A Comprehensive Guide To Resume Sections

Everything you need to know about the sections that make up a resume.

Ian Woodard
Ian Woodard
Updated 7 min read
resume sections

When it comes to writing a resume, sections are a crucial part. With that being said, do not add sections just for the sake of adding sections. The goal of a resume is to be a concise way of displaying your skill set, experience, and capabilities as a potential employee. The sections most commonly included in a resume are the header, experience, education, and skill sections. Moreover, some extra sections that can be used are the project, certification, award, and reference sections.

  1. Header/Contact Section

    The header section is displayed at the top of the resume. By putting your name at the top of your resume, you ensure the recruiter knows whose resume they are reading. It may seem like a no-brainer, but I feel it is important to mention nonetheless.

    Additionally, you should also include your location, phone number, email address, and website if you have one. Lastly, it is often a good thing to make clear when you are applying for by giving a timeframe.

  2. Work Experience Section

    The work experience section is one of the most important, and often displayed directly after the header. The purpose of this section is to outline your job history.

    If you are just starting out and are lacking work experience, please check out our blog post: How To Write a Resume With No Work Experience.

    Work experience is one way you can show your ability to a company. If you end up listing more than one work experience, make sure to list the most recent ones first. Moreover, each work experience should include the company's name, location, your job title, and the period of time you worked there.

    Additionally, under each, you should include some bullet points outlining what you did. When writing about what you did, make sure to use action verbs to help your resume stand out.

    To show just how important action verbs can be, consider that you are incredibly thirsty. I then tell you that you can either have a "cup of water" or an "ice-cold glass of water with condensation running down the side." I am assuming, like me, you would take the second one in an instant. For all you know, they could both be describing the same thing; yet, the more descriptive one draws your attention. The same goes for resumes.

    An excellent way to check your resume is to read it as if you were the one recruiting. Would you hire you? If you are unsure, it may be a good idea to rewrite some of your bullet points.

  3. Education Section

    The education section is often displayed second and contains one's educational background. If you are beginning, it is usually an excellent choice to include your high school on here. Once you have more experience, it is better to limit it to just your college education if applicable.

    In this section, you should include things such as the school name, the school's location, and the degree you received or will receive at said school. Additionally, you should include the time frame from which you attended or will attend said school. Moreover, you should only opt to include your GPA if required by a specific application or if your GPA is above a 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.

    Lastly, feel free to include any extra information such as awards, relevant coursework, and so on.

  4. Skill Section

    The skill section is an essential part of the resume and contains the soft and hard skills you have acquired over time.

    Hard skills are more specific to the work you do and thus often carry more weight. With that being said, soft skills are still critical as they show a more broad skill set that applies to most anything.

    Some examples of hard skills are:

    • Accounting
    • Technical Writing
    • Statistical Analysis
    • Object-Oriented Programming
    • Nursing
    • Carpentry

    Some examples of soft skills are:

    • Leadership
    • Public Speaking
    • Organization
    • Adaptability
    • Communication
    • Teamwork

    When listing skills, I recommend grouping them into named sections such as "Technology," "Programs," and so on. For example, if I were listing skills that fit into a section for "Programming Languages," I may list skills such as C++, Python, Java, etc. Do your best to keep the names of skills to just a word or two each.

  5. Project Section

    The project section will make a great addition to your resume if you lack experience and need some examples that display your abilities. It is best to find projects that you have completed and are relevant to the job you are applying to in order to show employers your skills that may transfer to the job in question.

    Each task you list should include a name that describes the basics of what the project is. Additionally, you should include the period of time for which you worked on the project in question. Lastly, you should include some bullet points that go over the details each project you list.

  6. Certification Section

    The certification section is helpful if you have put the time and effort into becoming certified. Certifications offer a way to show an employer you are qualified for a given position.

    Some may question which certifications are worth displaying. There isn't a clear-cut answer to that question as there are many different certifications out there.

    It is best to avoid certifications from companies that lack reputation or have little to no requirements to receive said certification. Suppose it is easily attainable by just about anyone who has a few spare minutes. In that case, it isn't worth displaying it on your resume.

    Another thing worth mentioning is the scenario where an employer requires a specific certification for the job. In this situation, you want to have this certification displayed. When adding certifications to your resume, you should include the title of the certification and the date it was received for each one you list.

  7. Award Section

    The awards section is seldom used, and when it is, it often is relatively small compared to the other sections. With that being said, it is worth mentioning.

    Awards, like certifications, can be tricky to figure out if they are worth adding. It is best only to list notable awards. Your award-winning beanie baby collection may be incredible, but your recruiter is not looking to hire you because of it and should not be included.

    Some examples of awards that are commonly listed on people's resumes are:

    • Dean's List
    • Departmental Award
    • Performance Awards
    • Military Awards
    • Boy Scouts
    • Leadership Awards

    In the end, it is up to your discretion whether to add an award, just keep in mind how it helps show that you are a good fit for a given job. If you choose to add an award section, be sure to include a title and description for each award you list.

  8. Reference Section

    The reference section is often separate from the rest of the resume and is sent upon an employer's request. This is because your references probably don't like to have their information given out to everyone.

    However, it is still sometimes included in the resume itself, and the choice of whether you should add it is up to you. References offer companies a way to contact your previous employer(s) and or mentor(s) to ask questions and learn more about you.

    Even if you choose not to include references in your resume, it is still a good idea to keep them in the back of your head in case a company requests them.

    If you choose to add them to your resume, you should include the name and position of the person you are referencing. Additionally, you should include the company they work for. Lastly, you should include ways to contact them, consisting of their phone number and or email.

Closing Remarks

When it comes to writing a resume, there is no cut-and-dry answer that applies to everyone. With that being said, some commonalities are shared between resumes, one of which is sections. And while every resume will not contain the same sections, most will include similar sections. Knowing what sections to use and when to use them can help you set your resume apart from the crowd.

Hopefully, after reading my article, you have gained some new insight into just that and feel more comfortable with the idea of resume sections.