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Q: What are the main parts of a resume?

I haven’t looked for a job in a while and have no idea what should be in a resume these days. Can you help? — Jon M.

Writing a resume can be overwhelming; the rules are not only ever-changing, but they are often applied differently depending on your line of work, how far along you are in your career, and your immediate job goals. That said, there are some standard parts of a resume that every professional can use to structure this all-important job-search document. Below is a run-down of these resume components.

Contact Information

This part of a resume may seem obvious, but a TopResume study found that 25 percent of people either forget to include all the necessary pieces of contact information or fail to format them in a way that can be read by the hiring bots. When writing your resume, be sure to include the following personal details at the top of the document, just below the header section:

  • Full name: Include your preferred first name (e.g. Bill instead of William) and last name on your resume. Then, make sure you use the same version of your name on all your other job-search materials, such as your LinkedIn profile and business cards. The key is to be consistent.

  • Cell phone number: It’s best to include the phone number to your personal cell phone on your resume. That way, you have control over the voicemail recording, who answers calls, and when.

  • Address: Contrary to popular belief, it is no longer necessary to include your full mailing address on your resume. Instead, include your city, state, and zip code if you’re seeking work near your home. If you’re conducting a long-distance job search or you're open to relocation, you may opt to not include any mailing address information.

  • Social media: The most common social media profile to include on a resume is a customized URL to your public LinkedIn profile. Other social media profiles should only be added if they’re relevant to your line of work. If you work in a creative field, you may also want to add a link to your online portfolio or blog.

Professional Title

The professional title part of a resume is fairly straightforward. Below your contact information, add a line that describes the type of role you’re pursuing. For instance, if you’re pursuing a position as a Director or Senior Manager of FP&A, you may put “Senior Financial Planning & Analysis Professional” as your professional title. When you are submitting your resume for a specific job posting, it’s common to change your professional title to match the one listed in the job description. If you’re changing careers and feel weird about putting a title you’ve never held before at the top of your resume, you can place the word “Objective:” in front of it to provide some context for the reader.

Professional Summary

A resume professional summary — also referred to as a career summary, executive summary, or career statement — has taken the place of the resume objective statement you likely learned how to write back in college

Historically, a standard resume objective statement focused on the job seeker’s wants, needs, and goals. A resume professional summary, however, focuses on what the job seeker has to offer a prospective employer by describing his or her qualifications. Click on the following link to view some professional resume statement examples.

Areas of Expertise

An “Areas of Expertise” or “Core Competencies” section is a great place to incorporate the all-important keywords that will help your resume get past the hiring bots. Focus on highlighting the hard and soft skills that are most relevant to the role you’re pursuing. If you’re unsure what to include in this part of your resume, gather a few job descriptions that interest you and run them through a word cloud generator. This will help you to quickly identify which terms routinely pop up for this type of job opportunity. If you possess that skill, be sure to incorporate it into this section of your resume, your professional summary, and even your work history, where appropriate.

Work Experience

The most popular resume format, known as a hybrid or combination resume, lists your work experience in reverse chronological order. This means that your most recent professional experience will appear toward the top of your resume and your earliest experiences will be listed towards the end of your document. The rule of thumb is to elaborate on the most recent 10-15 years of experience only. The work history part of the resume can include a variety of professional experiences beyond a full-time job, from unpaid internships or "returnships," to consulting gigs and relevant volunteer work.

Education & Certifications

If you’re a recent college graduate, chances are your newly-minted diploma is one of your best selling points at the moment. As a result, this information should appear at the top of your resume, just above your work experience. However, if you’re no longer an entry-level professional, it’s time to move your education details to the end of your resume,  including the name of the school, its location (City, State), the degree you earned, and any honors with which you graduated, such as summa cum laude or cum laude. If you graduated college within the past 15 years, include the year that you received your degree; otherwise, leave the date off. It’s only necessary to include details about your GPA and some of the 400-level courses you completed if you’re new to the workforce and need more fodder to demonstrate your employability to companies.

If you’ve earned multiple degrees, list these accolades in chronological order, starting with the most recent degree. This part of the resume is also a great place to list any relevant certifications, licenses, training, or professional development coursework you’ve completed that will make you a more desirable candidate.

Additional Parts of a Resume

In addition to these standard resume components, you may want to include some of the following sections that make sense, given your experience and the role you’re targeting.

  • Career highlights: This section, which is typically used by senior-level professionals with more than 10 years of experience, may be included in addition to or in lieu of a professional summary. This section calls attention to relevant, noteworthy achievements that may be scattered throughout a professional’s extensive work experience. By highlighting these accomplishments at the top of the first page of the resume, you’re helping readers understand the value you bring to the table and enticing them to thoroughly read your resume to learn more.

  • Volunteer experience: Hiring managers and recruiters alike look favorably on professionals who engage in philanthropic activities such as volunteering for non-profits and mentoring programs. If you actively volunteer for a non-profit organization, consider sharing this information on your resume and LinkedIn profile.

  • Technical hard skills: If you work in a technical field, this section may take the place of your “Areas of Expertise” at the top of your resume. However, if you work in a non-technical profession but use many technical platforms to do your job — and these tools are often noted in the job descriptions you’re interested in — then you may want to add a section at the end of your resume to list all of these tools.

  • Language skills: If you are multilingual, be sure to note these language proficiencies in your professional summary and detail them out in a separate section toward the end of your resume. Only list the language on your resume if you would feel comfortable going on an interview that was spoken in that language.

  • Publications: If you are seeking work in the medical, dental, academic, scientific, or research field, then your academic resume — also known as an academic CV — will likely include a section to showcase the presentations you’ve given or publications you’ve written or been featured in.

Preparing to Write Your Resume

Before you or your professional resume writer can begin developing each of these parts of your resume, you’ll need to do a bit of legwork. Take a look at this article I wrote a while back — it provides step-by-step instructions for gathering all the necessary information to write the perfect resume. Remember, a resume can only be as good as the information its writer has to work with. Take the time now to take stock of your career and your future resume will reap the benefits!  

If you’re unsure what should be in a resume, ask for help. Request a free resume review today to find out how to improve your chances of landing the interview.

Amanda Augustine is a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and resume writer (CPRW) and the resident career expert for Talent Inc.’s suite of brands: TopResume, TopCV, and TopInterview. On a regular basis, she answers user questions like the one above. Have a question? Take a look at her career advice or ask a question on her Quora page.

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