What to Include in a Resume in 2020

Complete résumé writing guide April 20, 2020 · 14 min read

You’ve probably already got some ideas of what to put in your resume. There’s obvious stuff like your contact details, your work history, the skills you’ve built up. But you need to think about your objective. What to include in a resume summary? How to include numbers in a resume to showcase my best performance? What have I missed out on my CV?

Don’t get stressed. In the next 5 minutes, we’re going to go through all you need to know about what to include in a resume.

In this article, we’ve got a full rundown of all the sections you need to include in your resume, plus a handy list. Once you’re done here you’ll know you’ve covered all your bases.

What can you include in a resume?

You need to have a clear summary of what you’re good at in both a professional and personal capacity. There are some things that are absolute musts on your CV, such as:

  • Your contact information
  • Work experience
  • Your skills
  • Summary of your education

You can add more sections if you want, too. Extras such as your GPA, what level of computer knowledge you have, any volunteering you’ve done, your languages proficiency and internships you’ve done can all add to the picture of you.

The most important information in the resume is your contacts, work experience, skills, and education.The most important information in the resume is your contacts, work experience, skills, and education.

Time to drill down into details…

Contact Information

The first thing you should be writing on your resume, right at the top, is your full name and email address.

Make sure your email address is appropriate; the jokey Hotmail account such as hotchick1992@hotmail.com from 8th grade isn’t impressing any hiring manager.

Also, remember:

You don’t have to include your phone number and where you live, but it’s recommended. When applying for an international role, make sure your CV includes the area code for your country too.

Pro-Tip
When going for a role that’s out-of-state, you don’t need to include your street address, it’s not relevant to the hiring manager.

As well as the standard contact information, adding your social media links and any websites that you run can be useful.

To give you an idea of what you should be presenting:

Anthony Stark
Malibu, California • (123) 456-7891
Email: tonystark@starkindustries.com • Skype: @tonystark
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/tonystark/

Also, sometimes it may be useful to add your photo next to the contacts. But it is worth keeping in mind that in countries such as the United States or Canada, adding a photo to the resume is not accepted.

Resume Summary

If your next question is, what to include in a professional summary on a resume? We’ve got your back.

Resume summary

This small section of your resume needs to have some strong and bold statements that really shines a light on your skills and experience. Here is where you get to kick off your great impression about the value you’re going to offer.

You could go with something that sounds like this…

«Dynamic weapons designer with 18 years of experience creating and engineering battle systems and defensive mechanisms. Leads a team of freelance engineers and scientists in a major collaborative project with a federal agency managing safety across vast geographical areas.»

If you want to go one better, you can even make use of bullet points so it’s easier to read.

  • Over a decade of classroom experience with a range of ability and age groups
  • Satisfaction ratings of over 90% from both students and parents
  • An increase in literacy and math rates of 24% and 17% respectively
  • Designed and rolled out online student attendance records, reducing administrative costs by over 5% per annum

As easy at that!

If you’ve got more than two years of experience in your field, an executive summary will work great for you. They are really effective at showcasing your on-the-job skills, what you’ve already achieved, and your relevant experience.

Just remember that this section is different from the resume objective.

Resume Objective

When you’re changing your career, are freshly graduated, or new to the job market, use a resume objective, also known as career objective or objective statement.

How come?

Move away from using an outdated format for your objective, e.g. stating you want the job or focusing on your personal career goals. The hiring manager is well aware that you want to get a job and rather unconcerned of your personal aims at the moment.

Instead make sure your resume objective explains your motivation to get the job but it should focus on how you’ll use the abilities, knowledge, and skills you already have to help the business hit its targets and be more successful.

Look…

This is a great example of someone who’s just coming into the job market:

«High school graduate aiming to enter the hospitality industry as a Food Preparation Worker. With experience in a family kitchen cooking for up to ten people, skills of organization and knowledge of processes seeking an entry-level position with the desire to contribute to your company and grow in the role.»

Work Experience

Your past work experience is the BEATING HEART of your resume.

This is where you really get to sell yourself; you’re letting the recruiter know exactly what you can and what you’ve already achieved. Any past jobs go into this section. When scouring through their pile, this is the first thing the hiring manager is looking for…

Make their job easy - this belongs to the top half of the page so they don’t even have to scroll.

