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Resume Do's and Don'ts

Important things to remember

  • Use past-tense actions words - refer to the Action Words list for ideas.

  • Utilize bullets - makes the document easier to read.

  • Write short, concise sentences.

  • Write results statements with %, $, #, whenever possible - there are your SOAR statements.

  • Integrate key words to demonstrate your knowledge in your field.

  • Have a clear purpose and direction for writing the resume - know what job or field you are targeting and who your audience is.

  • Ask for feedback from your career counselor and colleagues in your field.

  • Edit strategically - ask someone else, ideally someone with great writing, spelling, and grammar skills, to look over your resume. Another trick is to read your resume out loud while you touch a pencil to each word.

  • Place full span dates to the right - align your dates along the right margin.

  • Include headings. They quickly draw the reader's eye to specific information. The ease of readability for the reader is as important as the information contained within the resume.

What do I want to avoid?

  • Don't use the word "I" or other pronouns.

  • Don't have a resume over two pages.

  • Don't list job responsibilities - instead, write impactful, action-oriented statements that describe your skills and accomplishments.

  • Don't include personal information (age, marital status, health, children, etc.) - readers don't need to know this because it's not job related.

  • Don't make it the responsibility of the reader to figure out what you can do.

  • Don't indicate "references available upon request" - it's implied and it wastes space.

  • Don't have typographical errors. Do not rely on spell check - it won't catch everything.

  • Generally, you don't need multiple resumes - if you take the time to thoughtfully write your resume, there is no need for more than one. Use the cover letter to adjust for different positions. If conducting two different job searches, speak with your career consultant.

  • Don't change tenses.

  • Don't change fonts and size. It should be the same on envelope, cover letter, resume, and references.

  • Don't lie! Everything is verifiable.

Key Questions

Does my resume make the grade?

Once your resume is written, read through it and make sure you can answer YES to the following key questions...

  • Does my resume highlight successes and accomplishments, not job duties?

  • Does my resume reflect my achievements, not just describe my job title?

  • Does my resume emphasize my transferable skills and abilities (especially if transferring jobs or moving into a new direction)?

  • Are many statements on my resume quantified?

  • Are my career summary and statements relevant to my target audience?

  • What are the key competencies for this job/career? Does my resume showcase my ability to be successful at those competencies?

  • Have I captured key words relevant to my field?