A Few Dos and Don’ts
Presentation – Remember the resume is a representation of you. You wouldn’t go to an interview not dressed properly and neither should your resume. This doesn’t mean dressing your resume up with logos, graphics, or cool fonts, unless you are seeking a career as an artistic designer. Instead, keep the resume conservative and professional. Use a sharp-looking font such as Times Romans, Arial, or Helvetica. Be sure that your key words stand out at a first glance. Your choice of paper, if mailing, does not have to be resume paper. In fact, standard white or cream color paper of a decent weight is your best choice because it can be easily scanned into the employer’s database.
Format- The format is decided on after the content is written. As you read through your initial rough draft, it should become obvious which format should allow the information to be easily digested.
There are a few guidelines to formatting:
· You are not writing a book. Be sure that if you choose to write paragraphs, they are short and the key words stand out. Bullets are a good way to list your experience and achievements in an easy to read format. Each bullet should highlight only 2-3 sentences, so be sure that you are able to express your background briefly and effectively. When using a combination of bullets and paragraphs, you risk confusing your audience. Remember, your resume is initially scanned for key words; the reader needs to be directed to the areas that should be scanned first.
· Don’t overdo bold and italic type. Bold and italic are used to direct the reader’s eye to a specific section. Over use of either will defeat that purpose. Also, be sure your font is no smaller than 10 point.
· Don’t try to cram everything on a few pages. It’s true that resumes that are longer than two-three pages are considered a book. That is because there is too much content to go through. Cramming the content on fewer pages does not reduce the clutter. If you find you have excessive information, rewrite the content until you have said everything you want to say using fewer words.
Spelling and Grammar- Be sure to proofread your resume multiple times and have a few friends proofread it as well. Do not just count on spell check.
A common mistake is a candidate applying for a management position and on their resume they say they have been a manger.
You, as the author of the resume, are usually too focused on content and formatting to notice spelling and grammar errors, even if you are looking for them. Be sure to have a couple of your friends proof read your resume before you send it out.
Short Tenures and Employment Gaps – One red flag that has injured many job seekers is short tenures at their positions. Usually there are very good reasons, but often the candidate does not get a chance to explain those reasons. If the job was a short-term contract, or you were laid off, list it near the date of employment. If you have been a contractor for a while and you are now seeking a permanent position, explain why, either in your introduction or objective. Be sure that you can express that you truly do want a permanent job and you are not considering contract. An employer does not want to risk the cost of hiring you just to have you take a higher paying contract job 6 months down the road. The same is true of employment gaps. Don’t leave your audience wondering; briefly explain on you resume why there is an employment gap (went back to school, cared for a family member, illness). You do not need to give personal details, just eliminate questions.
Incorrect Information- We’re not suggesting that you would outright lie on your resume. However there is data that says around 80% of the resumes have at least one piece of incorrect information. This can damage your credibility in very severe ways.
Inflated Titles- You truly may have been President of Marketing at the company you and your buddy started, but consider the interpretation of that title when you are applying for the copywriter position. Be sure your titles represent where you are on your career ladder. Also, the title on your resume should be consistent with the title your previous employer has listed. It would be awful if you thought you were a Project Manager, but when references were checked, your previous employer has you listed as a Jr. Associate.
References- You do not need to provide references with your resume. Many people opt to reserve their references until they are in the interviewing process. Whenever you decide to provide references, be sure you choose a good representation of supervisors, peers, and personal acquaintances. Ask your chosen references permission before listing them, and be sure you have a good idea of what they are going to say about you. References should never be listed on the actual resume, but on a separate sheet of paper. Also, even if you chose to submit your references with the resume, be sure to bring multiple copies with you to the interview.