10 Resume Dos and Don’ts

You know the drill: keep your resume to one page, use a clean font, and write plenty of action verbs. But beyond that, how do you know that your resume isn’t getting tossed in the trash? Now that e-mailed resumes have become the norm, employers are flooded with applications and scan at a pace quicker than ever before. Dust off that document and follow these rules to make yours shine.

1. Don’t limit yourself to one page.

If you have a lot of relevant experience then feel free to add another page. Sure, recruiters read for speed, but a highly-organized two-pager just as easily highlights your credentials. Don’t lengthen your resume unnecessarily, though. Words and bulleted points that act as “fillers” can be spotted a mile away. If your resume is a page and a half or less, condense  your content to one page.

2. Don’t use clichés.

Words and phrases like “responsible for”, “performed”, or “served as a team player” are weak and convey the idea that you really didn’t do much. Instead, use words like “spearheaded”, “initiated”, or “collaborated”.

3. Don’t include hobbies and interests.

Unless your hobbies and interests are relevant to the job and will make you truly stand out — don’t add them. Reading and rollerblading don’t deserve precious resume real estate. Winning a photography competition–especially if you’re applying to a journalism or PR position–does.

4. Don’t use generalities.

Always, always use specifics whenever possible to prove you left a dent in your organization. For example, instead of “greeted customers over phone and in person”, write “communicated with 300 customers weekly and increased customer base 40% in the first quarter”.

5. Don’t include unnecessary information.

Don’t pad your resume with useless information like your date of birth, social security number, or even high school. The only exceptions to that last rule are if you haven’t started college yet or if you know the employer went to the same high school and eagerly dresses as the mascot at home games. Otherwise, nix it.

6. Do use bullet points instead of paragraphs.

Unless those paragraphs are succinct and broken up with metrics, numbers, and name-dropping, bullet points get right to the point and  can be scanned in under a minute.

7. Do include only relevant work history.

If you’re applying for a web developer position, don’t mention your retail work at Gap. Of course, if you’re just starting out and applying for entry-level positions, you might have to. If so, highlight transferrable skills, like how you identified a problematic process and changed it; don’t talk about how many chinos you folded.

8. Do use a sans serif font.

Serifs are those little embellishments and curves on letter, like the downward stroke on a capital “T”. Don’t use Times New Roman. That’s the default font for Microsoft Word, and after scanning 100 of them, recruiters’ eyes glaze over. Try Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, or Verdana–and use at least a 10-point font size. Try experimenting with different styles and see which ones gives the “best” feel. If Times New Roman turns out to look the best, well, more power to you. Just do avoid typewriter fonts, handwriting fonts, Playbill, and Comic Sans (shudder) like the plague.

9. Do get rid of  grammatical or spelling error indicators.

Microsoft Word will automatically flag “misspelled” words (like company names) and grammatical errors (like sentence fragments, which all your bulleted points should be). Right-click and choose the “ignore all” option so that all you send is a crisp, clean resume without any squiggly lines to contend with.

10. Do send your resume in the preferred method.

Most, of course, prefer e-mail; do put your name in the document, like “Selena Kohng_truck driver resume.docx”. This makes your name more memorable and easier to search when they want to pull your resume again. Notice that the job title is thrown in there, too, since hiring managers may be juggling multiple candidate searches at once. Finally, do listen when they say they want the resume pasted in the body of the e-mail. Rebelling and sending an attachment will just get your e-mail deleted.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, so tread carefully. Be sure to report back if any of these tips helped so we can highlight your success story in a future blog post.

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