Resume Writing Do’s and Don’ts
By Tom Caravela, Managing Partner (The Carolan Group)
First, your resume should reflect your brand or specific focus. Be clear about your image and what you want to portray. Make sure that all information you include on your resume will work towards a unified image. Show your brand through clear and descriptive titles that justify your fit for the role you seek.
Formatting and appearance is key to the overall impression of your resume. Be comfortable with the template you use to work from and be sure it offers the impression you want. Make sure that your fonts are big enough. Do not go smaller than an 11 font and opt for 12 if possible. Times New Roman, Arial and Garamond are all good font choices. Do not over use capital letters or underlines. Titles should be bold and there should be white space to show clarity and make content flow.
Use the Header
It is important to have your contact information displayed prominently. Use the header and make your name bold with a larger font than the rest of the text. Make sure that your contact details are clearly listed. Include your name and or contact details on all the pages of the resume (if you have more than one).
What keywords might a recruiter use to find someone with your specific background? The digital age of recruiting is upon us which means all applicant tracking systems and recruitment websites have “search” functionality. As a result, corporate recruiters will run search queries based on specific “keywords”. If your resume does not have the keywords related to the job you are applying for, you will never be found. Keywords can be job titles and descriptive words that relate to your job function. TIP: Review job descriptions and similar job postings to see what common keywords are being used by prospective employers.
If you have worked a long time for the same company (8-10 years or more) highlight this tenure clearly to show how long you worked for that employer. It is smart to then list all the different positions and roles separately that you had during this time.
It may not be relevant to include every experience. If you have been working for many years (20+) there may not be a need to list all your work experiences, starting with your job as a waiter or bartender. Again, be true to your brand and stay clear
Avoid “I” and “Me”
Your resume should not contain the pronouns “I” or “Me.” That is normal sentence structure, but since your resume is a document about your person, using the pronouns ‘I” and “Me” is redundant.
Do Not Include
Do NOT include irrelevant information such as political affiliation, religion, age, hobbies and sexual preference. It is not a good idea to include a colored background, photo, or special graphic such as a large monogram, logo or initial. It is not necessary to mention comments like “Available to Interview” or “Can Start Immediately”. Although it is very common, the statement, “References Available Upon Request” can be left off as well. Employers will ask for references at the proper time regardless of whether it is offered.
Do Not Lie
Only document what you can support. Even the slightest information that cannot be supported could potentially ruin your chances for employment. It is acceptable to have several versions of your resume for different employers and or roles. Just be sure you can support all the claims you make on your
It is a smart practice to customize your resume for each employer and or role you are applying for. So it can be a good idea to have multiple versions of your resume. It is not smart to tailor your resume to be someone else. Employers will pick up what you can truly support and what you are fabricating.
Years of experience will dictate length of resume. While the one to two page resume is most common for entry to mid level job seekers, the executive resume will warrant more pages (depending on the industry and job function). We recommend including publications, presentations, abstracts, journal articles, editorial tasks and reviews, awards, grant support, etc. All should be added at the end, letting the reader decide how much needs to be reviewed.
It is very likely that you will be e-mailing your resume to many companies for consideration. Apart from having a Word document ready to go as an attachment, you should also have a strong e-mail intro to act as a brief cover letter and resume highlight. To be safe, you can also include the full resume under the cover letter in case the attachment is blocked by a spam filter.
Spell Check and Proofread
Be sure your resume is completely free of all errors or typos. Using spell check and proofreading are mandatory. It is a good idea to share your resume with at least 3 trusted colleagues and or family members that can proofread on your behalf.
Use professional resume paper and a good printer for the finished product. White or lighter paper is preferred. If you do not have a good printer, consider having a local print shop produce your resume professionally.