15 Basic Resume Tips

by Rich DeMatteo on August 4, 2011 · 21 comments

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Writing a resume sucks.  It does.  The process is never fun, and most people have trouble knowing how to start, where to begin, and what information should be included.  Whether you’re getting ready to start your first resume, or you’re about to make some edits to an existing document, the following 15 resume tips should give you the basic knowledge you need to get moving!

1.    Determine the resume’s purpose and direction.  The primary purpose of the resume is to attract the employer and get an interview. If your resume’s purpose is to get a marketing job, then  you’ll want to try to aim your resume to focus on marketing.  Seems simple, but many people fail at customizing their resume.

2.    Pay attention to typography. It would be best to stick with 11 or 12 font size and use either Arial or Times New Roman. I don’t believe in going too crazy with font.  Simple is best.

3.   Don’t ever mention any negative information on your resume, including that of your previous employer.  Stay positive, champ!

4.   Avoid color — unless you’re a graphic designer or photographer.  Color might be alright for startup tech firms, but never for corporate jobs.

5.   Use bullet points.  Avoid using long texts or paragraphs. Keep in mind that employers don’t have the time to read a bibliography. Just highlight the most important ones.

6.   It’s OK to go over one page.  This is maybe the largest myth with resumes.  Just make sure that if you go over one page, all of the information is valid and shows your value to the company and the open role.  Here’s a long post, with about 100 comments on this topic!

7.    Avoid using a PDF.  While it looks nice, try to stay with .doc’s.  The reason being is that most organizations use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to review and receive resumes.  Not all systems will scan the PDF for information.

8.    The sections you should include are:  Name/Contact Info, Education, Career History, and Skills.  Some people like to use an objective statement, but I believe that is best for the cover letter.  Instead of an objective, try maybe adding in a profile section, or an area that you can highlight a few of your skills or accomplishments up top that you’re most proud of.

9.    Whenever you write down your strengths or good qualities, you have to back it up with work experienced or real life situations.  If possible, look for quantifiable information.  Example, “Helped raise $400,000 in one year.  This was a 150% increase from the previous year”.  Remember, it’s almost always about money and what you can bring to the organization.

10.   Title your resume in a way that it is easy to find it for the employer.  If you email it as an attachment, don’t save it as “MyResume”.  Try using your last name, position title, etc.  Some examples are DeMatteoResume, SmithMarketingResume, and LarryDavidResume.  Make sense?

11.   No pictures.  Keep pictures off of your resume.  If a company really wants to see you, they may head over to your LinkedIn profile, where pictures are acceptable.

12.   When putting information under each position, the most valuable information should come first.  Basically, your top bullet points should be most directly related to the company.  Doing this will ensure they are seen.

13.   White space is critical!  Please make sure to go easy on your reader’s eyes.  Adding white space between each section will help your reader distinguish between each grouped section.  It may force it to go over one or two pages, but that’s OK.

14.   Keep personal information out.  Information about your family, religion, sexual preference, is right near the top of what’s not needed on the resume.  It should be strictly business.  Once you’re hired you can open up a bit about personal matters if you’d like.

15.    Resume paper is not needed.  We don’t care what kind of paper you use.  As long as the information is solid, we can clearly read the resume, and  you have the skill we need, then we really don’t give a damn about the paper.  Save yourself some coin, and use regular white paper for your resume.

If you’d like more focused help with your resume, please see my Job Seeker Services page for information on my resume review service, as well as other services I provide.  Here are some reviews from recent clients:

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10 comments
Ben
Ben

Hi Rich Yeah, its the same in the UK RE religion, sexual orientation, age etc. Woud you guys include "hobbies and interests" under personal info or just steer well clear to avoid any possible future liable action being taken? I see / hear a fair bit in the UK media about the "sueing" culture in the States but don't know if it's just the UK media sensationalising things to sell stories (as they tend to do!) - or if its a real concern / issues for you folks over the pond operating the HR / Recruitment space?

Ben
Ben

Hey Rich. I love posts like this - the ones that really set out to help people with their job / career search. In the main I agree with all your hints. I've got your back on most other than "Avoid Colour" and “Keep personal information out" - but I say this with a strict addition of "Everything in moderation". Perhaps it’s a UK thing but a tiny bit of colour may help you stand out from a pile of black & white documents. As long as it’s professional. A bright pink probably isn't suitable. But a darkish blue may catch the readers’ eye when they're screening through a large pile. In terms of personal info - again. I hear ya but again, a pinch of personality can go a long way. As an example I’ll offer up what I use under the "Interests & Activities" section of my CV: "By day. The Recruitment & Training Manager for a large global brand within the UK Retail market. By night. A proud husband & father; supporter of Tottenham Hotspurs FC (please don’t hold it against me); player (using the term very loosely) of 5-a-side football; Xbox 360 gamer; and designer / creator of my own recruitment themed blog..... Feel free to check it out" Again, as long as you don't go overboard, and keep things subtle and professional, it's down to personal preference and opinion. Some may like this excerpt others may not but it’s never done me or anyone I've advised any harm in the UK employment market (and we're the ones who are meant to be the more reserved nation!) ;-) Cheers, Ben.

Corey Witt
Corey Witt

Hi Rich -- Awesome point with #7 about the .PDF scanning. It never occurred to me that it could be an issue. I thought that if the website accepted .pdf files then they could scan it, but I guess that's not the case. Thanks. - Corey Career Blogger at Urban Intern

The Regular Joe
The Regular Joe

I wanted to Digg it but can't so just so you know I dig

Jamie G.
Jamie G.

There's a pretty cool website that you can upload your resume to, and it will give you a "grade. " It will give you hints on where you need to improve as well. http://ow.ly/5VEvZ

Tim
Tim

Hey Rich - Great article! These are a lot of useful tips most will not realize. The one that I do have a question about is personalizing it. For example, say you are trying to switch career paths but not significantly. If you do not have much experience in that particularly area, how do you focus in on it? Or should you address this is your cover letter? -Tim

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Ben - thanks for your comment! I should probably clarify that in the US, HR professionals would rather not know about the personal situation of job seekers. In fact, it can get us in trouble. Job seekers that list too much personal information are giving us more information than we need. We don't want to know about family, religion, spouse, sex or sexual orientation, ethnicity, or anything of the nature. It can only lead to trouble for us here. And maybe some color can help, but I've seen it do more good than bad! Thanks again for your thoughts. I enjoyed reading them!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Jamie - Thanks for passing that along and thanks for the comment!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Tim - Thanks so much! If you are trying to switch paths, but don't have much experience in a certain area, it surely is a bit tougher. The cover letter will be where to address it, or maybe in this situation an objective statement is needed. Maybe take a part time, or even free opportunity to get the experience needed. This will help you add it to the top of the resume, which will then be seen by your readers. Rich

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