8 Resume Do's and Don'ts To Improve Your Job Prospects

Updated December 12, 2022

Your resume often offers employers their first impression of your skills and qualifications. This document contains relevant information like your education, experience and personal details. Understanding what to include on a resume and how to write one can help you distinguish yourself from other candidates.

In this article, we discuss eight resume do's and don'ts so that you can write effective application materials and improve your chances of securing an interview.

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8 do's and don'ts for resume writing

Here are eight do's and don'ts to consider when writing your resume:

1. Relevant experience

Do: List your specific experience, skills and accomplishments that are directly or closely related to the job you want to secure. Include previous positions that had similar responsibilities or positions that allowed you to practice relevant skills. If you took professional courses or earned any certifications, you may include them and indicate their expiration dates to show that they're still valid.

Don't: Refrain from mentioning experiences that aren't relevant to the position you want. For example, you may have experience using certain scheduling software. Only list it on a resume for a position that also uses that same software.

You can consider revising the experience to be more universal, such as “experienced in multi-calendar management using scheduling software.” If your work experience is limited, you may consider including irrelevant jobs you've held as long as you do your best to relate them to the desired position.

Read more: Listing Professional Experience on Your Resume

2. Education

Do: Include education relevant to the job. If the position is entry-level, use your associate or bachelor's degree. For some entry-level positions, you can also include your high school diploma or GED.

You can also consider listing any related classes you took, such as industry-specific courses like marketing or finance, general education courses like writing or technical courses in computer programming.

Don't: In most resumes, including your grade point average (GPA) may be unnecessary or distract from more relevant details. Only include your exact GPA if your potential employer requests it. Otherwise, you can leave your GPA out and include the degree level, your area of study, the institution you attended and your completion date for each degree you have.

Read more: How To List Education on a Resume (With Examples)

3. Personal information

Do: Include personal information such as your name, phone number and email address so that your prospective employer can contact you to schedule an interview and discuss your qualifications further.

Some positions may require you to provide your home address so that the employer can know if your commute is realistic. Review the job listing to identify any additional personal information that your employer wants you to include.

Don't: Refrain from including information that's irrelevant to the job search. You may also omit information that the employer doesn't specifically request. Family details, such as marital status and number of children are not often required, though an employer may request that information during the initial hiring process and onboarding.

You can consider including these details if you think they may make you a more attractive candidate. For example, a company may want to hire a single individual who doesn't have kids to work an unpredictable schedule with night shifts.

Related: Should You Put Your Address on Your Resume

4. Job listings and qualification standards

Do: Apply to jobs that have requirements you can fulfill, and reflect these requirements on your resume. You can seek positions that require additional training if you're willing to learn new skills. Consider using job descriptions like a checklist. Compare it to your qualifications and see how closely you match the job's requirements.

Don't: Avoid applying for jobs that have requirements you don't meet. Don't exaggerate details on your resume so that you can appear qualified for a position that's outside of your skill set. Some employers may train the right candidate and often mention that in their listing. When reviewing job listings, confirm you have the minimum level of education, training and skills listed.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing (With Video)

5. Vocabulary

Do: Use simple and direct statements with easy-to-understand terms when describing your experience and skills. You can try statements like, “collaborated with a team of designers to create targeted advertisements” or “led a team of finance managers to educate clients on investment strategies.” Direct statements like these define what your role was in your past job. If applicable, try to include terms from the job description to show that you have the relevant abilities.

Don't: Avoid using cliches or idioms, such as phrases like “team player,” “hard worker” or “detail-oriented” unless they are keywords from the job description. Words like these may cause confusion and ambiguity.

Also, consider avoiding too much industry-specific language or jargon. Sometimes, the person reading your resume may be unfamiliar with certain terms if they work in human resources or are reviewing potential candidates before sending their resumes to the hiring manager.

Read more: 153 Action Verbs and Power Words To Use on Your Resume

6. Applicant tracking systems

Do: Optimize your resume's content and structure to successfully pass through an applicant tracking system (ATS). Some companies receive large quantities of applications, so they use an ATS to filter out unqualified candidates.

This system goes through each resume and looks for relevant phrases and keywords, which are often words that the job description uses. You can also use simple formatting and easy-to-read structure to ensure the ATS grades your resume on its content. Resumes are then automatically scored, and the passing resumes proceed to the hiring manager for additional review.

Don't: Avoid using a complicated template or neglect the keywords in the job description. A simple template and the inclusion of relevant keywords are important elements that can help your resume pass through an ATS. You may build an Indeed resume to get started.

7. Length

Do: Write a concise resume that is one to two pages long. The most effective resumes are short and omit unnecessary information. Hiring managers and recruiters may review hundreds of resumes for each open position, so a short resume ensures they can read your document and learn about your qualifications efficiently.

Don't: Refrain from making your resume longer than two pages. Some positions or industries may require a longer, more in-depth resume, but most employers prefer one to two pages. You don't need to include every position you've ever held and unnecessarily increase the length of your resume.

Read more: How Long Should a Resume Be?

8. Proofreading

Do: Review your resume before submitting it. Proofread the document and use a spell checker. Consider writing your resume and reviewing it the next day with a renewed perspective. Also, ask a friend or colleague to read it and identify any areas for improvement.

Don't: Avoid rushing to submit a resume that you haven't carefully reviewed. Some applicant tracking systems (ATSs) look for grammatical and spelling errors, so be sure to complete this step to ensure the highest ATS grade. If a hiring manager reads your resume and it has grammatical errors, they may be more likely to favor another candidate's more refined document.

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