There are several elements that should be included in a resume, which can then be personalised to fit your experience level and industry.

A perfect resume is one in which the information is presented clearly, succinctly and easily searchable by recruiters, hiring managers, or resume software looking for keywords. A strong professional resume ensures that your future employers get a comprehensive look at the value you will bring to the role and to the company.  

One basic question that comes up when starting to put it together is: how to write a resume? Whether you’re building it from scratch, or reworking an old one to get back into the job search, use the following information as a resume outline, and look for resume templates that put you on the path to writing the best resume possible.

Planning your resume

Before starting to write, it’s important to sit down and plan. Take a moment to reread the job description of the position you’re applying for, or think hard about the type of role you’re looking for. This will help you answer the main question – what to include in a resume?

Using resume templates

It can be a challenge to figure out how to lay out all this information, so you can use a resume template as a way to get started. Templates give you the structure that ensures all the important information will be included, but also the ability to move things around as needed. The following are all sections to include:

Section 1: Personal information

Ensure all the basics are here: your name, current city, contact information including phone and email, and a short summary if you’d like. Also include a link to your LinkedIn profile, and any other contact details that are clear and make it easy to contact you. There’s no need for your full mailing address, just a city if location is a factor in your application.  

Section 2: Work history

Work history should be listed chronologically, with your more recent experience first. Make sure you include the company name, job title and location, along with succinct information about what you did in each role. Try to include highlights that are backed up by numbers and use examples to show skills rather than simply listing the skills themselves.  

Section 3: Educational background

Educational background should be listed chronologically, with your most recent education completed listed first. It should include any major programs of study, along with shorter certification courses if they are well-recognised courses within your industry.

Section 4: Skills and achievements

This is the section where you can really make your experience shine. Highlight specialised skills, and list major career achievements. If applying for a specific job, highlight those that are relevant to the job description and your industry. Achievements can be anything from a major deal won (if you’re in sales), or the establishment of a significant process that helped the business.

Section 5: Other things to add

This is the section where you can allow a bit of personality to come into your resume. Include languages that you speak, other non-job related skills, programs that you are familiar with, memberships of societies that you are a part of, and any leadership positions you hold. Volunteer work can be a good thing to highlight, especially if you gained transferable skills from the experience.

What not to include in your resume

  • Details about old experience and education

If you have more than 5 years of experience, it’s no longer necessary to include information about your education further than the school you went to and the degree you earned. Also, no need to include information about internships, or jobs that were either very entry-level, many years ago, or irrelevant to the job that you’re applying for. Save that space for the newer, more impressive accomplishments from your last few roles.  

  • Personal details beyond the basics

Exclude personal details that are completely unrelated to the industry and job you’re trying to land. Loving to cook may be something that really defines your time outside of work, but it doesn’t give the hiring manager valuable information about how you might perform in the role. While interesting, save these personal details for the cover letter and interview process. The resume is your professional elevator pitch – use it wisely.  

  • Full details of references

References will probably be requested during the hiring process, but they can be left off of your main resume. These referees should be aware that they may be contacted, preferably by what method and within a given time frame. Exclude them from the resume for now, and provide them when asked during the hiring process.

  • An objective

This used to be standard practice, but it’s becoming less common. It should be clear what you’re trying to accomplish with this resume, so use that space for a professional summary instead. This can be your professional advantages summed up in a few short sentences, or just skip this section altogether.

Some final tips

  • Keep your resume as short, succinct and clear as possible. Try to avoid long paragraphs and use bullet point where possible.
  • Check for typos, once, twice, three times. Ask someone else to have a quick look over it as well.  
  • Try to tell a story: choose your career highlights and weave them together into a professional story.

Start writing

Now that you have the basics of what to include in a resume, have a look at these other resume tips and resources. 

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