Resume Do’s and Don’ts

You need a resume to apply for almost every job on the planet. If your resume is a strong, accomplishments-driven example of your career experience, it can open doors and bring you new career opportunities. But if your resume is weak, disjointed, and boring, it can virtually slam the door on your next career move.

Tips for Improvement

Sit down with a copy of your current resume and review the following Resume Do’s and Don’ts to see how you can significantly improve your own document.

DO CHOOSE THE RIGHT FORMAT - If you have been in the same industry for your entire career, a modified-functional resume format might work best. The modified functional resume emphasizes the companies, titles, responsibilities, and achievements you have had starting from the current employer. If you have worked in various fields or have held numerous positions at many diverse companies, then you should select a functional resume format which will highlight your skills and achievements rather than focus on the companies where you have worked.

DON’T LOOK LIKE AN UNDERGRAD - Unless you have graduated from college within the past two-three years, the education part of your experience is not as important to prospective employers as your actual work experience. Put the Education section at the end of your resume, not up at the top.

DO BLOW YOUR OWN HORN - A great resume should immediately show what sets you apart from the thousands of applicants submitting their resumes for the same position. A professional resume has to include a few accomplishments or achievements under each job description. Did you open a new market in Mongolia? Expand sales by 380% over last years figures? Be truthful, of course, but don’t forget to include specific examples of your contributions for a job well done.

DON’T LEAVE OFF DATES - A resume will never be taken seriously without dates included next to each position listed. If you have gaps in employment for any reason, try to give a brief explanation in your cover letter, if necessary. Do not eliminate the dates of employment from your resume.

DO INCLUDE AWARDS - List any awards, scholarships, or related commendations under the appropriate section of your resume. Fraternal affiliations and elected positions can also be included, where appropriate, under Education or under the specific job title where you received the awards.

DON’T LIE ABOUT YOUR TITLE - Many companies use different titles that do not necessarily translate outside of that particular corporate structure. But you should not change or enhance your job titles on the resume. If a background check reveals that you have changed your title, inflated your level of responsibility, or fudged the dates that you were actually employed in each position, your credibility will be blown.

DO KEEP IT BRIEF - No one wants to read through every job you’ve ever held since stocking groceries in high school. A strong resume should present the experience you’ve had in the past 10-15 years. Highlight your most recent jobs and consolidate your career past into a strong one or two page resume.

DON’T INCLUDE PERSONAL INFO - Personal information does not belong on a professional resume. Do not include your age, marital status, race, hobbies, or political affiliation on your resume.

DO PROOFREAD - There is nothing worse than a resume filled with typos, grammatical errors, coffee stains, or printing problems. This resume represents your career in one critical document - take the time to review it carefully before sending it out.

DON’T WHINE - A resume is not the place to mention “sexual harassment”, “worker’s compensation claim”, or “fired for no good reason”. Do not include any reasons for leaving your job on the resume.

DO TARGET YOUR AUDIENCE - Your resume should be sent to the companies, agencies, and internet sites that specialize in your particular areas of experience or interest. Just sending out a large mailing may not be the answer. Remember that a professional resume is a marketing tool which can open doors and create opportunities if sent to the correct audience.

For a free critique/price quote, email Career Resumes® at

Peter Newfield is President of®, one of the premier resume writing services in the United States. He is The Resume Expert for,,, and the former Resume Expert for, Spencer Stuart Talent Network and the Career Center on AOL. View samples at: