"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

"Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Resumes: The Art of Packaging of What Ya Got. Whether you’re fresh out of school or have a work history as long as my leg, writing a great resume is vital. Writing a great resume can also be daunting. How does one package their career, part of their life’s history, into something compelling enough to make a manager feel you might be the right fit for his or her team? While ultimately your voice needs to come through your resume, we’ll go over some basic resume formats.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

Basic Information:

Regardless of format every resume needs your contact information. Make sure the address listed is where you can most easily pick up your mail in case any paperwork needs to be mailed to you. Your phone number and professional e-mail should also be listed. Even if you don’t have Internet at home you should still have an e-mail set up. More and more companies are contacting applicants online, and application confirmations are also being sent electronically. Another thing to remember is to make sure your outgoing ring and voicemail message are professional sounding. No hiring manager is going to want to hear Justin Bieber’s newest smash hit or you yelling, “LEAVE ME A MESSAGE, YO!!”

Whether you center your contact message or left justify it, each bit of information should get its own line and your name should be bolded and one to two font sizes bigger than the rest of your resume. Getting your name stuck in their heads’ is important.

Lindsay Haugen

XXX Awesome Street

Anywhere, MN 56549

Types of Resumes:

Chronological. Pretty self-explanatory but this format lists all of your work and leadership experience in the order of most recent until your very first position. This is the most common and most preferred. It’s the easiest way to scan through someone’s work history to see how long they’ve been at each position or if there are any employment gaps.

Functional. This focuses more on skills and experience rather than listing a chronological work history. This is usually used by job seekers who are doing a career change or have significant employment gaps due to such things as going back to school or staying at home to raise a family.

Targeted. This is where you list key skills and experience geared towards a specific job posting before listing a chronological work history. This can be time-consuming because you have to really have to take a close eye to what a job posting is asking for to pull out key components of your past that will fit the bill.

Format Side Note:

Regardless of what format you use any collegiate experience should be listed. If you’re just out of high school and need a resume for either college or a job you’re applying to, you should list that. Otherwise, even if that is your highest degree earned, your high school graduation is probably not needed. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I feel that most hiring managers are going to assume a person has a high school diploma or GED.  Either way that information can be explained on an application.

Long story longer: Education can be listed at the beginning or end of a resume. If you’re fairly new out of school, I would list it at the beginning of your resume. Once a person hits right around the five year mark of being out school, education can move towards the end of your resume. Your graduation date can come off as well. In all candor, graduation dates are simple math gateways to how old a person is.

If you are still in college and starting to apply to jobs to get a jump on starting your career or if you’re near the end of obtaining an advanced degree, simply put “Expected graduation date May 2012”. Never list a degree until you have it in your hand.

True story: At a former job there was a situation where a person listed a degree thinking they had everything needed to graduate done only to find out a credit wasn’t completed, which actually caused their diploma to be pending until the issue was resolved. Talk about an awkward conversation AFTER the resume was submitted with a degree listed.

Whew! That was a mouthful! Hang in there. Once you get your information laid out, polishing it up will be a piece of cake. German chocolate . . . with that weird coconut frosting.

Next time we’ll cover some basic do’s and don’ts of resume writing.

Positive Thought of the Day:
“It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.” – Epictetus

"Special skills: Thyping." – Taken from an actual resume

Ohh, the dreaded resume. The toughest part of writing one is getting an actual resume built. Once you have your basic format and information added, it will be easier to tweak and adjust for any job you’re applying to.

I am a big proponent of building your own resume versus using a template or one of those online resume generators that spits out something for you. Writing your own resume from scratch gives you more control over the format and stretches out your writing muscles.

There are many key elements to writing a killer resume that gets read. Much like anything on this blog, we’ll break it down into smaller components to make the task a little less daunting. The first part we’ll tackle is the actual content that goes into assembling a resume.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Your contact information: Name, address, phone number and e-mail. This is an easy one to look over when proofreading. A friend of mine who did his work study in the career study at MSUM once saw a resume submitted by a student with her name spelled wrong. He knew this student so he knew what her name should’ve been. Talk about an epic fail. Also, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a professional sounding e-mail. If you want to keep hiphophoney@xxxxx.com for all of your posse to get ahold of you, that’s fine. However, e-mails are free so sign up for a second one for professional listings. Sometimes options are limited if you have a common name, but try to nab one with your entire name and as little of anything else as possible, i.e. bobjohnson817362@xxxx.com. This may sound incredibly picky, but I find Yahoo to sound slightly more professional than Hotmail. I love you MSN and I rely on my Hotmail account more for my everyday interactions, but maybe it’s just me that I don’t think the word “hot” should be anywhere in a professional sounding e-mail.

