"You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than everyone else." – Albert Einstein

Rules, rules, rules. They’re everywhere. They even get you before you get the job. Resumes have their own list of do’s and don’ts. This list is as all-inclusive as I can make it. I’m sure there are others I am forgetting or others that people prefer. If you have any others you have on your own Do’s and Don’ts list, please feel free to leave a comment. The more ideas we have, hopefully, the better our resumes become.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

Resume Do’s:

1. Do build your resume on your own. Plugging your information into an online resume builder may be easy to begin with but can turn into a nightmare to reformat once you save. E-mailing preformatted resumes can also be dicey and an ugly looking resume can be tossed before a single word is read. Also, some online resume formatters may charge for use of their sites.

2. Do make the basic information for each listing eye-catching. Generally speaking the first thing that happens to a resume is it’s scanned over for the highlights to see if it’s “worth” looking into what you actually did at each position. So, ensure that the company name, location (optional but handy if you have moved around or a company has more than one location), dates of employment, and position title.


October 2005 to May 2006

Director of Operations and Volunteer Coordinator


3. Do keep everything as flush to the left margin as possible. When I scan down a resume I don’t want to see a lot of white space. Everything I need to see should be there through my first pass through your resume.

4. Do use bullet points instead of numbers for each task that you have done. It might seem nitpicky, but the start of each point shouldn’t be a readable part of the line.

5. Do practice the art of brevity. If a bullet point is longer than two lines, it’s too long. Try to actually keep as many points to one line as possible.

6. Do try to quantify achievements as much as possible. “Trained 75 employees on computerized inventory information system” has more gravitas than “Taught others about inventory spreadsheets”.

7. Do be honest. There’s a line between quantifying achievements and embellishing achievements. The truth always comes out either in word or by action. A prospective employer can gain a clearer picture of what you did at a job by obtaining a reference check or observing actual results if you’re hired. It’s better to overdeliver than underachieve.

8. Do use resume paper. I’ve mentioned this before. Are the accomplishments on the paper what’s ultimately more important than the actual paper? Absolutely. But, show that your professionalism and take the extra step to print your resume on actual resume paper. Plain or cream. Any other type of background is distracting.

9. Do adjust the margins if need be. The hard and fast rule of resumes sticking to one page is becoming more obsolete. Don’t go crazy, though. Anything over two, plus a reference sheet, is too much. Adjust margins to keep it to two pages. Try and stay within the 0.75″ margin range. If your margins start creeping to 0.5″, it’s time to start editing to cut out any unnecessary information.

10. Do save your resume with your name and what it is in the title, i.e. Lindsay Haugen Resume. This will put a virtual dog ear on your resume so it hopefully doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of other resumes.

Resume Don’ts:

1. Don’t add pictures. Unless you’re applying to be a supermodel, pictures are never necessary. Ever.

2. Don’t add hobbies. Good for you for having a green thumb, but I’m not going to see how that relates to the job opening within my web design firm. If you have a blog about gardening, that might be a workable angle. Otherwise it’s not needed.

3. Don’t use crazy fonts or font colors. Even if you’re applying to an ad agency where creativity is key, keep your resume plain and simple. You can add in a marketing portfolio with your application materials. Times New Roman, size 12, black ink. Think of this as your resume’s Chanel suit or Rolex watch. Timeless and classic.

4. Don’t use gimmicks to deliver your resume. By gimmicks I mean schtick. Don’t tie your resume to a boot and tag a note that says, “Just trying to get my foot in the door.” I once had an applicant bring me flowers with her resume. That’s another story for another day.

5. Don’t use full sentences. Sentences belong in your cover letter. Since full sentences aren’t used punctuation isn’t needed after each bullet point. Capitalization of each line is, though.

6. Don’t fold your resume. I mentioned this before, too. When sending a resume use 8.5″ x 11″ envelopes to send them. When you’re dealing with literally stacks of resumes ones that don’t lay flat are the bane of HR’s existence.

7. Don’t list more than five points per each position. A resume is meant to highlight what you’ve done; not give a blow-by-blow account of everything you’ve ever done. One exception to this rule is if you’ve been with a company for an extensive amount of time; say 10 plus years, the number of points will need to be greater.

8. Don’t forget to proofread.

9. Don’t forget to proofread.

10. Don’t forget to proofread.

I hate being a buzzkill. Do’s and Don’ts aren’t meant to take the joy (Bwahahahaha!) out of writing resumes. They’re just meant to help send out the best finished product as possible.

Positive Thought of the Day:

“It’s not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them.” – T. S. Eliot


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