Now let’s dig into the good stuff! This will be a long post because there is a lot to cover when it comes to the content of a resume. I’ll go over what that content should consist of, as well as writing tips. Let’s get to it!
Content should be broken out into logical sections. Remember this, because I’ll reference this concept of “content sections” in subsequent posts. In this post, I’ll step through each content section that I recommend you include. I’ll talk about the layout of these sections in a future post; for now, I’m focusing on the content itself.
The sections of content to include and exclude
First and foremost, you need to include your name and how to get ahold of you. You might see resumes that include a home address; I personally think that level of detail is unnecessary, and it’s not something I’m totally comfortable broadcasting. I would suggest including your city (or metropolitan area) and state. You can also include your LinkedIn URL, but be sure to clear the auto-formatting (the blue and underline) while ensuring the link still works.
While an “objective” is outdated, a “summary” section has cropped up as a common replacement. The summary is your opportunity to shine through a brief description of how your unique set of talents sets you apart. While the objective was focused on what kind of job you were looking for, the summary is all about who you are. It sets the stage for a compelling story of your experience.
In addition to sections for work experience and education (which are the core content sections!), you may want to include a specific section for technical skills (such as programming languages), soft skills (I like to use the phrase “Core Competencies” for that one), certifications, etc. depending on industry and your role and expertise.
Include a section of volunteer work if you are a leader in a particular organization; exclude it if there’s nothing to speak to that would be relevant to your professional life.
Don’t include a section of ‘special interests’. They take up space and aren’t relevant. If your outside-of-work interests come up in conversation during an interview, then great. But they shouldn’t be a factor in the hiring process.
Your content itself
This is the most challenging part of resume-writing. You know what content sections to include, now you need to actually decide what you want to include in each section and how to articulate it. This is where I come in!
My number one tip for resume writing is to focus on your accomplishments and how you added value. The biggest resume mistake I see people make is describing the role they were in, rather than their contributions and impacts. When you are filling out the details of a role that you include on your resume, do not just list out your responsibilities and tasks. That is a job description. Those are things that anyone who is qualified for the role can do. Focus on what you personally did within that role to add value to the company. What were your accomplishments? What did you bring to the table?
To add to that first point, quantify as much as possible. Put numbers (How much? How many? By what percentage?) around anything you can. Even if you can’t necessarily obtain or disclose the exact metric that you want, any numbers will add more context to your qualifications. This will also demonstrate that you understand the importance of data and metrics to make decisions and measure impact – a highly sought-after skill in many industries.
Be selective with the content you include for each role. The majority of the content on your resume should be related to the most recent role you were in and/or focused on the types of jobs you are looking for. In my case, I spent the majority of my career as a Software Testing Analyst, and through the years, I eventually became a Software Product Manager. I have been in Product Management for three years, and that is the role that I want in my next job. Even though I spent the most time in Testing, I want to highlight my value and accomplishments as a Product Manager, so that makes up the bulk of my resume. If I wanted to pursue a Testing role, I would still include that Product Manager role on my resume, but the majority of my content would be related to my Testing experience.
Avoid repeating skills and accomplishments across roles. Content for older roles should be focused on skills and accomplishments you achieved in that role, that aren’t repeated in more recent roles.
That said, if you opt to include a separate section dedicated to listing out your technical or soft skills, weave those skills into your content for your work or education when possible. You don’t need to necessarily repeat every single skill, but consistency across your listed skills and your accomplishments and value-add within your role will give you a really buttoned-up narrative. For example, if you list “Servant Leadership” as one of your core competencies, include a bullet point in your work experience section that demonstrates how you exercised servant leadership in one of your roles. Or perhaps you wrote a thesis for your Master’s degree on the topic – ensure you denote that in your education section as well.
Crafting the best content for your resume is not easy, and it’s a constant work in progress as you evolve in your education and career path. I hope that my advice helps set you in the right direction, and know that you can always iterate, tweak, and change your content in order to constantly put your best foot forward.