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  3. What are the 5 resume sections you should always include? With tips!
What are the 5 resume sections you should always include? With tips!

What are the 5 resume sections you should always include? With tips!

  • The 5 basic sections of a resume
  • 1. Contact information
  • 2. Professional summary
  • 3. Skills section
  • 4. Job history
  • 5. Education and certifications
  • Optional resume sections
  • Putting your resume sections in the correct order
  • Key takeaways

An effective, eye-catching resume is the first step to getting the interview. So what do you absolutely need to include, and what can you leave out? Five basic resume sections can show a potential employer you’re the right person for the job.

Having an effective resume could be the difference between getting an interview and being dumped on the proverbial reject pile. Besides making it past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) used by most companies, recruiters generally spend no more than six to seven seconds looking at your resume, and 80% don’t get past the first screening. A hiring manager needs to be able to quickly see certain information, and five basic resume sections can help you deliver it.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What are the 5 basic sections of a resume?

  • Optional resume sections

  • Dos and don’ts for creating your resume sections

  • In what order should these sections be listed?

The 5 basic sections of a resume

The main point of a resume is to highlight your skills and experience in the best possible way to show a hiring manager or recruiter why you’re a great candidate. You can’t just have a laundry list of every job you’ve held. To that end, there are five basic sections that your resume should have:

1. Contact information

Obviously, the recruiter needs to know how to get in touch with you! Your contact information should include the following: your full name, address (the city and state), phone number (only one), and email (make sure it sounds professional). Also, add professional social media links or your website.

It may seem obvious but don't include things like your work email, your date of birth, marital status, or a photo, which is not standard practice in the U.S. Keep it simple and concise. 

2. Professional summary

Near the top of your resume, you’ll want to include a brief professional summary. Think of it as an elevator pitch: a quick introduction, enticing the recruiter to keep reading. You’ll use the professional summary to show your relevant experience, mention your skills and/or accomplishments, and utilize applicable keywords from the job description. 

Professional Summary

Dedicated, multi-faceted creative media professional offering more than twelve years' success directing marketing and publicity operations, with a focus on innovative solutions that consistently increased clients' ROI by a minimum of 20%. Proven track record of understanding and transforming customer’s business objectives into positive, tangible outcomes. Skilled at fostering long-term business relationships while mapping short and long-term value. 

3. Skills section

A skills section (also called core competencies or areas of expertise) usually comes right after the paragraph summary and provides the hiring manager with a snapshot of your key skills. It should be modified based on the job description of the position you’re applying for. 

When reviewing the job description, be on the lookout for hard skills. These are job/industry specific and necessary to perform a job well, while soft skills (such as communication, time management, or organization) could apply to any position.  Including hard skills in a bulleted list allows the recruiter to quickly scan your resume and determine if you’re a good fit. Incorporate your skills into the other sections of the resume (remember those keywords!) to ensure your resume will perform well on an ATS scan. If you're in a technical industry, consider adding a tech table with technologies you are proficient in as well. 

Areas of Expertise
  • Proposal Development

  • Relationship Building

  • Key Account Management 

  • Contract/Price Negotiation

  • Business Development 

  • Inside & Outside Sales 

  • Market Analysis & Research

  • Sales Forecasting & Training

  • Pipeline Management

4. Job history

Of the five sections of a resume this is the one where you'll give an overview of places you've worked, the positions you've held, and how long you worked there. Additionally, mention your responsibilities, accomplishments, and any special recognition you received (achievements can go in a bulleted list after your job description paragraph). Include only the last 10-15 years of experience, and remember to tailor the job descriptions to the position you are targeting. 

Professional Experience

XYZ Paper Company, Peoria, IL 2012 - Present Sales Director

Produced product and value proposition presentations to potential commercial printing accounts to procure new business, and advised existing customers about new and innovative office products. Negotiated and secured contracts up to $120K. Guided and motivated 15 junior account representatives.Created and implemented strategies to develop and grow market share. Supported customers, fielded questions, resolved issues, and ensured overall client satisfaction. 

  • Named top sales rep for Western Canada in 2013 and 2014 and was bestowed multiple Certificates of Excellence. 

  • Received a Top Demonstration award for a presentation that secured a new key client.

  • Increased sales of Ricoh Color Production units, yielding $100K in new sales in one year.

5. Education and certifications

The education section is important because it shows your degrees and any career certifications relevant to your position. In general, this section will be placed towards the bottom of your resume, because after you have a few years in the job market, the focus should be on your experience and the skills you’ve developed.

List your education starting with the highest level of education you’ve attained. Include the name and location of your school, degree earned, and the dates you attended (if less than 10 years prior. Otherwise, leave it off.) If you’re new to the workforce, you can include things like your GPA (if higher than 3.5/4), any awards or honors, or relevant clubs/organizations.


Master of Arts in Literature University of Illinois, Champaign, IL, 2020

Bachelor of Arts in Finance Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 2017

If you don’t have a college degree, you still can have an education section. Have you taken any job-relevant online or community college courses? Have you obtained any additional training or certifications? All of these are valid and should be listed on your resume.

Expert Tip

If you need a little help creating that top-notch resume, don’t despair. Career.io’s Resume Examples tool provides access to a library of professionally-curated resume templates to help you create an eye-catching resume—in minutes.

Optional resume sections

While not required, there are a few sections you might consider including on your resume, especially if you’re changing careers or don’t have a lot of work experience. These are volunteer work, professional associations, and publications. If it’s a requirement for the job, place languages spoken under the skills section. 

Remember, your resume should be about one to two pages in length, so if you don’t have room, don’t squeeze them in.

  • Optimize your resume sections utilizing keywords.
  • Use quantifiable data in your job history.
  • Incorporate hard skills into your professional summary and skills sections.
  • Include personal accomplishments if they’re relevant to the job.
  • Plagiarize the job posting. Make sure the keywords they're looking for are used organically and in your own words.
  • Include arbitrary or quirky hobbies.
  • Use an objective on your resume. Use the professional summary instead.
  • Use jargon or five-dollar words. Plain language is best.
  • Crowd the page. Keep your resume clean, organized, and easy to read.

Putting your resume sections in the correct order

While these five basic resume sections are pretty much mandatory, the order in which they’re placed might be different, depending on your career situation. While the contact information always goes on the top, under that, consider the following: 

For a reverse-chronological resume (most common), the order should be: 

  • Professional summary

  • Skills

  • Job history

  • Education

  • Professional organizations (if relevant)

If you’re a recent graduate, go with this order:  

  • Summary

  • Skills 

  • Education

  • Any work experience

  • Awards/activities

  • Volunteer or college organization experience if it’s relevant

If you’re looking to build a great resume, try Career.io’s Resume Builder tool, which will help you improve all the sections on your resume with templates, expert advice, and AI smart suggestions.

Key takeaways

  1. The five basic sections of your resume should include contact info, a professional summary, skills, work history, and education.

  2. The order in which these sections are placed on your resume depends on your current career situation.

  3. Include keywords from the job description throughout your resume, as well as in the skills section.

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