The Top Resume Do’s and Don’ts

Posted on 24th Jan, 2017 by Barbara Davidson

Writing a succinct and informative resume takes considerable time and effort. Most of us would prefer to sit down and write it in 30 minutes or less, but a rush job won’t do you any favors in the highly competitive job market. Even the smallest mistake can mean you’re overshadowed by dozens of other applicants’ flawless resumes.

We’ve compiled some of the most common do’s and don’ts for writing a quality resume. Follow our tips below and begin crafting a stellar resume that’s bound to get you noticed.

  1. List every job you’ve ever held: Jobs that aren’t relevant to the role you’re looking at will only detract from the ones that are.
  2. Get overly creative: It’s one thing if you’re a graphic designer, but for everyone else, stick with straightforward and elegant.
  3. Use words or phrases from the job description: Recruiters will definitely notice if your skill section repeats exactly what they wrote!
  4. Include confidential information: Seems simple, but you may be surprised at the personal details and other information people put on their resumes. If you’re unsure of whether something is confidential or not, ask someone else to take a look.
  5. Overblow your experience: It can be tempting to make previous job positions sound more important and impressive than they actually were. Recruiters are aware of this, and they’ll catch on pretty quickly if you try to pull the wool over their eyes.
  6. Cover up any gaps of unemployment: Chances are, you’ll be asked to explain the break during an initial interview. You can use that opening to answer truthfully.
  7. Use passive voice: Though it’s a small detail, using passive voice can make your descriptions, and you, sound weak.
  8. Make it longer than one page: Unless you’ve been working for 20 – 30 years, there is absolutely no reason to have anything longer than one page. If you’re having trouble keeping it short, chances are you’re including too much irrelevant information.
  9. Use these hackneyed words and phrases: They are over-used and really don’t do much to showcase your skills.
  1. Tailor your resume for the job: Highlight experience and skills that are relevant to the role you’re applying for.
  2. Triple check for spelling and grammatical errors: Having simple mistakes on your resume makes you look careless.
  3. Include your contact info: This means phone, email, LinkedIn page and any online portfolios you may have. Recruiters should be able to quickly find your information, so they can contact you for that second interview!
  4. Keep things concise: Resumes should be short and consolidated. Using unnecessary and “big” words will not help you in the long run.
  5. Make certain aspects stand out: Your name, current title and company, previous start and end dates, and education are what recruiters look at the most. Take care that they stand out the most.
  6. Use a resume template: There are many well-designed templates you can plug your information into. Plus, they’re just stylish enough to make your resume stand out from the crowd.
  7. Explain your soft skills: Most people list a variety of the same soft skills —communication, time-management, multi-tasking — so go one step further and provide examples of how you’ve used those skills successfully.
  8. Quote quantifiable numbers: Did you directly contribute to the increase in profits by 15%? Then say so! Hard data is always a great thing to provide on a resume because it validates your skills.
  9. Add temp jobs if needed: If you’re looking to land a first-time job and don’t have that much experience yet, it’s perfectly acceptable to list any temp or freelance work that you’ve been doing.
  10. Discuss hobbies (with caution): If you have any outside hobbies that draw on work-related skills, add them to your resume if you have the room. However, this is not a “must have,” so don’t worry if your hobbies don’t coincide with your work.
  11. Stick to the facts: You should never, ever, lie on your resume, and neither should you slightly tweak things to sound more favorable. Be direct and honest.
  12. Send your resume as a pdf: Formatting in word documents can easily get thrown off if you and a recruiter have different software versions. Avoid this potential debacle by always sending your resume as a pdf file.
  13. Have one (or two) people proofread your resume: Having worked on your resume for so long, you’re prone to missing small mistakes that are easy catches for fresh eyes. Always have another person proof your resume before you send!




Frost, A. (n.d.). 42 resume dos and don’ts every job seeker should know. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

Co, E. (January 11, 2017). Never make this common resume and cover letter mistake. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

n.a. (July 1, 2012). 10 horrifying, overused resume words and phrases you must omit from your resume. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

Kotov, I. (November 29, 2012). How to write a deliciously enticing resume recruiters won’t want to put down. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

Giang, V. (April 9, 2012). What recruiters look at during the 6 seconds they spend on your resume. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

About Barbara Davidson

Babs is Lead Content Strategist and financial guru. She loves exploring fresh ways to save more and enjoy life on a budget! When she’s not writing, you’ll find her binge-watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos!