What should include in resume?
That’s (word for word) one of the most frequently asked questions on Google when it comes to resumes - strange as it may be worded.
In my many years as a hiring manager I noticed that especially women are struggling to build resumes which promote their achievements and career. We women often find it difficult to point out our achievements and strengths. We tend to make them smaller, tend to feel like we’re bragging: the project wasn’t that important after all, the scholarship was not so special, ... But it is crucial to include your strengths and achievements. Even if you usually don’t like to stand out: when looking for a job, you must! Your CV must stand out or the recruiter won’t even consider you.
Now, you don’t want to overload the recruiter with irrelevant information but you don’t want to miss any relevant experience on your resume either.
So - what should you include in a resume?
Well, there are of course the basics, like your name, address, and contact details. That’s obvious and we won’t waste time on that.
Another obvious point is: your education is something you do include in a resume. However if you already have a couple of years of work experience, the recruiter is really not interested in the primary or secondary school you went to. Unless they add prestige or value to your resume, leave them out. Your last school and highest degree will be more than enough. I noticed that we women generally like to be thorough and not miss any step of our career on the resume. But if it’s not adding value, leave it out.
It’s really important however, to add special awards or scholarships you might have won during school or university. Now, you might feel like this is bragging but really, it’s not! Be proud of your achievements and talk about them. Many men would do that without even thinking about it. A job application is not the moment to be modest...
Experience is everything
What you should absolutely include in a resume is of course your work experience. Especially your last one to two positions should be described in such a way that a recruiter can understand easily what your tasks and responsibilities were. Bear in mind that recruiters are rarely subject matter experts in the positions they are recruiting. So make sure to include an easily understandable description of your tasks. I don’t mean to say that you should leave out all technical terms. On the contrary: make sure you do include in a resume relevant technical terms to underline your expertise. Just make sure a recruiter will also understand what your job is all about.
Especially bigger corporations in English speaking countries are using software to scan resumes for relevant keywords. These ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) have many functions: they are mainly used to receive applications through one portal, store them in the same place and easily distribute them within the company. However some ATS are also able to scan your resume for keywords and thereby grade the relevance of your application for the position. That’s why you need to make sure to include relevant technical terms. Even if ATS are more and more frequent in the German speaking world as well, the recruiters I interviewed at a trade show recently all confirmed that all resumes are still being reviewed by them and there is no automated analysis which eliminates “unsuitable” resumes.
Details and structure are key
Describe your responsibilities in bullet points which make it easy to understand your tasks. Don’t write a whole paragraph with all your tasks and details. I personally found it hard to read those CVs... too much work. At the same time, make sure to provide enough detail so that someone who’s not an expert will get a general idea of your daily job.
One of my clients, a truly wonderful woman, wrote in her resume “Sales, Team Management, Accounting” as the complete description of her last job. Honestly, if I read that as a recruiter, this would make me wonder:
What did she really do?
What did her day look like?
What were the tasks?
What was her actual responsibility?
Did she actually put any thought or effort into writing this CV?
So I recommended to include at least a few details for each area of responsibility, e.g. inhouse sales, performance reviews, invoicing… As a recruiter, I need to know if your experience is relevant to my open position. Sales doesn’t equal sales, team management doesn’t equal team management, etc.
You’re the one who is there every day. Only you know what you do all day at your job. Summarize it in bullet points and don’t get hung up on fancy wording at first. Make sure you do include in a resume the relevant tasks. We can work on the wording later.
If you already have a few years of work experience, your can omit your student and summer jobs - unless they underline a quality which is required for the position and which you don’t cover with all your other experiences. At the beginning of your career these jobs are really important of course but after two to three full time positions, nobody will be interested in your bartending experience.
Ok, and what else should I include in a resume?
Any further education or training which is relevant for the job should be included in a resume. The focus is on relevant education and training. In the course of your working life, you’ll participate in many different training courses. Not all of them will be relevant for the position you’re applying for. So make sure to include in your resume only what is relevant - both hard and soft skills.
Volunteering is also an absolute must to include in a resume. I think it is a standard requirement for Americans to volunteer to get into colleges but in the rest of the world, volunteering is really rather the exception, not the rule. So if you did volunteer, you should absolutely include it in the resume. Outside of the US, it will definitely set you apart. In Germany and Austria where I lived and worked, almost nobody seems to have volunteered. You’ll really stand out.
Hobbies - yes or no?
It’s really up to you if you want to include hobbies in your resume or not. I recently talked to at least twenty recruiters at a trade show and they all told me the same: they don’t consider it mandatory to include hobbies in the resume.
However: recruiters usually like them because hobbies tell them something about the kind of person you are. Hobbies also allow them to connect with you in the interview and help you to be more authentic and memorable.
Now, one important point which I learned over the years through personal experience and from talking to many experts: please forget everything that you might have read about what your hobbies are supposed to say about you.
You are you and you don’t need to make up hobbies to try and fit in. You’re an individual and you must be authentic and true to yourself. Don’t make up hobbies because you think they’ll make you look interesting. You don’t want to “look like”, you want to be your authentic self from the start. Otherwise you’ll have to play a role all your working life and be burdened with a lie from day one at your new workplace. Do you really want that? Be authentic from the start and you won’t have to make things up or waste mental resources on trying to come up with what you imagine that they would like to hear from the kind of person you imagine they want you to be.
Always remember: recruiters are looking for a real person who fits the team and the company, not only an expert who fits the position. It is more important to show your real self rather than a perfectly polished professional without any personality.
Last but not least, what about a picture?
That’s an uncommon question for the English speaking world perhaps where most resumes don’t include pictures. In many European countries however resumes with pictures are a standard. They are not a must and if you’re really not comfortable including a picture in your resume, then leave it be. The recruiters who I recently interviewed confirmed that they won’t discard a resume if it doesn’t have a picture. However, they really like resumes with pictures because they can get a first impression of the person behind the resume. For more detail, check out my tips for a resume with picture to learn more about what you should consider.