When you’re writing your first resume, or creating a new one from scratch, it can be daunting to know what you should put into it. So, to help you get started, here is a handy checklist of the information your resume must contain – as well as some common things people often think they need to list in a resume, that really shouldn’t be there.
Ten things your resume must have
Your full name – You have to start somewhere. Obviously, your resume must include your first and last name right at the top. Traditionally this is the first thing employers look at on a resume. They want to see if they know – or have heard of – an applicant personally.
Resume title / your job title – The title of your resume should match whatever the job title is that you are applying for. This lets employers know right off the top that you are serious about landing that role, and it reminds you to tailor everything in your resume below to show how your work experience and credentials fit with that targeted job.
Your email address – Use a professional-sounding email address. Nothing cutesy and not a work address from another employer. (Don’t give the impression that you are looking for jobs on your boss’ dime.)
Your phone number – Make this a phone number that you answer or that has a professional sounding voicemail message.
Links to online profiles or portfolios – Employers are going to Google you and look you up online anyway, so lean in. Clean up your social media profiles, make sure your posts are grammatically correct and aren’t of a nature you wouldn’t want a potential new boss to read, and link to them from your resume. If you have a personal website, relevant blog, or an online portfolio, include links to those as well.
The city and province you live in (optional) – This is actually a contentious issue. Many experts now say that your home address or where you live isn’t relevant, since there is no way an employer will ever write you a letter. However, others warn that the employer might see the lack of an address as a red flag – assuming that you live very far away.
The closer you live to the job site, the more including your address on your application can help you. You’ll have an easy commute, you can make it in for an interview any time, and you’ll likely be a happy employee. The further away you live, the more of a liability including your address could be. You be the judge.
Relevant work and volunteer experience – This is the second place employers generally look (after your name.) They want to see who you have worked for and what you have done. List your work history in reverse chronological order with the most recent stuff first.
Achievements and responsibilities from your previous jobs – Even more important than what your responsibilities on the job were what you accomplished there. Highlight what you accomplished on the job, how you were recognized or given additional responsibilities.
Relevant degrees or certifications – If your education isn’t specifically relevant to the job you want, use the description to point out how what you have learned can be applied to making you more successful in the job. List credentials in order of relevancy.
The skills that are essential for the job – Include a relevant skills section in your resume and highlight that you have the necessary abilities to succeed on the job. Wherever possible point out your level of mastery of these skills.
Relevant keywords – Read the job description carefully – as well as ads for similar roles in your sector. Look for patterns in how employers describe the work, skills and credentials necessary to do the job. Closely match their language when writing your resume, using as many relevant keywords as possible.
What not to include
An objective statement. Don’t include an opening paragraph about what you are looking for in a job. Open instead with a summary of your core credentials.
Every job you’ve ever had. If you have more than ten years of experience, or have held a variety of roles across sectors in your career, don’t feel the need to list them all. Highlight your most recent experience and those jobs that demonstrate why you’d be a great candidate. Cut the rest.
Generic descriptions of your previous jobs that don’t highlight your particular achievements. Employers generally know what duties are associated with various job titles. There’s no mystery there. Use this space to point out how you excelled above and beyond your job description. That’s what makes you a stand out candidate.
References. Do not include references on your resume. Wait until employers you ask for them before handing over the contact information for people in your network. It isn’t even necessary to write “references available upon request” in your resume. That is assumed.