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5 Resume Musts & What You Can Leave Off

You see a job on LinkedIn that sparks your interest. Then, you read the job description, and it’s like the hiring manager read your mind一you’re perfect for the role! You click on the link to apply, and what’s the first thing you see? A place to upload your resume.

At this point, many people deflate in defeat. How are they supposed to stand out in a sea of resumes? Luckily, there is a proven formula that works. Below, I outline five essential elements of a winning resume. So let’s jump right in.

The 5 Resume Essentials

1. Education

Your education should appear at the top of your resume, particularly if you have an advanced degree. List your graduate degree first, then your undergrad degree and the corresponding graduation years. If you recently graduated and your GPA is 3.5 or above, list that too.

2. Technical skills

Candidates with different software experience can be highly valuable, especially in the finance and accounting space. So make sure you dedicate space on your resume to highlight those skills, whether with Microsoft PowerPoint, a specific ERP, ecommerce software, a CRM, or project management tool.

3. Responsibilities

Education and skills are a great tee-up to your roles and responsibilities, which should be the meat of your resume. Your accomplishments should shine, so use bullet points to highlight your relevant experience and back them up with concrete numbers, such as operating budget size, quotas, NPS scores, etc. Each bullet should start with strong, varied action verbs, and past roles should be written in past tense.

Once you’re finished, cross-check this information with LinkedIn; recruiters and hiring managers may get confused if they don’t match. And lastly, if you’re applying to a leadership position, state how many people were on your teams and elaborate on what you achieved together.

4. Full work history

Some people may be concerned that their resumes are over one page long. While one page is fairly standard for people with just a few years of experience, more seasoned candidates’ resumes can certainly exceed that.

I suggest including your whole work history, detailing which companies you worked for, for how long (month and year), and where. If the organization is lesser-known, it might also help to add a blurb in italics that describes the company’s industry and their size at the time you worked for them.

5. Clean design

Some people like to get fancy with their resumes, but the most important thing is that your resume is easy to read. You don’t want a recruiter or hiring manager having to scour your resume for the most pertinent information一it should jump off the page. So use formatting to your advantage. Bold each section, use bullets wherever possible, and ensure everything looks consistent. 

What Doesn’t Need To Be Included in a Resume?

Typically people only tell you what to include on your resume, but I think knowing what to exclude is perhaps equally important. Here are a few things you should omit:

  • Lackluster academics – Putting your GPA on your resume isn’t a must, so if you didn’t have a fantastic college GPA, simply leave it off.
  • HS degree – Even if you didn’t attend college, sharing high school-related information is not necessary, as it’s likely not pertinent to the role you’re applying for. 
  • A headshot – People reading your resume don’t need to know what you look like. If you pass their screen, you’ll be able to meet them face to face in person or over video conference.
  • “References available upon request” – Adding this line to the end of your resume is somewhat redundant. If a company wants to get in touch with references, they will ask you.
  • Long paragraphs and flowery language – Let’s face it, most recruiters don’t have time to read your resume that carefully. So make it easy on them: use bullets to make your resume more skimmable.
  • Don’t use first-person (I) and pronouns (he, she, we, my, etc) on your resume.  Only write in “first-person implied”, which necessitates first-person verb tense but leaves out the pronoun (I, my, we, etc.). Start your bullets with a first-person verb tense (Managed, Coordinated, Handled, Responsible for, Proactively, Achieved, etc)
  • Misspellings or grammatical errors – You don’t want a spelling or grammar mistake to be the first thing recruiters and hiring managers notice. Run your resume through spelling and grammar checkers multiple times to guarantee there aren’t any glaring errors.
  • Political or religious affiliation – This one is a no-brainer, but to make it crystal clear, there is no reason to mention anything religious or political on your resume.
  • Extracurricular activities – This one is controversial, but I don’t think mentioning your extracurriculars is a must-have. That’s not to say you can’t have it, but just use your best judgment based on what you know about the company and hiring manager. If there’s something super interesting, feel free to add it, but I’d rather see more bullets for each role than one of these sections.

Make a Standout Impression

Leaving out what you don’t need and honing in on the must-haves is my best advice for getting your resume to stand out. But there’s one last thing I’d be remiss if I didn’t share: tweak your resume for every application. Everything in a job description should appear on your resume somewhere. After all, you want to seem like the person for the job.

Of course, all that’s easier said than done. At Planet Pro, we help candidates craft an ideal resume with the advice and guidance of experts. Click here to learn more about Planet Pro and how we can help you land the role of your dreams.

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