Resume Do's and Don'ts You Need to Know
Your resume is your ticket to landing your dream job. It's often the very first impression that potential employers have of you as a candidate, and it can make or break your chances of getting invited for an interview.
With so much riding on your resume, it's important to get it right. There's no such thing as a perfect resume, but there are best practices to follow to create a winning document that will get you noticed for all the right reasons.
In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know to create a resume that stands out from the crowd, from the importance of using a professional format to the pitfalls of including irrelevant information.
So whether you're just starting out in your career or looking to take the next step, read on to discover the resume do's and don'ts that can help you achieve your career goals.
3 Key Takeaways You'll Get From This Article
- A well-crafted resume is an important job application document and should be customized to each job you apply to.
- The best practices to implement when writing your resume and the common mistakes to avoid
- Use Teal with built-in AI features to create and tailor your resumes
What Is a Resume and Why Is It Important?
A resume is a document that summarizes an individual's education, work experience, skills, and achievements. It is typically used as a tool to apply for jobs and showcase an individual's qualifications and suitability for a particular role to potential employers.
A resume is important for several reasons:
- It provides potential employers with an overview of your skills and experience, which can help them quickly determine whether you are a good fit for the job.
- A customized resume shows that you have taken the time and effort to research the company and position, and are genuinely interested in the job.
- A well-crafted resume can make a strong first impression and stand out among other applicants, who may have submitted a generic resume, to land you a job interview.
- Tailoring your resume allows you to effectively communicate your unique value proposition to potential employers and demonstrate how your skills and experience align with the company's goals and objectives.
- A resume can serve as a useful tool for self-reflection, helping you identify your strengths and areas for improvement as you navigate your career path.
A strong, effective resume is an essential tool for anyone looking to advance their career or find a new job. By highlighting your unique qualifications and experience, you can showcase your value to potential employers and increase your chances of achieving your career goals.
Unsure if your resume includes all the crucial details? Look no further than these resume tips, which will steer you in the right direction. Also, Teal can help! (we'll dive deeper into that later) Let's take a look at the do's and don'ts of resume writing.
Resume Do's to Stand Out From the Competition
There's a lot that your resume needs to accomplish. It's your introduction, your basic job profile, and your elevator pitch all at once. It's a tall order—especially for a one or two-page document.
So, let's start by focusing on what you absolutely should be doing on your resume. Here are a few ways to set your resume (and yourself) up for success in your job hunt.
1. Do tailor your resume for each job
"Tailor your resume" is common advice for job seekers and for good reason: Hiring managers (or even applicant tracking systems) are scanning resumes for relevance. They want to find the candidates that are the best match for the open role.
That means your goal is to present yourself as a no-brainer fit for that position — and that's almost impossible to do with a generic document that you're sending to everybody.
But do you know how to tailor your resume to job description? What does it actually mean to tailor your resume? Don't panic—it's pretty simple. Take a fine-tooth comb to the job description and pull out any skills, qualifications, or keywords that you see emphasized or repeated. For example, you might see that they mention "communication" or "communicator" several times throughout the description.
Our Resume to job description comparison tool makes this process even easier. Try it now to see how your current version compares.
Now, provided you honestly possess those qualifications, find places to incorporate them in your own resume — like your professional summary, skills section, or even in your past job responsibilities.
With Teal's AI Resume Builder, you can quickly compare the skills and keywords in the job posting to those in your resume to receive a match score. Make sure to add any relevant experience to your customized resume.
Basically, it's your job to connect the dots between what you bring to the table and what the job requires. Tailoring your resume is the best way to do so.
2. Do focus on relevance
One of the biggest struggles people face with their resumes is keeping them short (which we'll talk about in detail a little later). They feel like they need to cram their entire life story and career history into the document, just in case it's a nugget that impresses the employer.
Remember though, the most successful and impactful resume examples are the ones that focus on relevant information. They draw parallels between the job duties listed in the job descriptions and your own experiences.
