Complete Guide to Do’s and Don’ts for Every Section of Your Resume

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Understanding the do’s and don’ts of resume writing can help you make an excellent first impression on a hiring manager. A sloppy or incomplete resume, on the other hand, may instantly remove you from consideration for a position. Before submitting your resume, check it against the list of resume do’s and don’ts in this article.

Top resume do’s and don’ts

Here are some of the best practices to consider when creating your resume:

  • Do be professional in your wording and formatting
  • Don’t submit your resume without proofreading it
  • Do choose fonts that are easy to read, like Calibri or Times New Roman
  • Don’t lie or embellish your qualifications
  • Do tailor the content of your resume for each job you apply for
  • Don’t waste space on items that are irrelevant or unremarkable
  • Do keep your resume to a single page, if possible
  • Don’t make the font smaller to cram everything onto one page
  • Do consider a creative format if you’re applying for a creative job

The most important thing to remember when writing your resume is that details matter. 

Contact information do’s and don’ts

Follow these tips for adding in contact information:

Do put your name and contact information at the top of the page

Be sure to include your address, phone number and email address so that the hiring manager can contact you if necessary.

Don’t use your work address or number

You don’t want a hiring manager to contact you at your current job—especially if you haven’t told your employer that you’re looking for a new job. To avoid any awkwardness, use your personal phone number and home address rather than your work info. Follow the same principle when listing your email address.

Do include your LinkedIn profile and personal website if you have one

The endorsements and connections on your LinkedIn profile could give you an edge over other candidates, while your personal website can serve as a portfolio or writing sample.

Don’t choose a font that is unprofessional or illegible

Depending on the template you choose, you may be tempted to use a more stylistic font for your name. However, you want your name and contact information to be just as legible as the rest of your resume.

Objective or summary do’s and don’ts

When writing your resume objective or summary, keep the following tips in mind:

Don’t include a resume objective unless it serves a purpose

Resume objectives are generally considered an outdated and unnecessary component. Unless you need to explain a major shift in your career, an objective won’t add much value.

Do include a professional summary

A better option is a professional summary. This section can be used to summarize the most impressive or relevant details on your resume or to provide additional information or context.

Do customize this section to fit the job posting

Your professional summary is an excellent opportunity to illustrate how well your education, experience, interests and abilities fit the position you’re seeking. Look for ways to tie your experience to the job description and preferred qualifications listed in the posting.

Work experience do’s and don’ts

When listing your employment history in your resume, follow these tips:

Do highlight promotions or transitions with a separate entry

If you worked at the same company for several years but held different positions, consider breaking that experience into multiple entries. This can be especially useful if you were promoted or transitioned to a position that allowed you to play a more active role in the company’s success.

Don’t use jargon, cliches or overly formal language

You can’t assume that the person reviewing your resume is familiar with industry jargon. A resume filled with cliches and overly simple language will have difficulty standing out, but you should also avoid using unnecessarily long words and stiff language.

Do include active verbs and proper tense in your bullet points

Begin each bullet point with an active verb and keep your tense consistent. For your current position, use the present tense. For former jobs, use the past tense. Try to avoid reusing the same verbs repeatedly, especially common ones like led, managed or handled. Instead, use strong verbs that are powerful, precise and descriptive. Examples include implemented, coordinated, developed, launched and maximized.

Don’t write bullet points that take up more than two lines

Keep bullet points concise. If one point takes up more than two lines, you should either trim it down or break it up into multiple points.

Do include quantifiable achievements

Include numbers and concrete examples when possible. Highlighting specific accomplishments will make a bigger impression than simply listing your job responsibilities. For instance, you could mention exactly how much money you saved the company by renegotiating a supplier contract, what percentage of the company’s clients you handled or how many people you managed.

Education section do’s and don’ts

Follow these tips when detailing your education in your resume:

Do include your GPA if it was high

Remember that you don’t have to include your GPA if it won’t help your case. If you graduated with honors or earned a high GPA, however, those details can help you stand out.

Don’t include your high school education once you have a college degree

You should only list your high school diploma if that is the highest education you have completed. After you have earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, your high school experience is irrelevant.

Do put your education section in a prominent place

Your academic credentials are important, so place this section toward the top of your resume. It should come either right before or right after your work experience, depending on which section is more relevant or impressive.

Skills section do’s and don’ts

Follow these tips for listing your skills on your resume:

Don’t waste space on skills that won’t help you stand out

Since the goal is to fit your resume onto a single page, avoid listing basic computer skills, skills that everyone in your field should possess or skills that are irrelevant to the position. Also, although soft skills are important, you should avoid listing them directly. Instead, demonstrate them in the way you write other sections.

Do mention skills that are rare or fit the job description

Focus this section on skills that show you are a good fit for the position. Less common skills like being fluent in a foreign language or advanced computer skills may be helpful even if they are not explicitly required.

References do’s and don’ts

The following tips will help when you are preparing your references:

Don’t say ‘references available upon request’

Including the line ‘references available upon request’ is unnecessary because employers know they can ask for references. 

Do have a list of references ready

Employers are likely to ask for your references, so have this information ready. It’s generally best to list your references on a separate page.

Don’t list someone as a reference without asking them

Before listing someone as a reference, ask their permission. You want to make sure your references are prepared and willing to offer a favorable review.

Do’s and don’ts for other sections

Do include other sections if they add value. For example, you may have sections for publications, awards, honors, certifications, training, volunteer work or projects. Try to keep these items relevant to the job you are applying for.