Your resume is often your first point of contact with a prospective employer, and getting it right can mean the difference between landing an interview or landing in the reject pile. Given the importance of this document, you might think that you should create something unique and highlight some unusual skills or experience to stand out from the competition.

However, the best resumes keep things simple.


Because your resume should be designed for your readers’ convenience. A complicated resume may not make it through the initial screening process. And, a resume that conforms to a standard format is easier for your audience to read.

For your resume to do its job well, each key section should be easy to locate and clearly present your information. Below, we note each of the key sections that you may be familiar with and added a few extra tips of advice to help you make each section work well for you.

Here are the key sections and components your resume needs and how you should write each of them:

1. Contact information.

Your name, location, and contact information should appear at the top section of your resume. It isn’t necessary to include your street address, but you should include your city, state, and zip code. In addition to your email and phone number, add a link to your LinkedIn or other professional profiles (if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile--get one!).

2. Summary or objective statement.

In Yes, Your Resume Needs a Summary, Jane Heifetz tells us that the job of your resume summary is to “compel the recruiter to keep reading.”

To catch the recruiter’s eye, make sure your summary includes several relevant keywords and highlights the skills and accomplishments that are most appropriate for the job you are seeking. This section should also tell the reader what you want. But don’t go overboard when listing your wants. Simply use the header of this section to indicate the job you are seeking or your current job title.

Include relevant keywords and required skills in your resume

3. Professional Experience.

Recruiters quickly scan a resume to determine if a candidate meets their minimum criteria before deciding if it merits a closer look. Part of what they will look at during this first pass is your professional history.

To keep your professional experience section user-friendly, follow a consistent format. Your employer’s name and location should appear on the first line while dates should include both a month and year.

Before your resume makes it to a hiring manager or recruiter, it often has to make it past an applicant tracking system (ATS) or a human screener. Both the automated applicant tracking system and human screeners will be looking for specific skills to decide whether your resume will make the cut.

You should use your Experience section and bullets to demonstrate that you can deliver quantifiable results. Under each relevant job, include a bulleted list of statements led by an action verb and ending with the outcome you achieved. Customize your resume and have the bullet points speak directly to the needs of the business of the employer where possible.

Your resume should be designed for your readers’ convenience

Make the screener’s job easy by including the required skills that you’ve identified by reviewing the job posting. Put these in the Experience section of your resume as part of the bullets used to explain your work experiences. Too often, candidates tend to list out these required keywords at the bottom of their resume without explaining how well they know them or where they got to practice and hone these key skills. Elaborate on how you used these key skills in your previous experiences at companies and you'll do a much better job of impressing the recruiter and giving them some additional color that you are the right candidate for the job.

Keep in mind that soft skills are just as important as hard skills, so don’t forget to include yours! With growing competition and the need for companies to keep up, recruiting teams are looking for employees that are more adaptable and dynamic and the interest in soft skills has become a critical component in the evaluation of many future hires.

Soft skills have become such an important part of many of the resume evaluation processes that Carmen’s Resume Score separately calls out soft skills noted in the job description to match them with the soft skills written in your resume. Carmen's Resume Score assigns points to soft skills under the Soft skills segment.

Soft skills segment in Carmen's Resume Score

4. Education.

Unless you are a recent graduate, your education section should appear at the bottom of your resume. List the name of the school you attended, the degree earned, and the date it was awarded. Don’t forget to indicate the field of study for which you earned the degree. If you are a recent grad, your education should likely appear above your experience.

5. Optional Sections.

While the first four sections we’ve listed are essential, you may choose to add extra information about yourself to your resume. However, don’t skimp on the details in your other sections to make room for these extras unless you are sure they add value.

If you have won awards or participate in activities that are relevant to the job to which you’ve applied, then include them . To guide your reader, give your extra section a title that tells him or her what it includes such as “Volunteer Activities” or “Awards.”

Make it easy for recruiters to say "Yes" to your well-written resume

Make it Easy for Talent Managers to Say Yes with a Clean, Well-Organized Resume

When you provide recruiters and hiring managers with a targeted resume that is well-organized and includes each of the sections they expect, you are making it easy for them to say yes to calling you for an interview. Use these tips to make sure that your resume is in tip top shape, then give it a run through Carmen’s Resume Customization tool and check your results.

Looking for a place to get started? Download one of Carmen’s free resume templates - you can also find it at the bottom of our home page. If you don’t find one you like there, we’ve perused hundreds of websites that offer free resume templates and noted our favorite 10 websites to get a free resume template from.