Pro-Tip
When deciding on your resume format, there are four main ones: reverse chronological, functional or skills-based, targeted, and a combination resume. Which one you pick depends on your experience level and the job you want to land.

The way you’re writing up your resume is all-important. You could have the most stellar work record ever seen, but get the wording wrong and the next resume on the pile could land the job - no matter how perfect a match you are for the role.

What you need to do is…

Make sure you add the name of the company you worked for, what role you held there, and the dates that you were in position. This section includes:

  • Some important tasks you were responsible for
  • Some things that you accomplished or were proud of
  • Some of the skills you picked up along the way

We’ve got a mock-up of what it should look like:

Stark Technologies
Weapons Designer • December 1991 – June 2019
  • Conceptualized and designed weapons and defense technologies to fulfill government contracts
  • Programmed and rolled out bespoke technology with groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence, improving efficiencies 5-fold over a project lifespan
  • Led a team of freelance engineers, scientists, and military personnel, overcoming a range of technological and communicative issues to produce multi-million dollar savings for the federal government

At this point, we get to the question - how to include numbers in a resume?

As a matter of fact…

When you give numbers on your CV, you’re drawing the eye of the recruitment manager. Adding details allows them to imagine you delivering something similar in their company. Make sure that you give solid facts in the form of percentages and dollar amounts wherever possible.

It can look a little something like this…

«Exceeded KPIs each month, with an average of 20% overachievement over the year»

«Increased customer base of Hispanic clients by 60% in one year»

«Built a support department from scratch: hired and trained 5 people, developed a work schedule, job descriptions, a system of motivation and pay»

Putting facts like this show your future employer that you’re going to perform at your very best level.

Work Experience section in resumeIn the work experience section, write information that is relevant for the vacancy you have chosen.

Skills

There’s no point just listing a load of skills you claim to have: you need to show where you learned them and where you’ve used them. This shows how relevant and recent the skills you have are.

This means that…

You need to bring to the top of the list the skills that are most relevant to the work you want to get hired for.

There are some standard skills that you want to make sure you include in your CV if you have them; they always look impressive. If you can prove the following experiences make sure you cover them in your resume:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Ability to lead
  • Strategic thinking and planning
  • Research and analytical thinking
  • Working in a team and collaboratively
Skills section in a resume - do not use common phrases from the Internet.Be creative in describing your skills - do not use common phrases from the Internet.

Keep everything relevant. You bowhunting might make for great barroom chat, but does the recruiter at the IT firm really need to know about it? Space on your resume is valuable, don’t waste it.

Pro-Tip
For people with years of work history, your resume might end up running to two pages but never let it get to three pages unless it’s extreme circumstances. For details on the differences between a long resume and a short cover letter, check out our other article.

Education

It’s also really important to include your educational background in your resume. This is the place where you show your academic qualifications and things that you achieved during school and college.

Education section in a resumeIn Education, it is enough to indicate the name of the university, the period of study and the degree that you have received.

Just like your work experience, the most recent school or college starts the list. Wondering what to include in a resume for education? Here’s a rundown of what you need to be thinking about:

  • Only refer to your high school diploma if you haven’t got a higher level qualification, like a university degree.
  • If your GPA was above 3.5, be sure to include it; if you’re lower than that and competing against a 4.0 you might fall down in estimations.
  • If you’ve not got any real work experience, put your education first. This is fine when you’re a fresh graduate.

What’s more…

You might want to only add educational details that are relevant to your career experience on your CV.

How do you use this advice in practice?

If you maxed out with graduating high school make sure you list it, but if you graduated college then you can leave your high school details off the list. Anything more than your high school qualifications all make it on to your resume, so you’d include a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree if you have both.

For the education part, make it look like this:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sept 1983 - May 1989
Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering
Master’s Degree in Engineering

When you’re completing this section of your resume, remember to go in reverse chronological order.

Language Skills

You don’t have to include your language skills on your resume.

But, it’s definitely something that an employer is going to be interested in, especially if you can do the job you’re applying for in more than one language. Even if you don’t have to speak more than one language for the job, it can still look impressive on your resume.

This is what you need to know about writing up your language skills for your resume:

  • Make a dedicated section for your language skills
  • You should put it after the core sections of experience, skills, and education in your layout
  • List every language you’re competent in along with your proficiency, and use the same framework across all languages
  • Start your language list with the one you’re most proficient in

Be sure to use appropriate measures of how good you are at a language.

