5 things you might not have on your resume but should

If you’re trying to write an effective resume, here are five things you might not be including, but should add.

1. A profile at the top of your resume. Profile sections or summaries have replaced objectives at the top of modern-day resumes. This is a quick list of the highlights of your strengths and experience, summing up in just a few sentences or bullet points who you are as a candidate and what you have to offer. A well-written profile or summary can provide an overall framing for your candidacy, setting the hiring manager up to see the rest of your resume through that lens.

2. Accomplishments at each job. If you’re like most people, your resume lists what you were responsible for at each job you held – but doesn’t explain what you actually achieved there. Rewriting your resume to focus on accomplishments will make it far more effective, and more likely to catch a hiring manager’s eye. That means getting rid of lines like “managed website” and replacing them with lines like “increased Web traffic by 15% in six months” – i.e., something that explains how you performed, not just what your job was.

3. Volunteer work. Too often, candidates don’t mention their volunteer work on their resumes, even when it’s relevant to the jobs they’re applying for. If you believe that volunteer work doesn’t count because you don’t get paid for it, think again! Employers want to know about all the experience you have that might be relevant, whether you received pay for it or not. Hiring managers have plenty of stories of nearly rejecting a candidate for lack of experience before discovering that the person simply hadn’t mentioned their relevant experience because it had been gained as a volunteer.

4. Relevant hobbies and side projects. As with volunteering, too many people neglect to mention relevant experience that they’ve gained through hobbies or side projects, mistakenly thinking that it doesn’t count because it’s not “real work” or it’s just for fun. But to the contrary, it can help flesh out your skills and experience and can demonstrate a passion for the work that paid jobs can’t always do. For instance, if you’re applying for an I.T. position and you run an online software discussion group in your spare time, mention that! Or if you’re applying for a teaching job and you review children’s books for your website, that’s important to mention too. These types of details help paint a stronger picture of you as a candidate.

5. Bullet points. Too many job candidates have resumes that are filled with large blocks of text. Hiring managers will only skim your resume initially, and big blocks of text are difficult to skim (and not to mention, they often make employers’ eyes glaze over). An employer will absorb more information about you with a quick skim if your information is arranged in bullet points rather than paragraphs. And after all, that’s your goal – to have your information read and processed, not to cram as much in as possible.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 41 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    The profile is interesting. I don’t know that I’ve seen you post about that before now. Maybe I’m just blind. I know you’ve been adamant about doing away with the objective. Mine dives right into my work experience.

  2. Anonymous*

    can we get an example of a well written profile? I’ve been putting off writing one for linkedin as well, because i’ve seen some really poor ones…

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think it has to be really carefully done. When it’s done well (and sparingly) and the quotes are really compelling, it can be powerful. But if it’s slightly off, it can veer toward cheesy or overly salesy.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit*

          I use a couple of quotes in my cover letter. It gets them in there but not right at the top of the resume.

          1. COT*

            I wonder about putting one at the bottom of my resume as a “closing note.” Would that seem less gimmicky? Or just a bad idea altogether?

            I do like the idea of incorporating a quote or two into a cover letter and have been trying to do that more.

  3. Sascha*

    Thanks for the link! That is very helpful. Though I don’t think I would put any quotes in there…it seems too gimmicky/salesy to me. Like I’m watching an infomercial.

  4. Victoria Nonprofit*

    What kinds of content do you recommend for the summary/profile section? Is it a summary (with subjective descriptions, like: “Skilled at building and growing relationships with community partners”) or highlights from the resume (“Organized event series involving over 3,000 attendees)?

  5. Meghan*

    Alison, where would you list relevant interests/side projects?

    I have a small, part-time photography business that I’ve hesitated including for a variety of reasons (not viewing its legitimacy, will a potential employer think that will be what I focus on, etc), but I think it would strengthen my candidacy for marketing positions and would like to include it.

    1. Cathy*

      This is tricky. I get resumes from developers all the time that show them working two jobs simultaneously where they’re the owner/CEO of one of the businesses, and it’s always a little off-putting.

      It makes me wonder
      – will this person be competing with us in his side business?
      – will he be willing to work longer hours during a crunch time, or will his other commitments take precedence?

      Putting it under “other experience” with no dates is probably the best way to handle it.

  6. Work It*

    Regarding hobbies and relevant side work…what if it’s something weird? For example, I’m in copy writing and SEO work, which I also do for my personal blog, but the blog is about ghost legends and paranormal activity. I’m guessing I shouldn’t mention that. It’s too bad, though. The blog does pretty well for the amount of time I spend on it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d say it depends on what you’ve done with it (do you have accomplishments you can point to — traffic, great writing, etc.) and what jobs you’re applying to (is it likely to rub them the wrong way or do they seem open-minded/like they’d be cool with it?).

      1. Work It*

        Traffic, number of social media followers, writing, etc. The jobs I’m applying to seem pretty square though.

        1. Jamie*

          I was in the same boat when I was looking. For years I was a recapper and I averaged about 60K hits a week – which was a lot considering I wasn’t at TWOP or anything. Anyway since I had a real editor (who had an actual job in publishing) I learned a lot and it was a cool side gig.

          So I had it on my resume – but then I had little so I threw everything on there (it was terrible – I can’t believe anyone hired me) but I had reservations as well since neither reality TV nor my writing style there was particularly serious or professional.

          I do know that every single person who interviewed me asked about it – but how many didn’t call because it was there? I don’t know.

