Essential elements to include on (or leave off!) your resume

The ‘right’ way to write a resume seems to change each month. With the rules constantly changing, how can you know what you should include on your resume and what you shouldn’t?

resume writing resume tips

The first rule of resume writing is to write your resume for the job you want. Your experience, skills and qualifications should all reflect the position you want to be hired for. How do you achieve this? Here’s some timeless resume writing rules to follow:

What’s in

Your name and how to contact you

You may be surprised how many people forget to include these basic elements. Make sure your contact information is at the top of your resume where it’s easy for recruiters to find. A phone number and personal (but professionally named) email should suffice. Don’t use your current work email. Also, only include contact info you don’t mind hiring managers using.

Summary

A brief summary at the top of your resume gives recruiters a quick run-down of your strengths. Make sure it’s short and to the point. No rambling allowed. Only include information relevant to your work history and job skills. This isn’t your memoirs.

Employment history

This is the meat of your resume. List your experience in reverse chronological order, with a few bullet points outlining your accomplishments in each position. As a general rule, you should only include roles that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Education

Your post-secondary education, if you have it, is the highlight here. Only include high school information if you graduated recently or it’s your highest level of education.

Awards and certifications

Awards reflect positively on you. If you’ve won something, don’t be afraid to show it off! Certifications obtained or awards won in your field will set you apart from other candidates.

Examples and metrics

Recruiters love quantifiable statements. Providing facts and figures about your accomplishments legitimizes your statements and is more impressive than a vague statement. Instead of writing “the project was successful,” say “the project increased revenue 30%.”

Social media

If you’re active on social media channels in a work capacity, feel free to include them on your resume. LinkedIn and Twitter are often good inclusions as they’re often used for work-related topics. Facebook and Instagram, on the other hand, tend to be used for personal reasons and should be left off your resume. Think of it this way: if you aren’t 100% comfortable with your boss reading every post you make, don’t include it.

Skills

When writing a resume, the ‘skills’ section is a grey area between good and bad. Some skills are valuable, particularly any software or industry-related proficiencies. On the other hand, generic skills like “organized,” “hard working,” “people-person” and “team player” are overused to the point of exhaustion. These types of soft skills are better demonstrated through your accomplishments than said outright.

Links to your work

If you’re seeking employment in a creative field, such as writing or design, providing a link to your portfolio is of great value to recruiters. Just make sure the link is professional and easy to type, in case your resume is printed out.

Creative designs

A creative design can help your resume stand out in a sea of black and white. Just ensure the design doesn’t overshadow the content. Your resume should still include relevant information about your qualifications. It should also be text-searchable as many companies use software to pre-scan resumes.

The truth

Don’t even think about making up skills or embellishing your experience. Though lies might get you as far as an interview, the truth will come out at some point. Be honest and work hard and you’ll be on your way to your dream job in no time.

What’s out

An objective statement

Any good resume writing guide will tell you objective statements are so last century. Don’t bother with this archaic custom. Hiring managers know your objective is to get a job, no matter how you phrase it.

Listing the minutia of your education

Did you go to elementary school? So did everyone else! You might think it’s cute, but the space can be put to better use. Don’t list any education before high school. Even that can be removed once you have post-secondary education or full-time work experience.

Anything you did before high school

If it happened before you turned 18, it should be wiped from your resume. Winning a ‘most punctual’ award when you were 12 is not relevant and it seems quite silly to include; it makes it seem like you don’t have any more recent accomplishments to share.

Oversharing personal info

Personal information includes your birthday, marital status, political leanings, religious affiliation, information about your kids, and anything else hiring managers aren’t entitled to know.  Employers aren’t allowed to consider any of these things during the hiring process, so there’s no reason to include them.

Photos

A few years ago it was trendy to include a headshot of yourself on your resume. It may seem like a fun way to add a little visual interest, but it’s not. Photos of yourself can come across as vain, or distract from your actual qualifications.

Walls of text

You know when a friend sends you a link to an article and it’s filled wall-to-wall with text and little to no line breaks? It looks tedious to read. You probably decide it’s not worth your time and click out. Resumes are the same. Make sure to include some white space and scan-friendly text (like bullet points or subheads) to make your resume more approachable.

Page 3

There’s no reason for your resume to spill on to page 3. If you can’t summarize your work history into 2 pages or less, you’re missing a crucial job skill: brevity. Take a hard look at your resume and decide what’s really worth including. A single page resume is even better.

Creative designs

That’s right, creative designs are both a positive and a negative. If you don’t have an eye for crisp, clean design, it’s best to avoid trying to be creative. Mismatched fonts and unpleasant colour combinations are a distraction. Worse, it can look unprofessional. Best stick with clean black and white if you’re not sure. Better yet, look for a simple but attractive pre-designed resume template.

Buzzwords

You might think you sound clever using words like “synergy” in your resume writing, but recruiters don’t see it the same way. Skip the jargon and use clear, concise language that gets right to the point.

 

Do you follow these resume writing rules? Do you have any of your own to share? We’d love to hear your feedback on social media.

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