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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

Resume Checklist: Make Sure Yours Has These 5 Essential Elements

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Whether you’re just starting your job search or are looking to revitalize one that has hit a wall, it’s safe to say that you need a great resume. You know that your resume should list your name, contact information, education, and past work experience. But in a job market where every posting can get well over 100 applications and people in charge of hiring often use software to filter out all but the most relevant resumes, you need more than the givens.

These must-haves will help your resume get out of that black hole and into the hands of the hiring manager.

infographic illustrating 5 resume must-haves
Infographic design by Dena Verdesca

1. Clear Headings

When you’re applying to jobs, you don’t have a lot of time to sell yourself to a recruiter or hiring manager. The average resume gets looked at for just six or seven seconds. Clear, specific headings (like Work Experience or Technical Skills) help readers quickly find the information they want. Use bold, underline, or italics to make your headings stand out. (Stay away from flashy formatting. It can confuse the ATS that scans your resume.)

2. Relevant Experience

You know that a resume should list your past jobs, so this advice may seem redundant. But the important word here is relevant. Expand on the jobs and duties you’ve had that connect directly to the position you’re applying for or come up in the job description. Condense or omit past roles and responsibilities that aren’t quite as relevant. Have some volunteer experience or a past project that ties directly into the job you’re applying to? Be sure to include that as well.

3. Details About How You Made an Impact

Don’t just include what you did. Include how well you did it too. Does a company want to hire the person who made sales calls or the person who followed up on 10+ leads a day, resulting in $200K in new revenue for FY 2019? If you created any new processes or were part of any big projects, include that—and the results—as well. Adding details makes your achievements more concrete and shows prospective employers that you’re someone who gets things done.

4. Relevant Skills

There’s that word relevant again! You want to make it as easy as possible for the reader to quickly identify your skills—or you might end up in the “no” pile despite having the exact qualifications they’re looking for. Include any skills listed in the job description (that you actually have!) and any that are particularly important or sought after in your industry. Leave out skills that don’t relate to the job.

5. Keywords That Line Up With the Job Description

Resume-scanning software looks for exact matches between your skills and experience and the ones in the job posting. So read through the posting before you apply and pull out the most important keywords. Describe your experience using the same wording as the job description. (If the job description asks for Information Security experience, don’t abbreviate it to InfoSec on your resume.) You can integrate important keywords into your skills section, experience, education, or even headings—go ahead, put Jane Truman, CPA right at the top of your resume.

Bonus: Consider a Summary Statement

This short blurb tells the reader who you are, what your experience is, what you offer an employer, and what you’re looking to do next.

Not everyone needs a summary statement. But if you have a lot of disparate experiences, are looking to make a career pivot, or want to tie together a common theme across your career, a summary statement can help sum up your value to an employer.