How do you craft a resume that stands out? We outline what to include, what to avoid, and how to optimize for applicant tracking system (ATS) compatibility.
Starting to build out your resume and wondering what should go into it? Well, you’re in the right place. A standout resume is more than just words on a page; it's a carefully designed window into your professional journey, skills, and ambitions.
Plus, it needs to be optimized for modern hiring practices, like the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS). Either way, there’s specific information employers will expect in your job application:
- Contact Details
- Work Experience
We’ll cover everything you need to include in your resume. You’ll learn what to highlight, what to omit, and other expert tips that’ll help you put your best—and most hireable—foot forward.
What to Include on a Resume to Capture Your Employer's Attention
Without covering each element—contact details, work experience, education, and skills—your application will have gaps that hiring managers simply can’t ignore. And that’s if your resume even makes it to them in the first place.
Not including any of the essentials will lead the ATS to likely sideline your application in favor of those that tick all the right boxes. These systems are programmed to scan for particular keywords and phrases that are relevant to the role (like “data analysis” or “growth marketing”), as well as educational background and work experience.
Let’s go over these essential resume sections in a bit more detail.
1. Resume Header
The resume header contains your contact information and is placed at the top of the page. This should include the following:
- Full Name
- Email Address
- Phone Number
- Website Links (portfolio or LinkedIn profile)
While this may seem pretty straightforward, it’s crucial for all types of ATS resumes. No matter what the job, the employer must know how to contact you.
To save space, keep it to a single line. Here’s an example:
Including a picture on your resume is generally not recommended, especially in the US, UK, and Canada, where headshots are seen as unprofessional and can lead to bias. Additionally, pictures can interfere with ATS tools, potentially resulting in the automatic rejection of your resume.
However, there are exceptions. In industries where appearance is directly relevant, like acting or modeling, a photo might be expected. Also, in some regions, such as East Asia and continental Europe, including a resume photo is more common.
2. Resume Summary
A well-crafted resume summary is your chance to make a powerful first impression.
This short section should highlight your resume objectives and professional identity.
Whether you're an experienced professional or just entering the workforce, a compelling summary sets the tone for your resume and can capture the attention of hiring managers.
Summary sections are especially important for student resumes, as they offer an opportunity to highlight skills and objectives when you don’t have much professional experience to draw upon.
3. Work Experience Section
When considering what to write in a resume for work experience, focus on roles and skills that are most relevant to the position you’re applying for.
After all, your employment history shows hiring managers that you have experience with the duties and responsibilities of the role. It also provides insight into your skill level and whether you know what to expect in your line of work.
When describing your professional experience, be sure to mention the following for each previous role:
- Name of Company
- Job Title
- Dates of Employment
- Tasks and Responsibilities
It’s generally a good idea to list your work history in reverse chronological order. So start with your most recent job and work backward. Your latest experiences are the most relevant.
If you’re just entering the workforce and don’t have any previous roles to include, share details on other relevant experiences that showcase your talents and ambition. For example, you can share the following:
1. Notable Coursework
Include any significant projects or coursework related to the job you're applying for. Describe the skills you developed and the outcomes of your work.
2. Volunteer Work
Highlight volunteer roles, especially those that have given you transferable skills or relevant experience. Explain your responsibilities and any achievements in these roles.
3. Internships and Part-Time Jobs
Even if they're not in your desired field, internships and part-time jobs demonstrate your work ethic and ability to adapt to professional environments.
4. Extracurricular Activities
Activities such as clubs, sports teams, or student organizations can illustrate leadership, teamwork, and other skills valuable to employers.
Don’t miss our previous article on entry-level resume tips.
Your education refers to your academic background and formal education. This section consists of:
- What you studied
- Where you studied (e.g. university or college)
- The qualification received (e.g. bachelor’s degree)
- Date of completion
You can also mention your GPA as long as it’s a score of over 3.0.
5. Resume Skills
The skills on your job application are arguably more valuable than your experience.
After all, what really matters is whether you can carry out your responsibilities and deliver results.
You’ll need to match the job description by including the relevant hard and soft skills required. It tells employers you’ve optimized your application and that you can get the job done.
