A resume is a tool with a specific purpose: to win you an interview. If it doesn’t, it isn’t effective. The trouble is, with so many different resume formats and outdated tips still out there, it’s hard to determine what’s right and what’s wrong.
Rather than promoting a specific format, here are a few practical points everyone can consider when writing a resume:
It’s not necessary to include references. If you must, place them on a separate sheet of paper and ensure the formatting matches your resume. Only add people who have given their consent and for whom you have a phone number and an email address.
Stick to the point. Don’t expect busy employers to read long-winded descriptions.
Make the most of your experience. Employers need to know what you’ve achieved in order to have an idea of what you can for them. Don’t be vague when describing your experience.
Be honest. Employers will feel more comfortable about hiring you if they can verify your accomplishments. There is a difference between making the most of your resume and lying and a falsified resume can cost you the job later.
Don’t overcrowd the page; allow for plenty of white space.
Keep it to one page if possible. Two pages are acceptable if they include relevant information.
Choose a font that is easy to read. You can never go wrong with Times New Roman.
Do not overuse capitalization, italics, underlines, or other emphasizing features.
Print your resume on white paper using a good printer with fresh ink.
Print on one side of the paper only and try to avoid photocopies.
Save a plain text version in case you’re asked to paste your resume into a website. If you copy and paste from a Word document, for example, some characters and formatting may not translate properly.
Don’t use words you’re not familiar with. Play it safe and use a dictionary when writing.
Use spell check, but don’t reply on it. Carefully read every word of your resume. Then, have someone else read it. A “fresh set of eyes” often notices little typos.
Place periods at the end of all full sentences.
Be consistent with punctuation.
Always put periods and commas within quotation marks.
Avoid using exclamation points.
Duties you currently perform should be written in present tense.
Duties you may have performed at past jobs should be in past tense.
Capitalize all proper nouns.
4. Numbers and Dates:
Write out numbers between one and nine (i.e. one, five) but use numerals for numbers 10 and above (i.e. 10, 25.)
If you begin a sentence with a numeral, spell it out (i.e. Eleven service awards won.)
Be consistent with formatting dates (i.e. 25 August 2010.)
Word Usage and Vocabulary:
Avoid common mistakes:
accept (to receive), except (to exclude)
all right (correct), alright (this is not a word)
affect (to bring about change), effect (the result)
Use action words (i.e. wrote reports, directed staff.)
Choose the right keywords. Hiring managers and recruiters may use an applicant-tracking system to search for keywords related to the job they’re looking to fill.
Review the job posting and mirror that language. Find words and phrases that describe what the company is looking for and use them as much as possible.
Use variations of keywords. (i.e. “accountant” and “accounting.”)
Don’t go overboard. It’s great to list your key skills, but an excessive amount will make it look like you’re exaggerating.
Follow the directions outlined in the job post.
Include your email address. If you use LinkedIn or have a business-related Twitter account or Facebook page, include the links.
Double check for mistakes. You can never be too careful.