Have you ever tried solving a jigsaw puzzle when you were a kid?
I find them fun. At least when you’re able to figure things out properly…
It probably sounds a bit strange, right? What do a jigsaw puzzle and resume 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 each piece belongs.
Similar to your resume sections: a well-organized resume solves the missing equation that can earn you the right to have an interview with the company you’re sending your resume application to.
Now, rather than attempting to stitch everything up together and trying to see where each piece belongs, it’s easier and a better experience if you understand the bigger picture beforehand.
In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know about resume sections. And how you can perfect each part and organize them to secure the job you’re applying for.
What Are The Main Different Sections to Compose A Resume?
There are several different resume sections to consider, but these are the main ones that are compulsory for every resume:
- Resume Header
- Career Summary or Objectives
- Work Experience / History
- Skills and Expertise
Depending on how well those sections are formatted and written will determine whether you get invited for an interview or not. Although there are other resume sections, these are the ones that are absolutely necessary.
So, what are other sections? See below.
Optional Sections To Consider
- Volunteering Experiences
- Awards and certifications
- Hobbies and interests
- Client Testimonials
- Professional associations
- Resume references
Unlike the main sections, these are optional. You won’t see them in every single resume application, but they’re still useful to have depending on what you can talk about and the job vacancy requirements.
Word of advice: just because these are ‘optional’, don’t see them as useless!
If you lack in certain areas such as professional experience, you can use these sections to make up for it. For example, most people would assume that volunteering isn’t worth mentioning.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. You did work, and you’ve honed skills and got involved in a working environment. New college or university graduates should consider using this section, especially if you fall short in different areas that those job recruiters are looking for.
Other things such as extracurricular activities can make the job recruiters keen on learning more about you, so don’t be afraid to bring them up. Were you a student counselor in the past? Were you the president of a club, group, or organization back in school?
The job recruiters will take notice of this.
Hiring managers aim to see the value you can bring over to their organization. That’s what matters – 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.
Key Questions to Consider
“What Value Can I Bring To The Table?”
Without value, your resume isn’t going to make it far. If you’re not showing any or enough of it, be sure to rephrase those sentences or to even delete them.
When you’re constantly asking yourself this question while you’re filling in the different resume sections, you’re continuously answering the question “why should we hire you?” throughout your resume.
You’re essentially trying to sell yourself on 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 example, it doesn’t mean you should start talking about your life story and how you learned to ride a bike.
What they’re inherently asking you is: “What can you do to add value to our organization? How are you going to benefit us?
Try to see your resume sections as interviews in written form. But the things they want to know and the questions they’re asking are on the job board description. This is why background research to understand exactly what you’re getting into is important because if you’re answering the wrong questions, you’re quickly going to get tossed into the rejection pile.
The way I like to go about doing this is by consistently asking myself what value I can give that’s going to be beneficial for them. And to check if what I’m saying on my resume is demonstrating that value and answering the needs of the job directly.
At the end of the day, 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.
“Do I Need This? Is It Really Relevant, Important, and Worth Mentioning?”
On our minimalist resume guide, I advised you to adopt the “use it or lose it mindset”. But really, this shouldn’t just apply to minimalist resumes but all resumes in general. Because having this mindset helps you pinpoint the critical and most important pieces of information specifically.
By asking yourself if you really need something, you begin to use white space strategically. And not just using it all up and wasting space unnecessarily.
The visual appeal, format, and design of your resume are nearly just as important as the contents of your resume.
Is it scannable, readable, and easy to digest?
Only include the things that are important rather than trying to stuff everything in. It improves and gives a positive reader 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 should be including in the first place.
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.
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.
Let’s now move onto the primary part of this article some of you have been waiting for, the main resume sections, and how to use them effectively.
This is the 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. Think of them as online business cards on your resume.
What it needs to include is:
- Your name
- Phone number and email address
- Full address
- Website or portfolio links, and LinkedIn profile
In essence, it’s your contact details, and the first thing the reader will see. It’s important you include a short, snappy, and impactful statement to engage the reader and create a powerful first impression that’s going to catch their interest.