So, as you work on each resume, make relevance your primary goal. When you're applying for a Sales Development Representative position, absolutely include your past sales position, your expertise with Salesforce, and your top-notch relationship-building skills. Your previous part-time job at your college campus' coffee shop? While you can probably pull some transferable skills from that experience, it probably doesn't need to be there.
3. Do use bullet points and sentence fragments
Writing a resume feels a little counterintuitive. You need to toss out everything you learned in English class and write in bullet points and sentence fragments.
Traditional career advice will tell you that a hiring manager only looks at your resume for six or seven seconds before deciding how to move forward. So, your document needs to be as skimmable and scannable as possible.
That means ditching long paragraphs and big blocks of text and instead working in plenty of:
- Bullet points
- Clear section headers (like "Education" and "Work Experience")
- Sentence fragments
- White space between sections
Recommended: Generate your resume bullet points with AI
4. Do mix up your verbs
As you work on your bullet points describing your previous job duties, remember this rule: Every single bullet point should start with a verb (that's an action word, if you need a quick grammar refresher).
But even so, you don't want your bullets to end up looking like this:
- Assisted with migrating all 85,000 of our customer contacts to a new CRM
- Assisted with planning our annual customer conference with over 3,500 attendees
- Assisted with overhauling our retention strategies to reduce churn by 12%
See how starting with the same verb over and over again starts to seem bland and repetitive? Instead, pull out a thesaurus and see how you can mix things up. Aim to have a different resume action verb for each bullet point to keep your resume fresh and action-oriented. Also, avoid common buzzwords and cliches that might make your resume look unoriginal.
5. Do quantify your achievements
Did you notice something about the example bullet points in the previous section? They included numbers—lots of numbers.
It's smart to quantify your experiences and accomplishments examples wherever you can on your resume. Employers don't just want you to talk the talk—they want to know you can walk the walk too. Incorporating real results and numbers helps you go beyond generic claims.
For example, you decide which one of these sounds more impressive:
- Offered ideas to reduce customer churn
- Reduced customer churn by 12% during Q4 by increasing our contact with customers in the three months leading up to their billing and renewal
Including metrics shows your impact and how you can contribute and be a valuable asset to an organization. This is exactly why the it's so crucial nail the work experience section on your resume.
Use the AI integration feature within Teal's AI Resume Builder to generate achievements. To get quality, metric-driven achievements, make sure to attach a job description to incorporate relevant keywords.
6. Do highlight relevant skills
Your skills help to demonstrate to potential employers that you have the abilities and knowledge required to excel in the position you are applying for. Including a skills section on your resume can also help you stand out from other applicants and increase your chances of being invited for an interview.
When listing your skills, make sure to focus on those that are most relevant to the job you are applying for. This could include technical skills, such as proficiency in specific software programs or coding languages, as well as interpersonal skills and soft skills, such as communication or problem-solving abilities. It's also important to provide specific examples of how you have utilized these transferable skills in previous positions or experiences.
In addition to including a skills section, you can also highlight your skills throughout the other sections of your resume, such as in your professional summary statement, work experience, or education sections. By showcasing your hard and soft skills in a variety of ways, you can help demonstrate to potential employers that you have the unique qualifications and abilities needed to succeed in the role.
7. Do use a professional format
Using a professional is essential when applying for a job, as it can make a significant impact on how you are perceived by potential employers. A well-formatted resume demonstrates your attention to detail, your ability to present information clearly and concisely, and your professionalism.
A professional format can also make it easier for recruiters or hiring managers to quickly scan your resume and identify key information, such as your work experience, education, and skills. A clean, easy-to-read resume format with consistent formatting, headings, and bullet points can make your resume stand out and leave a positive impression on the reader.
We suggest using a reverse chronological format over a functional resume format for your resume to help you present yourself as a qualified, competent, and serious job candidate.
What if you could drag and drop your work experience into a ready-made resume template? Think how much time designing and formatting your resume you'd save. Luckily, this scenario becomes a reality with Teal's AI Resume Builder.
