Basic Resume Dos and Don'ts

Posted by The Editors on May 5, 2011
Basic Resume Dos and Don'ts

So now you've thoroughly researched potential employers, have done some soul-searching, and are on the path toward putting together your perfect resume (or resumes). Here are some dos and don'ts to help you avoid common mistakes while building a stronger, more refined resume (and cover letter).

Do use numbers where appropriate to clearly describe your accomplishments, as in "led a team of nine sales reps."

Don't use vague qualitative terms such as "large" or "many," which leave the reader with questions about specifics.

Do distinguish the important from the trivial in your background to fit the most relevant and significant elements onto a single page or so.

Don't waste resume space with frivolous information, such as "Voted mostly likely to succeed in high school."

Do stick to a basic, clear format that helps the reader glean information quickly and with minimal effort.

Don't try to differentiate yourself with an unconventional format or tactics such as graphics and colored paper, unless you are applying for jobs in arts-related fields.

Do make your resume a document that focuses on your accomplishments and skills.

Don't include reasons for leaving your jobs, salary information, or references on your resume.

Do discuss your two or three most relevant strengths and illustrate them with experience and achievement statements.

Don't try to portray yourself as a jack-of-all-trades in the hope that something will strike the reader's fancy.

Do use the active voice with verbs that indicate you're in charge: "Represented firm at international symposium."

Don't get caught in the passive voice trap, writing as if things happened to you. "Was sent to Argentina to represent the firm..."

Do begin each achievement statement with an active verb: "Handled all client correspondence."

Don't refer to yourself as a subject (first or third person) in your resume: "I helped prepare correspondence," or, "Applicant wrote outreach letters to prospective clients."

Do present yourself as a professional, with a straightforward email account and, if applicable, a website that showcases relevant skills and achievements.

Don't include email addresses or websites that have the potential to reveal controversial or inappropriate personal information: Avoid addresses such as or

Do be aware that employers are interested in your eligibility to work legally and may ask for documentation. Take the time to learn about your rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

Don't include personal information such as social security number, age, race, or marital status on your resume (unless you're writing an international CV).

Do use your current home address, a personal email address, and telephone number with a professional outgoing message. Be sure that prospective employers can easily reach you; check your messages regularly.

Don't use your current work email or phone number as contact information. This indicates that you are job searching on your employer's time, something no prospective employer will view positively.

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