Balancing what to put on a resume isn’t as easy as adding every tiny detail of your working life in this valuable document. It can be tempting to list every accomplishment, project and experience on your resume, but the longer it becomes, the less interested an interviewer or hiring manager becomes.

The challenge? Prioritizing what’s most valuable and adding it to your resume to keep the reader engaged, without compromising your chances of landing your dream role. Your resume needs to be impactful, especially with not much digital real estate to play with, but not so long it becomes tedious to read.

Recruiters, interviewers and hiring managers know what they’re looking for on a resume. Here are the nine things yours must include if you’re to land your dream role.

1. Contact information

At the top of your resume, you need to include your full name and your contact information. In some cases, information like your street address is optional, but it isn’t necessarily needed if you’re applying for remote roles where the employer could be in another country. 

When you add your contact information, keep it simple and clean. The more distractions you add, such as different fonts, sizes and colors, the less likely it is the interviewer will pay attention to the most valuable parts of your resume. Along with this, too many distractions early on might cause the hiring manager to not continue reading at all.

To begin your resume overhaul from scratch, here’s what to include in terms of your contact information.

  • Name: Include your first and last names. If you have any professional acronyms, add those too
  • Title: This could be anything from a statement, resume title or job title
  • Address: Only add this if you’re searching for a local job
  • Number: Use your cell phone number, not your landline. It’s also a good idea to see what your current voicemail sounds like and make it more professional if necessary
  • Email address: This needs to be a professional email address — not something you made in the days of Windows Live Messenger
  • LinkedIn handle: Your LinkedIn handle or URL is a powerful addition to your resume. It’s a professional social network, so it’s necessary to add yours
  • Social media handles: This doesn’t mean add in your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram handle. Depending on the role you’re applying for, you might need to add links to your Dribbble or Behance portfolios
  • Website: Do you have a website to showcase more of you and your work? Include the link so the interviewer can view it in their own time
  • Portfolio: Adding a link to your portfolio is an excellent way to back up your skills and experiences without taking up too much space

When rounding off your contact information, remove your photograph to reduce the chances of unconscious bias slipping through during the interview. You also don’t need to get too personal, meaning gender, birthday or marital status aren’t necessary.

2. Resume statement

Your resume statement should be directly underneath your contact information. It’s a valuable section and will often be the first section an interviewer scans through when looking over your resume. However, there are two variations you can include depending on your experience and the role you’re applying for.

A resume objective statement is a brief paragraph tailored to the specific position you want. Here, you can state your career goals and how the company can help you get there. The other is a summary statement, which is often the more popular choice. This is a short statement that provides a quick summary of your qualifications, experience and skills.

As you don’t have a lot of space on your resume, only pick one of these summaries. Whichever you choose, make sure it isn’t any longer than four sentences or a four-line paragraph.

3. Employment history

Although every section on your resume is vital, your employment history is one the interviewer will pay close attention to. In your employment history section, make sure to include: 

  • Job title: Make sure it’s a professional title, so the readers know exactly what your role was. Start with your most recent position and then work backwards to make your progress visible
  • Company and location: Add the name of the company and the location where you worked
  • Employment dates: Add the duration of how long you worked at the role, including the month and the year. If you’re still working there, write ‘—present’
  • Responsibilities: Highlight your roles but ensure they’re relevant to the position you’re applying for 
  • Achievements: Your achievements will showcase why you deserve to be in that position and what you bring to the table

Next, repeat this for your working history. You don’t need to go into a lot of depth, especially if your working history is expansive. Make the words you choose actionable and powerful to drive home your skills and importance.

4. Skills

This is another significant section you need to add to your resume. The placement is vital, as it makes more sense to sell your skills before explaining where you received your education. But remember, interviewers don’t want to see an endless list of technical skills — they need to know where you used them and how recently.

The longer your resume is, the likelier a hiring manager will begin scanning through rather than reading in-depth. The higher up your skills section, the quicker they’ll find the crucial information they’re looking for.

You need to be cutthroat with your skills. It’s tempting to add everything you excel in, but you need to prioritize and only include the ones relevant to the position you’re applying for. If needed, place them under specific subheadings, as long as they make sense. Here, soft skills might not matter as much and might be better off on your cover letter, so only include what’s relevant to the job and what the company needs from you.

5. Education

The next thing to include on your resume is your education history. While recent graduates will have this above their work history, as they’re unlikely to have much, you should place this below your employment history. Here, make sure to add:

  • The type of degree you have, if any
  • What you majored in
  • The name of your school
  • The location of your school
  • Extras, such as scholarships, projects, awards and honors

In this section, you need to be more strategic. If you have a degree, you won’t need to list your high school diploma as most employers won’t concern themselves with that, meaning it’ll take up unnecessary space.

6. Awards and achievements

If you have captured awards or achievements you’re proud of and you know prospective employers will also be impressed, you should add them to the next section of your resume. It can be anything from an academic award to outstanding performances in previous roles. You also don’t need to restrict yourself to strictly awards and achievements, either. You could also treat this as an ‘extras’ section to help offer more valuable insight into what you offer.

Some examples include:

  • Any memberships you have that would work in your favor
  • Volunteer work you do
  • Certificates and licenses you have
  • Hobbies and interests to show your human side
  • Any other languages you speak

Things like this will help you stand out, especially if you dedicate one overarching section to these achievements.

7. References

Towards the end of your resume, you can dedicate a section to your references. This doesn’t need to be in-depth. All you need to do is list the people you can rely on to leave you a positive recommendation when your interviewer contacts them — and they should be people you’ve worked with before. Ensure they’re aware that you’ve listed them as a reference, too.

In this section, simply add their name, position and contact details.

8. Testimonials

This is optional, but it can go a long way to leaving an impression. A testimonial is valuable in proving to prospective employers that you have the skills and experience you’ve stated. One or two testimonials should be more than enough and they’re relatively simple to get. Just as a colleague, previous employer or someone in a position of power to write a few sentences about you. Then, you can add them as a reference, too.

9. Keywords

Keywords isn’t a separate section you need to include in your resume, but it’s essential to add throughout. Today, many employers, agencies and recruiters use applicant tracking systems (ATS) that tracks resumes for specific phrases and keywords. If these resumes don’t include a set number of keywords, it won’t flag the resume to an employer as one to read.

Keywords can range from skills, jobs qualifications and tools. This depends on the job you’re applying for. Re-read the job description and write down a list of keywords used. Once you have the list, start adding relevant keywords throughout your resume in multiple sections. With a strategic approach to keywords in your resume, an ATS will likely flag your resume to employers.

What to put on a resume

To make your resume as powerful as possible, set up a profile on VanHack. Create an engaging profile and stand out from others to increase your chances of landing your perfect role.

If you need help with the interview process, the VanHack Premium Academy is also on hand to help you get prepared with practical interview answers.

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