Hard skills are the technical and specific abilities required for the job. Here are a few examples:
- Software Proficiency (e.g., Adobe Photoshop, Excel)
- Programming Languages (e.g., Python, Java)
- Specialized Training (e.g., First Aid Level 1 (Basic) training)
Soft skills are attributes that determine how well you can work and interact with others, such as the following:
- Communication Skills
- Teamwork and Collaboration
- Time Management
Here are other types of skills:
- Transferable Skills (like leadership and problem-solving)
- Languages (like French and Korean)
- Technical Skills (like spreadsheets and programming)
- And more!
See what the skills section of your resume might look like below:
How to Include ATS Keywords to Maximize Your Resume's Success
Recruiters use ATS tools to quickly find candidates that meet certain criteria. It’s especially helpful for larger companies with thousands of applicants for every opening. So before reaching the recruiter or hiring manager, your first hurdle is to get past the resume scanners.
To do this, use resume keywords contextually. Don’t force them if it doesn’t fit in—it should be natural. Using the right keywords in this way will strengthen your application, as it shows the hiring team that you’re a good fit for the role.
For a list of ATS keywords that are required for a specific role, follow these steps:
- Sign up for free on Rezi.
- Navigate to the “Finish Up” tab.
- Enter your job title.
- Copy and paste the job description.
- Press the save job description button.
Here’s a 45-second live demonstration of how the Rezi Resume Keyword Scanner feature works:
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Additional Resume Sections to Help Your Resume Stand Out
Now that we’ve got the essentials out of the way, let’s explore how additional sections can enhance your resume. These can help personalize your application and compensate for any criteria that you haven’t met.
Job seekers often have life experiences, hobbies, or achievements that showcase relevant knowledge, skills, and aptitude.
- Designing a website in your spare time has developed your technical proficiency.
- Growing your blog has developed your digital marketing and SEO skills.
With custom resume sections, you can highlight your unique selling points, tailor your application, and reveal your strengths.
Here are some examples:
Include any certifications or qualifications you've received that are relevant to the position and industry. They’re an effective way to validate your listed skills and show they’re up-to-date.
If you’ve worked on any work or academic projects that demonstrate relevant skills and expertise, you can add a section that summarizes key details.
Depending on the role you’re applying for, a description of previous academic courses can strengthen your resume and your depth of knowledge. As we touched on earlier, this can be helpful if you don’t have a lot of professional experience.
If you’re involved in any clubs, organizations, or activities that reflect leadership, teamwork, or other valuable skills, a dedicated involvement section can help differentiate your resume from other candidates.
Include any professional development or training programs that have equipped you with specific skills for the job.
Describe any professional licenses that qualify you for specialized roles or industries. Even if they’re only indirectly related to the position, this section can show your breadth of knowledge and expertise.
Demonstrate your values, empathy, and practical skills through a section detailing your volunteer work, especially if it's relevant to the job.
Actions say a lot more about us than words do. It’s more or less the same with your achievements.
This may include:
These could be dedicated as an additional resume section if necessary. By listing a variety of accomplishments, it implies you’re better than the average worker. It’s one effective way to create a strong impression on your recruiters and hiring managers.
Data and Statistics
Whenever you want to make a statement, use data and statistics to support your points.
Most times, this will be in your work experience section when describing your importance and the impact you’ve made.
By adding the results you’ve been responsible for, it shows how you actually provided value and made a real difference. In general, it’s impressive for anyone to see how your actions have led to a positive outcome.
Here are a few examples:
- “Increased the number of appointments booked by 35%”
- “Reduced employee turnover rates by 25%”
You can see how this adds to your credibility and perceived value as a professional. It also prevents you from seeming biased since you’re using numbers and being specific.
Everyone has their own experiences in and out of the workplace that could be relevant to talk about. For example, showcasing your progression from how you worked up to where you are now.
This helps with tailoring your resume further and demonstrates a degree of creativity. If you’re making claims and don’t have numbers to back it up, you’ll need to at least use examples.
When looking at what to put on a resume with no experience, one of the best things to do is send a cover letter.
This is another way of making up for not meeting all the desirable requirements.
Even if you don’t have the ideal employment background, it gives you the opportunity to present yourself as a candidate that’s a strong cultural fit. You do this by aligning your personality and objectives with the job position and company values.
