Just like every individual is unique, so is every resume.
From your years of experience to your specific skill sets, your resume is a unique representation of who you are, professionally (and to an extent, personally).
But there is one thing that all resumes should have in common: five standard resume sections and headers (whether you’re an experienced professional or just beginning your career).
Below we break down the following:
- 5 standard resume sections
- Additional resume sections
- The correct order of resume sections
And we also share actual resume header samples to help your resume stand out!
5 standard resume sections
The following resume sections are standard and should be included on any resume. They are also ATS friendly which increases your chances of getting your resume into the hands of a hiring manager:
- Contact Info
- Title and Branding Statement
“But what about my volunteer work? My awards?” you might ask. “Shouldn’t I include that information on my resume?”
The answer? It depends. Don’t worry, we’ll get to those additional resume sections. But first, let’s break down each standard section in detail and why they’re important to any resume.
1. Contact Info
Add your contact info to your resume to ensure that the hiring manager can easily get in touch with you.
Include the most important contact details at the top of your resume so it’s easy for the ATS or hiring manager to find.
Here’s the information you should include:
- Your professional full name
- Your current city and state
- One phone number
- Your professional email address (aka don’t use “email@example.com”)
- Your LinkedIn profile link
- Optional: Your professional website if you have a portfolio or other relevant information displayed
Keep this section sweet and simple. Just make sure that your contact details are up-to-date and you check your messages often. According to one report, 42% of recruiters said one of the biggest barriers to identifying qualified talent is that candidates don't respond to calls and emails.
Hint: Be careful not to make the common resume mistake of sharing confidential information such as your gender or nationality.
2. Title & Branding Statement
You only have seven seconds to capture the hiring manager or recruiter’s attention with your resume and communicate who you are and what you’re good at. As such, your resume needs to be direct.
Craft a compelling title and two to three sentences that succinctly describe yourself, your results, and how you would add value to the company through your past experiences.
Think of this section as your resume’s executive summary or highlight reel of your professional experience.
Take the following example:
Results-driven leader with a demonstrated track record of increasing revenue, building high-performance sales teams, and engaging clients through consulting strategic planning. Approachable mentor who uses comprehensive experience in sales and operations management to support the success of the entire team, personally and professionally.
Notice how the sales leader here specifically outlines what he or she would bring to an employer. Take the same approach with your own resume branding statement.
If you’re just getting started with your career, cite your educational experience and what makes you a compelling candidate like this example:
REGULATORY AFFAIRS LEADER
Experienced health-care leader with extensive experience utilizing research, analysis, and innovation to promote patient/consumer well-being. Consistently leverage background in hospital and industry environments to promote continuous regulatory compliance and drug safety.
Hint: A resume objective and branding statements are not the same thing. Resume objectives tell employers what you’re looking for in a job instead of what you can offer them. We recommend sticking with the branding statements since it’s reader/company focused. You can read more about why we don’t recommend objective statements.
What have you accomplished at different jobs and how have you helped past companies succeed? Give hiring managers a comprehensive view of your experience in this essential resume section.
For each job, include the following information on your resume:
- The month/year you started and ended your work at the company (or “present” if you’re still employed by the company)
- The name of the company
- The city/state where you worked
- Your specific job title
- Your responsibilities and achievements
Use bullet points and action verbs to describe your responsibilities and achievements. Also, choose ones that apply closely to the job to which you’re applying. For example, maybe the job description specifically asks for someone who can lead weekly sales team meetings.
If you have the experience, list it:
Lead 10-member sales team meeting — $70M territory across California Coast. Client industries include oil & gas, chemicals, pulp & paper, and food & beverage.
Numbers and percentages are very persuasive so use them as much as possible to prove you deliver results. Here are a few more examples:
- Increased month-on-month organic blog traffic by 75% in less than 12 months.
- Lead accounting for 110-employee organization with $1.4B in annual revenue.
- Report directly to COO while managing a 15-person manufacturing team.
If you don’t have percentages or numbers to share, be descriptive with your responsibilities and the skills you developed at different jobs. This is especially important for recent graduates.
This resume section covers your academic background. Include the following information:
- Month/year you graduated
- Your university’s name
- Degree received, any specializations
- The city/state where your university is located
List your educational experience in chronological order. For example, if you graduated with your MBA in 2017, add it first and then put your Bachelor's degree information.
