No matter who you are — and whether this is your first, fifth, or fifteenth time in the job market — you know that the first step to securing a position starts with a strong resume. In this article, we’ll explain how to best title different sections so that each part of your resume can stand out on its own.
How to structure your resume
There's no single right (or wrong) way to structure your resume, but there are a few best practices you can stick to:
- Use standard resume section titles
- Choose a legible font (and avoid downloaded fonts)
- Use consistent formatting
- Avoid graphics
- Keep section titles simple and self-explanatory
- Include additional sections if you need them
- Merge sections if possible
The #1 rule: Avoid non-standard section titles
When coming up with section titles, stick to the basics. Do not use in “My work in a nutshell” if a simply-titled “Experience” section does the trick.
Essential resume sections and titles
Each section describes a major component of your professional history — be it education, work experience, skills, or awards. What particular sections you decide to showcase on your resume will depend on your industry, level of seniority, and the position that you’re applying for, but there are a few key sections all resumes should include.
Your personal information should always be the first thing on your resume. This shouldn't take up a lot of space — 1-2 lines is all you need.
What to include: Your first and last name, email address, contact number, and general location (not your full street address). You can include a LinkedIn or portfolio link if appropriate.
What not to include: Your age, date of birth, photo, or other personal information.
What to name it: Nothing. Your name at the top takes the place of a traditional section title.
More information: What to include in your resume header
This is the single most important section of your resume, and the one hiring managers care about the most. Relevant work experience should be prioritized here, followed by experience in other roles or industries. If you’re a student or don’t have any traditional work experience, you can use this section to list internships, extracurriculars, or volunteering experience.
What to include: Any job you've held in the past ~15 years that's relevant to the position you're applying for. List jobs in reverse chronological order (most recent first), and include your job title, employer, location, dates of employment, and 3-6 bullet points showcasing your most relevant accomplishments.
What not to include: Feel free to leave off jobs you only held for a very short time (less than six months) or where you can't list any significant achievements.
What to name it:
- Work Experience
- Professional Experience
More information: How to list your work experience on your resume
The education section of your resume becomes less important the longer you've been in the workforce, but most hiring managers will still expect to see it. If you're a recent graduate, this can be a longer section at the top of your resume, but in all other cases, keep it to a few lines underneath your work experience.
What to include: The name and location of the school you attended and the degree(s) you attained. If you have multiple degrees, list your most recent or advanced degree first. You can also include your major (and any relevant minors), GPA (if above 3.5), and academic awards, keeping in mind that the longer you've been out of school, the less detailed this section should be.
What not to include: Your high school information, unless you're still in high school. You can also leave off your date of graduation, especially if you're worried about age discrimination.
What to name it: “Education” is the most common section title to use here. Other similar section titles that are understood by hiring managers are:
- Professional Training
- Education and Training
- Educational Qualifications
- Relevant Training
More information: How to list your education on a resume
Optional resume sections and titles
There are other resume sections you can include depending on the experience you have and what you want to prioritize. Keep in mind that you don't want your resume to be too busy — 1-2 pages and no more than 4-5 sections is ideal, so choose additional sections based on what's genuinely relevant and likely to improve your candidacy.
You may elect to include a job title at the top of your resume, right below your name. This job title should exactly match the job title of the role you’re submitting your resume for. While this is optional, it’s a quick and easy way to tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for. And, as an added bonus, it’ll ensure the ATS identifies you as a relevant candidate — even in a case where you would have otherwise been sorted out.
What to include: The exact title of the job you're applying for.
What not to include: Anything else.
What to name it: Nothing! This section doesn't need its own heading — simply include it underneath your name and above your contact information.
More information: How to tailor your resume to a job
You can include a resume summary section at the top of your resume, right below your name and contact information. This is optional and most job seekers won't need one, but it can be useful in cases where your resume isn't fully self-explanatory, especially for people changing careers.
What to include: A few short sentences about your key skills and experience. In a sense, it’s a highlight of the best parts of your resume, which is in turn a highlight of your most relevant experiences and most impressive accomplishments.
What not to include: Information that isn't directly relevant to the job you're applying for, including personal information.
What to name it: You don’t need to label this section — since it’s at the top of your resume, all recruiters and hiring managers know what that section is. If you’d like to include a title, the best ones to use for this section are:
- Professional Summary
More information: Resume summary examples
This section lists your relevant skills. Only include hard skills, like a programming language (e.g. Java, C++, Swift, etc.) or software suite (e.g. QuickBooks, Kubernetes, Microsoft Power BI, etc.) that you are familiar with.
What to include: Any hard or technical (that is, objective and provable) skills that you're likely to need in the job you're applying for. If in doubt, check what skills are mentioned in the job description.
What not to include: Don't include soft skills, like teamwork, communication, or leadership.
What to name it: Simply title this section “Skills.” If you have different kinds of skills, you can include multiple subheadings, for example:
- Technical Software
More information: How to write a resume skills section
Projects and extracurricular activities
If you lack extensive work experience in the field you're applying to, including non-work experience — like projects or extracurricular activities — can be a good way to round out your resume and highlight relevant skills.
