Resume do’s and don’ts – Some useful resume tips and advice

resume writing tips, resume tips, resume advice, resumes, cover lettersWhen I graduated high school, I took a brief course on resume writing, which offered basic resume tips. Then in my last year of college, I took a similar course, which provided more professional resume advice, as well as how to write a cover letter and assemble a portfolio. Since these courses were mandatory at the time, I thought, “Everyone must know how to write a proper resume.”


When I became a hiring manager and started reviewing resumes, I came to the conclusion that either the resume writing courses are no longer mandatory or students just don’t pay attention to them.  All the resumes I reviewed were either excellently written or embarrassingly crappy. There didn’t seem to be a middle ground. So here are some basic resume tips and advice that I can offer job seekers. I broke them out into resume do’s and don’ts based on the really bad ones I’ve seen.

DO include all your correct contact details.

I received a resume that looked great as I scanned it from the top down. But when I got to the bottom, his contact details said (and I’m not joking): Phone: 555-555-5555 Email: [email protected] FAIL!

Simple resume advice here: If you’re using a resume template or a sample resume in order to create your own, always replace the template information. Make sure your contact details are accurate. How else do you expect employers to get in touch with you?

(In this case, I replied back to the applicant just as a courtesy letting him know his contact details were incorrect. He replied with an updated attachment and asked me to still consider him. I didn’t.)

DON’T put a background image on your resume.

I reviewed well over 125 resumes in one night – for one position, which was only posted for 2 weeks. Since I had to bring the resumes home with me, I printed them in black and white (yes, I killed some trees that day – sorry).

Some of them had awful background images, which looked terrible printed. I get that these applicants were trying to make their resumes stand out. But with over 100 resumes to read, if I struggled with one because of a distracting background image, I tossed it aside and moved on. Images in general are a bad idea. A good resume tip is to keep it clean and simple. Remember hiring managers are often printing resumes out. Although yours may look great in colour, consider what it would look like in black and white.

DO proof-read your resume before submitting it.

If you’re applying for an Online Copywriter position, please spell Online Copywriter correctly, okay? I was hiring for this position and found a resume where the applicant had a typo in the objective: To obtain a position as an Online Copywritr. (I’m not kidding. It really said that.)

Always always proof-read your resume. This is probably the best resume tip I can offer. One typo and hiring managers are immediately turned off.

DON’T apply for a position that you’re not even a little bit qualified for.

I know that job seekers sometimes get desperate and apply for positions with little experience hoping for the best. But if your expertise isn’t even remotely similar to the industry and/or position you’re applying for, don’t apply. Another piece of resume advice: don’t spam the Internet. For a copywriting position, I received resumes from nurses. For a web designer position, resumes came in from professors and psychologists. Seriously people?

DO tailor your resume according to the position.

An excellent resume tip is to tailor yours based on the position you’re applying for. Include only relevant skills and experience. Leave out all the other stuff. This way, hiring managers get a good view of the expertise you can offer for the position they’re trying to fill – without being cluttered by all the other crap. If you want, additional skills can be listed at the end of your resume under “Other relevant skills” (but only if they’re truly relevant).

DON’T tell me what your interests and hobbies are.

I’m not sure when listing your interests and hobbies became acceptable in resume writing, but I remember it was always a faux pas. If you’re one to list your hobbies on your resume, here’s some good resume advice for you: keep it professional, not personal. Hiring managers don’t care if you like to tap dance, figure skate, thumb wrestle or take long walks on the beach. (We really don’t.)

DO write me a cover letter. But DON’T write me a novel.

As a job seeker, I hated writing cover letters. It took so much time to cater each cover letter to each position. But as a hiring manager, I LOVED reading cover letters. It was a quick summary of the candidate’s skills and work experiences. But that’s all it should be: a 1-page summary. The moment it spills over into 2 pages, your name is no longer seen on the front page, which means I can easily forget it. Also, try to use bullet points to list key skills and qualifications in your cover letter. This gives us a break from reading long paragraphs.

While we’re on the topic, resumes shouldn’t be more than 1 page either (max 2 pages only if you have the skillsets to justify it). More than 2 pages is too much. It could be a sign you’re cluttering your resume with pointless crap.

DO bold key skills and qualifications relevant to the job.

Another resume tip that I find helpful is when applicants bold certain skills and achievements that are relevant to the position. This is a subtle but eye-catching way to highlight how your previous experiences make you a suitable candidate. Don’t go crazy with the bolding though. Only bold the words you want eyes to be drawn to.

Bonus resume tip: In today’s day and age with today’s advancing technology, highlighting that you’re computer literate isn’t impressive. It makes us hiring managers wonder if you seriously think that’s a skill to be highlighted.

And finally…

DON’T put smiley faces on your resume.

And don’t tell hiring managers they should hire you because you like to smile a lot. What are you? Five?

I have nothing more to say about this point. (sigh)

As always, leave me a comment below. What are some of your resume writing tips?


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    • Ivan on December 1, 2013 at 5:52 am
    • Reply

    Excellent list, I love how straightforward this is. When you wrote, “Don’t apply for a job you’re not qualified for” I get a bit anxious, since I’m 15 and have no particular qualifications. Would it be wise to write, “I’m willing to work for free”. Because honestly, at this point I just want some work experience.

    1. If you’re young and just looking to gain some work experience, yes I think making it known that you’d be interested in an internship is a good idea. The first step is to get your foot in the door and then you can learn and build on your skills. What are you aspiring to be? When I say “Don’t apply for something you’re not qualified for” it was meant to say that people shouldn’t apply for a marketing position if they studied accounting. You’d be surprised the interesting resumes I’ve seen. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for stopping by my blog and come back anytime!

  1. I am finding that recruiters are responding in one or two months, as opposed to one or two weeks — partly due, I suspect, to the volume of resumes received, and possibly due to internal changes in the job description on the client side. (As a former in-house recruiter, I experienced this a few times.) What I have also done is contact a candidate we can’t use, but I know someone else might, and steer the candidate to that alternate job. They are always surprised I took the time to due so, and most grateful.

  2. It’s a nice tip to win cover letter with your enhanced resume. It’s true, make sure your abilities fit in with what you’re applying for. And have in your resume a presentable and formal image of the profile.

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