Résumé Essentials

Most people will need to create and revise a résumé multiple times over the course of their professional careers.  So, what are some of the essentials that make up this important document?  I’m going to highlight some of the essential components that every résumé should have.  Opinions may vary, so please feel free to add your insight in the comments below.

According to Wikipedia, a résumé is a document that contains a summary of relevant job experience and education. The résumé is typically the first item that a potential employer encounters regarding the job seeker and is typically used to screen applicants, often followed by an interview, when seeking employment.

Sounds simple, right?  There are many templates and certified Professional Résumé Writers out there these days.  How do you make sure that yours will stand out while achieving the objective of highlighting your experience?  I had the opportunity to survey Human Resource professionals, Corporate Recruiters, and Résumé Writers. 

I discovered two things:

1. All agreed that a résumé should given the attention it deserves.  After all, the résumé is the first thing a hiring manager or recruiter sees.

2. Each professional had their own opinions on subjects such as the importance of listing GPA, objective statement, and the ever-raging debate over one page vs. multiple page résumés. 

So, whether you’re preparing for that first job out of college, a promotion, a change in career, or getting back into the game after being laid off, these résumé essentials should help you get started. 


Should you use a template for your résumé?  You want to stand out and say “I’m different”, right?  Templates can work to your advantage if you use them correctly.  Each template follows a similar layout and flow.  Regardless of how different you want to be, remembering to keep in mind that recruiters spend an average of five seconds on each résumé, skimming for the basics.  If your information is easy to find (following a common layout), then it could stand out more than if it were printed on pink, rose scented paper (you laugh – I’ve seen some like this).

Templates take the guesswork out of the process, but not the work.  Recruiters and HR professionals continue to encourage job seekers to tailor each résumé for the position.  Making a few minor tweaks can really help yours get noticed.


Almost every template has this as the main heading.  The objective is to get a job, right?  This will vary by age, amount of experience and the style of your résumé.  Some recruiters feel that it is more important to call out competencies (leadership, customer service, etc) than having an objective statement.  Another way to view this is to tailor the objective for a specific position, ie; “to obtain a summer internship with Company ABC in the areas of marketing, advertising, or web design” or “obtain a full-time Computer Programmer position (IT is a very diverse field – specifying what area helps the recruiter)”. 

In a functional résumé, list what you bring to the position (list of qualifications, using keywords from the job description) rather than what you want.  Show them the “WIIFM”, or “What’s In It For Me”.  You might think of listing a profile, highlighting some of your strengths in a functional résumé format.

GPA (Grade Point Average)

Is it important to list my GPA on my résumé?  Opinions and preferences vary on this subject, but the consensus is that if you’re a recent graduate (3 years or less), GPA should be included.  If you don’t include GPA, some recruiters may think that you’re hiding something (or that it is below 3.0) and may pass up a great candidate.  GPA isn’t everything, though.  There are a lot of book-smart people out there that wouldn’t know common sense if it hit them in the face.  If a person has the willingness and openness to learn new things, then that goes a little farther than GPA in most cases.  What employers are looking for is a well-rounded individual.  If you had a tough time in college one semester, explain that to them in the interview process.  Chances are they’ll understand.  Very few rely solely upon GPA as a deciding factor, but it can be the eye-catcher that helps fuel their interest.

Another thing to highlight would be your volunteer activities, team leadership and any sport involvement.  Showing that you’re more than just book-smart will really put you ahead of the crowd.

One Page vs. Multiple Pages

The everlasting, always debated question: What if I can’t fit all my experiences, achievements, etc. on one page?  I asked a lot of people this question and got several different responses.  Here are few views on the issue:

  1. If you have less than 10 years of experience, the résumé should be kept to one page. 
  2. All candidates should be able to keep their résumé to one page.  Weed out the irrelevant experience, leaving only what is related to the position you’re applying for. 
  3. If your résumé must be two pages, make sure that it’s two FULL pages.  Take full advantage of the real estate that comes with the second page.

For some highly technical positions (IT, Marketing, Media, etc.) an online portfolio should be created to showcase your work.  This should not take the place of the résumé, but rather supplement it with additional information.  Include a link on your résumé to your portfolio.  Managing your online reputation and social networking will be covered in the coming weeks as a separate, but related opportunity.

I hope that some of these résumé essentials are helpful to you as you create, tweak, and revise your résumé for the job search.  Your résumé should be a unique and ever-changing document.  I would suggest updating it at least twice a year, whether you’re currently in the job market or not.  This will ensure that you’re keeping it relevant, listing project accomplishments when appropriate (don’t forget to quantify your results!).

Until next time, I wish you success in your job search.  Now, go after the job of your dreams!

Have something to say to add to the conversation?  Please comment below!  Thank you.


6 thoughts on “Résumé Essentials

  1. Hi Kirk,

    Great post…especially effective advice for recent and soon-to-be college grads. I especially like that you emphasize that the way to stand out is with content, NOT with formatting.


  2. It seems this was posted some years back, but it’s still mostly solid advice. However, templates are a danger because some aren’t half bad and others are dreadful. There’s little way to know. Stay away from anything with more than two colors. Your main point seems to be substance over style, and that’s spot on.


    1. Always substance over style but style does matter. Templates are there to get people started. In fact, Word now integrates with LinkedIn to help make the resume even stronger and relevant. Thanks for your comment, Adam!


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