Here’s an example from a marketing resume that got Eric hired at Sidewagon:
If you don’t know how to create a strong resume header, check out our full resume header guide here. It goes more in-depth with details, includes more examples, and gives you the knowledge you need to make a profound impression that attracts the hiring manager reading your resume.
Career Overview, Summary or Objective
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.
Enhancv’s content analyzer gives you real feedback from an expert who’s reviewed over 300,000 resumes. I advise everyone who’s applying to a new job to use it so you can test whether your resume has a high or low performance, and use the feedback to make improvements.
But 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.
Look at this summary 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.
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.
Don’t give them a puzzle to decipher either. It should be straightforward and quick 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.
Highlight your work experiences or objectives, and be sure you’re putting in some keywords to show it’s aligned with their standards. The stronger the correlation is with the job description, the more focused the reader will be if they decide to read the rest of your resume.
Work Experience Section
As a rule of thumb, this section should be very task-orientated and based on work as well as missions. A common mistake is that people end up talking about their daily job routines. It’s not bad, and actually good if you want to make the recruiter doze off.
So, you need to implicate the things you’ve done in the past. What have you learned or developed that’s an asset? Then describe how and why it’s a huge advantage to have someone like you on their side.
There are 2 things to make this section successful and that’s development/goals, and targeting the right keywords.
The Goals and Progress from Your Work History
The recruiters care about what you can do for them. Are you someone who’s able to share the weight they carry? Can you steadily scale your skills and become more and more beneficial for their company over time?
Avoid imitating and outlining your general duties from the previous jobs you’ve worked in the past. It’s not completely wrong, but the problem is that it’s quite generic and dull to read. If you want to stand out in this section, start using the right keywords that trigger a buzz.
As opposed to telling the job recruiters what you’ve learned, you’re also inviting them with specific and more advanced ideas by stringing together insightful knowledge that you’ve developed.
Aside from using the right language, this section should be targeting these three vital aspects:
- 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 work experiences. Bring up what good results you contributed towards or projects you focused on that lead to that outcome. Next, use actionable language to show you’re an action-taker and an active person of implementation.
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, combine them with the keywords that the recruiters are looking for. You’re essentially showing that you’re an ideal fit for them.
Also, use those keywords when you’re showing off your personality to imply that you’re a great fit not just for your work attributes and qualities, but because of the cultural environment where you belong.
As interpersonalization is becoming more important in today’s workforce, it’s important you expose your personality to show you’re genuine. For example, let them know you’re passionate about your field of work. Describe how you’re driven, willing to learn, and motivated to improve.
Something like this lets them know you qualify for the job culturally and not just skilfully. It lets them take this into account – if you’re evenly matched with someone in terms of skill, they’ll take into consideration who they’ll prefer working with.
The right keywords and phrases aligned with your experiences that explain the what, how and why will remove doubts and form curiosity to make them intrigued about your character and capabilities.
When discussing these experiences of yours, cut down and shorten the description as much as possible to maintain high readability and positive reader experience.
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 single problem is that it won’t do well in terms of its impactfulness if it’s not optimized accordingly. 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
We’ve established why it’s important to use keywords and phrases. But out of all sections, this is where you need to analyze and break it down the most.
But even though you’re aware of this, don’t overcomplicate the small things and try to expand on something little if it doesn’t provide enough value. You should be refining and going in more thorough detail about the professional skills that you’ve mentioned in your career overview.
The priority here is to bring together the most important skills and core areas that make you an expert in the field.
If recruiters are reading at this point, they’ll see if you’ve truly got what it takes.
Do you have the soft, hard or technical skills they’re looking for? Are they relevant to the job vacancy?
Another way you can see this section that might help is through the lens as an analysis of your resume overview. All you’re doing here is going more in-depth and explaining the skills that you’ve mentioned earlier.
Those main sections discussed are what’s going to determine whether you make the cut or not. But that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t other relevant sections worthy enough to talk about.
Although these sections aren’t completely necessary, they are useful for some of you who might be lacking in work experience, or if there’s something extremely relevant to the job position.