What You Shouldn’t Include In a Resume
Now that you’ve got an idea of what to put on your resume, we’ll look at what you shouldn’t include and some of the red flags.
This is when you make a statement based on your own thoughts and opinion.
A better approach is to be factual and write from a cognitive perspective. Since resumes resemble a report that summarizes your professional background, it makes sense for it to be more fact-based rather than opinion-based.
However, the only exception to this is when you’re writing a cover letter.
The only personal details required is your contact information. Anything other than that isn’t necessary to include.
Employers should never ask you for sensitive details such as:
- Political beliefs
- Marital status
Spelling Mistakes and Typos
It’s a simple mistake that’s immediately picked up by the ATS. Grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and typos are not acceptable. So, double-check your application before submitting it to your employers.
Don’t lie on your resume. Period.
It’s still common for job seekers to write misleading information. In fact, roughly 40% of employees have been dishonest in their job applications.
The hiring manager interviewing you will have interviewed hundreds of candidates. It’s not difficult for them to see through your resume if you’ve lied or added any false information about your professional background.
Weak Action Verbs
Action verbs are meant to spice up your resume.
For instance, they can highlight your active role in achieving a positive outcome or accomplishment.
But if you’re not careful, action verbs can have the opposite effect—making your application seem generic and uninspired. Weak action verbs tend to be vague, bland, and unoriginal, while strong action verbs are evocative, clear, and distinctive.
Here are some weak action verbs to avoid:
We’ve made a list of resume buzzwords to avoid based on over 100,000 applications. Including any of these will make your resume less effective.
Most of the time, these words and phrases don’t show your employers much and can easily become a distraction. When seeking to evoke a positive reaction, be as specific as possible and make sure buzzwords are contextually relevant and used naturally.
Common buzzwords include:
- Responsible for
- Team player
- Outside the box
Unintended cliches are one of the most common mistakes on resumes—and why many candidates are rejected.
If a word or phrase is unnecessary and doesn’t communicate anything of value, then it should probably be cut. This includes vague terms and filler words, like describing yourself as a “hard worker.”
Other common resume cliches include:
- Creative problem-solver
- People person
- Proven track record
The Ideal ATS Resume Length is One Page
Aim for a one-page resume. These are more concise, well put together, and easier to skim. It also respects your hiring manager’s time by getting straight to the point and keeping your application free from fluff. Unlike two-page resumes, a single-page resume does a better job at making an impression.
BONUS: Formatting Tips for a Stellar Resume
Formatting is an essential part of every well-crafted resume. Not only does it help hiring managers understand and digest key information, but it also boosts ATS compatibility.
A resume that’s formatted correctly—with clear headings, bullet points, and consistent styling—makes it easier for the ATS to identify and score key information. Coupled with the right keywords (which you can find with our free keyword scanner), effective formatting gives your resume the best chance of landing an interview.
Minimal Resume Design
While you might be craving to demonstrate your creative ability, what matters more than how you’ve presented your resume is what you’ve written.
Subtle ats resume format are not only important for overcoming the resume scanners. But, it also improves the readability of your application for human readers. The key is keeping it clean and simple.
Even for graphic design resume examples, it’s better to make a resume with minimal visual aspects. If you’re trying to use tables and color, the ATS won’t pick up on them.
Again, these should be minimal. With small intricate details like this, it improves the readability of your resume.
Another formatting option that’s pretty much necessary for modern applications is bullet points.
These are better replacements for big paragraphs as it makes your resume easy to skim through and is more effective for keeping the reader engaged.
Professional Resume Font
The aesthetic and appearance of your resume have an impact on your reader’s first impressions. That’s why modern font choices should be taken into consideration. These should also be kept professional and scannable for the ATS.
Proven Resume Examples From Rezi
We’ve compiled a list of 4 ats resume below. Take inspiration from what’s already been written and use some of those ideas for your own application.
Marketing Insights Resume Template
Embedded Software Developer Resume Template (Interviewed at AMD)
Data Engineer Resume Template (Interviewed at Facebook)
Assistant Policy Intern Resume Template (Interviewed at Accenture)
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Check out Rezi today and take your career to the next level.