Part Three: 7 Elements of an Exceptional Resume

Step 3: Putting it all together

The third step in building a great resume is putting it all together. If you haven’t the first two steps in the Blue Sage Resume Builder series, back up and read Step One and Step Two. Here’s the third step. It’s time to get it all down on paper. Don’t worry about fonts or formatting yet. The main focus is creating solid content. Good, well-written content beats fancy fonts and templates every time.

Seven Elements for an Exceptional Resume

Here are the 7 sections for a resume that will highlight your skills and accomplishments. Begin by getting all this information listed in a document file. Don't worry about fonts or formatting or the number of pages yet. Just begin by making a simple list of all this information.

1. Personal and Contact information. This is the easy stuff. List your name, email and phone number. Most employers will be contacting you by email so make sure you have a professional email address that you check regularly. It’s time to lose the cute or sexy email addresses from your younger years. If your email address is still beersnbikes@anything.com or hotyogapants@stopnow.com, it’s time to get a new email. The best email address is some version of your own name, for example, Jsmith or smith.john@whatever.com. That makes it easy for the hiring manager to find you in an overflowing inbox when you respond. Don't use your current work email - you don't want these emails going through any kind of screening system at your present employment.

Your snail mail address is optional. It can actually be a detriment if you are applying for a job that will require you to relocate. If the job is local, it’s okay to leave it on.  Also, since you’re leaving a phone number, make sure you have a professional voicemail message for missed calls. What will the hiring manager hear when he or she calls to offer you the job?  Enough said. 

2. Summary of Qualifications. Add this section in the prime real estate at the top of your resume. These are the skills and accomplishments you want to highlight. In Step 2, I detailed how to create your summary of qualifications. Write 5-6 bullet points that highlight your accomplishments and qualifications. You can edit this section for each job you apply for - highlighting the skills and key words each job description lists. 

3. Professional Experience.  This is your work history, one of the most important components of your resume. Employers will want to know where you worked, your dates of employment, and your responsibilities in each role. Make sure your dates and work information are accurate. Employers do conduct background checks and bad information can cost you the job instantly.

List the jobs and internships you have held in reverse chronological order, with the most recent positions first.  For each position, include: job title, company, location, dates of employment, and a bulleted list of your strongest accomplishments for each job.

Verb tense should be present tense for your current job if you are employed, and past tense for prior employment.

3. Education. The Education section generally comes next. List your degrees earned, with the highest degree listed first. Include the name of the school, the degree earned, and the date you graduated. If you are a recent grad, you can place this information ahead of the Professional Experience section and include your GPA (but only if it’s above 3.5 - otherwise, leave it out.) If you’ve been out of school more than 5 years, ditch the GPA. 

4. Certifications or Licensure. List any relevant certifications or licensure you have earned which are current. If you don't have any certifications, just leave this section out.

5. Awards or Achievements. Here’s your chance to shine. Don’t back off or try to be modest. List any achievements you’ve been given. It can be anything from Top 10 Sales for 2016,  Employee of the Month, or Non Profit Angel of the Region.  List the Award, company and date. Another option is to include these in the Professional Experience section as a bullet point under that work experience. That can save space, and also makes sense if you have only one or two to list.

6. Publications or Presentations. This is an optional section but definitely include this if you have written a book or paper in your field of expertise or have been a major presenter on a topic. List the title or topic, Publication and date. If you have a long list of publications or presentations that are relevant to the job at hand, you can create a separate document and attach that to your resume. 

7. Additional Skills. Here’s your chance to highlight any skills that are directly related to the job you are seeking. Employers typically list required or preferred skills in job listings when itemizing the qualifications for the position. List your most closely related abilities here, using a bulleted list format. You can include technical computer and software skills, foreign language proficiencies, and any other skills related to the job position. If you are using acronyms, be sure to also write out the name to prevent confusion. For example, you might write a bullet that reads: Proficient in CMS ( Content Management Systems).  Again, you can include these in the Professional Experience section or Summary of Qualifications if you only have a couple to mention.

For more resume building tips, you can also check out the list of what NOT to include on your resume here.