The definitive list of resume dos and don’ts. Don’t break these rules.
Job search numbers can be daunting. Companies receive between 75 and 250 resumes per open position and, on top of that, hiring managers spend just 11 seconds or less looking at a resume before deciding to move on.
Makes you feel kind of tiny doesn’t it?
I’m probably stating the obvious here, but you’re resume really needs to be as good as you can possibly make it.
Unfortunately, people still make the same mistakes over and over again in resumes, omitting the things they should include and including those they should leave out. This makes cutting the numbers easy for hiring managers, who will just trash the bad ones, but it makes life harder for you, because, well, if your resume is bad you’re not going to get a job.
Here’s a definitive list of dos and don’ts. Follow these rules, and you’ll increase your chance of getting a job by… well, a lot (what am I, a mathematician?).
Worry too much about the supposed “one page” rule. If you have a lot of experience, your experience might not fit on one page. Also, in case you haven’t heard, job hopping is the new normal. That takes resume space. Nobody reads these things on paper anyway. That doesn’t mean you should run on forever. Use common sense.
Have an objective. “To land a copywriting position at an advertising agency where I can showcase my excellent writing and marketing skills!” It’s not about what you want. It’s about what the employer wants.
Lie. It can be tempting to make stuff up. Don’t. The risks far outweigh the potential benefits. An applicant at Workopolis recently got caught in a lie mid-interview. It was embarrassing for everyone involved, but mostly for him. And if you’re not actually in the room when you get caught, you won’t ever know that’s why they didn’t contact you. They’re not going to call you up to tell you they caught you in a lie.
Use clichés and buzzwords. Are you a “results-oriented team player who thinks outside the box with a proven track record?” Maybe you’re a “proactive go getter?” Don’t say that in your resume. Hiring managers hate being bombarded with meaningless hype terms. See a list of buzzwords not to use here.
Say “responsibilities” or “duties included.” Remember what we were saying about action words? Use those to describe your previous positions. More on this here.
Share your personal information, including your date of birth, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or religion. The European CV often includes this type of information. The North American resume doesn’t. Yes, employers can often get a lot of this information from your social media. But don’t include it in your resume.
Say references available upon request. Obviously your references are available upon request. There is no need to waste space saying so
Include your high school education. Unless you are still in high school, or just out of high school, or applying for a position that specifically requires a high school diploma, leave it out.
List time you spent in prison for sexual assault. You might think this would go without saying but we’ve seen a resume in which the candidate listed his time in the big house and specified that the charge was sexual assault. See that gem here.
Make your contact information easy to see. Put your contact information up top, where they can’t miss it. It might seem like a small thing but it makes everyone’s life easier.
Have a summary. Sum yourself up in a few words, focusing on your strengths and qualifications.
List your experience in chronological order. When you’re missing the required experience, a career coach may tell you to use a “functional resume,” which focuses on skills rather than experience. Only do this as a last resort. Most hiring managers will see right through the functional resume and will immediately know you don’t have what they’re looking for.
Provide dates. Don’t think you can fudge things by just listing the places you worked and leaving out the dates. Hiring managers will most likely scrap a resume without dates.
Proofread. Hiring managers are sticklers for spelling, grammar, and clean copy. Typos and spelling mistakes are among the first reasons they will toss your resume.
Customize your resume to the specific position. Create a resume that suits the specific post. Many people make the mistake of creating one all-purpose resume and customizing only the cover letter. But there is a very good chance, thanks to the standard use of applicant tracking systems, that nobody is going to read your cover letter. Customize the resume.
Use keywords. This is part of customization. Use keywords that are listed in the job description. These words are what the electronic screeners will look for. See the exact keywords employers search for by industry here.
List specific accomplishments. Demonstrate the value you will bring to the position by saying what you achieved in each previous role.
Use action words. “Created,” “Improved,” “Increased,” “Devised,” “Initiated…” Use words that demonstrate that you get things done. More on that here as well.
Use numbers to quantify your accomplishments. If sales saw a 500% year over year growth under your management, this is the sort of thing you really want to make clear.
Include transferable skills. If it’s not clear how your retail sales experience applies to the Event Manager position for which you’re applying, spell it out. Don’t expect the employer to do the work for you. They won’t.
Use a professional font. Stick to Helvetica/Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Resumes aren’t the time to get cute with Comic Sans or Bauhaus 93.
Use a professional email address. Many think addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org are a thing of the past. They would be wrong. But they should be right. This makes you look ridiculous to employers. Use your name or a variation thereof.
I know I called this the “definitive list” but if you notice anything I missed, feel free to add it in the comments section.