Which is why I decided that you could use a comprehensive list of all the things you should put on your resume.
However, a winning resume is as much a result of knowing what to put on it, as much as knowing what you should leave off. Which is why I’m also including 22 bonus elements you must DEFINITELY NOT include on your resume.
As a result, this guide is very detailed. I suggest that you keep it open while writing – and refer to it every time you’re not 100% sure about what belongs on your resume, and what doesn’t.
Bullet point key assets: Up to 4 succinct bullet points that highlight your key competencies and are backed up with a tangible benefit or result. I typically use this approach with executive clients as it elevates their leadership skills and declares loudly the organisational problems they can solve. For example:
Exclude: A Home Phone Number.
Including a home phone number on your resume suggests you’ll be there. All day.
Successful people don’t stay at home waiting for The Bold & The Beautiful to start, so do yourself a favour and list your mobile number instead.
Exclude: An Inappropriate Email.
Don’t put an overly personal email on your resume (e.g., [email protected]). Also, avoid the noughties throw backs: e.g. Hotmail or Yahoo! email addresses.
Finally, remember that work emails are not appropriate.
You won’t make the best first impression on recruiters if you blatantly use your employer’s resources to find alternative employment.
The best option is to pay a few dollars per month for an email that’s hoted on your personal domain – e.g., [email protected]. Doing this demonstrates that you take your professional brand seriously.
It means including your LinkedIn or Twitter URLs on your resume a good idea. However, you must audit the accounts first, to make sure they’re devoid of personal content.
You don’t want Brenda in HR seeing *that* picture from your last holiday.
Exclude: Attempts To Hide Employment Gaps With ‘Consultant’.
It’s true – gaps in employment can be a red flag to potential employers. However, attempting to obscure the gap with the ‘Independent Consultant’ doesn’t make the problem go away
Instead, it does exactly the opposite by attracting unnecessary scrutiny and arousing suspicion – especially if you use vague descriptions with nary a client name or project detail in sight.
You don’t need to worry about gaps of 3 to 6 months.
They can even be positioned as a benefit later during your job interview – that you’re rested, rejuvenated and ready to take on new challenges.
If, however, you’ve legitimately been a sole trader, freelancer or independent consultant, be sure to provide specific details such as:
Clients you’ve worked with.
Duration and scope of engagements.
Responsibilities associated with building a business and finding clients.
Include: Strong Action Verbs.
Recruiters want to see competencies which demonstrate your skills and experience in solving organisational problems. In other words, power and purpose.
The easiest way to inject both power and purpose into your resume is by ensuring that your resume includes carefully selected action verbs. For example:
Shaped vision and strategy… Forged relationships with influential stakeholders… Drove continuous improvement…
Be aware of matching action verbs to your level. Choose transactional if you’re at a manager level and those with a strategic slant if you’re an executive. For example:
Execute vs Spearhead Persuade vs Inspire Developed vs Shaped
Exclude: Company-Specific Jargon.
This mistake most often made by engineering and military types. If that’s you, you’re probably used to including niche jargon in your communication.
Likewise, your company may use acronyms that aren’t universal across the business world. Recruiters need plain English – they don’t have the time to figure out what you mean by:
“Led the FTRE team to achieve 10% LXR target, YOY…”
Similarly, recruiters may not know the all the specialist competencies and skills required for every job in every industry, so if you have specific qualifications that need to be communicated, add a summary of technologies, methodologies or other niche knowledge nuggets at the end of your resume.
Exclude: Reasons For Leaving.
Your resume is a marketing document and should be 100% positive.
Including ‘Reason for leaving: made redundant’ adds nothing to your value proposition.
Recruiters will have these conversations later in the recruitment process and in a way that allows you to elaborate (positively) on your experiences.
Recruiters want to know about the appointments you’ve held in the last 10 years. Only go back further (typically 15 years maximum) if the experience is highly relevant or forms a core part of your value proposition.
Earlier experience can always be ‘name dropped’ into your professional profile if you feel it adds value. For example,
“Building on an early career with market innovator Apple, I bring +10 years leadership experience…”
Include: Short Periods Of Employment.
What should you do if you’ve had a short (6-12 month) stint?
I recommend that you list the role and date accurately in your employment summary (so you don’t have any gaps). Next, you should place that role in an ‘Additional’ employment history towards the back of your resume, along with your earlier experience.
Don’t try to make it something it’s not – it will dilute your story.
Include: Company Info.
Recruiters like to see company names which they recognise because it gives them context (business size, revenue turnover, areas of operation).
If you’ve worked in lesser-known companies then your resume should include a short ‘blub’ about those companies to helps recruiters understand your experience. Try to keep these blurbs to 1-2 lines and focus on facts/figures.
Exclude: Irrelevant Responsibilities.
When reviewing resumes, recruiters look for core competencies. They don’t want a comprehensive list of everything you did during your time in a role.
Typically, responsibilities fall into 5 categories: strategy, finance, people leadership, stakeholders and continuous improvement. The structure of your bullet points should tell recruiters the “what”, “how” and “why” of each duty.
“Shaped a 3-year marketing plan [what] informed by comprehensive consumer data and insights [how], to drive an increase in sales revenue, market position and brand reach [why].”
Include: A Marketing Hook.
A resume is a marketing document that tells your unique story.
Having a ‘hook’ or ‘theme’ in your resume will keep you in the memory of recruiters as ‘that’ professional who did ‘X’.
Research shows us that most people will remember three things about any social encounter or document review.
Read over your resume, keeping this ‘Rule Of Three’ in mind. Which three key strengths do you want to emphasise?
