Good things to put on a resume to stand out from the crowd
Is putting your resume together giving you a severe case of writer’s block? If so, know that you’re certainly not alone. The quality and relevance of your resume will drastically impact your job search, which is why putting one together can be so stressful.
In particular, most need help deciding what and what not to include on their resumes.
After all, you only have so much room to work with, so you must carefully choose good things to put on a resume (i.e., top skills and work experience) that recruiters want to see the most.
Also, if you weren’t aware already, your resume should be a living document that changes and evolves with every new position you apply to.
Why is that?
It has to do with the nature of how recruiters deal with the heavy influx of job applications they receive for open positions. Instead of sifting through the 250+ job applications they receive for an average posting, they let their ATS (applicant tracking system) do the hard work for them.
They program specific keywords into their system (which are the skills that are most important for the position), and then the ATS brings the most relevant resumes to the top of the pile. That’s why customizing your resume for each position is a necessity in today’s age.
Beyond that, you need to know when and where to include things like technical skills, certifications, professional experience, education, and volunteer work.
Read on to learn how to put together a stellar professional resume that checks all the boxes for recruiters.
What should you include on your resume?
If you’ve ever drafted a resume, read one, or used a resume template — then you’re likely familiar with the traditional layout, which looks something like this:
Job skills section
While this is the general resume format that you’ll find replicated in virtually every template, it doesn’t include everything.
For instance, what about any volunteer work that you’ve done in the past? You’ll definitely want to include it, as volunteer work experience can be just as valued as paid work experience to potential employers. Volunteering shows that you’re community-minded and can work well with people from diverse backgrounds.
Internships are also worth mentioning, as they demonstrate your work ethic and willingness to learn new skills.
It can also pay off to include your social media handles, especially if they directly relate to the position you want (so long as they don’t include any inappropriate content). For example, if you’re after a position in sales or marketing, bustling social media profiles are what recruiters want to see. That’s especially true if you’re able to consistently captivate hordes of followers with engaging posts, polls, videos, and interactions.
This shows that you have what it takes to influence others, which is what sales and marketing are all about.
Even if your job doesn’t value social media, including your LinkedIn profile is always a good idea. You should definitely include any relevant certifications you have, as it would be a waste not to include them.
Putting it all together, our updated resume format looks like this:
Contact information and social media handles
Personal website/portfolio URLs
Work history (both paid and unpaid, including internships)
Skills section (including hard skills and soft skills)
Now, let’s take a closer look at how to get the most out of each section of your resume.
Do you really need to include a cover letter? Can’t you just skip this tedious step and move on to uploading your resume? This is the way most candidates think, as only 35% will submit cover letters when it’s optional, and that number only jumps to 38% when it is required.
Yet, 83% of recruiters believe that cover letters are still crucial, and they often boost the chances of a candidate landing a job. So no, you should NOT skip including a cover letter unless the recruiters explicitly say not to.
As this Reddit user laments, they hate, HATE writing cover letters.
Why do candidates hate including cover letters so much?
One common reason is that most people don’t enjoy writing about themselves. It can be awkward and feel as if you’re bragging. Moreover, drafting a cover letter is a writing exercise that can be very stressful for some — as the document must be error-free and grammatically sound.
Don’t let these two pain points stop you from reaping the rewards of a cover letter, though, as it would be a shame to miss out on a new job due to the lack of one.
Here are a few ways that including a cover letter reflects well on your character:
It shows that you’re serious about the job and are willing to go the extra mile.
Cover letters give you the chance to show off your writing skills.
You have the opportunity to include information that’s not on your resume, such as additional skills, interests, and strengths.
A cover letter gives you the chance to reiterate your contact information (especially your email and phone number), which can increase your chances of landing a job interview.
So the next time you see a job posting that catches your eye, know that including a cover letter will be well worth your time and will outweigh any headaches involved with writing it.
Speaking of good things to put on a resume, you definitely don’t want to forget to include your contact information.
After all, even if your resume writing impresses employers, without a phone number or email address, hiring managers will have no way to get in touch with you.
Besides that, the entire section needs to be concise, readable, and visually pleasing.
Here’s a rundown of what you need to include:
First name and last name. Your full name should appear at the top of the resume in a font larger than the rest of the document.
Job title. Even if you aren’t currently employed, your professional title should echo the position you’re applying for.
Professional email address. Try to use a work email if you have one. If not, use a professional-sounding email address (definitely avoid the email address you used in high school).
Phone number. Include your full number along with your country code, especially if you’re applying for an international position.
These 4 fields shouldn’t take up too much space on your resume, so do your best to keep things succinct by using smaller fonts for your title, email, and phone number.
Relevant social media profiles
It’s a good idea to include your social media handles directly under your direct contact information to keep everything nice and organized. For the most part, you should stick to professional social media platforms (unless you’re going for sales or marketing positions, as mentioned previously).
The go-to platform to always include is LinkedIn, as most companies ask to see your LinkedIn profile whenever you apply. However, including LinkedIn won’t do you much good if you have a barren, outdated profile.
Even if your resume is totally up-to-date, an outdated LinkedIn profile won’t reflect well on your chances of landing a job. In addition to impressing recruiters, fully fleshed out, updated profiles do a lot for job seekers.
Why is that?
It has to do with how valuable LinkedIn is as a professional networking tool. If you’re heavily active on the platform and are constantly rubbing elbows with stakeholders at companies you’re interested in, you may wind up landing an interview or a job from your interactions on LinkedIn alone.
Your LinkedIn page also serves as your personal brand, and it showcases your skill sets and expertise in key areas.
Lastly, Google and LinkedIn work in tandem, so your LinkedIn profile is likely the first result that pops up whenever you Google your name. As such, keeping your profile updated ensures that you’re discoverable online.
