Resume Sections: Order & List of the Most Common Ones

Before you get down to writing a great resume, you must decide what sections it should have and in what order. Well, this is exactly what you’re about to find out.

Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Resume Sections: Order & List of the Most Common Ones

All good resumes share certain commonalities.

 

For example, they have the right resume sections. In the right order. With the right contents. And you really need to get all these things right, not to get… left behind.

 

Don’t worry—

 

In this guide, we’ll show you:

  • What the most common sections of a resume are.
  • How to order them on a resume for maximum impact.
  • Tips on how to make the most of the sections on your resume.

 

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1. Common Sections to Put on a Resume

 

A single glance at a resume should be enough for the recruiter to know whether they’re dealing with an entry-level candidate or a seasoned pro. How to do this? Start with including the right sections on your resume.

 

Five common resume sections

 

 

Why these?

 

First off, if your contact information isn’t there, you can just as well submit a blank page—it will amount to just as much. So make it easy for the recruiter to reach out to you and include your current contact details, such as the phone number and email address.

 

Secondly, did you know that recruiters spend only about 7 seconds scanning your resume? That’s why a good rundown of the entire document is not just welcome, but absolutely necessary. And this is exactly what a resume objective (or summary) is here for.

 

The work experience section doesn’t really need any explanation, does it? If you don’t include it in your resume, the document will have no right to be called a resume in the first place. Simple as that.

 

The same applies to the education section. It’s a fixture on every professional resume and should be taken care of with all the attention it deserves.

 

As to your skills, if you miss them on your resume it’s very likely the hiring manager will miss them too. And that’s not exactly what you’d like them to miss. At least, not until you decide to change your job.

 

Moving on to the optional resume sections—

 

Even if there are no limitations as to what you can put on your resume, the rule of thumb is to only display the relevant stuff. Here’s a list of sections of a resume you may want to consider including:

 

Optional Sections on a Resume

 

 

All these could be standalone sections on your resume, or you may want to include them as subsections. For example, relevant coursework could be part of the education section on a resume or you could list your accomplishments or projects as part of the experience section.

Expert Hint: Studies suggest that recruiters scan resumes in search of relevant information. Make sure to use the right section titles to help them quickly notice the things they’re looking for.

How to decide what sections to put on your resume and how much prominence give them?

 

Easy.

 

Always see to it that your resume is tailored to the job offer you’re pursuing. Does the employer put a lot of emphasis on your educational background? If so, it might be a good idea to add information about your relevant coursework, certifications, or publications in dedicated resume sections to make them visible.

 

If you’re not sure how to put your resume together, have a look at our dedicated guide on what to put on a resume.

 

2. How to Order the Sections of a Resume

 

These are the three most common scenarios—

 

  1. You’re putting together your first resume with no experience.
  2. You’re writing a resume as an experienced candidate.
  3. You’re writing a career change resume.

 

For maximum impact, your resume sections should be arranged differently in each of these situations.

 

Let’s consider all of them.

 

More often than not, a resume with no experience will have its sections in the following order:

 

No Experience Resume—Order of Sections

 

  1. Contact Details
  2. Career Objective
  3. Education Section
  4. Relevant Experience / Internships
  5. Extra-Curricular Activities
  6. Skills
  7. Hobbies and Interests

 

As you can see, in a no-experience resume the education section comes before the experience section. And this is a deliberate choice. Why? Well, if you have no experience under the belt you need to show what you do have. In this case, chances are that you can say quite a lot about what you’ve learned.

 

Remember:

 

Always make the most of your strengths and put them up top on your resume. Our dedicated guide on making an entry-level resume will show you how in a few simple steps.

 

Moving on—

 

As an experienced candidate, you’ll want to order the sections on your resume differently:

 

Experienced Resume—Sections Order

 

  1. Contact Details
  2. Professional Summary
  3. Experience
  4. Education
  5. Skills
  6. Relevant Additional Sections

 

If you look closely at the sections on a resume for experienced candidates you’ll immediately notice two major differences. It has a professional summary rather than objective, and experience comes before education.

 

Why?

 

First off, let’s briefly consider the difference between the resume summary and objective sections. In essence, a resume objective focuses on your skills and is more fitting for inexperienced candidates. A resume summary, on the other hand, offers a brief rundown of your professional career’s highlights. As such, it’s a better choice for more experienced candidates.

 

Second, your experience is your strength and it should be as high up on your resume as possible—this rule never changes and is true for all resume formats. Always show off your strong points as high up on a resume as possible.

 

Finally, when you think about what extra sections to add to your resume—let relevance be your guide. So, if adding information on, say, your publications will look good on your resume but your publications are irrelevant to the job, don’t include this resume section.

 

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Now—

 

As a career changer, you might have mixed feelings about deciding on the right resume sections order. What we recommend is this:

 

Order of Sections on a Resume for Career Change

 

  1. Contact Details
  2. Objective
  3. Relevant Experience 
  4. (Optional) Additional Experience
  5. Education
  6. Skills
  7. Extra Sections

 

The thing with changing a career is that you may have had quite a lot of experience… but most of it could be irrelevant to the position you’re pursuing.

