Last week, we used our job skills list to choose a resume type that best aligns with your needs. Now, you should have all the ingredients ready to start building out your resume. Over the next two issues, we’ll discuss your resume section-by-section, and by the end of this series, you’ll have a thoughtful resume built to help you go after your desired future role.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in.
Here’s part one of your resume section-by-section breakdown.
Quick note: Here, we’re discussing resume sections for chronological or combination resumes since they are the most readable options for applicant tracking systems (ATS). Sometimes a functional resume may be a better choice, particularly if you’re transitioning into a new career path and not applying for roles through an ATS.
Keep your header simple. Stick to your name, email, phone number, city, and portfolio/website URL, if you have one. Generally, there’s no need to put your full address here. That practice has become a lot less common as businesses have shifted toward digital communications.
Objective or summary
Do you need a resume objective or summary? Not necessarily, but this is a nice place to neatly introduce yourself as you want to be seen and set the tone for your resume.
Career change tip: If you’re changing careers and are having a hard time finding comparable language between your past roles and your desired role, consider taking an entry-level online course in your desired role. Sometimes, even if the tasks are similar across both roles, the way people talk about those tasks differs. Taking an entry-level course can be a quick way to gather insight into the language people use when talking about transferable skills.
Your objective is your statement of intent, or your immediate goal with this job search, and can be a useful addition if you are applying for your first job or changing careers. Your summary is a synopsis of your achievements so far, which tends to work better if you’re aiming to advance your career. (Whether or not you include an objective or summary statement, it is a good practice to write a LinkedIn summary for your profile.)
The work experience section is where you detail your tasks and impact in your previous roles. Here, you should present the most compelling evidence that you’ve been growing toward your target role for as long as you’ve been working (whether or not you were doing so intentionally).
For each role, include the company and location, your title, and the dates you worked there. Then, add a few bullet points describing what you did during your time in that role. With page-limit constraints, you likely won’t be able to include everything you did in any given role. Use the items on your job skills list to guide which of your responsibilities to include.
Try to frame your responsibilities as achievements. One way to do that in a resume bullet is to follow the template “Did [task] in order to [outcome], which resulted in [impact].” For example:
- Analyzed web traffic data to identify new content opportunities, resulting in a 50 percent increase in site visits year-over-year.
With this format, you can see what I did, why I did it, and why it mattered—all in a 19-word bullet point. You can also show off a workplace skill by incorporating adverbs, adjectives, or descriptive phrases.
In this section, align your phrasing with the language you compiled in your job skills list. You don’t have to directly lift your resume phrasing from the job descriptions, but try to use similar terms since the ATS may be programmed to seek those words and/or their synonyms.
If you feel like your resume bullets are reading a little flat or repetitive, take a look at our list of resume action words to see if there’s a more specific or interesting verb to kick off your resume bullets.
Lastly (for now), if you’re overwhelmed by the amount of experience you’re including in this section, consider whether you can cut out some of your earlier roles. Learn more about how far back your resume should go based on your experience level.
Next week, we’ll continue building your resume with sections for your education, certifications, skills, hobbies, and volunteer work. (Are we missing a section? Let us know in the comments so we can be sure to address it!) See you then!
Have a career question you’d like us to answer next? Share it below. And, as always, we welcome YOUR advice and experience in the comments.