Artwork by: Anja Schemeleva-Konovalenko
Optimize your resume by adding a career highlights section. We’ll tell you everything you need to know here!
Every job seeker’s goal is to have their resume noticed by a recruiter or potential employer. While there’s a lot to consider when applying for jobs, making your resume stand out is actually pretty straightforward. It’s as simple as writing your career highlights so that they pop. We’ll talk about the best-proven strategies for doing just that.
In this article, we’ll cover
How you can benefit from having a career highlights section on your resume.
How to format a career highlights section.
The 5 most important highlights to have on your resume.
Career highlights are essentially accomplishments that you’ve achieved throughout the entirety of your professional journey. When you think back on your career so far, what are the top 4-6 moments that you are most proud of? These are your career highlights.
The career highlights section of your resume, sometimes called ‘resume summary’ or ‘accomplishments’, is where you showcase your most notable skills, achievements, and qualifications. The section should be situated near the top of your resume, above your actual work history list, so that it catches a recruiter's eye right away. In essence, this section is a teaser, showing the reader a glimpse of what the rest of your resume will expand upon.
A general rule of thumb is that career highlights, or career achievements, should be quantifiable. Therefore, as you consider your options from your list of proud moments, be sure to also brainstorm how you want to express it as a deliverable. To do this, try adding numbers to it in the form of a scale or measurable, along with a timeframe. We’ll go into this more below, as well as give industry-specific examples.
Career highlight sections on resumes have gained traction over the years because they accomplish multiple deeds with one statement. In addition to enticing a recruiter to keep reading, you also benefit from centering your skills and using keywords.
Unfortunately because of the competitive nature of applying for jobs, applicant pools for any given position are usually pretty saturated. Standing out is the key to landing an interview. A powerful career highlights section can do just that.
While resumes are already all about you, a career highlights section streamlines the information. With a highlights section, your strengths stand out first and foremost, drawing the recruiter’s eye to them immediately. That’s the exact purpose that they serve. You want the recruiter to skim your highlights and be so excited about what they see that they are eager to read through the rest of your resume. It’s taking a step closer to being added to their shortlist.
With the use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which scan to rapidly filter through candidates’ resumes, using relevant keywords is the golden ticket to making a resume stand out. The main body of your resume should be littered with keywords from the job posting that you’re applying to. The addition of a career highlights section provides even more opportunities for using keywords.
ATS scans give recruiters a score telling them how well you match the role they’re looking for. That score is largely based on the keywords that it is programmed to find. You can think of it as the first challenge that all job applicants need to get through. Before a recruiter ever sees your resume, it first needs to appease the ATS scan. Make the most of this section on your resume by filling it with keywords, and alter your resume to include the keywords of each new position you apply for.
There are a few ways to go about identifying the keywords that you should be adding to your career highlights section. Let’s discuss them.
The easiest approach is to read through the job posting and look specifically at their requirements. It’s in your best interest to find a way to fit every single requirement into your resume. You might have to get creative to achieve this.
Some of the main items to look for are certifications, degrees, years of experience, specific skills, computer programs, coursework, and leadership competencies.
Have the keywords typed out exactly as you see them on the job posting to give yourself the best odds.
Once you’ve made sure your resume matches the job posting’s requirements and qualifications, open up a new tab on your search engine. Google the name of the position followed by ‘qualifications’ or ‘job duties’.
What you’ll see is a bunch of articles and lists detailing what an average person in that position needs to achieve in their job. Use this insight as an unofficial list of keywords to have included on your resume, especially in your career highlights section.
If you see an acronym or name that you aren’t familiar with, look it up. If that word or duty has come up for a similar role, it’s probably relevant to the role you’re applying to. Go ahead and add it to your resume if you feel you have experience with it.
As you reflect on the career highlights you’d like to have showcased on your resume, keep in mind the position you’ll be applying for with this resume. Yes, career highlights on your resume can change for each different position you apply for.
There are two main formats to go about describing your career highlights. A power statement or a list, often titled ‘areas of expertise’.
A power statement is a paragraph-form statement detailing your highlights. This is an excellent route for someone who has held the same position for much of their career, or whose career has allowed them to gain a lot of experience doing the same or similar set of duties for many years.
The power statement can be useful for those who are remaining in the same industry as they apply for new positions. It can be thought of as the expert’s statement.
Make the most of your power statement by condensing the message, removing all the fluff, and listing as many keywords as you can. One way to think about it is to write it out the same way you would say it.
A certified human resource management professional with proven success in payroll processing, performance management, onboarding, employee relations, scheduling, recruitment, and hiring. Achieved through the prolific use of human resource information software (HRIS) alongside talent acquisition software, scheduling software, and structured query language (SQL).
As you can see from this example, the power statement cuts straight to the point. While it does utilize full sentences, the bulk of those sentences is listed out qualifications.
A list of career highlights, which are commonly titled ‘Areas of expertise’, is a great option for someone who has worn many hats throughout their career and therefore has many diverse achievements to highlight.
This format uses a bulleted list, where each bullet is the name of a single skill or program. You can have a conglomerate list, or you can categorize the items so that they relate to a bigger theme. Consider the example below.
Policy & Procedure
Interviews & Training
Credentialed K-12 teacher
Budget & Grant Writing
With this example, the reader can easily see that the candidate has a diverse work history. This will benefit the candidate if they are applying in any one of the three categories, as it presents the candidate as a well-rounded applicant with years of experience, versus someone who has limited experience in any one of the fields listed.
The areas of expertise list allows people to speak to their qualifications as a whole, rather than picking and choosing qualifications based on the industry or position they’re applying for.
If you are someone whose career highlights can’t be perfectly boiled down into one of the formats described above, consider listing entire positions you’ve held or projects you’ve worked on.
Some jobs are so all-encompassing that holding the position alone can be considered a highlight. In these instances, it’s recommended to use the list format and break apart the pieces that create the position.
If your work on a project has received any awards, honors, or any form of celebration from a superior, it needs to be on your resume.
Businesses thrive on profit. Anything that you have done to help increase profit margins, even if it’s just a small amount, needs to be added to your resume.
Meeting profit goals is just as valuable as growing them. It’s incredibly easy for a company to end up in a deficit. If your efforts helped to avoid that, it’s worth mentioning.
Most businesses either offer services or goods. Both require customers to keep the business running. If you have done something to help bring in new clients or hold on to your existing clients a bit longer than normal, then that’s something that deserves a place on your resume.
There are many components that go into event planning. If you’ve been in charge of an event, you have probably worn many hats while doing so. Describe each hat, and list them all as highlights.
Ingenuity is a valuable skill that will help you develop professionally. Any time you have been presented with a problem which you helped deliver a solution for, describe it on your resume.
Career highlights are a tool for grabbing the attention of a recruiter.
Keywords are the most essential part of a resume, fill your highlights section with them.
You can turn most professional duties into a highlight.
Emma is a certified employment specialist with over six years of experience in career mentorship and employment training. Emma is passionate about nurturing professional growth and helping people gain momentum in their field. She uses her writing and strategic career planning skills to help her clients fulfill their aspirations and reach new chapters in their professions. In 2020, she helped design Colorado’s first state-certified training program for people with disabilities entering the workforce.