What to Put on a Resume: A Guide in Building Your Best Resume (+ What to Avoid)

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Created by CakeResume

The importance of a powerful and professional resume can’t be stressed enough. It’s more than just a document serving the purpose of a job application, but a great way to promote your professional image. 

When writing a resume, you may have asked yourself many questions, such as how long should a resume be? Which resume format to use and how should the resume be designed? Or what is the best tool/platform to create a professional resume?

Among these challenges, what to put on a resume seems to be the most challenging. Some have a lot of information to share, whereas some don’t know what to write. There are also many different resume sections that are specific in their content, so you might find yourself asking more specific questions like what to put for the objective on a resume? What skills to put on resume? What to put under education? And so on.

No need to worry about that - we’ve put together what should be included in a resume, for both experienced professionals and first-job seekers. 

What to Put on a Resume - All Resume Sections

Here are the complete key sections that must be put in your resume:

  1. Contact Information
  2. Resume Summary/Objective or Profile Statement
  3. Experiences
  4. Education
  5. Skills
  6. Awards & Achievements
  7. Other Additional Sections

1. Contact Information

The contact information commonly goes under the name “About Me” in a resume, in which you provide basic details about: 

  • Full name
  • Professional title (optional but highly recommended)  
  • Email address
  • Phone number 
  • Address (unnecessary if you’re applying for a freelance job) 
  • LinkedIn or personal website (optional)

Here’s an example of what to put in the resume profile:

Alton Phillips

(+156)-164-555
[email protected]
253 Live Oak Street, Lolita, TX 77971
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/altonphillips1990

💡 Pro tip: Make sure you provide correct information, otherwise the recruiter can’t contact you for further notice. 

2. Resume Summary/Objective or Profile Statement

You might also be wondering, what to put for the objective on a resume? As the name suggests, a resume profile, a.k.a the profile statement or resume objective, provides a brief, powerful summary of your qualifications, professional experience, and accomplishments in the field. It is commonly placed at the top of your resume to pique the employer’s interest from the start. 

What to put in the profile of a resume? Note that a profile statement may comprise different types and each serves different purposes. A resume summary shows the employer how your experiences and skills will turn you into a perfect fit for the position, while a career objective demonstrates your motivation to apply for the job opening and states your goals on the career path.

Below are what to put in the summary of a resume: 

  • Job title 
  • Expertise (with years of work experience)
  • Key skills
  • Outstanding achievements in previous roles (optional) 
  • Career goals (optional)

Here’s an example of the resume summary for a debt collector:

Self-motivated Debt Collector with the ability to work in fast-paced environments and adapt to complex situations. Fully knowledgeable in federal and state laws of collection regulations. Highly proficient in negotiating payoffs and settlements with clients while assisting them with financial management and payment plans.

💡 Pro tip: Write a resume summary within 3 sentences - you may want to include more information in other key sections.

3. Experiences

This section plays an important part in proving that you’re the right fit for the position, especially when you have plenty of work experience. If you are applying for higher positions, you need to make this part shine to impress recruiters and employers.

Below are what to put under “Experience” on a resume

  • Company name (with location) 
  • Job title
  • Employment period (with month and year of start and end) 
  • Key job responsibilities 
  • Outstanding accomplishments (if applicable)

Below is an example of how to write work experiences in a .NET developer resume:

WORK EXPERIENCE

.NET Developer | Sama Corp., San Francisco 
11/2017 - 09/2021

  • Utilized the DataGridExtension library from DataGridExtensions to increase the filtering capability to the company WFP Datagrid.
  • Successfully launched a 6 multi-step wizard dialog in WPF with Test Driven Development served for the associated ViewModel.

Jr. .NET Developer | Interlast, Charleston 
10/2014 - 08/2017

  • Developed 2 in-house Accounting tools and applications utilizing SSRS Reports and Telerik Controls. 
  • Worked closely with the IT team to maintain relevant web applications, databases, and Adobe forms when needed. 

💡 Pro tip: Unlike a CV, you should not include part-time and/or volunteer jobs which are not relevant to the opening position. 

4. Education

For many specific areas like finance and accounting, employers make decisions based on your educational background. They want to make sure that you have gained fundamental knowledge of the field or obtained any higher degree. 

Here are what to put under “Education” on a resume

  • School name (with location)
  • Degree level
  • Major & minor
  • Graduation year
  • GPA (if it’s high)
  • Achievements 

Example of what to put under education in a resume for the first job

EDUCATION

B.S. in Business Administration, Accounting
The University of Texas at Austin, TX
Class of 2010

  • GPA: 3.8/4.0
  • Achievements:
    - National Student Volunteer Award (2013)
    - Dean's List for 2 semesters in a row

💡 Pro tip: The education section should be presented in reverse chronological order, starting with your highest level of education and moving backward in time for every subsequent degree.

5. Skills

What skills to put on a resume can further demonstrate whether you’re qualified for the job opening - either in terms of job performance or cultural fit.

Examples of good skills to put on a resume for Digital Marketing:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Research & Analytical skills 
  • SEO tools 
  • Google Analytics
  • Content Marketing
  • Paid Social Media Marketing

💡 Pro tip: Make sure you list out both hard and soft skills with 5 each.

6. Awards & Achievements

With significant accomplishments in your career, you can make your resume stand out from the crowd and get a leg up on the competition. 

Here’s an example of listing achievements in a resume for a controller:

ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Employee of the Year 2020
  • Contributed to 20% higher returns by switching corporate investments to index-linked funds.

