Despite what you might have heard, there is no standard “one-size-fits-all” resume. Resumes come in many shapes and sizes, and each resume should be tailored to the job application and applicant.
While you can get creative with the content that you include in your resume, you should try to use the standard sections, headers, titles and categories.
Necessary Resume Sections
Every resume should have a name and contact section, a work experience section, and an education section.
1. Name and Contact Section
Always include, at the top of your resume, your name and contact information. Typically, your name is written in a bold, sometimes using all capital letters and a large font. Below your name, you should add your addressed. On the line after your address, you should add your phone number, email address and, depending on the job, your LinkedIn URL.
2. “Work Experience”
The work experience section in your resume is often the most important section of your resume. If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, then this section should be the first section to follow your name and contact information.
In your work experience section, you should list your jobs in reverse chronological order (meaning start with your most recent job and work your way back).
Each work experience should follow the same pattern. On the first line, put your place of employment and the dates of your employment (you don’t need to be specific with the dates; it’s fine if you only use the years). On the second line, put your position. Then, write your impact statements in point form.
The following is an example of a work experience section:
Big Retail Store Corp., Vancouver, British Columbia (2018 to Present)
Senior Brand Manager
- Managed a team of eight colleagues to develop and implement a nation-wide store rebranding effort, which resulted 16 stores being renovated and sales increasing 6.4% year-over-year in the renovated stores.
- Drafted a 50 page manual to provide branding and marketing guidance to all retail store managers and employees, resulting in a more consistent brand image across all stores.
Marketing Agency Inc., Burnaby, British Columbia (2015 to 2018)
Client Experience Manager
- Analyzed public marketing materials to identify companies with poor brand management practices and subsequently contacting them to offer brand management solutions, resulting in over 15 companies becoming clients in the span of two years.
- Researched and presented creative social media marketing strategies to existing clients, resulting in seven companies starting multi-channel social media marketing campaigns.
The education section of your resume should list your educational credentials. Typically, this means you should list your degree, graduation year, school name, and location. You should start with your highest degree and work back in time.
If you have a post-secondary education, then you should not include your high school diploma on your resume.
If you are currently enrolled in an educational program, then you should list your program on your resume but note that you are a “Candidate”. For example, you could say “Candidate for a Bachelor of Arts, Honors Urban Planning”.
How much emphasis you put on the education section of your resume depends on your circumstances. If, for example, you are about to finish your post-secondary education or have recently finished it, then you might want to put the education section before your work experience section. You might also want to add more detail to your education section to make up for your lack of work experience; for example, you could list your GPA (if it is high) and the focus of your program (if it isn’t obvious).
Depending on your circumstances, you may want to add on-the-job certificates and professional courses in your education section. This is particularly useful if you have certificates and courses that are directly relevant to your job application.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia (Graduation 2014)
Bachelor of Arts, Commerce
- Dean’s Honour Roll, GPA 3.7/4.0.
Optional Resume Sections
Once you’ve added the three necessary sections to your resume, you can decide what optional sections to add. Keep in mind that most resumes are one page long, so you should only include the optional sections that make sense for your circumstances. Optional sections should only include information that is relevant to your job application.
The following are examples of common optional sections in no particular order:
1. “Volunteer Experience”
If you volunteer or are closely involved in your community, then you should add a Volunteer Experience section to your resume. If you add this section, then you should try to structure each volunteer experience like a work experience. Try to use impact statements as much as possible.
2. “Extra Curricular Activities”
This section is like a Volunteer Experience section, but more applicable to students and recent graduates. Like the Volunteer Experience section, the Extra Curricular Activities section should be written like a Work Experience section using impact statements.
Extra curricular activities often overlap with volunteer activities, so typically you don’t need both an Extra Curricular Activities and Volunteer Experiences section.
3. “Awards and Honours”
The Awards and Honours section is useful if you have multiple awards and honours of significance to showcase. This section should only be used if the awards and honours you’ve received are notable and uncommon. Do not include relatively common awards and honours.
4. “Recent Publications”
If you’ve published any materials, then you may want to list them in their own section. When listing your publications, put them in reverse chronological order and use a consistent citation style. The citation should be sufficiently detail to allow your prospective employer to find your publications.
5. “Certifications and Licences”
If you have certifications and licences that are directly relevant to your job application, then you could include them on your resume in their own section. Keep in mind that it may be easier to add certification and licences to your Education section.
You should only include important and relevant certifications and licences in your Certification and Licences section. Common licences like basic driver’s licences or hunting licences do not, in most cases, need to be listed in this section.
6. “Other Activities / Interests”
The “Other Activities / Interests” section gives you a chance to showcase your personality. In this section, you can add information unrelated to your job application, such as the languages you speak, the sports you play, and the activities you do in your leisure time.
This section should be short. It is, after all, about information unrelated to your job application. You should also make sure that any activities and interests you include in this section are work appropriate. That said, don’t underestimate the power of this section. Employers like it because it paints a more complete picture of the job applicant.
Reference sections are starting to disappear on resumes because many job postings now request that you submit a separate document that lists your references.
If you are unsure whether to include a References section, you could play it safe by writing “References available upon request” at the end of your resume.
The Best Way To Organize Your Resume Sections
The first section on your resume should always be your name and contact information. The sections that come next should be based on what sections are, in your view, the most impressive or most important for your job application.
For example, students and recent graduates may want to emphasize their education, meaning that their Education section should be their second section. People who have been in the workforce a longtime should make their Work Experience their second section. People with lots of volunteer experience but little paid work experience should make their Volunteer Experience their section section.
What Sections Should You Not Include in Your Resume?
The point of a resume is to concisely communicate your skills and experiences to potential employers. This means that there are some sections that you should not include in your resume:
Objectives / Goals: Your objectives and goals are best left to your cover letter. Save the limited space in your resume for skills and experiences.
Summary: A resume is typically one page long. A handful of industries, like law and academia, use two or more page resumes. Given how short resumes are, you don’t need to add a summary section.
Skills: You don’t need a section in your resume that lists, in point form, your skills. Your skills should be clearly laid out in your Work Experience section using impact statements.
Images: You resume should not include images, photos, or any other types of graphics. Resumes are simple, text-only documents. The only time you should include images and colour in your resume is if the job posting makes such a request.
It is important to pick the right sections or headers to include in a resume. Each resume should include three necessary sections: name and contact information, work experience, and education. The other sections that you include in your resume, such as volunteer experience and recent publications, should be based on what is relevant to your job application.