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Last updated on 11/15/23

Create the Different Sections of Your Résumé

Writing your own résumé is often complicated. Most candidates don’t like talking about themselves, let alone have the confidence to emphasize their expertise.

Don't panic!

Let's take it one step at a time.

Adapt Your Résumé to Each Application

In today’s competitive job market, employers want to ensure they attract high quality candidates to their business. To successfully attract such candidates, many large companies and recruitment agencies use software programs to recruit their workforce. These programs, called Applicant Tracking Systems, scan your résumé to decide whether to move you along in the process or to discard your application.

Applicant Tracking Systems scan your résumé against job specifications, comparing the information in a résumé against the job description or advertisement. The résumés that best fit into this category are selected. This is why it is imperative to optimize your résumé with relevant keywords contained in the job description.

Applicant Tracking Systems sort information into categories of:

  • Educational background

  • Contact information

  • Abilities, talents, competencies

  • Previous work experience

An employer's desired list of skills and keywords are matched with those in submitted résumés to determine the value a candidate could bring to the organization. Résumés with the highest number of matching keywords move along for further review.

How can I get my résumé to pass Applicant Tracking Systems?

Revisit the job advertisement repeatedly to ensure that you have identified its keywords and effectively used them in your adapted résumé.

Below is an excerpt of a job advertisement for an administrative assistant in Washington, DC. Notice the keywords in bold! Include keywords such as these for your résumé to be recognized by the recruiter and for the Applicant Tracking System to move you along to the next stage of the recruitment process.

Administrative Assistant

Join the CIA and your administrative talents will play a vital role in helping to keep the country safe. Whether you’re organizing meetings and schedules, managing our information and records, booking travel, looking after visitors, uploading reports or providing essential support to our officers, you’ll be playing a part in ensuring our organization runs smoothly and professionally.

Our administrative assistants work across a variety of departments, offering a range of roles, diverse challenges and direct insight into the fascinating work of MI5. With opportunities to broaden and enhance your administrative skills, you can look forward to a rewarding and stimulating career.

Who we’re looking for:

This is an ideal role for people coming back to work after a career break or those looking for a change of career. The ideal candidate will have strong organizational and communication skills and an eye for detail, be able to work independently and within a busy team and demonstrate flexibility and commitment to the role. You’ll also need to have computer skills, including the ability to use email, the internet and MS Word and Excel.

Administrative Assistant - Indeed

Now have a look at this excerpt from a résumé, and notice the mirrored keywords.

Committed and detail-orientedadministrative assistant with proven organizational and communication skills and a full year of experience supporting a variety of departments in diverse roles.

A Clear and Simple Layout

Combined with your cover letter, your résumé is the business card you give to the company where you apply. Your résumé explains who you are, what work experience you have, and what you’re capable of.

So what do you include in your résumé?

General Résumé Structure and Tips:

  • Two pages maximum, A4 in size. Clear for anyone to read and to find information they’re looking for, with enough white space to allow them to easily navigate each section.

  • Heading: Name, telephone number(s) and email address.

    • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws prohibit specific types of job discrimination in the U.S. For this reason, it’s best not to include information such as date of birth, age and marital status in your résumé.

    • Although it is common in many countries, including a photograph of yourself is not standard practice on U.S or UK résumés.

  • It’s best to mention and explain any gaps in your employment history. Your career break may have included studying for professional qualifications, volunteer work or otheractivities that demonstrate what you were doing during your employment gap.

  • You have picked up many skills over the years. Include any software packages or programs, as well as languages you have learned, indicating your current level. We will cover more on this section in the next chapter. Remember to mirror keywords from the job description in your résumé. 

  • Include names of organizations, positions held, location.

The Four Main Components:

The following four main components of your résumé will describe and highlight your achievements, talents, successes and career plan. (Check out some examples here!) 

1 - Introduce Yourself
  • Objective 1 - Who you are summed up in a job title: What are you looking for in a role?

  • Objective 2 - Your recent skill set that make you eligible for the position. What value do you bring to the organization you are applying to? Adapt your résumé to specific roles.

Let's revisit the example of a first objective that we looked at in the previous chapter's video. Do you remember the strengths we discussed?

Notice how excited and ready I am to take on a new position in a new organization? Communicating this enthusiasm to a recruiter can make the difference between getting an interview and getting overlooked, regardless of your credentials!

Now let's revisit the example of a second objective. Again, try to identify the strengths we discussed.

Did you notice that, despite communicating these messages about myself, I didn't use words such as I and me in my objectives? Remember to remove all pronouns in your CV and eliminate extra words.

2 - Choose an Effective Headline

Write and tailor a compelling headline. This is the title of your résumé and should include the title of the position you are applying for. Highlight technical expertise or professional experience.

If the position includes an international dimension, your fit will set you apart from candidates without bilingual or international experience.

3 - Education and Training
  • High school graduates: Professional profile, skills & achievements, education, work experience. 

  • University graduates and beyond: Degree information, work experience, modules that closely match the job you are applying for.

For example:


iOS Developer (Level 6 Diploma) - OpenClassrooms 


Law degree - University of Iowa


Bachelor's in Liberal Arts - Sarah Lawrence College

  • Other professional qualifications:

    • Include achievements such as scholarships and awards.

    • Recent university graduates – Focus on your degree and school qualifications.

    • Current students or those completing an additional qualification – Include dates when you’re likely to complete your studies and modules that closely match the job you are applying for.

    • Professional qualifications – Include any industry-related short or certificate courses you’ve completed. This demonstrates your personal development and initiative to a prospective employer.

    • Qualifications vary from country to country. The best approach is to explain your qualification, so the reader can understand its significance. Include phrases such as, “equivalent to top five percent of my graduating class” or “highest possible grade.”

    • Include any Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) completed, such as courses with OpenClassrooms.

4 - Professional Experience
  • List jobs in chronological order, with the most recent first.

  • Avoid making a job description of your job. Describe responsibilities, achievements and results in more detail. Demonstrate and emphasize your positive contribution or the impact of your teamwork.


The content of your résumé should be written by you and in your style, which will be evident in an interview.

Use the document within these chapters to demonstrate that you have the skills and the experience required. Since it’s not possible to provide full details of your career to date. You can share those details if you are invited to an interview.

Take your time when creating and writing your résumé. When you complete a page, leave it overnight, reflect on it and come back the next day to review your work and make any necessary changes.

Remember, there isn’t one perfect format for a résumé. It’s a product of the work experience, skills, interests and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

Writing a Skills-Based Résumé

A skills-based résumé is generally used if you have limited work experience, are applying for a job unrelated to your degree or have gaps in your employment. Perhaps you want to change careers. Are your skills transferable to different roles, industries and employers? If so, your practical experience in a given industry could land you that job.

Transferable skills are picked up over time, gained from previous positions and volunteer work, and add value for an employer.

When I knew it was time for a change in my career, I used my six years of experience working as an HR officer for a start-up company to transfer my skills to the position of HR manager with an organization of over 1,000 employees. The skills I obtained as an HR officer were emphasized in my résumé. The skills I highlighted in my résumé included leadership, motivation, listening, prioritization, collaboration, communication, negotiation, policy development and research.

If you’re not sure which skills to use when applying for your next role, always remember to go back to the job description. Pick out words and relevant skills and demonstrate similar attributes.

For example:

Demonstrated excellent leadership skills when I successfully managed a small group of Girl Scouts during a three-day camping trip.

We'll have a closer look at highlighting your professional skills in the next chapter!

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Example of certificate of achievement
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