What Really Matters on a Resume (and what really doesn’t)

what to put on your resume

When I was a recruiter, I’d cringe at every other resume in the pile. Misspellings, incomplete phone numbers, wildly inappropriate email addresses…it seemed like every other resume I looked at had some glaring issue, and even the good ones often missed the point of the job application altogether!

If you’ve ever had the incredibly frustrating experience of putting in application after application and never hearing back, you might just have a resume issue. If you want to land your dream job, or even just the right day job while you’re working on your big dream, your resume matters, but unfortunately, most people don’t have a clue what to write to ensure their resume gets read—and more importantly—makes the right impression.

In today’s blog, I’m letting you in on a few Recruiter secrets and sharing what really matters on a resume…and how to get yours read more often.


But what about entrepreneurs and side hustlers? Do they need resumes?

There are several good answers to this question, but personally, I say yes. It’s important for entrepreneurs and side hustlers to have a resume, even if they have no intention of applying for—or staying in—traditional jobs.

For a business owner or side hustler, you can think of a resume as a CV, or media kit, or showcase…basically, it never hurts to have a short and sweet document that you can share with people who are interested in hiring you, featuring you, or sharing your skills with other people. It may not look like a traditional resume, but having that go-to “Here are the ways in which I’m awesome” document can be helpful when pitching and collaborating.

So what should we be focused on when writing a resume? Let’s start by cutting out the fluff. Here’s the stuff you can pay less attention to—or cut out altogether.


You know the resume template in Microsoft word with the “Objective” header on it? This is kind of a weird, old school resume layout that no one uses anymore. It’s usually a short sentence at the top of the page that says something like, “to obtain an entry level job in Human Resources.” Every time I see this, I think, “Well, duh. That’s why you put your application in.” It’s not necessarily a resume sin, but don’t clog up your resume’s precious space with details we don’t need. Plus, if you want to get into the details, that’s what a cover letter’s for.

“References Provided Upon Request”

Same as with the Objective. We know this already. No need to include a sentence that clogs up the page.

Hobbies and Interests

These may be charming and add color to your personality (after all, we want to hire real people, not merely pieces of paper), but when a recruiter is quickly scanning through hundreds of pieces of paper, your hobbies are irrelevant.


5 Million details about your Education

Yes, you definitely need to add your degrees and certifications, but your work experience should shine through as number one. In fact, many recruiters look closely at your last three jobs and only briefly scan the education portion to make sure you meet the minimum requirements. Highlighting your specific courses, GPA, and extracurriculars only matters if you’re new to the work force.

10 Million details about every job you’ve ever had

Make sure to include your job title, the company or organization, how long you were there, and your 3 biggest skills, duties, and or accomplishments. Recruiters want a snapshot, not 3 paragraphs on every little thing you did. Pick what’s most important and toss out the rest. If your resume is longer than 2 pages, you may need to cut down.


What Really Matters on a Resume

Whether or not your career story makes sense.

This is harsh, but when a recruiter has 300 resumes for one opening, they are going to be looking for ways to separate the wheat from the chaff. If a resume has an unclear transition narrative, or if it’s full of jargon-y language that doesn’t immediately make sense to the recruiter, they’re likely going to pass.

Basically, picture yourself giving one single document to someone that showcases what you do really well and that you’re dependable enough to do it. It’s okay if you’ve had twists and turns in your career or if you have a business or side hustle on the side. It’s even okay if you’ve had employment gaps.

These don’t have to be a liability as long as you explain them in a way makes sense. If you have a large employment gap, go ahead and address it. For example, you might say something like this:

Digital Marketing Coordinator at XYZ Co, 2017-current 

Brief Work Hiatus to Care for Family Members, 2015-2017

Social Media Manager at ABC Org, 2010-2015

Or maybe you took time off to go to school or had a huge career transition. You could explain it simply within the resume, like this:

Intern at XYZ Org, 2017-2017

(Took short term internship to build experience in Social Work field)

Obtaining MS in Social Work, 2015-2017

Assistant Director of Communications at ABC Co, 2010-2015

(Left to earn MS and transition into the the nonprofit field)

The point is that employment gaps and career transitions happen. You don’t have to hide them—just make sure the person reading your resume understands the story of where you’ve been and where you want to go. It can also be helpful to connect with someone who’s successfully navigated a big transition or dealt with employment gaps. Ask them what made the difference in how they framed their career story.

Whether your skills match the skills on the job description

As tempting as it as to write a “one size fits all” resume and send it to a hundred different places, that’s not the best strategy. When a company puts out specific job descriptions, they have specific skills in mind.

For example, if the job description includes event planning, and you’ve done some event planning, highlight that in your resume! You can easily create a "one size fits all” general resume as your base, and the customize that resume to highlight your job-specific skills. That way, it’s easier for your resume to catch their eye because it matches what they’re looking for.


Job specific certifications and requirements

Same note as above. If the job you want has a very specific certification, like you must have a license in C++, make sure you highlight all the work you’ve done in C++ and how you hold a current license.

Many job descriptions are flexible, so you shouldn’t be deterred from applying to things that aren’t a perfect fit if they’re an adjacent fit; however, if you do have the license or certification, make sure that info is front and center.

Professionalism and Presentation

This falls under the category of “make your resume make sense.” Whereas we just talked about making your career story make sense, here, you need to make sure your resume is easy to read. This means proofreading, spell checking, formatting consistently, not crowding the page with too much information, and making sure the layout is relatively organized and pleasing to the eye. In other words, once the content of your resume is sharp, polish its looks so that you make a professional impression. 

Crafting a killer resume doesn’t have to be hard.

All you have to do is think through it strategically, have a little bit of confidence, and make sure your professionalism is on point! With these tips, you’re well on your way to landing your dream job or the perfect day job while you build your business empire. 

Which tips did you find surprising? Which tips are you going to implement today? Leave a comment below and let the community know!

what to put on your resume
what to put on your resume
what to put on your resume
what to put on your resume