 

That’s why you should opt for the professional objective (rather than summary) and follow it up with your relevant experience. This way you’ll show the recruiter your motivation and back it up with examples. Also, you may consider including an additional experience section where you can put things indirectly related to the job you want to get.

 

And just like in the previous cases, let relevance guide your choice as to what additional resume sections to include.

 

3. Resume Section Writing Tips

 

Here’s a brief rundown of the most important things to keep in mind when writing different resume sections.

 

If you’re looking for more detailed advice and examples, please visit our dedicated guides linked to in the first section of this article.

 

Contact Details

 

Remember to:

  • Include your full name and position.
  • Add your phone number and email address.

 

Before you link out to your social media profiles (e.g. LinkedIn) make sure they’re up to date and don’t include any information you don’t want the recruiter to learn about. Also, make sure your email address looks professional. Use your real name rather than your high school pseudonym.

 

Adding your postal address is rarely necessary these days. Only do it if the job offer says it’s necessary or if the employer is looking for people residing in a particular area.

 

Resume Profile 

 

A resume profile is an umbrella term for the resume summary and objective. Regardless of which one you decide to put on your resume, remember:

  • Limit the length to 3–5 sentences.
  • Address the employer by name.
  • Use facts and figures to boost your chances.

 

Also, even though this is the first section of a resume—write it last. Why? It’s a brief rundown of the entire document. If you don’t have the full version in front of your eyes, you won’t know what to pick out.

 

Professional Experience

 

Most of the time, this is the central section on any resume. So—

  • Describe your experience in terms of achievements, not responsibilities.
  • Focus on the things relevant to the position you’re pursuing.
  • Use numbers to quantify your experience and show your real-life impact.

 

Also, remember to put your most recent experience up top and move back in time from there. This is how a reverse-chronological resume format works. What does it mean to present your experience as achievements, rather than responsibilities? Say, you work for a sales department. This is what your achievement can look like:

 

  • Grew sales by $30K in Q2 2019 which exceeded the planned KPI by 30%.

 

This is a responsibility of yours:

 

  • Developing sales and meeting KPIs.

 

See the difference?

 

Education

 

Just like in the case of your professional experience, the contents of the education resume section should be relevant to the job offer and adequate to your experience.

 

In other words, if the employer is looking for someone with a specific educational background, make sure you put everything that’s necessary there. Also, if you graduated 10 years ago, you don’t have to provide details regarding your extracurricular activities—it’s your experience that matters most.

 

In the vast majority of cases, though, that’s what you’d normally put in the education section:

  • Name of the school
  • Graduation date
  • Degree earned

 

Skills

 

The skills section on a resume must be something more than just a list. Each of the items you decide to include should not only be relevant to the job—your experience and/or education resume sections should reflect it too.

 

Let’s say you put interpersonal skills among your skills. Now, it would be good if one of the achievements showed that you do display them. Something along the lines of established long-term relations with 3 new vendors would do the job.

 

Plus, make sure to present a healthy mix of your hard skills and soft skills—both of them are important.

 

Additional Sections

 

Let’s put it this way—

 

Make sure the additional sections you decide to present on your resume actually add to your value, not dilute it.

 

So if the employer is looking for someone who speaks fluent German, do add a section on your knowledge of foreign languages by all means. Just make sure you put German there and describe your proficiency level. If you’re planning to only list your basic knowledge of Spanish, it will get you nowhere. See the point?

 

The same is true about any other additional section on a resume. Make sure it’s relevant and boosts your value in the eyes of the hiring manager.

 

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Key Points

 

Standard resumes include five basic resume sections:

  • Contact Details
  • Resume Profile
  • Professional Experience
  • Education
  • Skills

 

You can also include other (optional) resume sections, such as:

  • Certifications
  • Interests
  • Volunteering
  • Awards and Honors

 

…and many others. The rule of thumb is to only include sections that are relevant to the job you’re pursuing.

 

The order of resume sections is not set in stone and depending on your professional background you may want to put either the experience or education section first.

 

But there’s more to effective resumes than putting different sections in the right order—you must fill them in with impactful content.

 

Do you have any questions? Would you like to share your observations on resume sections and their order? We’d love to hear from you! Give us a shout out in the comments below.

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Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Career Expert
Maciej Duszynski is a certified professional resume writer (CPRW), career advice writer and a resume expert at ResumeLab. With over 8 years of experience in recruitment, hiring, and training, Maciej shares insider HR knowledge to equip every job seeker with professional advice to nail the job hunt. His insights have been featured by the Chicago Tribune, SparkPeople, Toggl, Referral Rock, and Databox, among others. Maciej has helped job candidates at all stages of their career paths, from interns to directors to C-suite members, to thrive in their job. His mission is to help you find the right opportunity and create a job application that gets you the career you deserve. Maciej holds a Master’s degree in English with a specialization in communication and education management.

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