Resume Writing Tips
This page contains a collection of resume tips that we have compiled as a result of creating and sharing our resume templates. We hope that you will find these resume writing tips useful and wish you all the best in your new career. For more information, see our article "How to Write an Effective Resume."
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Resume Writing Tips : The 5 C's
These general resume tips are grouped into what I call The 5 C's of Resume Writing: Convincing, Concise, Clear, Consistent, and Clean.
Resume Tip #1: Be Convincing
- Write your resume as an advertisement for yourself.
- Focus on the employer's needs, not your own.
- Start descriptions using action verbs, especially those related to the position you are seeking.
- Include numbers, percentages, time saved, and dollar values to describe your accomplishments.
- Include key words - study various job postings to determine important keywords.
- List the most important information and selling points first. When listing employment in chronological order, you can still list accomplishments underneath each job in order of importance.
- Use a resume style (chronological, functional, or combined) appropriate for your set of qualifications and industry.
Resume Tip #2: Be Concise
- Keep your resume to a single page if possible.
- Use 2 pages only if you have extensive work experience or an advance degree. Put your name at the top of the second page.
- Use short sentences - complete sentences may not be necessary.
- You can use incomplete or fragmented sentences (especially in bulleted lists) if they are clear and the style is consistent.
- Use bulleted lists instead of paragraphs when appropriate.
- Include the note "References Available Upon Request" only if you need to fill space.
- Avoid using phrases that may dilute your content like "Responsible for" or "Responsibilities included."
Resume Tip #3: Be Clear
- Consider using Objective and Summary of Qualifications sections instead of an ambiguously labeled "Profile" section.
- Make your resume skimmable. People do not "read" resumes - they skim them.
- Use white space effectively. If information is too crowded, it is difficult to scan. Too much white space can be annoying.
- Include dates and locations of employment and education.
- Include your GPA if you are a student or recently graduated.
- Include your citizenship if applying for a government position.
- Define abbreviations and acronyms if they are not widely known in your industry.
Resume Tip #4: Be Consistent
- Be consistent in your grammatical style, particularly when using bulleted lists. For example, if you start a phrase with a verb, don't start the next bullet with a noun.
- Avoid writing in first person (don't use I, my, etc). Using action verbs makes it unnecessary to use first person (e.g. "Analyzed ..." instead of "I analyzed...").
- Use the same format style for listing your job, position, and dates of employment throughout your resume.
Resume Tip #5: Be Clean
- Have someone review your resume for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
- Use a safe font like Arial or Times New Roman. Times New Roman is often used in academic or conservative fields.
- Avoid self-flattering terms such as "extremely, excellent, best, awesome" that are subjective and unprovable.
- Print on 8 1/2" x 11" high quality resume paper using a laser printer.
- Avoid flashy fonts, colors, and graphics. Don't go overboard with bold text or capitals.
- Design your resume to be scannable by OCR software.
Tips for Reviewing Your Resume
- Print your resume and evaluate it:
- What is the first thing you see when you look at your resume?
- Does critical information stand out?
- Does your resume sell yourself within 10-15 seconds?
- When you read your resume, put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes.
- Ask a faculty member, advisor to review your resume.
- Ask a counselor, faculty member, or someone unfamiliar with your background to provide feedback on their impressions.
- Make sure that your resume and cover letter are tailored to the specific qualifications included in the job posting.
- Do a final check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Tips for Scannable Resumes
If your resume is going to be scanned and entered into a database, make sure that it is scannable so that the OCR software can correctly interpret your text.
- Avoid italics, underlining, and graphics.
- Use capitals to make headings stand out.
- Use Times New Roman font no smaller than 10 pt.
- Print on white resume paper with a laser printer.
- Use only ASCII characters.
- Include appropriate key words within your resume to increase the chance that your resume will be found.
- Use an outline format for your resume instead of a table or multiple-column format.
Resume Writing Don'ts
- Don't use pictures. That causes people to pre-judge you even if they are not supposed to.
- Don't be redundant. (Exception: Your summary of qualifications might contain some information that is also included elsewhere in your resume.
- Don't fold or staple your resume.
- Don't use negative words.
- Don't include salary info.
- Don't mention your religion, marital status, age, political views, or race.
- Don't use gimmicks or try to be funny.
- Don't include hobbies or interests unless they are related to your qualifications or reflect strong character or work ethic.
- Don't include any negative traits or characteristics.
- Don't use contractions or slang.
References for Resume Writing
-  Resume and Application Tips at usajobs.gov - This page applies to government jobs, but the resume tips are generally applicable.
-  Resume Tips - MIT Careers Office at web.mit.edu - A good brief overview of how to write a resume.
-  Keys to Creating a Successful Resume at careers.unc.edu - A wealth of knowledge from a reliable source. Check our their resume handout.
-  Resume Writing Tips at fullerton.edu - A nice resource with sample resume objectives.
-  Including Work Abroad on a Resume (.pdf) at umn.edu - Resume tips for international experiences.
-  Resume Writing Tips at trincoll.edu
-  How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume at RockportInstitute.com