5 Critical Elements of Any Resume

Your resume should include five critical elements. Including these five parts will help you clarify your thinking, focus on key skills and accomplishments, and craft a resume that will help you stand out from the crowd. If you’re searching for a new job, check your resume and make sure it has these five critical elements:

  1. An Engaging Summary
    Kick your resume off with a section that briefly summarizes your professional qualifications. Objectives are out and Summaries are in. The objective is used to tell the employer what the candidate wants, the summary is focused on what you, as a candidate, can do for the resume employer. This is the feel-good section. It’s equivalent to the handshake. Highlighting soft skills here gives your resume a core of humanity.
  2. Proof of Expertise
    “Core competencies” is a good title for this section if you have two to five years of experience or are switching careers. For people with longer work histories, “professional skills” might make more sense. Job seekers applying for trades or technical positions can use “technical competencies.” This section is where you list your skills, knowledge and experience.
  3. Relevant Experience
    This is the section most people focus on, but they end up paying more attention to job duties and descriptions than accomplishments. You should include results, effects and contributions made at your former jobs, along with the company name, job title and months/years of employment.
  4. Education Highlights
    Institution, dates attended and the degree or certification you received are listed in the education section. Professional development, continuing education, on-the-job training and other nontraditional education should be included here as well.
  5. The Final Touch
    It’s possible there are other things you could add to your resume that don’t quite fit in any of the other sections. For a technical position, this could include experience with proprietary or customized software. For an executive position, you could include leadership activities. If there are major awards, recognitions and accomplishments that deserve a little more attention than a detail in another part of the resume, they can go here.

There will be differences in some of these sections depending on whether you’re a recent graduate, changing careers or looking to move up in leadership. If you have a question about whether you should include something, try writing “so what?” after it. If you can’t answer it, then take it out or rewrite it. As an applicant, my overriding concern should be- how can I differentiate myself from all the other people applying for these jobs? How you do it is to point out the frosting on the cake, not just the cake.

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