critical elements of a resume

5 Critical Elements of a Kick-Butt Resume

Writing a kick-butt resume is easier than you think. 

Yesterday we talked about the fact that you may only be one really great resume away from changing your career entirely.Today, we’re going to walk through the five critical elements every kick-butt resume must have.

Before we get started, there are a few things to note…

First, make sure that you keep in mind to whom you are sending your resume. Not every employer views what you do or don’t do with your resume the same. Know and understand the brand of each company, and craft your resume accordingly.

For example, there are some funky startups who will appreciate your resume being in a cool font, a non-traditional use of color, and the fact that you won your 3rd grade spelling bee. In cases like that, absolutely do what you can to stand out and showcase your creativity. Especially so if you’re applying for a creative job like art illustrator or graphic design.

If you’re applying to a more conservative corporation that has been around for 100 years and you can see by their branding that they’re a bit more traditional, let your resume speak for itself through content.

Also, no matter how tempting it is to bend the truth of your experience in an effort to sound more polished, experienced or accomplished, please don’t. If you’re not caught for exaggerating on your resume during your interview, you’ll definitely be caught on the job when you can’t deliver on something you’d supposedly already done.

Finally, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if you have less than ten years of experience, do not have a resume longer than one page. For any length of experience, don’t go over two pages.

All right, let’s dig in. Here are the five critical elements of a kick-butt resume:


This like the front door of your resume. You want it to be clean and inviting. This is where you list your name, address and all of your contact information. Make it bold, make it classy, and make it clear. Additionally, anything that can have a link to it should. For example, if you have your own website, list it here with a link to the site. Also, include social media links as appropriate. I would highly recommend that no matter what job you’re applying for, you have a link to a great LinkedIn profile.

Objective or Summary

This is your first statement out of the gate. Before diving in to your experience, you want to give a summary statement telling people about who you are and what you have done. If you have less than three years of experience, you’re going to want to go with an objective stating what you’re looking for. Keep this to one sentence; two at the most.

Core Competencies/Professional Skills/Technical Skills

Next you will want to list your skills. If you have less than five years of experience, go ahead and list the core competencies that you’ve already demonstrated strength in. If you have more experience, this is where you’ll list the skills you’ve demonstrated time and again. For those in a technical field such as IT and engineering, you may want to list this as “technical skills” instead of “professional skills”.

For the love of everything holy, do not list skills that you are expected to have, like being able to use MS Word and the Internet.


You can list this as simply, “experience”, or I’ve also seen “work experience” or “professional work experience”. This is the section where the rubber meets the road. I’ve seen way too many talented people who utilize this space to write a list of all of their past job descriptions. Please do not do this.

This is not a place to tell the recruiter at your dream employer that you had to complete performance reviews for 12 employees twice a year (even Joe who checked out in all ways but literally 25 years ago is doing that).But you can tell them how you worked to develop a team of 12. Tell them how you worked to increase their productivity and by what percentage year over year. Tell them how you re-allocated resources and streamlined processes, resulting in a better bottom line. Tell them exactly what it did to the bottom line.

Your “experience” section of your resume is the largest section with the most meat. Make it count. Include numbers, facts, figures, percentages, results. Point out any awards or accolades you received. Don’t be shy here. If you don’t brag about yourself, there is no one else who will do it for you.

If you volunteer or belong to any organizations or non-profit groups, or have any side projects that require the use of skills that this new job may require, list it here.


If you are a new college graduate, less than three years out of school, you can list your education before work experience, and include your GPA. After three years of professional work experience, go ahead and move it down to the bottom, and unless you have especially strong feelings about it, you can drop your GPA.


Here’s a blank template of what the formatting could look like without being filled in. Go ahead and use it if you’d like. There are a million ways to design your resume for appearance, but these are the critical elements you must include.

And that’s it. This shouldn’t take you terribly long. Remember to keep your word choices positive, focus on data rather than generalizations, tell the truth,and know your audience. If you are in the process of writing your resume, let me know how it’s going! You can leave comments and questions here on the blog, or on my Facebook page.

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