The Ten Commandments of Resumes

resume commandmentsYour resume is the single most important document you will use when you’re looking for a job. Far more than your cover letter (which – despite the name – almost every recruiter reads last, if at all), it is your resume that will determine whether you’ll be invited to interview. Given its importance, I’ll be spending more time here talking in detail about various parts of your resume. But as an introduction, I’m here today to share ’10 Commandments’ of resume writing. The things you must and must not do, if you want me to consider taking the time to interview you.

DO: Make it easy to contact you.

Name, phone number, and email. If you want to include your mailing address you can, but if a recruiter is going to be replying to you by email that’s not necessary anymore. Pro tip: if your email address and outgoing voicemail messages don’t sound professional, fix that.

DON’T: Lie on your resume.

Ever. Not even a bit. No, not even a ‘white lie’, or exaggerating the truth. I may not realize it when I’m reading your resume, but I can assure you it will come out in an interview. And when that has happened, that has been the permanent end of the road for those candidates. There are no exceptions.

DO: Design your resume well.

Your resume should give an immediate impression of professionalism. Clean and clear fonts, consistent margins, and ample white space to make it easy to read. Unless you’re in a line of work involving creative design, stick to text without graphics or fancy dividers.

DO: Format your resume well.

I have a strong bias towards chronological resumes, but whether you’ve chosen that format or functional, use categories and headings that are commonly used. Big blocks of text are difficult and time-consuming to read (so I probably won’t), so keep your descriptions brief. Consider bullet points where you can.

DON’T: Show your mistakes.

Everyone makes them, smart people correct them. If you proofread (or get a friend to proofread) the heck out of any document, make it your resume. There shouldn’t be a single spelling or grammar mistake on it, and all the information should be related to the job you’re applying for.

DO: Tailor each resume.

Every resume should be specifically targeted to each company or job you’re applying for. This doesn’t mean that whole rafts of text are going to change for each one; much of your resume will stay the same. But if you’re not using keywords or phrases that speak directly to a job posting or at least the company or position you’re applying for, you will miss out on opportunities.

DO: Follow application instructions.

If I’ve asked you in a job posting to include something, I’ve done this for two reasons. First, because I want that information. Second, because I’m checking in on your attention to detail. So do it.

DO: Make it easy to find what I’m looking for.

If I have to scan, and scan … and scan … to find the information I need to make a quick decision, that decision is going to be ‘no’. Don’t bury your experience or qualifications. I need to see it quickly and clearly, or I’m probably moving on.

DON’T: Include information I don’t need or want in your resume.

If you’ve been in your chosen career for a decade or more, I don’t need to see the unrelated part-time jobs you held when you were in school. If you’ve taken classes that were for personal enjoyment with no professional connection, I don’t need to see those. Don’t include your references’ contact information.

DON’T: Make it difficult for me to use your resume.

Like most people, I track information electronically. If you send me a hard copy of your resume by postal mail, I would have to scan it into a format I can use, so I’m not likely to keep it (if I read it at all). Same goes for uncommon file types. PDF is your best bet; DOC a close second.

Let it be so.


Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash