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The Do’s and Don’ts of Resume Writing

Posted on November 1, 2013
Keebie ClementsWritten by Keebie Clements | Email author

Your resume may often be the initial introduction to a prospective employer.  In many cases, long before you have an actual in-person meeting, your resume has already said hello.  And with such a competitive workforce, many job seekers have given in to the urge of tapping into their creative sides and doing whatever is necessary to make their resume standout.  However, creating a professional masterpiece and a creative mishap are two totally different things. The Do's and Don'ts of Resume Writing

Resume Writing Do’s:

  • Do use spell check: As a Recruiter a guaranteed red flag and a surefire way to get your resume moved to the bottom of my pile is by having an abundance of misspelled words.  While you may have won all of your elementary school spelling bees, perception is reality until proven different. And if my first glance into your work history is plagued with typo’s and misspellings, I will assume that if you cannot be trusted to send out communication on your own behalf accurately, you most likely cannot be trusted to send out correspondence on the company’s behalf either. Take the extra time to spell check and even have someone else review your resume when possible.
  • Do format your resume:  The format of a resume is as important as the words that describe a job seekers’ background and qualifications. Margins, spacing, font size and style are all very important in the creation process of a resume and it should be the goal of job seekers to ensure that the format on their resume is easy to read and simple to understand.
  • Do stick to standard fonts: Many ATS (applicant tracking systems) are created with certain compatible fonts in mind. (i.e. Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, etc.) Varying from the standard fonts can create issues when parsing your resume into the database. (Parsing is a process that extracts information from a resume data field and loads it into the job application’s data cells.) Believe it or not, you can still be creative while using those standard fonts.
  • Do include a summary: When we first enter into the workforce we are often told to add an objective to our resume.  An objective is a brief overview of what you are looking to gain from the employment opportunity and possibly what you are hoping to bring to the opportunity and organization as well.  A summary on the other hand is an overview of your accomplishments- tangible things that you have actually done.  As you progress in your career it is important that you can confidently discuss your areas of expertise and the many things that you have done in a short yet eye catching paragraph at the top of your resume to quickly gain the attention of the person who is viewing it.

Resume Writing Don’ts:

  • Don’t add photographs: No matter how flattering you think that Glamour Shots photo is of you, your resume is a summary of your work history and unless you are applying for a modeling position, you should be considered for an opportunity based solely on your background and qualifications – not how you look.
  • Don’t get overly creative: Sure, you want to stand out… but for all the right reasons. Don’t get too creative with the columns, charts and tables that make it difficult to format and become more of a hindrance than a help for recruiters.  Likewise with multiple colors, unless you are applying for a position that calls for something of that nature, a general rule of thumb would be to stick with two or less colors.
  • Don’t use slang or unprofessional jargon: In the age where we prefer to text over actually talking, it is easy to forget the thin line between professional and personal.  From sending emoticons in an email, to responding with the one letter “K” to end a conversation one can get very comfortable with correspondence.  Writing a resume should always be the exception to that and no matter how entry level the position is, it is never ok to add a smiley face or a bag of money on your resume.
  • Don’t be long winded: A resume is a written document that contains a summary of work experience.  It was never intended to replace an actual interview.  As such, do not drag out duties that can be captured on the same line item. (i.e. Answering phones, Taking messages, and Transferring calls can all be added to the same line item duties) Likewise, using bullet points to capture your short thoughts makes it easier for a recruiter to skim your resume and capture key action points than a paragraph format would allow.
  • Don’t include incorrect contact information: As a Recruiter, I am ashamed to say that I am actually guilty of this one myself.  Several years ago I got a new phone number shortly before I started my job search and without thinking, I listed my old phone number on my resume.  As the days went by, I wondered why I wasn’t receiving any calls. My experience is great, my format was perfect, my spacing was good, and it was clear and concise.  So what was the issue? The issue of course, was my old phone number that was no longer in service.  The moral of that story is to slow down and take time to really review everything on your resume.  Even the things that seemingly have the least likelihood to be incorrect.

By applying these practical principles to your next resume writing session, your resume will have a better chance at being viewed as the professional masterpiece that it was intended to be, rather than a creative mishap that gets overlooked.

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