"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.

THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM AT YUNKER FARM, Fargo, ND

October 2005 to May 2006

Director of Operations and Volunteer Coordinator

  •   XXXXXXXXXXXXX
  •   XXXXXXXXXXXXX
  •   XXXXXXXXXXXXX
  •   XXXXXXXXXXXXX

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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"Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant." – Mitchell Kapor

Now that you have your grocery list written it’s time to go shopping. Shopping for jobs is a lot like shopping at IKEA. There is a lot to look at and you have to put some work in to get a finished product, but if you can find the right colored track you can at least get started. And, with any luck, you’ll get to meet Ace of Bass.

Big Task; Little Steps. Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Human Resources would love to see your face . . . when you come in for your scheduled interview. While it is easier to remember a name when there is a face attached to it, dropping in unexpectedly and requesting an interview is not the way to get remembered. If you have the time to pick up an application or drop off a resume, that’s totally fine. Any more than that is presumptuous. I once had a co-worker say to me, “I wish I could work in HR so I could have a job where I do nothing.” HR may not look very busy since a lot of what is done is on the computer, but make no mistake: HR’s day is jam-packed just like everyone else’s. Dropping in unannounced for an interview is disrespectful to their time. Also, HR doesn’t want to hear a sad story about how you drove 7 hours to see if you could be interviewed. That just shows a lack of planning on your part. Don’t call us; we’ll call you. Literally. Don’t call on the phone and ask for an interview either.

2. EXTREE, EXTREE! READ ALL ABOUT IT! It helps if you’re wearing a newsie outfit while reading this point. While the classified ad of your local newspaper is not completely dead, it is on life support. More and more companies are opting for the more convenient, and sometimes more cost-effective, online ad. This is where your list comes into play. Some online job search engines can produce over 2,000 postings. Who has that kind of time and energy to sift through that many ads? Much like IKEA, once you can narrow your search down to either the green or yellow line, the easier it is to get to your dream job/futon.

Whether you are utilizing Jobshq.com, Monster.com, or Idealist.org, utilize the categories and parameters to cast out your net. Remember: The wider the net, the more fish you’ll hopefully pull in. If you have very specific criteria in terms of type of job or company you do/don’t want to work for, salary, or location, that’s fine. However, just be forewarned that having very narrow specifications may lengthen how long it takes to find a job that meets your requirements.

Don’t always rely on online classified or search engines either. Sometimes companies will only post openings on their website. So, if there is a certain company you have your eye on, check their website frequently. Also, start to notice trends and patterns in the types of job openings you want so you’ll have an idea of the likelihood of finding a job. For example, teaching and admissions positions tend to open up in the Spring and are usually filled by the time school starts in the Fall. So, if you would really like to break into academia at good ol’ Alma Mater University, start looking when you dust off your capris and t-shirts.

3. ‘Cuz we still like seeing fossils at the museum. Even though we are in the Age of the Computers, some companies will still only post job openings in the newspaper. The Sunday paper is going to be your best bet in finding the most amount of listings.

4. Trees are overrated. Just because more and more companies are utilizing the Internet to find their applicants doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have resume paper handy. Some online postings will still request a hard copy of your resume and cover letter. Also, as mentioned in point three, if a company only posted their job opening in the paper, more than likely they’re going to want any application materials sent to them. A box of 24 lb resume paper will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 – $10. You won’t need to go with anything that’s much more expensive than that. You want your resume to say, “I’m professional.”; not, “I got duped into spending $30 on paper.” Use the full-sized catalog style envelopes. Trust me. Maybe I’m too picky but folded resumes and applications are the worst.

Best of luck in your shopping endeavors. Don’t forget to pick up milk!

Positive thought of the day:
“I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” – Oprah Winfrey