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When writing your resume, you might wonder about what you should include—and what should be left out. Thinking about the overarching structure of your resume before you start drafting it (or revising a rusty version) helps you focus and optimize your productivity. By doing this, you can build a compelling resume, section by section.
Below are common resume sections to consider. Keep in mind that some categories will apply to you while others don’t. Additionally, these sections are merely suggestions. As long as the sections and their headings are readily understood, you can change them to suit your strategy.
Common Resume Sections
A universal feature of resumes, the heading includes your name and contact information. In the United States, it’s common to list your city, state, and zip code as well. If you’re proud of your LinkedIn profile, you can provide the link. If you have industry-specific web presences, you can list these too (e.g., GitHub, Google Scholar).
Profile and Skills
The Profile, or Summary, succinctly describes the value you bring to your employer or clients. Ideally, this section relies on concrete information rather than overused adjectives and adverbs (e.g., ambitious, results-oriented, creative professional, hard-working). Depending on your strategy, a Skills section might be included in the Profile as well.
Highlights of Achievement
This section can be helpful if you want to call out specific achievements that may have happened over the course of time (read: something that is included on page two of your resume and might be more difficult for a reader to locate).
Also called Career Progression if you’ve progressed in your career, this section is often the most substantive part of a resume. It’s where you communicate the organizations you’ve worked for, their location, the dates of your employment, and your responsibilities and key accomplishments. Do your best to articulate accomplishments clearly and precisely; you want the value you bring to an employer to be obvious.
This optional section of a resume can be included to show commitment to a cause and demonstrate additional skills. While some people might only list the organizations they have volunteered for, others might treat their volunteer experiences like their Experience section by adding details. This strategy can be especially helpful for people who have a short, or dated, work history.
Beyond including your college and/or high school education (depending on your situation), you can include professional development in this section as well, such as additional coursework, training, certifications, or licensures. I frequently call this section Education & Professional Development.
Having others speak on your behalf is another tactic for resume writing. If you have a strong LinkedIn review or otherwise powerful assessment of your work from a boss or client, you can consider including that in your resume. Make sure the statement is brief (a few lines at most) and that you give context for the statement (is it from an annual review, or a LinkedIn review?), and provide the person’s name, title, and employer.
By taking a step-by-step approach, you can build a compelling resume, section by section. Just remember that a resume is a strategic marketing document that highlights the value you will bring to an employer. For this reason, consider the sections above as guidelines that are not etched in stone. I routinely include additional sections (e.g., Leadership, Projects, Consulting) if they advance my clients’ goals.