Exclude: Excessive Cross-Functional Experience.
This resume mistake is often made by high achievers with complex work histories.
Whilst cross-functional experience can be of value, cramming all your areas of expertise into your resume is counter-productive. For example, a claim like this…
“Expertise spanning business analysis, accounting, marketing and sales.”
…dilutes your brand and confuses recruiters. Don’t position yourself as a jack of all trades. Pick a direction and tailor your resume to suit.
Exclude: Rambling Sentences.
Long-winded sentences that join disparate ideas and outcomes will leave the reader lost and disengaged.
“Bringing a reputation for helping to optimise financial processes whilst maximising productivity within a challenging fast paced environment, I leverage advanced communications skills to engage with stakeholders and meet tight deadlines.”
Split the sentence to make it more readable:
“I bring a reputation for optimising financial processes to optimise productivity. Leveraging advanced communication skills, I influence stakeholders in a challenging, fast-paced environment to meet tight deadlines.”
Exclude: The Damn Objective!
Once you’ve applied for a role, your objective is implied. Adding an explanation such as “currently seeking new leadership challenges” is of little value.
Recruiters aren’t interested in solving your problems. They want to know how you can solve theirs.
Include: A Hint Of Personality.
Job seekers almost always forget to include this on their resumes.
Your resume is a representation of who you are – and failing to inject any personality will make it difficult for you to gain the traction you’re looking for.
Include: The Remainder Of Your Resume, Written In 1st Person.
Whilst a personal statement needs your voice, the rest of your resume should have a more professional tone. Avoid using any first-person references in your responsibilities and achievements section.
‘Led a team of 12 HR advisors’
‘I led a team of 12 HR advisors’
Include: Precise Targeting.
Tailoring your resume to each job is time-consuming. Which is why it’s easy to get complacent and start sending out the same version of your resume to all potential employers.
Unfortunately, this practice significantly lowers your chances of obtaining a positive response. There are two key reasons for this:
Recruiters are relying more and more on Applicant Tracking Systems for initial screening (read this article to learn how to pass ATS tests). These platforms rely on algorithms to “thin the herd” of applicants by screening out those with least relevant resumes. By not tailoring your resume you almost certainly guarantee your rejection.
Recruitment world is small. Firing off your resume to every job ad that is vaguely related to your future direction means that you’re likely to hit the same recruiter more than once – and they’ll spot this shotgun approach a mile off. This will lowers your credibility and leave a lasting impression of ambivalence.
Include: The Correct Number Of Pages.
Resume length varies across markets. In Australia, recruiters expect a 3-5-page resume. A longer resume loses impact and a shorter one forces you to exclude the necessary detail.
Including tables (apart from the one instance I mentioned in #30), images and/or graphs can make your resume ‘busy’.
Include: A Modern Font.
The font maketh the applicant. Times New Roman has been out of style for about a decade now. Stick to Calibri or Arial, 11-12pt.
It can be tempting to use a more “funky” or “pretty” font, however you can never guarantee that this font is installed on every recruiter’s computer – which means your resume will be out of alignment when someone who doesn’t have this font opens it.
Exclude: Your Photograph.
Unless you’re aspiring to be the next Tom Hardy, Cara Delevingne or Harry Styles, it’s unlikely that your looks will have an impact on your career.
It’s not necessary to include a photograph on your resume.
Any or all the above make you look caraless. I mean, careless.
Exclude: Informal Grammar.
A resume is a professional marketing document and needs the tone to match. Simply using formal grammar, e.g. ‘I am’ instead of ‘I’m’ or ‘I have’ instead of ‘I’ve’, elevates your resume to the right level.
Again, this is one of the more common and easy-to-miss resume mistakes.
Exclude: Any Mention Of Money.
Your resume is not a place to start negotiations. And you’re not Floyd “Money” Mayweather. References to salary, terms or benefits expectations come across as obnoxious and distract from what you can do for an employer.
Leave this conversation until either you’ve been asked or made an offer.
Exclude: Negative Phrasing.
Recruiters do want to know about the performance you have turned around and the teams you have whipped into shape, but they want to hear about it in a positive way.
Career Coach and Executive Trainer, Kathy Caprino conducted over 8 years of research into the factors that contribute to career success and found this:
“Professionals who are consistently more negative than positive in their communications and interactions suffer from an untimely demise of their career potential”.
Stay positive by carefully phrasing mandates and achievements, for example, ‘change fatigued’ instead of ‘change resistant’, ‘unrealised potential’ instead of ‘under-performing’, or ‘multifaceted’ instead of ‘complicated’.
Include: Logical File Names.
A poorly named resume file could give a negative first impression before a recruiter has even opened your resume.
Emma_Draft.docx – Doesn’t suggest much effort in preparation.
John_Sales.docx – Could suggest a second sector choice.
Alex_2006.docx – Looks like your resume hasn’t been updated since 2006.
To remove yet another mistake from your resume use a very simple format: Surname_Name.docx.
Include: An Effort To Align Your Online Profiles With Your Resume.
We live in a digital world, where 90% of recruiters use social media during the recruitment process to screen candidates.
Being untruthful impacts your credibility, spoils your reputation and blemishes your character. To quote Einstein, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters”.
That’s My Guide To Everything You Need To Include On Your Resume.
So, there you have it. The ultimate list of things you need to put on a resume – and what you need to leave off it, informed by over 15 years’ experience in the HR and recruitment sphere.
Use these to refine your resume, enhance your value proposition and propel your career to the next level. Remember – most job applications fail because of a few vital things not being included on a resume.