Resume Do’s and Dont’s

Okay all you job-seekers, prepare to be surprised!  Things change over the years and today’s resumes are not the resumes of even five or six years ago.

It can be challenging to know what employers look for in a resume. Often, what we include and what we omit from our resume can depend on the field or industry we seek to work in, the size of the company we want to apply to, or even the age of the person who will screen our resume. All kinds of unforeseeable variables exist to make resume-writing confusing and frustrating, but it is up to job-seekers to do their best to learn what they need to know to best present their resume to the company they want to work at. Then, they need to customize their resumes for that company.

Customizing your resume is a topic for another post.  Today’s post is about some general resume do’s and don’ts that every resume-writer must observe, no matter what company they wish to submit their resume to.  (This article doesn’t apply to those pursuing careers in the “creative arena”, such as media, where basic resume rules go out the window!)  For the rest of us, a traditional resume is what is acceptable and expected.

Before I get into the basic do’s and dont’s compiled, here’s a little interesting trivia about the resume.  The invention of the resume is said to go back 500 years and is credited to Leonardo da Vinci.  In the 1500s a resume was nothing more than a handwritten letter of introduction (much like today’s cover letter).  By the 1930s, resumes hadn’t evolved much and were mere formalities, often written on scraps of paper over lunch with employers. However, by the 1950s, resumes were customary and included things like weight, age, height, marital status, and religion.  A decade later resumes included even more personal information like outside interests, sports, and clubs.  Now, over 50 years later, resumes have kind of reverse-evolved and contain no personal information! Today’s resume is all about the professional individual.  Personal and statistical information simply is not relevant to today’s employer.

So, let’s have a close look at what has changed in resume-writing, what to include, and what not to include, and remember, these do’s and dont’s apply to both paper resumes and digital resumes.


  • use clean, white paper with no background, no border, and no graphics. That means no headshot up in the corner, unless you are applying to be an actor or some kind of TV personality.
  • at the top of the page, include only your name, followed by your professional designation (only when appropriate), your mailing address, your email address, a link to your LinkedIn page, and your phone number.
  • use a plain, narrow line to separate your leading information (described above) from the body of the resume.
  • arrange your resume into logical sections. Profile, Experience, Education, Skills, etc. How you lay out your sections should make sense to the person who will read your resume.
  • open with a Professional Profile in place of a Summary of Qualifications.  A professional profile allows you to be more descriptive than a summary of qualifications. Today’s resumes are all about description.
  • leave lots of white space.  The default setting for margins on most word processors is 2.54 cm which you can reduce but never go less than 2.00 cm. Use one line space between bullet points, and two or three line spaces between paragraphs and sections.
  • use bullets to highlight descriptions of your skills and qualifications. It’s best to keep your sentences to two lines, but three is okay as long as the long sentence flows and is an easy read.
  • line up all text to the left. Ensure your resume is easy to read by absolutely doing this “do”! There is no need to centre section headings — doing so interrupts the reader’s flow.
  • list your jobs in reverse chronological order. This is what makes sense to the reader; they are accustomed to seeing work history in chronological order. If you deviate, it may cause confusion and compel the reader to skip it.
  • be descriptive. Avoid using the meaningless statement: Duties included.... Describe how you carried out your duties and particularly emphasize your achievements or accomplishments.
  • use meaningful action words (verbs). Instead of saying: Improved classroom attendance by communicating with parents, give your accomplishment real meaning by saying something like: Increased classroom attendance by 15% by end of second term through communicating regularly and efficiently with parents.
  • include your volunteer work.  This is welcome and valuable information to the employer but don’t overdo it. List volunteer work succinctly, similar to the way you list your Education information.
  • include organization affiliations: if you are a member of, or you support a worthy cause, say so, but again, succinctly.
  • include your name and the page number on each page. Pages can get separated. Include your name and page number something like this:  John Doe  |  Page 1 of 2
  • proofread and edit. This is critical! Ideally, have someone do it for you. If you aren’t so great with typing and formatting, have someone type and format your resume for you, and make 100% certain your final copy is error-free.


  • don’t include Career Objective, or Objective of any kind. Think about it. Why would the person reading your resume care what your objective is?
  • don’t put a date on your resume. The date goes on the cover letter, never the resume.
  • don’t use headers and footers. They mess things up, particularly if you are not that great with them in the first place. You can adjust your top and bottom margins to reduce the amount of space in those areas.
  • don’t use heavy lines to separate sections. You’ll be leaving lots of space between your sections; you don’t need bulky, distracting lines.
  • don’t use more than five bullet points per section. Even five is too many. Ideally you should fit your descriptive job-performance accomplishments into three bulleted sentences per each job you list under Experience.
  • don’t use short, “duties-included” data to describe what you’ve done. Be descriptive using compelling, meaningful sentences.
  • don’t list work experience over ten years old.  If the work experience is significantly relevant, list it in a single sentence:  2002 – 2006  |  Widget Counter at Acme Widgets  |  Top producer three years running.
  • don’t include skills and job activities that aren’t relevant to the job you are applying for. Stick to the specific skills and qualifications the employer is looking for.
  • don’t list your high school under Education if you have secondary education such as college, university, or significant certification. Employers are looking for your higher education, courses, and training when applicable.
  • don’t use block text. Keep your text left justified – it is the easiest to read.  Block text may look tidier but is not reader-friendly.
  • don’t use personal pronouns (I, my, me). The reader knows all of the information contained in the resume refers to you.  You can use a few pronouns in your cover letter because that is where you “talk about” you, the person.
  • don’t include religion, church affiliations, or political affiliations. None of this illustrates whether or not you are qualified for the specific job you are applying for unless you are applying for a clergy or a political consultant position.
  • don’t include hobbies, interests, marital status, citizen information, references to high school sports you participated in, or controversial organizations you associate with or support.
  • don’t say; References will be furnished upon request. The reader knows you will furnish resumes upon request — there is no need to make that statement on the resume. The trend shows employers don’t often ask for references anymore but bring a sheet with you to the interview just in case.
  • don’t include or send your references with your resume. It’s as simple as that: do not list references on your resume, and never send references along with your resume unsolicited.

Alright all you job-seekers, there it is for today. Remember, since I am an expert resume-writer I can develop your resume and cover letter for you, so don’t stress! Believe me, there is no shame in getting a professional to write such an important document for you. And, as always, I want your feedback and comments so I can make this blog really useful and helpful to all job-seekers.

Thanks for your time today!




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