💡 Pro tip: Include the awards and achievements related to the field only. 

7. Other Additional Sections

If you have more to bring to the table, include all in your resume as long as they’re relevant, for example: 

💡 Pro tip: Be honest, concise, and focus on the job opening!

What to Put on a Resume if You Have No Experience

For fresh graduates or career changers, you may not have plenty of relevant work experience in the field. With not much experience, you might wonder, “Then, what should I put on my resume?” Don’t panic - if you are wondering, “what do you put on a resume?”, here are some optional sections that you can use to deemphasize the lack of professional experience on your resume.

1. Volunteer Work

Volunteer work should be written in the same format as your work experience section. It means that you need to include the following information: 

  • Name of the organization or volunteer program
  • Job title 
  • Time frame 
  • Key responsibilities 
  • Accomplishments

2. Personal Projects

Even though you don’t have a lot of experience in full-time positions, personal projects can still benefit you in some ways, specifically when:

  • You’ve been working as a freelancer in a relevant field. 
  • You’re seeking a career in Marketing, Design, IT, etc. 
  • Your personal projects are well-known.

3. Internships

At some point, internships are similar to work experience. You also leverage your knowledge and skills to work in a professional organization. Thus, you can follow the format of the work experience section to write about your internships.

4. Skills relevant to the job

For a resume with no experience, the skills section is a key part and should be placed at the top of the resume. Here, you need to highlight what you are capable of as well as excel at so that employers can consider you as the right candidate for the role. You should not only list out skills related to the position but also tailor this section to the job description. 

5. Certifications relevant to the job

Particular industries like Nursing, HR, Finance & Accounting, etc. require specific licenses and certifications. Hence, adding these should be a must among what to put on a resume for the first job. Even when getting a relevant certificate is not a requirement for the job opening, listing this can beef up your resume.   

📚Further reading: How to Put Relevant Coursework on Resume? (Tips & Examples)

What NOT to Put on a Resume - Things to Avoid

1. Irrelevant job experiences

The key difference between a resume and a CV is that a resume focuses on what is related to the position only. Recruiters and employers spend an average of 7 seconds reviewing an individual application. Thus, you may not want to waste his time going over irrelevant details.

2. Misspellings & grammatical errors

Keep in mind not to submit your resume without checking the spelling, grammar, and vocabulary carefully. A resume with typos and grammatical errors will lead employers to think that you’re unprofessional and lack attention to detail.

3. Unprofessional pictures

You could hurt your chances of landing the job interview by adding an inappropriate picture, for example:  

  • A quick selfie taken at home or when you’re hanging out.  
  • You don’t dress professionally. 
  • The quality is low and the photo can’t be seen clearly.

📚Further reading: Photo in Resume: Capturing Attention or Causing Controversy? [+ Tips & Examples]

4. Unprofessional email address

Strange as it sounds, many recruiters and hiring managers have warned of this as a common problem with job applicants. Email names are deemed unprofessional when they include nicknames and numbers instead of your real name. 

5. Cursive or decorative fonts

Even when you’re seeking a creative job, it’s recommended you go for standard fonts which are easy-to-read and ATS-friendly.

Below are the best fonts for a resume:

  • Times New Roman
  • Arial
  • Calibri
  • Helvetica
  • Cambria

6. References

Applicants were advised to include references on their resumes/CVs. However, this is outdated and inappropriate nowadays. Employers have doubted the veracity of the feedback, so they think it’s unnecessary to include references unless specifically requested. 

7. Lies & exaggerations

Honesty and reliability are what all employers look for in a candidate. As they haven’t met and worked with you, the first way to verify this is based on what you put on your resume. 

Other Tips on What to Include in a Resume

🖋  What are good skills to put on a resume?

It's important to list out hard skills, a.k.a. technical skills so that employers can see whether you are capable of performing a specific task or series of tasks to complete a job. Besides that, you also need to highlight necessary soft skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, time management, communication skills, etc. 

🖋  What to put on a resume as a teenager?

As a student, you can emphasize your achievements at school like a high GPA or any academic awards. Hiring managers might consider these as a good indicator of success on the job. If you have taken courses related to the job opening, list those on your resume as well.

🖋  What interests to put on a resume?

Examples of good personal interests to highlight on a resume:

  • Volunteer work
  • Writing blogs
  • Reading
  • Photography 
  • Learning languages

🖋  What to write in the hobbies section in a resume?

Below are some hobbies to include in a resume:

  • Artistic activities 
  • Community service
  • Cooking
  • Exercising 
  • Playing an instrument.

🖋  What are good strengths to put on a resume?

If you have several good personal traits, list those in a separate section aside from “Skills & Qualifications”, for example:

  • Working well under the pressure 
  • Willing to take on challenges
  • Consistently meeting deadlines
  • A fast learner
  • A can-do attitude 

🔑  Key Takeaways:

  • What to include in a resume: Personal profile, personal statement, work experience, education, skills.
    In addition to these 5 key sections in a resume, you can add extra if you have more to show, like accomplishments, certifications, personal projects.
  • What not to include in a resume: Details unrelated to the job opening and/or unprofessional information that are not suitable for the work environment.
  • What to put on a resume with no experience: Focus on academic accomplishments, soft skills, internships, and personal projects.

CakeResume provides the best resume builder & free resume/CV templates to help you create the perfect resume for your job hunt. Take your career journey to new heights - create a resume online (free download) now!

--- Originally written by May Luong ---

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