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Resumé Writing Do's and Don'ts

By Don Malson
Retired as Director of the Grossnickle Career Services Center in 2014
Published Winter 2013-14, Affinity magazine

There are as many opinions on the subject of resumés as there are job seekers! Then there’s the question of format. Should the style of a resumé be chronological, functional or a combination of the two? Your resumé is a marketing tool that lists a summary of your qualifications for employment. It will typically let the reader know what type of position you are seeking and will highlight your education, experience, skills and other relevant information. The best way to determine what should be included on your resumé is to ask yourself what the potential employer would want to know about you to consider you for the position. The primary purpose of the resumé is to get you an interview.

Formatting Do's

  • Do use bold type for section headings.
  • Do save your resume and cover letter as PDF documents. This will preserve the formatting when they are emailed.
  • Do limit your resume to one or two pages and print it on high quality 8½-inch by 11-inch resume paper.
  • Do present your name in bold type that is a couple of sizes larger than the text of the resume.
  • Do use either Arial or Times New Roman fonts that are between 10 and 12 points in size, for easier reading.
  • Do keep margins at 1 inch.
  • Do make sure resume is 100 percent error-free, with no spelling, capitalization, punctuation or spacing errors.
  • Do make sure the formatting of the resume sections is consistent from start to finish (dates, dashes and font styles).

Formatting Don'ts

  • Don’t use colorful paper — white, buff or beige is standard.

Content Do's

  • Do make your resume clear, concise and easy to read.
  • Do list your grade point average if it is 3.0 or higher.
  • Do include one telephone number.
  • Do focus on your strongest qualifications, accomplishments, skills and results.
  • Do list your most recent job/educational experience first, job title, dates, cities and states.
  • Do list everything (jobs, degrees, internships, activities) in reverse chronological order.
  • Do include a profile or summary of qualifications at the top of the resume, with four to six bullets or phrases highlighting your skills and traits, particularly if you are an experienced job seeker.
  • Do include your current degree program and anticipated graduation date.
  • Do begin your bullet points with action verbs, using phrases instead of complex sentences.
  • Do use action verbs instead of the pronouns “I,” “me,” or “my.”
  • Do include computer skills such as systems, languages, programs and databases.
  • Do use a functional (skills–based) resume when changing careers as it is usually the more effective style.

Content Don'ts

  • Don’t include “references available upon request” or salary information.
    Don’t say you were laid off or fired from your last position.
  • Don’t include personal information such as date of birth, marital status, ethnicity, religion, etc.
  • Don’t include an objective on your resume if you have also written a cover letter.