A resume is used to get a job, right? Well, kind of. It won't automatically get you the job, but it can help you obtain an interview. Whether or not you actually get the job will depend on how well your skills match those required for the role and how well you perform during behavioral and/or technical interviews.
So, what is the purpose of a resume, then? Essentially, it's a carefully crafted document that gets you past resume scanners and recruiters. This single-page document is the door-opener to your interview, providing a snapshot of your career, skills, and ability to communicate. It's used to sell yourself to a potential employer, and it allows them to see what you're capable of.
It's generally advised that you adjust your resume for each position you apply to, but there are a few core components that every resume should include. Below, we'll explore these components and explain why they're so important.
The 5 must-have parts of a resume
There are 5 sections that every resume should include. Hiring managers expect to see these sections, and incorporating them into your resume will help illustrate your professionalism.
1. Contact information
The entire purpose of your resume is to land an interview, so you want to make it easy for scanners and recruiters to find your contact details. Make sure your name, phone number, and email address are clearly visible at the top of your resume — preferably in a font size larger than 10 points.
Beyond your skills and experience, recruiters also want to know who you are as a person, so add your professional social media accounts along with your contact info. If you're building a technical resume, be sure to include links to your GitHub account, LinkedIn profile, and portfolio.
2. A heading
Here's where you can be creative and highlight your specific skills and talents. At the top of your resume, you should have a headline beneath your name that explains what you do and (usually) what type of work you're looking for. Here are a couple of examples:
- Senior Mechanical Engineer & Junior Web Developer
- iOS App Architect
- Front-end Engineer Specializing in CSS
The purpose of the heading in your resume is to cast yourself into a technical position. You'll show confidence to those reading your resume, which could increase your chances of being taken seriously and landing the all-important interview.
Some people will opt to jam their skills and experience into one section, but that's missing an opportunity to put your skills in the spotlight. People are drawn to lists and point-form, single-word sections because they're easier to comprehend. Think about when you see a wall of text compared to good use of section headings and bullet points. Your eye is pulled to the latter.
Your skills are a crucial part of your resume, as hiring managers will use them to gauge your proficiency with the competencies required for the job. Plus, polishing this section will help illustrate your communication and organization skills.
The advantages of a resume are numerous and include having one file that concisely lists all your relevant experience. The keyword here is "concise." Hiring managers are busy, and they will glance over your resume first to see if it qualifies for the short-list of candidates that will be interviewed.
The experience section of your resume holds two purposes:
- Hiring managers can see where you worked previously, whether there are any gaps in your work history, and what types of roles you held.
- Hiring managers will also use your experience section to formulate the questions they want to ask you in the interview.
5. Education and certifications
Listing your education and any certifications you might've earned shows hiring managers that you're willing to invest in your professional growth. You can also use this section to list any courses you've taken that relate to the position. Self-directed courses also help illustrate your discipline and commitment to higher education.
As with the skills list, you'll want to keep this section short. List the title of your degree, certification, or course, and the year that you completed it.
What else should be included in a resume?
The five sections above will give you a great place to start with your resume. Be sure to include professional details that show you can handle a challenge, are a reliable employee, and have the skills and experience to do the technical work. Your resume's purpose is to show through your experience and education how you've developed the attributes that a prospective employer is looking for.
If you're unsure about whether or not to include a detail or previous position on your resume, ask yourself if it'll make you a better candidate for the specific role you're applying to. If not, don't include it.
If adding the information pushes your resume over one page in length, ditch it. You want to try your best to keep your resume one page long. That's the industry standard, and it shows respect for the hiring manager's time.
Resumes have evolved over the years, so if it's been a while since you last wrote one, here are a few things you can leave out:
- The summary section (a headline will do just fine instead)
- Part-time positions from high school or university years that don't relate to this new job
- References (you don't need to even state "available upon request")
What is the purpose of a resume that you can customize?
Because you want to keep your resume one page long, you need to decide what to keep and what to eliminate. You must customize your resume for the specific job you're applying to. Not only will this help you show you're a great fit, but HR pros can spot a generic copy-and-pasted resume from a mile away.
So, show you've put in some time and effort. Swap in a few skills that are most relevant for the current job. Change up your headline a little. Add in keywords from the job posting. Scour the courses you've completed and list the ones that most closely align with the role. Let's say you aren't ready to apply for a new job. That's ok! Find a job posting for your dream position and start rewriting your resume to fit. After you identify any holes in your skills, take a look through our catalog of courses and tutorials to help you fill the gap.