What to include: Anything that demonstrates relevant skills or experience. List the organization, your role, the dates, and 1-2 accomplishments. If applicable, you can also include a link to a GitHub or portfolio to showcase your work directly.
What not to include: Regular coursework or casual hobbies that aren't directly relevant to the job you're applying for.
What to name it:
- University Projects
- Extracurricular Activities
More information: How to list projects on a resume
If you regularly devote time to an organization, have served on its board, or engage in any kind of unpaid labor, you can list those volunteering engagements here, as you would a job. If you spend significant time volunteering, you can even consider merging this section with your experience section, and mention both compensated and uncompensated work in a single place.
What to include: List your volunteer experience the same way you would paid work experience, including your job title, organization, dates, and accomplishments.
What not to include: Depending on the nature of the organization and the job you're applying for, you may want to consider leaving some kinds of volunteer work (i.e. religious or political volunteer work) off your resume. Use your discretion with this — in some cases, like political nonprofits, this kind of work might actually be a bonus.
What to name it:
- Volunteer Work
- Volunteering Experience
- Community Engagement
More information: How to list volunteer work on your resume
Most certifications can be included in your education or skills section, but if you have multiple relevant qualifications you want to highlight, it might be worth giving them their own section.
What to include: Certifications that are directly relevant to the job you're applying for, including common industry qualifications or ones that are necessary to perform the job (like medical or legal qualifications).
What not to include: Leave off short courses, seminars, and anything that isn't relevant.
What to name it:
- Professional Certificates
Don’t title this section “Scholastic Achievements,” “Academic Career,” or anything too elaborate. Additionally, don’t use a title like "Educational Experience," which might be incorrectly interpreted as a work experience.
More information: How to list certifications on a resume
Not everything on your resume needs its own section. If you want to include something on your resume but are running low on real estate, it's okay to combine multiple sections into one or to have a single catch-all "other" section at the bottom.
What to include: Anything that doesn't belong in any other section of your resume. This could include honors and awards, publications, and hobbies, or skills, language proficiency, certifications, and volunteer work that don't need their own section.
What not to include: As with anything else on your resume, if it's too personal or not relevant to the job you're applying for, leave it off.
What to name it:
- Additional Information
- Industry Recognition
- Career Highlights
Multiple experience sections
If you have extensive experience or are changing careers, you might find that a lot of your experience isn't strictly relevant to the kinds of jobs you're now applying for. If that other experience is very old, it's okay to leave it off entirely, but if it's more recent or would leave your resume with obvious gaps, consider separating your work experience into a "Relevant Experience" and "Other Experience"
What to include: Within each section, list your jobs in reverse chronological order, including your job title, employer, dates, location, and accomplishments.
What not to include: Don't include more than two work experience sections. Also steer clear of a functional resume format, which doesn't list dates of employment — more recruiters view this as an instant red flag.
What to name it: Decide on what you most want to highlight and title those sections appropriately, for example:
- Relevant Experience
- Leadership Experience
- Management Experience
- International Experience
- Other Experience
Here's an example from a stay at home parent that explains a career break:
Here's a resume example that showcases a particular type of relevant experience:
How to optimize your resume section titles
Use a resume template
If you're struggling to decide which resume section titles to use, why not take the hard work out of it? Our ATS-friendly resume templates allow you to fully customize your resume without having to build one from scratch, in a professional format that includes the more important resume sections.
For more industry-specific examples, you can check out our collection of 250+ sample resumes, customized for dozens of different roles and industries.
Get personalized feedback
We’ve created Score My Resume, an artificial intelligence (AI) enabled tool that audits your resume line-by-line and gives you detailed information on how to improve — so that you can take your resume-writing abilities to the next level and land more interviews.
Why does it matter? (Or, the importance of using the right resume section titles)
Hiring managers can find the information they need
All good resumes start with concise and well-written section titles or headings. Because recruiters and hiring managers begin by skimming your resume, correctly-written section titles and headings can make a big difference in helping them quickly identify the information they need. The less time they spend on figuring out where everything is, the more energy they’ll have to read the important content within each section.
The right section headings matter for ATS
However, the significance of a well-titled resume doesn’t end there, because many recruiters and hiring managers aren’t going to be the first people who look at your resume.
In fact, the first pair of eyes that gaze upon your resume won’t be from a human at all. Rather, HR departments will use an applicant tracking system (ATS), a set of automated, software-based resume screeners that “look” for relevant experience, education, skills, and keywords to identify how well an applicant fits the job description. If your sections are titled incorrectly, the ATS won’t read your resume right and will discard your application — meaning you could be out of the running even before your resume is ever read by a human.
The same advice also applies to positions that undergo manual reviews. Because job postings are competitive, hiring managers often receive tens or hundreds of resumes per position. As a result, they won’t have time to read each one in great detail. Instead, they will take a cursory look to see if your background matches the role requirements — essentially doing the same thing an ATS would. If your resume is titled in a non-standard manner and difficult to figure out, it’ll get tossed as quickly as it was read.
More information: How to beat applicant tracking systems