Job Search Series – Putting Together Your Resume

Build your effective modern resume with these pieces!

Guest Post by Lyn Leis

As a counterpart to last week’s post on a Modern, Effective Resume, this week I’m giving you the rundown on the various sections you should include on your resume, and when and how to do so.

With the exception of your Heading (which is always at the top!), and unless otherwise noted, these sections should be listed in order of relevance to the position(s) to which you are applying.

Your name and contact information, formatted in an easy-to-read way that takes up 2-4 lines. Your name should be two points larger than the body of your resume, and should be formatted to match your section headings (e.g., all caps, bold, etc.)

Be sure to include:

  • Full Name
  • Address (you may leave off your street address and include only your city and state if you are posting your resume online)
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • LinkedIn URL (customized) and/or any other pertinent links (personal professional website, online portfolio, etc.)

Note: Make sure your email address and voicemail greeting are clear and professional, and only include your LinkedIn or website addresses if those websites are complete and ready for employers to view.

List all undergraduate and graduate degrees, including Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees.

Current students and recent graduates: this section goes at the top of your resume, and includes information such as name of institution, location, degree earned (or earning), date (or anticipated date), major(s), minor(s), concentration(s) and GPA (if 3.0 or above). This is usually 3-4 lines.

Professionals with experience: this section goes at the bottom of your resume, and is condensed to include the degree, the institution, location, and date – one line per degree.

Professional Profile / Summary (Optional)
Experienced Professionals only
Provide a brief summary of your background and qualifications, in paragraph or bullet form. Paragraphs are written in incomplete third person sentences. Use this section if you have significant experience and want to summarize your most important / relevant qualifications, or if you are changing careers and want to highlight your relevant transferable skills.

If used, this section is the first to appear on the resume under your heading.

Key Skills (Optional)
Experienced Professionals Only
List relevant high level skills in bullet or multi-column format. Leave out concrete skills; those will have their own section. Avoid listing vague or generic skills, such as “communication” or “leadership” but instead list more specific abstract skills, such as “Budget Management,” “Project Management,” “Employee Engagement and Team Building,” “Web Server Administration,” etc. Use this opportunity to include keywords relevant to the job or industry (provided they are true to your skill set). This section can stand alone, but also works well immediately following a Professional Profile or Summary, to supplement that information.

Relevant Coursework (Optional)
Students / Recent Graduates only
List relevant upper level courses that are directly related to the job you are seeking. Use this section if you are applying to positions not directly related to your major, but have taken relevant courses, or if your coursework is more related to the application than your work and/or volunteer experience. Do not include this section if you are applying to graduate schools, or positions that request a transcript as part of the application. If used, this section should appear immediately after your Education section.
Academic Projects or Theses (Optional)
Students / Recent Graduates only
List any related academic projects and / or theses title and date. Include a brief description (1-2 lines) underneath each listing. Use this section if your academic project(s) are more related to the job description than your work and/or volunteer experience.
Honors and Awards
Students / Recent Graduates only
List honors, awards, and scholarships you received. Limit this list to 3-6 most recent, most relevant, or most prestigious.
Certifications and/or Licensure
List your relevant certification(s) and/or licensure(s). If you are applying to a licensed profession, or one that requires or gives strong preference to certain certifications (e.g., medical, mental health, and teaching professions), this section should be the first on your resume. You can list pending certifications or licenses as “pending” or list the anticipated date.
List all relevant / recent work experiences in reverse chronological order. You may separate your experience into multiple sections, such as “Relevant Experience” and “Additional Experience” to keep the most related experiences at the top of the list, even if they are less recent. Be sure to include:
  • Employer
  • Location (city, state)
  • Title
  • Dates
  • Accomplishments (in bullet format)
Use strong verbs to open each bullet, describe high-level skills you used, and quantify contributions wherever possible (e.g., how many people did you supervise? How much money did you raise?). Leave a space between positions with different employers, but not between positions with the same employer.
Volunteer Experience / Community Service (Optional)
List recent / relevant volunteer experiences. You may choose to format these identically to your work experiences, complete with accomplishment bullets, if space allows – or if your volunteer experiences are more related than your work experiences. If this is the case, this section should also be further up your resume than your work experiences. If not, you can keep this section as a simple list of organizations / events / programs for which you’ve volunteered, their locations, and dates.
Activities / Leadership (Optional)
List your title first, followed by organization name, location, and dates. Include clubs, athletics, community organizations, affinity groups, committees, etc.

List your concrete skills. At a minimum, this should include your computer skills, which is a list of all software you’re comfortable using with minimal training in a professional setting. List full names and include all software, even proprietary and little known programs. This section should show not only that you can use the requisite technology for a position, but also that you have worked with other programs and can pick up new systems.

This section should also include foreign languages that you speak at least at a conversational level, and other technical skills related to the job (e.g., quantitative skills, lab skills, research skills, teaching methods, etc.). All of these skills can be differentiated within the Skills section, or they can be given their own sections with specific section headings.

Experienced Professionals: If you are using a Key Skills section, you may opt to call this section Technical Skills or something similar, to differentiate the two.

Professional Organizations / Associations / Memberships
List your memberships, and leadership positions, in relevant professional associations. Listing the association name, and your leadership title where relevant, is sufficient.

Professional Development
List conferences, workshops, and courses you attended that are relevant to your career objective, and did not culminate in a certification, licensure, or degree already mentioned on your resume. List the conference / workshop / course title, the institution that hosted it, and the date(s).

Interests (Optional)
Be very careful including interests! Include only if they are unique or impressive, and if your industry appreciates them on a resume. (For instance: schools are much more receptive to Interests on a teaching resume than banks are on a finance resume). Even if you have room, the resume is still the most professional and official of the documents and materials viewed by an employer. Especially in this era where you can utilize LinkedIn to show a little more of your personality, I recommend you keep the resume more professional.

Lyn Leis is associate director of career and professional development at a private college.

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