5 critical parts of a resume

Whether you’re a freshly minted graduate or a professional with decades of experience, your resume should include these core features.

5 critical parts of a resume

Resumes will undoubtedly vary depending on whether you’re a recent graduate, changing careers, or looking to move up in leadership. But no matter what your level of experience is—or what industry you’re in—experts say the following are the core parts of a resume.

1. Contact information

“It seems so basic and obvious, but I can’t tell you how many resumes I’ve received that don’t even have the person’s contact information,” says resume expert Kim Isaacs. You should prominently display your name, city and province, phone number, and email address on your resume. You should also include social media profile links (as long as you’ve cleaned them up beforehand) and your website or blog, if applicable.

“Stick your contact info toward the top of your resume,” advises executive resume writer Donna Svei. “You don’t want hiring managers to have to go searching for it.”

2. Summary

Scott Vedder, a Fortune 100 recruiter and author of Signs of a Great Resume, says a career summary is the “movie trailer” of a resume: “It’s where you highlight upfront the most important things about you,” he says.

This section should be a brief paragraph (three to five sentences) that shows the value you bring by highlighting your skills and a couple of big career wins. But rather than labelling it a “summary,” use a headline that encapsulates your credentials.

Isaacs offers this example of a useful career summary:

      Corporate Real Estate Executive

      Increasing Bottom-Line Profitability Through Real Estate Strategies

  • Accomplished executive with a proven ability to develop and implement real estate strategies that support business and financial objectives. Have led key initiatives that reduced the operating budget by $32 million and contributed to 550% stock increase. Recognized as an expert in applying financial concepts to asset management decisions.

3. Skills

Isaacs says every resume should have a skills section, which appears beneath your summary, in short, bulleted columns. “It gives employers a way to skim through your resume to see that you have the expertise they’re looking for,” she explains. Still, “it has to be very focused on the job that the person is applying for.” 

You’ll want to incorporate the right keywords so that your resume is optimized for an applicant tracking systems (ATS), which employers use to screen job applications. “Look at the job posting to see what key skills the employer is looking for,” Isaacs says.

Matching your skills section to what appears in the job posting is especially important for people applying to technical jobs, like IT positions since these job seekers have to show employers they possess the hard skills that are required to perform the job.

However, don’t overlook your soft skills, that is, critical workplace skills that you can’t measure, such as problem-solving, communication, and leadership. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers care more about soft skills than they do technical abilities like reading comprehension and mathematics. Make sure your professional experience section (see below) demonstrates that you have these soft skills.

4. Professional experience

This is the meat of any resume, says Svei, yet many job seekers make the mistake of just listing their job duties. “You need to focus on your accomplishments rather than your day-to-day responsibilities,” Svei says. “You don’t want your resume to read like a job posting.”

Vedder says the best way to showcase your achievements is to cite quantifiable results. “It’s all about numbers, dollars, and percentages,” he explains.

For example:

      COMPANY NAME—Toronto, ON

      Data Analyst, 2019

  • Data Mining and Modeling: Collected, cleansed, and provided modelling and analyses of structured and unstructured data used for major business initiatives.
  • Outcomes:
    • Executed 15% reduction in transportation costs, resulting in $1.2M annual savings.
    • I have improved demand forecasting that reduced backorders to retail partners by 17%.
    • Completed focus group and BI research that helped boost region sales by 10%.

5. Education

Recruiters and hiring managers shouldn’t have to hunt for your education credentials, says Vedder, so designate a section at the bottom of your resume for this information. Write where you went to college and your degree. And, if you graduated with honours, highlight it.

For example:

      Ace College—Montreal, Qc

      BA in Accounting (cum laude)—Dean’s List, GPA: 3.9

(Note: For recent college graduates, Isaacs recommends putting your education section before your professional experience.)

Bonus: Additional accolades

There may be other things you could add to your resume that don’t fit in any of the other sections. For example, Testimonials, awards, and publications that you appeared in are all worthy of being included on your resume. Before you add this section, however, ask if the information makes you more attractive to the person hiring for this particular position.

Get your resume reviewed

The best resumes are the ones that not only communicate your skills and experience but also the value you’d bring to a company. Not sure your resume makes you stand out from the competition? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster’s Resume Writing Service. You’ll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume’s appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter’s first impression. It’s a quick and easy way to make sure your resume is polished, professional, and ready to get you an excellent new job.