See below for the seven optional sections that are still important to consider.
You’ve probably heard from people around you saying things along the lines of:
“Volunteering is useless… There’s no point doing it 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 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
Apart 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 be unique and catch the reader’s eye. Showcasing your awards is one way to stand out, be different, and find success to acquire that interview. Whenever you have anything like this, recruiters may find you more interesting, extravagant, or diverse.
Don’t be afraid to bring these accomplishments up. 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 is so that these previous colleagues can support your work experience and provide evidence to back up the skills you claim you’re capable of.
If you’re using Enhancv’s resume builder, it’s a lot cleaner than the normal general resumes since most of the time, there are links in the resume header that lead the job recruiter to those references.
The design and formats Enhancv uses is more modernized and updated compared to your typical resume. Not only does it help with making your voice heard, but it’s also one way to impress your hiring manager because of the way it’s laid out.
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, which is a bad sign.
Hobbies and Interests
Job recruiters are eager to learn more about your personal life and not just your working life. If you have any relevant passions or interests, do let them know!
For example, you might be applying for space 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 say you have a passion for coding, programming or anything related in the field.
All these activities are directly parallel to the job you’re applying for. So it helps with letting the reader know you enjoy what you do and you’re not just purely driven by the salary.
However, if you already have everything you need on your resume, then avoid using this section as less is better. One page resumes tend to be more profound compared to resumes that are 2-3 pages long.
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.
You could include testimonials from different people or clients you’ve worked for 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.
Organizing the Structure of Your Resume Sections – What is in a resume
There are different ways to organize the structure of your resume sections. Having said that, there’s one fixed rule that’s not going to change anytime soon. And that’s this:
The most important details belong to the top of 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 depending on your job position and the level of flexibility there is can determine how rigid your structure has to be.
… And this is where Enhancv excels over a standard resume.
We use different resume sections with customizable resume headings that are tailored to the job position you’re applying for.
Our resume builder is easy to rearrange into something that fits the criteria and your preferences.
These resumes even grabbed the attention of Mark Cuban. He loved the way they work, the way they look and the way it’s built.
So if you’re thinking of organizing something from scratch, by all means, go for it. But why not use something that’s already proven to work and has caught the eyes of a billionaire?
Here’s a good example from Enhancv of a fundamental structure you could use for any resume type:
Everyone is at different stages of their career. But no matter what, the contents and what you put on the different resume sections are crucial components of your resume. You also need to consider its structure and how it visually appeals to the reader.
If you want to be more creative, unique, and independent, take in note the following:
- Consistently implicate value: keep those two questions mentioned earlier in mind to perfect each resume section. Expose your skills, share your experiences and knowledge throughout your resume and not only in one individual area
- Less is more: clarity wins. If your resume seems too small and is only one page long, this is actually a good thing. It’s better to be basic and simple if there are more meaning, value, and impactfulness behind it
- Bear in mind the ATS. Invest time into doing the research to concentrate on paramount elements of information and to use all the keywords accurately
- Cover letters are also helpful. This needs to be on par and just as good as your resume. If you’re not sure on where to start on that, check out our guide on cover letters here.
Congratulations if you’ve read and made it this far. Are you feeling more confident now that you’ve got the essential knowledge for building your resume sections? All that’s left now is to edit and optimize so that it’s perfect. It’s like adding that final touch of topping to complete the dish.
(Side note: Don’t just passively read our guides. If you’re currently hunting for jobs, do make sure you implement the tips and advice that’s discussed!)
If you’re just beginning to only get started, rather than starting all the way from scratch, take advantage of Enhancv’s free templates. They got recognition from Mark Cuban and got others hired at big companies such as Verizon, Spotify, and Tesla.
You can also check our extensive guides on 530+ different job resume examples & samples from real people who got hired, who helped more than 1 mln. people create their resumes.
To finish off, here’s a quote I really like that sums up what it takes to land that new job opportunity and dream career of yours:
“Perseverance is not a long race. It is many short races one after another”
On that note, all the best with everything else! If you have any questions, drop a comment below. I read and respond to every message!