Language levelsBe sure to write the level of language proficiency and to mention the certificate which proves it, if you have passed the certification.

Your proficiency level for a language is about how well you can use a language other than your native tongue. You can indicate your skills with different measures, for example, beginner, elementary, intermediate, upper-intermediate, advanced, proficient/fluent, native.

Below we have compared the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the standard grading scale for language proficiency in the United States's Federal-level service (ILR):

CEFRILR
Beginner — A1Level 0
Elementary — A2Level 1
Intermediate — B1Level 2
Upper-Intermediate — B2Level 3
Advanced — C1Level 4
Proficient — C2Level 5

There are various online tests you can take to check out your linguistic ability in any language. Make sure you use a reputable source, so the results are as accurate as possible. By reputable sources, we mean international organizations to expand and disseminate educational and cultural opportunities.

Pro-Tip
Below we have collected some useful resources where you can check the level of English, German and Spanish for free:

The level you can perform at in the language will be the decider about how valuable your skills are to the business.

Where does put your language section?Put your language section after the core sections of experience, skills, and education.

Here’s how you can format your language skills section on your resume

Resume Language Skills
  • British English — Native
  • Bangladeshi Bengali — Fluent
  • Malaysian Tamil — Conversational
  • Bahasa Indonesia — Beginner

Another variant of how to format your language skills:

Language Skills:
  • British English — C2;
  • German — C1 (DSH2 certificate);
  • French — B1.
Pro-Tip
It’s not a great idea to include language skills that you don’t have! When a job has language requirements you can be sure it’s going to come up or even be tested at the interview stage. Imagine that awkward moment when you can’t reply to basic French when you’ve claimed fluency!

What Else To Include In a Resume?

Awards and Honors

Each thing that goes into your resume should call attention to your achievements; Though it’s not just about one single section, you should be sure to write about your awards and achievements.

Technical or Software Skills

Use your discretion on this - if you’re going to be using computers in the role you’re going for, make sure you add all the things you’re able to do. No computers on the job? Don’t take up space when you could be telling them something really important. Here are some ideas if you decide you need them:

  • Using spreadsheet and word processing programs
  • Coding and programming languages you use
  • Hardware experiences like cash registers and EFTPOS

Internships

When you’re relatively new to the job market, you can keep your internships on your resume. Get two or three jobs deep and it’s time to let them go. That is, unless you’ve had a relatively long-term one or if you’ve interned at the highest level, like the White House or Google. Only consider keeping it when there’s real value to it being there.

I worked in google!If the information about the internship is relevant and emphasizes your professional skills, be sure to include it to the resume.

If you’ve got plenty of solid employment history, focus on telling that story instead. It’s what your future employer really cares about.

Pro-Tip
You want each bullet point to hammer home a point. Only refer to things you’re proud of and would want to discuss at your interview.

Your GPA

Do some research on your industry and only include it if you really must. Jobs like investment banking or engineering are going to want it. Otherwise, your GPA is really only important if you’ve graduated relatively recently or if you graduated magna cum laude or got other academic prizes or recognition.

It’s a handy rule of thumb that as your work experience expands, so the relevance of your GPA declines.

Basically…

As your work experience section of your resume continues to grow, the less anyone is going to care about your academic scores many years previous. Your level of responsibility and how you progress through a company become much more important.

Voluntary Work

Volunteering can demonstrate skills around leadership and your ability to communicate. There are some guidelines to follow though…

Volunteering section in a resume.Volunteering information is a great way to describe your free-time hobbies and activities.
  • Keep any inclusions relevant, or at least make sure that they are going to improve the good impression you’ve already made in relation to the job you want
  • Include verifiable details, like the organization’s name, the dates you volunteered, and what you achieved there

So you know how to make it look, here’s an example:

  • Volunteer, Avengers Initiative, 2012–2019
  • Volunteer technology specialist, S.H.I.E.L.D, 2013–present

Summing Up

Summing up, there are the main things you should include in your CV. They are your contact information, work experience, a summary of your education, and your skills.

Adding your internships, voluntary work, GPA, or any particular technical skills is optional and depends on the job you're applying for. Aim to highlight your strong sides and show the value you're going to bring to the company.

If this all seems like a massive chore, maybe you want a tool that’s going get you going and finished all in five minutes. Check out our resume builder. It’s a fast and simple system that makes everything loads easier. Check out our resume templates and get started.