DOs & DON'Ts on a RESUME

July 25, 2010

One thing that I learned in college that stuck with me more than interview etiquette is how to put together a resume. You'd almost think my professors beat the "protocol" into me because I've become a very nit picky person about how resumes make a potential employee appear to potential employers. I've put together a list that doesn't include what lots of other sites have covered. These are just the things I think that most people either don't know or are confused about when they put their resume together.

1. If you don't know how to put your resume together DEFINITELY work with a template like the ones in microsoft word. Most of them are laid out perfectly and require your input in specific locations. Just follow the visual guide and you'll get most of it. It is always better to follow a template than to wing it on your own if you have no idea what you are doing.

2. If you are using a template, don't include the fancy graphics that come along with it. The colors, boxes, lines, etc... can be distracting to the reader. There is no need to be cute because employers aren't interested in that. Simple and to the point is what employers want. Tip: employers are busy and want to spend as little time on resumes as possible so if they get distracted by fancy graphics they might just miss the finer points of your resume. Bullets are great, italicizing is also helpful, but graphics are useless.

3. Do limit the pages of your resume but... I've learned that it depends on the job you are seeking. If you are hoping to be employed as a CEO of a fortune 500 company it will serve you well to list all the experience you have and if it takes up 3 pages than fill it up. For most positions you are setting yourself up to be "ignored" if you have a long resume and I'm not talking about that job as a professor at the University (another job that would require sharing as much as you can on experience and education). I'm talking about the average jobs. You really don't need to submit a three page resume for a position as a librarian or a job as an administrative assistant. Do at least one full page but try hard not to go past two.

4. Your objective: don't say your objective is to gain employment as a janitor when applying for a secretarial position. Yes, this does happen. The problem is that people put together resumes and then save them for when they want to apply for a job, so when it comes time to submit them they touch up the areas of employment but they ALWAYS forget the objective. Make sure you review the objective for each and every job you apply for because the objective is the FIRST thing employers read.

5. Don't spend a lot of time listing experience that doesn't relate to the position you're applying for. If you are applying as a house cleaner it is unlikely the employer cares that you can type 90 wpm. The entirety of your resume should reflect the job you are applying for so only list relevant work history and education related to the position you want. The only exception to this is a major gap in work history. If you are applying for a job as a secretary and the past work includes secretarial jobs but there is a 2 year period where you worked as a teacher or something else, it serves you well to list it because any job is better than a gap in employment. Some employers will just ask in the interview why there is a gap in employment and others will toss the resume assuming the gap is a reflection of something negative but you won't know which one will be reviewing YOUR resume.

6. Do list jobs in chronological order and MAKE SURE IT ALL FLOWS WELL. Example: If line one is current job (2010) and line two is the job you had before that (2007) then the third line should be the job you had before the 2nd to the first. Don't do this:

2010 (current job)
2007 (next job)
2004 (other job)
2006 (other job)

There isn't a single employer that wants to sift through resumes that make their eyes spin. It is tough enough to go through 70 resumes but even worse to go through resumes you have to figure out what they are saying.

7. Don't list job references or personal references on the resume. Some people think this is etiquette but it really isn't. Employers are going to ask for references during or after an interview, I've not known one to ask for them beforehand. With this make sure you give the employer work references along with those personal references. I've known potential employees to forget to submit the work references quite often after they've been requested. I'll receive a list of personal references instead. It isn't deliberate but interesting that it happens more often than not.

8. Please do a lot of proof reading or better yet, have someone proof your resume for you. I'm one of those people that grit my teeth when something is misspelled (ignore my misspellings on this blog!) I've seen resumes where every other word is misspelled. If english is your 2nd language and you aren't sure about the spelling, just ask a friend to proof for you and make corrections. Each employer has their reasons for why misspellings make them tear their hair out so avoid misspellings and along with that avoid poor grammar because if you don't the 2nd line into your resume could be the moment it hits the trash.

9. Don't send in a resume for a job you have no experience in. If you do this you are just wasting your time and the time of the employer. Doing so will not by some miracle get you an interview. No experience = no job in todays market. You MUST have something to offer the employer!

10. Don't throw a hissy fit when the potential employer asks you to fill out an application after you've submitted your resume. A lot of people think that the resume was sufficient because essentially they are going to repeat on the application 90% of what was on the resume but... a resume is not a legal document the way an application is. You sign your application and your giving oath to several things on that document, one being that you haven't lied about the content of your app., and another usually being that you have no criminal background. So just fill out the application with a smile, you'll get through it just fine.

11. Do use a legible font when you type your resume. Don't use anything like a fancy "giselle" font because cursive can be hard to read when it is typewritten. Use Ariel, Ariel Narrow or Times New Roman. Bolding headings is a good idea because it helps the eyes. Don't include color, example: don't highlight anything red so it stands out more. Make sure the entire resume is the same font, don't get carried away using numerous fonts.

12. Don't forget to list how the employer can reach you, this would include name, number, and email address.

13. Don't list hobbies. I file this under sharing too much info about yourself. Sure, share it in the interview if they ask you "tell me about yourself" but generally I haven't met an employer that really takes hobbies into consideration when hiring and depending on what the hobbies are, it could backfire.

14. Don't show employment gaps and jobs you've held for a short time or be ready to explain them. Something that really hurts on a resume is a gap in employment or short term work. If you were employed Sept. 2009 to Jan. 2010 and you list that on your resume, it could be a red flag to the employer that you aren't dependable. Depending on the rest of the content on your resume it could be cause to take a pass on interviewing you. Same with gap in employment. If your resume is weak than the employer might not take the time to ask you why it is that you didn't show any work during May 2007 and June 2009. I even tell my kids that this is something they should always keep in mind when they become a part of the working world.

Remember, the resume is all about getting your foot in the door for an interview. Don't confuse the resume with the interview itself. With the resume you are trying to create a "wow factor" that makes the employer want to call you. Focus on the important in as few words as possible!
Joy said...

Thank you! this was very helpful! I am getting ready to start sending out resumes soon and I will surely use the info you have posted!

Michelle said...


Thank you for reading and good luck with the job search!

FooFooBerry said...

This is great information. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle said...

Thank you for reading FooFoo Berry!