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Three Resume Must-Haves

Hiring managers don't have a lot of time to go through a large stack of resumes, but you can make sure yours hits all the checkboxes they'll be scanning for with these tips. Use them as an outline for your first draft, then read the rest of the Resume Workshop series for tips on polishing your application materials. 

The Nameplate

The nameplate is the first thing that your future employer will see on your resume. It should go at the very top of the page, and will certainly get attention. This is where your name and contact information must go. 

This should be a formal name, not a nickname. For extra heft, you can include a middle name or initial. Your contact information should include your phone number and email. Remember that you're trying to be as professional as possible, so make sure your email address isn't the one you made up in fourth grade (no slang, animals or sports teams). Check your voicemail recording on the phone number you provide. Just imagine what would happen if an employer, impressed by a great resume, reaches the voicemail of a candidate — only to have "WASSUP" blared into their ear. 


There are a couple different ways to approach the education section, but they all share a few rules. First, always list your most recent education first. Secondly, each listing you include here must also include the name of the institution, the type of degree, the area of study and the graduation date (or expected graduation date if currently enrolled). If you do not have a college degree and aren't currently seeking one, it is appropriate to list your high school's information or the dates of your GED. 

Beyond that, other details are optional in this section. You can add your stellar GPA; summa cum laude or other graduation honor; mention a minor; or list relevant coursework you may have taken — as long as you keep it brief. There is no reason for paragraphs or even complete sentences in this section. 


Just like in the education section, you'll list your most recent employment first. Include these must-have details: your title, the name of your employer, the dates of your employment and what you have accomplished in that role. 

Avoid long lists of responsibilities, use the past tense and avoid filler phrases to keep this section trim and tidy. Remember that busy hiring manager plodding through the stack of resumes? Direct sentences will help your resume be easy to scan without taking more time than necessary. 

For example, "In this position, I assisted in herding cats," should be, "Assisted in herding cats." However, don't stop there. Whenever possible, mention how your work has a positive impact on the company's bottom line: "Developed new cat-herding technique that saved time and resources."


Volunteer sections are common and can highlight important experience. Treat them just like a listing in the employment section. 

If you have a particularly long resume, consider limiting your employment history to the past 10-12 years and summing up your entire work history in a summary. A summary section is usually 3-5 sentences long, briefly reviews your qualifications and describes the position you're seeking.

Related content:

Resume Red Flags

Resume Do's and Don'ts

Resume and Business Card Design Tips

Resume, Job Search

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photo of Maria Haynie