What Should You ACTUALLY Include on Your Resume?

    4 min read time

    Oh the dreaded resume!

    Who actually likes creating and updating their resume?! Most of us are good at talking about ourselves at networking events or to potential clients, but putting our top achievements and value on a 1-2 page document? Quite the challenge! Top it off with...what should you include or not include as we go through this pandemic? resume frustration

    Here are some quick tips for what you SHOULD and should NOT include on your resume so that you are seen, even among the pandemic:

    1. Rethink your resume

    Too many people think of their resume as a transcript of their work experience and education. What you really need to do is think of it as a marketing publication instead of a transcript.

    First, your resume should match the job you want - all the appropriate keywords. Second, it should conform to basic recruiting software requirements. Finally, you should put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager or recruiter reviewing the resume.

    For example, someone who has been in the software industry for more than a decade would likely not need to include a past gig at a restaurant as a bartender on their resume. While it may have been great experience, working at as a bartender more than a decade ago doesn’t mean a lot to people hiring software engineers.

    Also, PLEASE make sure your resume matches your digital brand! When it comes to a LinkedIn profile, you need to use it as a professional social platform and show your expertise through your own content. Your own content showcases your expertise!

    2. Summary vs. Objective

    You are going to want to rethink what you were taught about the top of your resume. Many of us were taught that your resume should begin with an objective. Objectives are typically fluffy and vague; whereas a professional summary is more of the elevator pitch. It’s everything a recruiter or hiring manager needs to know about you in that brief moment - as they really only spend 10 seconds reviewing your resume!

    In addition, your professional summary should make a recruiter or hiring manager want to read more about you and your experience. 

    3. Showcase your experience

    The experience section on resumes is the meat of the whole document. The list of jobs you’ve held tells an employer where you’ve been and what you’ve done. What’s important to remember is that — for most standard resumes — the list doesn’t have to be comprehensive. Many people tend to want to list all of their accomplishments and accolades. Not that they all aren't important, but think about the hiring manager or recruiter - they are only spending 10 seconds reviewing your resume, so make it worth their time!

    Definitely start by removing irrelevant and early experience once you’ve been in the workforce for several years. If you are an older candidates, condense your experience by summarizing jobs 15 years of more in the past as a "early experience" section.

    What you need to be careful about is removing any work history that would make a potential employer suspicious. Don't just take out jobs that are going to leave big gaps, because they lead to questions and questions = red flags!

    4. What about education?

    The education section of a resume belongs at the end for job seekers with significant work experience. 

    As a reminder, don’t just think about traditional degrees. Include special classes you took to boost your career and any certifications you've received. This is incredibly important for those without advanced degrees.

    Is not having a formal degree going to make or break you? Depends on how you present your work experience. Most companies want to hire people with significant experience versus multiple degrees and certifications where experience hasn't been utilized.  

    5. You need to customize!

    This doesn't mean having hundreds of versions of your resume - what it DOES mean is if you have experience in project management, but now want to be a business analyst, tweak your resume and highlight transferable skills.

    Now, what should you NOT put on your resume, especially during a time like this pandemic?

    Too much lingo

    I see this so often. Just because there is specific lingo or jargon in your industry or role, doesn't mean you include it all or all the keywords associated, especially if it relates only to your current/most recent role. It sounds like jibberish to the next company. In an article on Forbes, another career coach puts it very well:

    "You know you have the experience for the roles you’re seeking next. But, if you’re explaining your experience by using words that the next industry doesn’t normally use, then you’re leaving the recruiter to guess about your experience, which usually leads them to assume you lack the necessary experience. You have to break up with the type of language you used to use at your company or in your current industry and explain your experience the way the next company talks about those same things."

    Results Matter - the RIGHT ones

    How many times have you been told to make sure your resume is results-oriented? Most people take that advice and run with it to the extreme, what they forget to include though is the right results. No matter how many results you include in your resume, if they aren’t focused on communicating what you can do for the next role (your value + alignment), your results do NOT matter.

    Crazy format

    Most job seekers spend way too much time worrying about the format of their resume. Should it be one-page or two-pages? Should I use this font or another font? Should I include the month and year or just the year? While some of those things are important, your format is not the most important part of your resume. A beautiful but boring and irrelevant resume will not get you very far.

    What your resume SHOULD be is simple, clear and concise. Remember, anything that distracts from the value you add increases the chances of your resume getting thrown in the rejection pile. Don't make it difficult for a person to find your value and the skills needed for a role. Depending on your industry, it MAY be beneficial to go the extra mile aesthetically (for example a graphic designer), but should always be secondary to demonstrating the skills and results you can bring to the table.

    I know there is still a lot of uncertainty, but I need you to know that many companies ARE still hiring. People are still landing interviews and jobs during all of this chaos. And why are these people getting hired? Because they clearly present the value they add and align it with the roles they are applying for.