Resumes & Cover Letters

8 Resume Do's and Don'ts

January 17, 2021

Resumes typically provide the first impression of your qualifications to a prospective employer. There are several guidelines to follow when writing your resume that will make it clear, organized and comprehensive.

In this article, we discuss what to do and what not to do on your resume to increase your chances of securing an interview.

Resume writing tips

Every resume should include your contact information, describe your professional experience, outline your education and highlight your skills. Here are some 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’re applying for. Include previous positions that had similar or related responsibilities or those that allowed you to practice relevant skills. If you took professional courses or earned any certifications, include those, as well as any transferable skills.

Don’t: Mention experiences not relevant to the position you are applying to. 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.”

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’s degree or bachelor’s degree. For some entry-level positions, or if you have limited work experience, 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 English and writing or technical courses in computer programming.

Don’t: Include your GPA. Some employers may request this information, but may just prefer to know your highest level of education is, what and where you studied and when you completed each level of education.

Read more: How to List Education on a Resume

3. Personal information

Do: Include personal information such as your name, phone number, email address, and for some positions, home address. Review the job listing to identify any additional personal information to include.

Don’t: Include information irrelevant to the job search or is not specifically requested by the employer. Some positions, typically in countries other than the U.S., may request a headshot. 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.

Related: Should You Put Your Address on Your Resume

4. Job listings and qualification standards

Do: Apply to jobs you are fully or closely qualified for. You can seek positions that require additional training if you’re open to learning 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: Apply for jobs you do not meet most of the requirements for. 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

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 “Lead a team of finance managers to educate clients on investment strategies.” Direct statements like these define what your role was in your past job.

Don’t: Use cliches or idioms, such as phrases like “team player,” “hard worker” or “detail-oriented” unless they are keywords from the job description. Consider also 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 doing an initial read-through before passing candidates to the hiring manager.

Read more: Resume Power Words

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, often those used in the job description. Resumes are then automatically scored and the passing resumes are sent to the hiring manager to review.

When writing your resume, be sure to use similar phrases and keywords used in the job listing to ensure your qualifications properly reflect the expectations of the role you’re applying to. You can also use simple formatting and easy-to-read structure to ensure the ATS grades your resume on its content.

Don’t: Use a complicated template or neglect the keywords in the job description. Both steps are important in ensuring your resume has the highest chance of success.

7. Length

Do: Write a concise resume that is one to two pages long. The most effective resumes are short and to the point. Hiring managers and recruiters may review hundreds of resumes for each open position, so a short resume ensures they can read it quickly.

Don’t: Go over two pages unless specified. Some positions or industries may require a longer, more in-depth resume, but most prefer one or two pages. You may have had dozens of previous jobs, but they might not all have applied to the job you are applying for.

Read more: Q&A: How Long Should a Resume Be?

8. Proofreading

Do: Review your resume before submitting. Proofread your resume and use a spell checker. Consider writing your resume and going back the next day to review it again. Also, ask a friend or colleague to read it and identify any areas for improvement.

Don’t: Rush to submit a resume that hasn’t been reviewed. Some ATSs look for grammatical and spelling errors, so be sure to complete this step to ensure the highest ATS grade.


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