Besides LinkedIn, you can also include the following social media profiles:
Medium. If you’re applying to be a writer or editor, don’t hesitate to show off the articles you’ve written on Medium (especially ones that attracted lots of views and comments).
GitHub. Coders, developers, and data scientists will benefit from including any relevant projects they built using Git.
Twitter/X. Hiring managers looking for writers, editors, and marketers will like to see an active following on Twitter/X, as well as witty, well-written posts.
Quora. If you’re an expert in your field and constantly provide accurate answers to questions on Quora, definitely include your profile in your resume.
You should include links to your personal website or professional portfolio if applicable. If the jobs you’re interested in don’t require showing off past work, you can skip this section.
However, for the fields of writing, graphic design, web development, photography, modeling, and home renovation — portfolios are necessities. In particular, they prove that you possess the relevant skills for the position you want, and you get to show off your personal style and expertise.
It goes without saying that you should only include your absolute best work in your portfolio or professional website.
Do you have a YouTube channel that showcases your work?
If so, then you should include it too. Also, your website/portfolio should feature impeccable design and formatting – and should be completely clear of any spelling or grammatical errors.
Don’t include your portfolio if it’s too scarce or if it’s lacking interaction (i.e., not a lot of views, comments, and shares on social media).
Write a resume summary or resume objective
In today’s world, attention spans are shrinking by the minute, which is why your resume must immediately catch a hiring manager’s attention.
What’s the best way to do that?
It’s to write a brief yet effective resume summary or resume objective directly at the top. Research shows that recruiters take an average of 6 seconds to determine whether a candidate is a good fit based on their resume. That means you’ll need to pass the 6-second test if you want to stand a chance of landing an interview.
Luckily, writing a stand-out resume objective isn’t hard, as it should only contain these 3 elements:
Your current position and years of experience.
Your best skills (relevant skills to the job description) and any notable achievements.
Your end goal, i.e., the type of position you want.
Using this 3-step formula, here’s an example of what a strong resume summary looks like:
Professional copywriter with 10 years of experience in eCommerce. Specializes in product copy and is a certified SEO copywriter. Currently seeking a senior copywriter role at a leading digital marketing agency.
In just three short sentences, we’ve laid out everything a hiring manager or recruiter needs to know.
This will greatly increase the chances that recruiters will see and engage with your resume, which is what you want — so including a resume summary is a must.
Optimize your skills section
The skills section is one of the most important components of your resume, which may come as a bit of a surprise. Some tend to write off including key skills in favor of education and work experience, but this is a mistake in today’s age.
Why is that?
Since 94.7% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS (applicant tracking systems), you must ensure that your resume includes the top skills and keywords mentioned in the job description.
These key terms are what recruiters will program into their ATS to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. That’s why I mentioned that it’s crucial to tailor your resume for each position you apply to.
So, if you see computer skills listed on the job posting, you better include them on your resume. If you use a generic list of the same skills every time you apply to a job, you’re likely missing the most vital skills included in the job description.
Also, your skills section should separate your hard skills from your soft skills.
What’s the difference?
Hard skills are technical skills that are industry-specific, and soft skills are basic skills that are universal to every position. For example, a UX designer knowing how to use Adobe Illustrator is a hard skill because it’s directly related to their industry. Conversely, the UX designer’s excellent problem-solving skills are a soft skill since you can apply problem-solving to any type of work.
Here’s a quick list of some of the most important soft skills that recruiters want to see on your resume:
Customer service skills
Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneDrive)
Hard skills will vary widely by industry, so it’s not possible to provide a universal hard skill list to include on your resume. Instead, stick to the hard skills you see in the job description, as well as other technical skills that are relevant.
If you’re a recent graduate, then you’ll probably want to put your education section above your professional work experience. An important thing to remember when writing your education section is that everything needs to appear in reverse chronological order.
In other words, your most recent educational achievements should appear at the top.
Here are some more education section pointers:
Unless your GPA is 3.5 or higher, don’t include it on your resume
If you have a college degree, there’s no need to mention your high school diploma
If you have lots of relevant work experience, list that above your education section
Professional work experience section
In most cases, your work experience section will serve as the heart and soul of your resume.
It’s one of the first areas recruiters will look at, and it’s where you get to show off your professional achievements.
Much like your resume summary, there’s a 3-step process for listing your work experience:
Provide the job title
Include the company or organization
List your responsibilities along with notable achievements and milestones
The 3rd step is the most important, as hiring managers will want to know what you did and how well you performed in each role. It’s also wise to include a brief description of what each organization does before diving into your roles, responsibilities, and achievements.
The best way to tackle this is to use concise bullet point lists.
If possible, back up your achievements with numbers and percentages, as it looks more impressive. Here’s an example: Instead of saying, “I lowered our overhead costs by a significant margin,” try saying,” I was able to reduce overhead costs by 13% in a span of only 6 months.”
The second sentence is more impressive because it quantifies the achievement with tangible metrics.
Certifications and awards
Lastly, you should include any relevant awards, certifications, and other languages you speak. The key word here is ‘relevant,’ as a marketing recruiter likely won’t care if you won the Pinewood Derby while you were a Boy Scout. If you’re applying to be a digital marketer, then including certifications from Google, HubSpot, and the Digital Marketing Institute are perfect.
Wrapping up: Good things to put on a resume
The difference between a professional, customized resume and a generic one built from a template can’t be understated. As previously stated, you have 6 seconds or less to impress your potential employers, so you should take the quality of your resume very seriously.
Writing a resume that includes a cover letter and a concise summary is undoubtedly time-consuming, but it’s necessary to get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers.