduates out of university. However, for some of you, war veterans with tonnes of work experience – it’s probably not going to help you as much.
Awards and Certifications
Aside from your academic qualifications, do you have any other awards and certifications that link nicely to the job position you’re applying for?
The key is to show off respectable achievements.
Whenever you have anything like this to talk about, it’s like adding an extravagant ingredient to improve the whole recipe.
Showcasing your awards is one way to stand out and be different.
After all, recruiters may find you more interesting since there’s diversity in your application. It’s always good to use this to your advantage so you have a more appealing and eye-catching resume that’s easy to distinguish from the other applicants.
In almost all conventional resumes, there’s always a section at the end labeled as references.
This section contains a list of the background of professional employers you’ve worked for in the past. This allows your previous employers to support your work experience and provide evidence to back up the skills you claim you’re capable of.
In other words, it adds credibility to your name.
The only thing you shouldn’t do is to fill this section with the forbidden phrase:
“References available upon request”
You might’ve followed all the tips so far and have done everything perfectly. But this simple line could completely throw them off. This phrase isn’t just overused heavily, but it’s also showing them you don’t have full control over your references.
Hobbies and Interests
Job recruiters are eager to learn more about your personal life, and this is where you can put your hobbies and interests to good use.
It’s one of the best resume sections for demonstrating your creativity.
For example, you might be applying for a job as an entry-level IT technician. You could use this section to talk about how you enjoy doing web design in your spare time. Or, you could show you have a passion for coding, programming, or anything related in the field.
It’s best to not directly label this section as “hobbies and interests” since it’s generic. Instead, you can rephrase it slightly by making the resume section title “passions”, “strengths”, etc.
Here’s a step-by-step process to do this in a way that captivates your hiring manager:
First, use a proven resume template for your job title by clicking here.
Once you find your job title, you’ll be taken to a page that has a full guide for how to make a resume for that specific role. But, what I want you to do next is to click the “use this example button”.
Next, you’ll be taken to an editing page like this:
Now that you’ve made it here, you’re free to change as much as you want. Simply click onto any heading or text, and you can rephrase the sentences, add your own information or input, etc.
With this freedom, you can reveal your personality and creativity in a way that engages the hiring manager. One of the best example features from Enhancv to do this is by including a ‘my time’ section to show them how you spend your time:
When recruiters see how you spend your time, it shows a lot about your character. It lets the reader know you’re motivated by doing something you’re genuinely passionate about and not just by the salary.
But, doing it creatively like this will make them even more interested in you.
If you’re evenly matched with someone in terms of skill, they’ll take into consideration who they’ll prefer working with.
As interpersonalization is becoming more important in today’s workforce, it’s important to expose your personality. Not only does it show you’re genuine, but you’re a good cultural fit for the company.
Have you had anything published in the past?
If you’re applying for a job position such as a journalist, you might include a section of publications for previous work that’s been published. It’s a great way to signify credibility and social authority, as well as showing them you’re not an amateur.
Do you have strong language skills and are you fluent in speaking those languages? If so, make a list of them and have a section dedicated to them!
Having a job where being able to speak and understand other languages is an exceptional example of how you can impress employers. One, it’s a great skill to have. And two, you’re demonstrating your self-motivation and ability to learn.
The recruiter is sure to give credits to where it’s due. Don’t hold back with showing off your fluency with multiple languages, especially in a diverse working environment!
You could include testimonials from different people or clients you’ve worked for in the past. It’s exceptionally compelling if those people hold high, influential titles.
Job recruiters will respect the fact that these people support your work, which has an impact on making the decision to hire you.
Are there any other professional organizations you’re associated with that are credible?
In this section, you talk about the list of different professional groups you’ve been involved with. List them down and give the reader a deeper glimpse into what your character, skills, and experiences look like.
What Order Should Your Resume Sections Be?
There are different ways to go about your resume format. Having said that, there’s one fixed rule that’s not going to change anytime soon:
The most important details go first on your resume.
Here’s what the traditional resume sections order looks like:
- Contact details (resume header)
- Career overview/resume objectives
- Work Experience
- Awards and certifications (optional)
- Skills section
- Other optional resume sections
- Resume references
The resume header that includes your contact information, (number and email address) will always go first.
But, did you know you can go above and beyond by using creative resume sections?
You can easily make a unique application that stands out by using a custom section in resumes.
… And this is where Enhancv truly excels.
Let’s look at the resume sections for students as an example:
On Enrique’s resume, there are two custom resume sections: industry expertise and strengths.
Best of all, each section is highlighted through color and resume icons. On top of having tools like the content analyzer mentioned, it’s difficult to miss the criteria of your job description.
What that means for you is the hiring manager saving your resume.
If you’re thinking of organizing something from scratch, by all means, go for it. But why not take the smart approach by using something that’s proven to work and has caught the eyes of a billionaire?
Congratulations if you’ve made it this far!
Now that you have these questions to think about as you’re creating your resume sections, you know how to frame your resume as a valuable application the hiring managers can’t ignore.
All that’s left now is to edit and optimize your resume so it’s perfect. It’s the same as adding the cherry on top for the final touch.
On that note, are you feeling more confident now that you’ve got the essential knowledge for building a resume? Let me know in the comments below, I read and respond to every message!
Make one that's truly you.