2. Objective. This one little piece trips me up every time. How does someone sum up their work history and give a vision for their career path in one little sentence fragment? Do I even need to bother anymore? I caught an article yesterday through MSN stating that objectives on resumes are going the way of the dodo. Here’s the link to the Nels Wroe article on what he thinks of resume objectives.

Some hiring managers are old school, I usually am, too, so throwing one on there probably isn’t going to kill you as long as it’s clear and error free. A simple, “To get a job in retail” is not going to cut it. To write an effective objective, try the A + B = C method. Think of two skills or experiences that you can bring into the career path you are seeking. For example, “To utilize experience in event planning and advertising within the field of marketing”. Since objectives aren’t full sentences there isn’t a need to add punctuation at the end.

3. College education. Even if it’s been awhile since you have been in college, this is an important part since most job postings require a certain degree within a certain field. If you’re a recent college graduate, one smart thing to add since you might be a little light on direct work experience is related coursework. If you’ve been out of school for more than five years, leave off that off along with your graduation date. List if you graduated with any honors. Any other special awards or accomplishments can be listed at the very end of your resume under, you guessed it, Awards/Achievements.

4. Work experience. This one’s the headliner. There are various schools of thought on how work experience should be laid out, which we’ll cover in how to format a resume a little later on. What should be listed under work experience should be the name of the company, dates with months and years listed, position held, and three to five bullet points of what you did. It’s all about the buzzwords. The start of each bullet point should sound active and accomplished, but there’s no need break out the thesaurus. If it sounds like something Chaucer would’ve used, find something else. Each point should have its own buzzword. I know it can be tedious trying to find new ways of phrasing your accomplishments, but it shows you put the time and effort to really craft your resume.

There is also some debate on whether or not a person should list work experience even if it doesn’t relate to what you’re applying to. I’m from the school of thought that says you can gain valuable experience from every place you work. If you spent four years flipping burgers at McDonald’s that gives you a starting point to showcase your customer service skills, commitment to setting forth a high-quality product, and the ability to multitask. Also, if you omit jobs that you don’t think will help your cause you run the risk of looking like there are holes in your work history.

5. Leadership experience. This can be a key section for multiple reasons. If you are fresh out of college and don’t have a lot of work experience, you can show potential employers your marketability through what accomplished at school. It can also be used to show skills you may not have gained on the job but still have ascertained elsewhere. For example, if I wanted to break into the field of college admissions but have zero professional experience doing so, I can highlight the fact I was very active in my collegiate organization that gave campus tours. Also, companies are moving towards individuals who are well-rounded outside of the office, so if you have any experience in professional networking groups or volunteering, showcase what you’ve done!

6. Awards/Achievements. These could be collegiate or professional. After the five year mark collegiate awards can start to fall off unless it’s a prestigious national award. It’s great that you made the Dean’s List but after a while it’s kind of like wearing your letterman jacket from 1988. Also, use your discretion when listing awards. If you won Chili of the Year at your company picnic, it’s best to leave that trophy on your mantle.

7. References. Sometimes job application sites will have you upload your references separately but usually reference lists go along with resumes. Also, don’t list “References Upon Request.” The last thing HR wants is homework. Three references should do the trick, however, some companies will ask for up to five. References should be people you have worked with. Professors can also work if you’re right out of school or applying to graduate school. Keep references up-to-date. A reference from a job you worked at 10 years ago isn’t going to look especially relevant. Also, no family members. I have had people list their moms as references on applications. The only way this is allowable is if you worked for the family business. If that’s the case then that family member should be listed as your supervisor.

So now that all of the pieces have been dumped out of the box, we’ll tackle how to put the puzzle together next.

Positive Thought of the Day:
“Resume: A written exaggeration of only the good things a person has done in the past, as well as a wish list of the qualities a person would like to have.” – Bo Bennett