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10 Sections to Include in Your Resume


By:   |   Last Updated: 2019-01-29   |   Comments   |   Related Tips: More > Professional Development Resume

Problem

One of the biggest struggles throughout the job search continues to be writing and/or updating your resume. You sit down to begin and then 15 minutes later, most people are lucky if they have 4-5 bullet points or one section completed. Where do I start? What information is worth including? How do I structure the information? How do I frame everything I've done in a few pages? How do I showcase my core skills and key achievements? How will I differentiate myself from the potential hundreds, or even thousands, of other resumes/applications?

Take a few deep breaths. Like any major piece of documentation, start with an outline of the core sections that might make up your resume, and then you can start to fill in the gaps.

Solution

When we are doing resume consultations with people, we usually discover information (i.e. skills, contributions, training, groups/associations, projects, methodologies, etc.) that should be included on their resume and LinkedIn profile. Often, it's training, in the form of virtual training, a bootcamp, conference, or other session they've attended but didn't include in a resume. Or frequent key achievements, or the magnitude of an achievement, aren't clearly communicated on the resume. In more cases than I can count, when I ask someone "Are you active with a local User Group/MeetUp? Have you participated in a Hackathon or other technical community initiative? Have you attended a SQL Saturday, Code Camp or other conference?" the answer is "Yes," yet that wasn't mentioned anywhere.

Here is a list of the top 10 sections you should have on your resume.

1 - Contact information

The basics here would include your full name, location and whether you're open for relocation, phone number and email. You may also include URLs to any professional profiles or websites, such as LinkedIn, GitHub, Stack Overflow, or your MSSQLTips profile if you've contributed publications. If you have your own professional portfolio/website, include that.

2 - Header / Tag Line / Professional Elevator Pitch

Under your contact information, we encourage job seekers to have a brief synopsis describing who they are and what they're interested in. We refer to this as your "3-5 second elevator pitch," and this may also serve as your LinkedIn profile tagline. This tag line may include the most relevant job title for your background, years of experience, 2-3 core skill sets, key technologies, certifications and/or advanced degrees.

Tip: Customize this tag line based on the role you're applying for! For example, if you're applying for a role at a very large company, add something to reflect your past experience working in large organizations (see example #3 below). As a second example, if you're applying for a role where the title is 'Software Engineer,' edit the title in your tagline to reflect. Only include details in your tagline, and your resume as a whole, which are 100% accurate of your background/experience.

Example Taglines:

  • EX. #1 – Senior Database Developer with 10+ years of experience with custom development in SQL Server
  • EX. #2 – Entry Level Data Science Enthusiast eager to apply my two data science internships in a challenging environment working with Tableau, Power BI, and other Data Visualization tools
  • EX. #3 – Seasoned DBA proficient with both Oracle and SQL Server in enterprise level server environments
  • EX. #4 – Chief Systems Architect focused on Data solutions
  • EX. #5 – Contact Information with tagline underneath

John Smith

Denver, Colorado   111-222-3333   [email protected]   linkedin.com/johnsmithSQL

Technical Team Lead with 15+ years leading diverse data-focused teams with a PMP and a Masters in Information Technology Management

3 - Core Competencies / Technical Skills Summary

Especially for technology professionals, having a visual of all of your core technical skills is very important! You can further brand yourself and optimize your resume by labeling this section after your core type of skill set, such as 'SQL Server Skills Summary' or 'Project Management Core Competencies.' Identify all the core databases, languages, tools, methodologies, and other technologies you've worked with in the last 5-8+ years, and ensure they're all represented in this summary.

Tip: Don't leave out versions of technologies, especially if you've worked with newer frameworks/versions!

Example Summary:

  • Microsoft Technologies: T-SQL Coding in SQL Server 2008/2008 R2/2012/2016, SQL Business Intelligence Suite (SSIS, SSAS, SSRS), SharePoint Server 2007/2010/2013/365, ASP.NET, Team Foundation Server (TFS), GIT, Access, Crystal Reports, Microsoft Office Tools & Office 365
  • Databases: SQL Server (2008/2008 R2/2012/2014/2016), MS Analysis Services Data Warehouse (SSAS Cubes), Oracle, MS Access, DB2
  • Development Tools: SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS/SSMS), Visual Studio (2005, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2017), Power BI, MS Office 2000-2016, Office 365
  • Software Languages: Transact-SQL (T-SQL), MDX, DAX, XML, Visual Basic .NET, C#, REST (Web Services/APIs), SOAP, ASP.NET, JScript, Ajax, HTML
  • System Platforms: Windows 7/8/10, Windows Server 2003/2008/2012, WAN/LAN, IIS

4 - Experience

There are several best practices when framing your experience. A Senior Vice President we support recently said "I like resumes which communicate four major things: What was the project/application? What was your role in it? What core accomplishments did you have? What tools and technologies did you use?" That's a good framework to follow per bullet point in each of your job descriptions.