Also, use this section to share special academic projects and your GPA if it was high. If you’re a new graduate, didn’t go to college, or haven’t graduated yet, list your high school, clubs, study abroad programs, etc.
This resume section is your opportunity to let the recruiter or hiring manager know your unique skill sets and core competencies.
List 5-15 skills, beginning with your strongest skills first. Here’s an example of a core competency section for a sales leader:
Corporate Account Management · Consultative Sales · Strategic Planning · Customer Relations · Client Retention · Sales & Operation Management · Technical Acumen · P&L Responsibility · Talent Development · Product Development · Supply Chain Management · Value-Based Business Solutions · Business Development
Also, make sure that the skills you list relate to the job to which you’re applying. Your expert piano playing skills, for example, shouldn’t be listed on a resume being submitted for a Marketing Manager position.
You can also divide this resume section into two. Maybe you’re applying for an IT position. Since this is a technical job, you could include a “Technical Skills” section that includes very specific IT skills.
Hint: Weave job description keywords throughout your resume, not just in one section, to help with an ATS scan.
Additional resume sections
There you have it. These are the five non-negotiable sections you should include on your resume.
However, there are optional ones that you can add. Extra resume sections really depend on the job to which you’re applying.
Say that you’re applying for an HR position that requires interacting with international applicants. Including a separate resume section for “Languages” that you speak would probably be appropriate.
Here are just a few examples of other optional resume sections:
Hobbies & Interests: Especially if you’re a recent graduate without much experience, this section can be beneficial for highlighting hobbies that relate to the job or company. If you’re applying for a marketing position, your interest in graphic design would be relevant.
Certifications: Use this section to show off your professional certifications from universities and industry groups. Maybe you’re applying for a teaching position. List your ESL certifications. Or maybe you’re applying to be a business manager. The Six Sigma certification would be appropriate to include.
Volunteer Work: Volunteer work such as helping at soup kitchens or running in charity marathons shows your willingness to help others. It also suggests you’re a team player. You can format this section exactly like your “Experience” section.
Awards: Were you the Sales Manager of the Year? Or did you win a Leadership Award in your industry? List official recognitions of your accomplishments such as from former companies, your university, and other organizations. These awards can help you stand out from other applicants.
Conferences & Training: Show employers that you are committed to continual learning by providing professional industry conferences and training courses you’ve attended.
Just ensure that you have enough information for any resume section you add. Also, be careful with optional sections. Make sure they’re really necessary and aren’t going to take valuable space and attention away from your “Experience” section.
The correct order of resume sections
At the end of the day, the right order for your resume sections depends on your level of experience and the job to which you’re applying.
However, here’s a good rule of thumb to follow with the structure (based on your experience level).
If you’re a recent graduate, you likely haven’t had many positions. In this case, highlight your education section before your experience. Showcase your academic background, university accomplishments, and related courses.
- Contact information
- Title/Branding Statement
- Core Competencies
- Optional sections
Hint: Your resume should be one page long as a beginner. Here’s a broad guide on appropriate resume lengths.
Professional & Executive:
As an experienced professional or someone with executive experience, highlight your relevant work experience first. Place your educational background next.
- Contact information
- Title/Branding Statement
- Core Competencies
- Optional sections
Hint: If you’re a newbie to the job market, include some of the optional resume sections at the bottom of your resume such as academic awards, volunteer work, and hobbies and interests.
Professional resume headers examples
What’s in a name? A lot, actually, when it comes to your resume headers. Not only do they orient the reader, but they can also make or break your chances of getting through an ATS scan.
Choose resume headers that clearly communicate your resume information. Leave creativity at the door.
For example, “My Academic Career” might sound compelling as a header, but it can quickly confuse an ATS scanner. In this case, “Education” would be the best header option.
Check out these professional ATS-friendly header examples:
- Core Competencies
- Professional Associations
- Awards & Honors
- Volunteer Work
When in doubt, follow the KISS acronym with your resume headers: “Keep it simple, Sally.”
Add these resume sections and headers to your own resume
How you present information on your resume directly impacts whether or not you get asked to interview. Make your resume stand out with these resume sections and headers.
Need additional help? ResumeSpice is here to help. Our team of experts will work with you to create a powerful resume, optimized to pass ATS screeners. Please contact us today to learn about our services!