Here’s what you should include on your resume

May 11, 2020

Resumes are one of the most polarizing elements of a job search. In addition to the dreaded work of crafting one, there are nearly endless amounts of factors you need to consider before submitting it as part of a job application.

We’ve talked about resumes a few times over the past year, but I want to take a deeper look at the actual information you should be putting on the document. Deciding what is and what isn’t worth attention can be a difficult decision. I want to help make some of those choices a bit easier.

I turned to TopResume career expert Amanda Augustine about resume best practices.

Rethink your resume

“So many people think of their resume as a transcript of their work experience and education,” said Augustine. “They need to shift their mindset and think of their resume as more of a marketing publication instead of a transcript.”

Your resume should ultimately be crafted with three targets in mind, she said. First, it should match the job you want. Second, it should conform to basic recruiting software requirements, which you can learn about by clicking here. Finally, you should think of the hiring manager or recruiter reviewing the resume.

A person who has been in the software industry for more than a decade would likely not need to include a past gig at a local ice cream shop on their resume, for example. While great experience, working at an ice cream shop more than a decade ago doesn’t mean a lot to people hiring software engineers.

Additionally, Augustine said it’s important for your resume to align with your digital presence, but it doesn’t have to exactly match.

When it comes to a LinkedIn profile, she said it’s important to use it as a professional social platform and show your expertise through posts and examples. “Unfortunately, you don’t really get the opportunity to do that with your resume as much. A resume is still very much a cut and dry document.”

Summary vs. Objective

You may also want to rethink what you were taught about the top of your resume. In my case, I was taught in high school that it should begin with an objective. Fortunately for me, Augustine confirmed my suspicion that it’s probably not the best way to begin the document.

“I would say no to an objective,” she said. “They’re often fluffy, vague and more about your needs and wants.” Instead, she suggested leading with a professional summary. “A professional summary is more of the elevator pitch of your resume. It’s everything a recruiter or hiring manager needs to know about you in that brief moment.”

In addition to setting the scene for the rest of the resume, the professional summary can make a recruiter or hiring manager want to read more about you and your experience. You can also use that section to feature keywords that you pull from the job posting to please applicant tracking systems and recruiters.

Show your experience

The experience section on resumes is the meat of the whole document. The list of jobs you’ve held tells an employer where you’ve been and what you’ve done. What’s important to remember is that — for most standard resumes — the list doesn’t have to be comprehensive. 

As mentioned above, you can start removing irrelevant and early experience once you’ve been in the workforce for several years. Additionally, you can avoid jobs that don’t help tell the narrative you’re trying to paint for the recruiter or hiring manager. 

Older candidates can condense their experience by summarizing jobs 15 years of more in the past in a “career note,” said Augustine.

What you need to be careful about is removing any work history that would make a potential employer suspicious. “You just don’t want to take out jobs that are going to leave big gaps, because they lead to questions,” she said. “You’re trying to avoid red flags.”

As for what you write about each job, Augustine said she’ll explain a bit about the job under each position if the person held it for a substantial amount of time. Position summaries are a good way to get additional keywords onto the resume. Then, underlying bullets are used to brag about your performance in that role.

Do employers care about education?

The education section of a resume belongs at the end for job seekers with significant work experience.

Augustine suggested that you view the education section of a resume holistically. Don’t just think about adding traditional degrees to that area. Include special classes you took to help you with your career and any certifications you received. That’s especially true for people without advanced degrees. “You may not have the formal education but show what else you did to further yourself.”

For people with degrees beyond a bachelor of arts or science, Augustine suggested using the appropriate abbreviations after your name at the top of the resume and on your LinkedIn profile. 

Customization is key

One of the most important pieces of guidance about resumes is that you should tailor it for each potential employer. Fortunately, that suggestion does not mean you start from scratch each time. Instead, Augustine said you can create a solid resume for the industry and area you want to enter. Then, you make small changes before sending it off as part of your application.

“You should have a base document that is already positioned and tailor with a goal in mind and you’re making modifications for each job,” she said.

Of course, it’s also important to check your resume for spelling and grammar, too. Augustine sent me the results of a TopResume survey that identified the top 10 resume “deal-breakers” among roughly 400 recruiters, hiring managers and executives. “Spelling and/or grammatical errors” were cited by nearly 80% or respondents.

What are your resume tips for job seekers? Join the conversation.

 By Andrew Seaman

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