8. Do use a consistent font
A well-chosen font can help your resume look professional, easy-to-read, and visually appealing, while a haphazard mix of fonts can detract from your overall message and make your resume appear disorganized.
When choosing a font for your resume, it's important to choose one that is easy to read and professional-looking. Some good options include Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman, or Helvetica. Once you have selected a font, be sure to use it consistently throughout your resume, including your headings, bullet points, and body text. While the font should remain the same, the sizing may vary.
By using a consistent font, you can ensure that your resume looks polished and professional, which can help you stand out from other job candidates. It shows that you have taken the time to create a well-crafted document that is easy to read and understand, and that you are committed to presenting yourself in the best possible light to potential employers.
Resume Don'ts That Land You in the Recycling Bin
You're feeling pretty confident about what you should do. What about the resume mistakes you should stay far away from?
Here are different resume mistakes that should stay off your document — so you can stay out of the recruiter's trash bin.
1. Don't forget to proofread
Listen, you aren't perfect and a single typo likely won't knock you out of the running for a job. But, a resume that's riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes will make you look sloppy and like you didn't invest the necessary time and energy into polishing your application.
Make sure you dedicate some time to editing and proofreading before you send out your resume.
Share it with a trusted friend who can review it with a fresh set of eyes. Or, try reading it backwards—from the bottom to the top. That forces your brain to focus on each sentence so you won't skip over any mistakes.
2. Don't neglect your contact information
Most people approach their resumes like this: They dig up one they put together ages ago and then make some updates from there.
Of course, you need to add your more recent jobs, experiences, and achievements. But, don't forget to also take a close look at the contact information at the top of your document.
Is that phone number still correct? Do you still reside in the same city? Do you have a professional email address listed?
Another important piece of contact information not to neglect is your optimized LinkedIn profile or personal website.
While it's important to include relevant and updated contact information, such as your name, phone number, and email address, you should avoid sharing sensitive personal details such as your social security number, marital status, or date of birth. These confidential details are not necessary for potential employers to make a hiring decision, and could put you at risk for identity theft or other privacy concerns.
Remember, your contact information is what employers will use to get in touch with you, and incorrect information can lead to missed opportunities—so you need to triple-check that it's accurate.
3. Don't miss updates
While we're talking about making updates, if you're starting from an older resume, make sure you revise all of the other sections too.
Does your education section still list an anticipated graduation date, even though you've now officially obtained your degree? Are you missing a recent position—or maybe even several? All of that more up-to-date information should be added.
As you update your previous positions, remember to pay close attention to updating any wrong verb tenses as well. Any jobs you no longer have should use past tense (for example, "managed") while current jobs should use present tense ("manage").
Never miss an update again! Using Teal's software, you can build an exhaustive list detailing your work experience, and it will all be saved in your Career History for you to pick and choose from as needed.
4. Don't make it too long
We've already mentioned that hiring managers won't dedicate too much time to reviewing your document—and, as a result, you want to keep a concise resume short. But how short?
Generally speaking, unless you have extensive experience all of which is worth highlighting for an individual job application, one page resumes are best. That doesn't mean size-six font and non-existent resume margins. You still want easy-to-read text and enough white space to balance things out.
If you absolutely can't fit everything on one page? Two pages will work. However, your second page should be at least half full. If you only have a few straggling lines on a second page, then you need to work harder to keep trimming and get everything on a single page.
5. Don't include your references
Since you're working with limited real estate on your resume, you don't need to waste space including your references there.
Instead, put them on a separate, polished document. Copy and paste your name and contact information from your resume to the top of a new sheet (you want all of your career documents to match!) and then list your reference contact details. You can share that document when you need to.
While you're at it, there's no need to say "references available upon request" (or anything similar) on your resume. It is typically assumed by hiring managers that references will be provided upon request, rather than listed on a resume.
6. Don't send a Word doc
After all of that polishing and double-checking, you're ready to send your document. But, before you do, make sure you save and send it as a PDF — not a Word document.
Unless specifically requested to send your resume in another format, PDFs are best for two reasons:
- It's not editable, whereas Word documents are.
