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by Max Woolf | November 29, 2020


We’ve all been there:

Scratching our heads about what is ultimately essential to add to a resume to make it stand out.

Should you include hobbies? References? How about self-grading your skills, which so many resume builders now let you do? Similarly, how many bullet points should one list for each position?

Without a doubt, the whole process can be very jarring and intimidating, to say the least. We thought so too and decided to get to the bottom of it once and for all.

ResumeLab polled almost 100 certified professional resume writers (CPRW) to find out concrete answers to the above questions and more.

Breaking Down the Basics

For starters, we wanted to ask career experts about must-have resume sections. After all, it’s common knowledge that most recruiters spend around seven and a half seconds on one resume.

If you fail to get the basics right, you’ll likely get passed over.

So—below are the resume sections and entries you must include, according to career experts:

  • Contact information (with a link to your LinkedIn profile.)
  • Resume summary or objective (depending on your experience level.)
  • Work history
  • Education (add a GPA if you’re an entry-level candidate.)
  • Skills (ensure to place them in a separate section.)

What not to add to a resume? Resume experts recommend you don’t:

  • Mention your hobbies or interests if you have more than five years of professional experience (because it’s an ancient practice.)
  • Write about your references or mention “References available upon request.”
  • Add a GPA if you have more than five years of work experience under your belt.

Lastly, in addition to the core resume sections listed above, it's good practice to include some extra details on your application, such as links to your portfolio, publications, or a separate section for projects, courses, and extra training, as 87% of our respondents recommend. 

It’ll help improve your chances of getting the callback.

How Much Detail Is Too Much Detail?

When you pen a resume, you might feel tempted to include as much information as possible in an attempt to prove to the employer you’re up for the task.


But—sometimes, including too much detail can backfire, according to certified professional resume writers.


Let’s start with the work experience section, which is often regarded as the most crucial part of your resume.


Generally, most resume pros recommend limiting yourself to listing up to 15 years of relevant professional experience. Otherwise, you run the risk of making your work section unnecessarily lengthy and somewhat irrelevant.


Now—when it comes to describing your core responsibilities and career accomplishments in the work section, it’s best to stick to up to six bullet points per position.


Keep in mind that every resume you send out needs to customer-tailored to each and every job you’re targeting. The rationale being, if you send out an all-purpose resume for all job applications, recruiters might never see your resume. That’s because most companies today use applicant tracking systems that wade through resumes, extract keywords, and compare them against the job description. If there isn’t a solid match, your resume will likely get automatically labeled as “unqualified.”


Lastly, 73% of resume pros claim you should explain your career gaps. If you don’t, the recruiter might imagine the worst possible scenarios, which could be detrimental to your chances of getting hired.

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

When crafting a resume, some of us might want to play around with the layout or even throw in a few visual elements to make our application rise above the noise.


But—the vast majority of recruiters are particular about resume format, design, and layout. In fact, 84% of resume writers discourage candidates from writing creative resumes (e.g., based on infographics, non-standard layouts, or too many visual elements).


On top of that, recruits expect job candidates to submit a one-page resume unless you have five years of professional experience, according to 82% of career experts.


What about the resume format?


As a general rule of thumb, you should submit your resume as a PDF file, unless of course, the job description says otherwise.


Lastly, it’s best to stick to one of the standard fonts, as suggested by resume writers:

  • Calibri: 44%
  • Times New Roman: 13%
  • Arial: 11%
  • Helvetica: 8%
  • Garamond: 6%





Max Woolf is a writer at ResumeLab. He's passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through expert career industry coverage. In his spare time, Max enjoys biking and traveling to European countries. You can hit him up on LinkedIn.