5 Critical Resume Sections

Whether you’re a freshly minted graduate or a professional with decades of experience, your resume should include these core features.

5 Critical Resume Sections

Make sure you include the top five resume sections.

Your resume is like a menu—it shows employers what you have to offer. And just like a menu is broken into clear categories to make ordering easier on a diner, resume sections make it quicker for busy hiring managers to see if you've got what what they're looking for. 

To continue with the menu metaphor, a restaurant would be selling itself short (and surely confusing diners) if it left off any of the common offerings—appetizers or beverages, for example. Likewise, the core parts of a resume need to be clearly presented if you want to meet a hiring managers expectations.

Different resume sections speak to a variety of your qualifications. Granted, resumes will certainly vary depending on whether you’re a recent graduate, changing careers, or looking to move up in leadership. But no matter what your level of experience is—or what industry you’re in—experts say the following are the core parts of a resume:

  1. Contact information
  2. Career summary
  3. Skills
  4. Professional experience
  5. Education

Top 5 resume sections

1. Contact information

“It seems so basic and obvious, but I can’t tell you how many resumes I’ve received that don’t even have the person’s contact information,” says resume expert Kim Isaacs. Your name, city and state, phone number, and email address should be prominently displayed at the top of your resume. You should also include social media profile links (as long as you’ve cleaned them up beforehand) and your personal website or blog, if applicable.

2. Summary

Think of a career summary like a movie preview: it sets up what the reader is about to learn and draws them in with the most important information. 

This resume section should be a brief paragraph (three to five sentences) that shows the value you bring by highlighting your skills and a couple big career wins. But rather than labeling it a “summary,” simply use a resume headline that encapsulates your credentials.

Isaacs offers this example of an effective career summary:

           Corporate Real Estate Executive
           Increasing Bottom-Line Profitability Through Real Estate Strategies

  • Accomplished executive with a proven ability to develop and implement real-estate strategies that support business and financial objectives. Have led key initiatives that reduced operating budget by $32 million and contributed to 550% stock increase. Recognized as an expert in applying financial concepts to asset management decisions.

3. Skills

Isaacs says every resume should have a skills section, which appears beneath your summary in short, bulleted columns. “It gives employers a way to skim through your resume to see that you have the expertise they’re looking for,” she explains. Still, “it has to be very focused on the job that the person is applying for.” 

You’ll want to incorporate the right keywords so that your resume is optimized for application tracking systems (ATS), which employers use to screen job applications. “Look at the job posting to see what key skills the employer is looking for,” Isaacs says.

Matching your skills section to what appears in the job posting is especially important for people applying to technical jobs, like IT positions, since these job seekers have to show employers they possess the hard skills that are required to perform the job.

However, don’t overlook your soft skills, that is, critical workplace skills that you can’t measure, such as problem solving, communication, and leadership. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers actually care more about soft skills than they do technical abilities like reading comprehension and mathematics. Make sure your professional experience section (see below) demonstrates that you have these soft skills.

4. Professional experience

This is arguably the most critical of all resume sections—the meat of any resume, if you will—yet many job seekers make the mistake of just listing their job duties. Focus on your accomplishments rather than your day-to-day responsibilities; your resume shouldn't be a mirror reflection of a job posting.

The best way to showcase your achievements? Cite quantifiable results: numbers, dollars, and percentages.

For example:

           COMPANY NAME—Boston, MA
           Data Analyst, 2019

  • Data Mining and Modeling: Collected, cleansed, and provided modeling and analyses of structured and unstructured data used for major business initiatives.
  • Outcomes:
    • Executed 15% reduction in transportation costs, resulting in $1.2M annual savings.
    • Improved demand forecasting that reduced backorders to retail partners by 17%.
    • Completed focus group and BI research that helped boost NW region sales by 10%.

5. Education

Recruiters and hiring managers shouldn’t have to hunt for your education credentials, so designate a section at the bottom of your resume for this information. Simply write where you went college and your degree. And, if you graduated with honors, highlight it.

For example:

           Ace College—Springfield, Illinois
           BA in Accounting (cum laude)—Dean's List, GPA: 3.9

(Note: For recent college graduates, Isaacs recommends putting your education section before your professional experience.)

Bonus: Additional accolades

It’s possible there are other things you could add to your resume that don’t fit in any of the other sections. For example: Testimonials, awards, and publications that you appeared in are all worthy of being included on your resume. Before you add this section, however, ask if the information makes you more attractive to the person hiring for this particular position.

Give your resume sections some spice

The best resumes are the ones that not only communicate your skills and experience but also the value you'd bring to a company. Not sure if yours does that? No sweat. Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get a review of your resume's appearance and content in two days. It's a quick and easy (did we mention free?) way to make sure your resume is polished, professional, and ready to get you an awesome new job.