- It won't underline any perceived errors — which are pretty common in a document that likely uses a lot of proper nouns, jargon, acronyms, and sentence fragments.
By using Teal's AI Resume Builder, you can export your resume directly as a PDF.
7. Don't make your name take up too much space
Your name actually isn't the most important part of your resume. Recruiters will spend more time scanning your work experience, skills, and education.
Some applicant tracking systems even hide non-essential information — such as a person's name — to combat bias.
To keep it simple, your name should be listed at the top of your resume and in an easy-to-read font. Don't make it much larger than the rest of your resume contents. Focus on what matters most: your relevant experience and your skills.
8. Don't lie or exaggerate
When it comes to creating a resume, it's important to always be honest and truthful about your qualifications, skills, and experiences. While it may be tempting to exaggerate or embellish your achievements in order to stand out from other candidates, doing so can have serious consequences and potentially damage your professional reputation.
If you're caught in a lie or an exaggeration, you may not only lose the job opportunity, but you could also be blacklisted from future job opportunities within that company or even the entire industry. Trust us, it's not worth the risk.
9. Don't use fancy graphics
It's important to keep in mind that the content on your resume is what matters most, not fancy graphics or design elements. While it may be tempting to use a colorful or flashy design to catch the eye of potential employers, doing so can actually be counterproductive and distract from the most important aspect of your resume - your qualifications and experience.
Using fancy graphics or design elements can also make your resume difficult to read or access, especially if the document is being viewed on a mobile device or in a different format. In addition, some companies or hiring managers may use automated software, like an applicant tracking system, to scan resumes for certain keywords or qualifications, and a fancy design could interfere with the software's ability to accurately parse the information.
Keep your resume format professional and easy-to-read so your qualifications and experiences are what catches the reader's attention.
10. Don't include irrelevant information
Including irrelevant information can not only distract from your main message, but it can also make your resume longer than necessary and more difficult to read.
For example, including unique hobbies or personal interests on a resume that are not related to the job you are applying for may not add any value to your resume and may even take up valuable space that could be used to highlight your relevant skills or experience. Similarly, including information about your high school education or part-time jobs you held years ago may not be relevant to your current career goals and could make your resume seem outdated.
11. Don't use too many keywords
By including keywords that are relevant to the job you are applying for, you can help demonstrate that you have the skills and experience necessary to excel in the role.
To identify relevant keywords for resume, start by carefully reviewing the job description and making note of any specific skills or qualifications that are required or preferred. Then, make sure to include these keywords throughout your resume in a natural and authentic way. For example, if the job listing mentions experience with a particular software program, be sure to mention your experience with that program in your resume.
While you want to incorporate relevant keywords, you also want to make sure you don't include too many. Some job seekers may be tempted to include as many keywords as possible in order to get past the ATS and increase the chances of being selected for an interview. But keyword stuffing can actually lead to your job applications being rejected before it even reaches a human reviewer.
Including an excessive amount of keywords can make your resume seem forced and unnatural and can actually have a negative impact on your chances of landing a job. It can also make it difficult for hiring managers to get a clear sense of your skills and experience.
Use Teal to Craft a Standout Resume
Your resume is your golden ticket during your job search — it's what gets you through the door and one step closer to the job. This list of resume dos and don'ts will help you pull together a document that lands at the top of the pile.
But making sure your document is as polished and impressive as possible can take some effort. That's where Teal comes in.
With Teal's AI Resume Builder, you can:
- Upload an existing resume or import your LinkedIn profile for faster resume building
- Generate multiple resumes in a click so you can match your resume to job descriptions and tailor each one to the position you want
- Leverage AI to generate your resume summary, metric driven achievements, and the entirety of your personalized cover letter.
- Choose from ATS-compliant professional resume templates
- Analyze your resume's effectiveness and get real-time feedback and expert tips with the resume checker
- Export and save your document as a PDF to easily send off to recruiters, hiring managers, and potential employers
So don’t hesitate! Sign up for Teal for free today to get started and create a winning resume that stands out from the crowd.