          It’s tough though – it would be so much easier sending these things out if we knew our audience. It’s the unknown that trips me up.

        1. Work It*

          Funny you say that, because my full-time day job is more weird than the boy band. Thankfully, it’s only a part of my duties and I don’t really have to mention it when job hunting.

    2. Jamie*

      I am not going to admit how often I google looking for blogs of ghost legends – but although it’s non-work related I thank you for doing what you do…it’s one of my favorite pass-times.

    3. Cathy*

      Maybe it depends on where you’re applying? I work in a digital agency, and I know our content and marketing teams would never look askance at a blog about ghost stories. Anything that demonstrates your ability to write for an online audience is a plus for us (well, as long as it’s not obscene or illegal anyway).

    4. Anonymous*

      I blog about science fiction and got a job at the faculty of science of a large university, in part because of that. I think out depends on the organization.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I think so too. I’ve left my blogs off because they really didn’t seem like they would care. But those were jobs where I didn’t care if they knew I was a writer, either.

  7. AG*

    I started using the “summary of qualifications” at the top of my resume after the resume coach I hired put it there. I really like it – it’s a succinct, one-sentence summary of who I am what I do. “A successful Job Title with # years of work experience, specializing in x, y, and z.”

  8. Mary*

    5. Bullet points – If a computer scans the resume before a human the area of resume with bullets will get bumped out because the scanner does not recognize them, i keep a few options of resumes, scanable, (with columns) and readable, (with bullets).

  9. LK*

    How do you adjust your resume to show accomplishments rather than duties, when your job description doesn’t really have quantifiable accomplishments? I’m a counselor for troubled kids, so I don’t really have any concrete way to evaluate my accomplishments on my resume.

      1. OldSoul*

        So should your resume have all accomplishments under the title or a mixture of job responsibilities and accomplishments?
        I always get mucked up on that one.

        1. Josh S*

          There’s no one-size-fits all. A salesperson probably doesn’t need to say, “I did inside sales…” and waste the space — most of the focus can be on the accomplishments (meeting/exceeding quotas, etc).

          On my resume, I generally do this:

          JOB TITLE (Company) Start Date – End Date
          Brief description of my job role, in one or two sentences, one or two lines, paragraph format. I assume they will glaze over it unless the position/company/accomplishments catch their eye and they look for more detail.
          *Accomplishment 1 of awesomeness
          *Accomplishment 2 of superior quality
          *Accomplishment 3 of above and beyond the call of duty

          Again, the job responsibilities aren’t as important as what you achieved/accomplished, so put it in a smaller font/ different context that keeps the focus on the achievements. That way the information is there if they need/want it, but not distracting significantly from the good stuff.

    1. Josh S*

      An accomplishment is anything that answers the question: What did you do in this position that someone else wouldn’t have done?

      That could be that you reviewed extra case files, or streamlined the filing system for follow-up to reduce recidivism, or whatever. But what did you do different than your peers.

      You have accomplishments. You must. And they count, even if it’s not a XX% improvement in Y over Z time.

  10. Lulu*

    re: accomplishments, that can be tough, as there are sometimes things that seem like an accomplishment vs your job title (or at your company), but look like a job duty otherwise, as they don’t involve anything quantifiable. I just revamped my base resume yet AGAIN and made some progress on this front… I think… I also didn’t get a lot of feedback on my initiatives, so don’t know if they really helped or not overall, and certainly can’t give you percentages on that! Frustrating.

    re: hobbies/interests, at what point would they be worth including? For instance, I’m looking at a company that deals with languages and non-Western cultures, although the position I’m targeting would not be directly involved in that. I’m really interested in linguistics and languages, and have learned bits & pieces of things like Mandarin and Swahili (amongst others) but certainly not a particularly useful amount, so I don’t even bother mentioning it beyond a brief note on LinkedIn about my interest. I might use it in my cover letter or interview, though. Is that worth attempting to include on the resume? (Someone recently suggested it might be, or I wouldn’t even bother to ask – to me it seems mildly pertinent, but ultimately useless in terms of doing the job.) I assume it would just be high-skill-level hobbies/interests…?

  11. Sharon*

    I’ve heard mixed opinions about including relevant volunteer work in your resume. One person said that he didn’t care if it proved you had leadership/entrepeneurial/management/people skills or whatever; if he was hiring you for a developer position all he wanted to know was if you had .net or Java or whatever. (I interpreted that to mean this guy was one of those “shut up and do what I say” managers, fwiw.) Another guy said that he wished one of his employees had his softball coaching on his resume so that he wouldn’t have hired him. Apparently the guy spent more time on his coaching work than his paid work. A few others said that you should put volunteer work in your resume. So… I guess it can either help you or REALLY hurt you!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The point is to include relevant volunteer work. Softball coaching might be irrelevant, but a volunteer project where you demonstrate skills that will be needed on the job as well is highly relevant. Basically, if you’d include the work if it were paid because it strengthens your resume, you should include it even if it’s unpaid.

  12. Job seeker*

    I do not think I could ever say how much I appreciate all the information I have received from reading this blog. From someone that is basically starting over again and most likely to do all the wrong’s this has been so helpful. I ordered Alison’s e-book a few months back and have printed it out for myself and placed it along with several articles from US News in a binder. I read these and highlighted several things for an interview I had in the fall. I almost had that job but the hours were not what I could do at the moment. Just wanted to say, I realize I have very little advice of my own to contribute here but I appreciate learning from others.

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