Within each job description you want to include:

  • Job Title
  • Company and Dates of employment
  • Project/s
  • Responsibilities
  • Technologies utilized and how you used
  • Impact Made (Results / ROI)

Tip: Keep it relevant and to a manageable length! We don't have a hard and set rule around resume length, but we believe that sweet spot is between 1-3 pages. The focus should be on having your most relevant experience, skills, and highlights shine through! If you're over 3 pages, evaluate and see what you can cut out. Do you have a position listed from 10+ years ago that's no longer relevant to your career and where you're looking to go? Then cut it down or out completely. We recommend minimizing outdated experience following the approach below, where you outline title, company, and dates of employment in an 'Additional Experience' section after your 'Experience' or 'Career Highlights' section!

Example – Minimizing Outdated Experience:  

Additional Experience:
Software Engineer, ABC Company                      01/2002-02/2004
Junior Software Engineer, Jackson University       06/2001-01/2002

5 - Career Highlights / Achievements

You can share your major accomplishments in two different ways; either with an entire section that outlines them, or by embedding into each job description. We recommend identifying the top 5-10 achievements throughout your career that relate to your target role, and have a dedicated section that summarizes those.

6 - Awards

Have you won any awards from your group or company? At a conference or technical community event? From an online community like MSSQLTips? As you win awards, it's a good practice to update both your resume and LinkedIn profile with them. 

7 - Certifications, Education, Training

Ask yourself "What training have I completed that's relevant for the types of roles I'm pursuing? What certifications do I currently hold, or could I re-certify for?" You could even include certifications you're pursuing but haven't received yet as long as you are open about that (see example below).

Example – Training and Certifications:

Advanced JavaScript and AngularJS courses via Pluralsight     Completed mid-2018
Orlando and Jacksonville SQL Saturday Events                     2015-present
MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014                                           Taking Exam in next 1-2 months

8 - Publications

Are you published anywhere? Have you written any articles for the MSSQLTips community or a local technical group/association? Have you done any published posts on LinkedIn? Do you have your own blog? Contributed to a company's blog? If you have published any articles or trainings, add the URLs to where someone could find those publications. For example, if you have a number of quality publications on your LinkedIn profile, add that specific URL and preface what you've written about!

9 - Associations / User Groups / Groups / Conferences

I have been involved in at least eight technical user groups/MeetUps over the years, and I often meet fellow user group members who are in the job market. Yet when I look at their resume, more often than not, that involvement is missing. I recently asked a Developer who is active with our Tampa Bay Tech4Good group, yet didn't have that experience on his resume, "how would it look for a manager to see that you are a volunteer with our Tech4Good group and you help nonprofits pro bono with their technology needs? How do you think it would come across that you donated a weekend of your time to helping with nonprofit websites at our recent charity hackathon?" He agreed that it portrayed positive traits and expanded on his experience, so he added a 'Community Involvement & Pro Bono Technical Work' section to his resume.

If you are involved with a local technology group, make sure to add a technical community involvement/groups and affiliations section to your website, and then outline your involvement.

Example - Community Involvement & Technical Volunteer Experience:

Member, Women in Technology Network                                 Fall 2018-present
Member and SQL Saturday Volunteer, SQL Server User Group     Fall 2016-present
Volunteer, Tech4Good MeetUp/Group                                     Spring 2018 to present

10 - Volunteer Activities / Community Service

This section may be coupled with the above if there's cross over, or it may be its own section. Even if the volunteering isn't relevant to your career, it is good to include the groups/nonprofits you support for a few key reasons. First, it demonstrates positive qualities and characteristics. Second, it may create an immediate connection if the Recruiter, hiring Manager, etc. looking at your resume supports that nonprofit or is fond of them. I once had a candidate who immediately bonded with a Manager over his involvement with the local Ronald McDonald House charity, and it set such a warm and positive tone to start off the interview!

Next Steps

As you write or update your resume, use these sections as an outline to help guide you in building it out! You might not be able to use every section on here, such as publications, awards, or volunteer experience, but identify the sections that make sense for you to include based on your experience and involvement.



Last Updated: 2019-01-29


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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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