Follow these 10 commandments of resume writing to ensure that your resume is professional and effective. Click on any of the commandments to skip to them directly.
- Write more than one resume
- Write in complete sentences
- Quantify your resume
- Leave out hobbies and interests
- Do not reveal employment gaps
- Pay attention to professionalism
- Make your resume aesthetically pleasing
- Do not lie on your resume
- Do not repeat bullet points
- Do not make spelling and grammar errors
This is the golden rule of resume writing. You must tailor each resume for every position that you are applying for. For instance, let’s assume you’re applying to become a waiter, a secretary, a construction worker, or a salesperson. (Note: Click those links to view a WELL TARGETED resume sample).
Each of these positions will need a different resume because they require different skill sets.
If you have minimal work experience, you’ll need to highlight different aspects of your job responsibilities to appeal to each individual hiring manager. For instance, a hiring manager for a construction company may be more interested in how much you can lift, how reliable you are, and whether you can learn new skills quickly.
A hiring manager at an office may want to know what software you can use, what tricks you use to be efficient, and whether you have writing skills.
You’ll need to get creative with your work experience and demonstrate how the skills you currently have are transferrable into an unrelated position. In this way, you can write a tailored resume.
(NOTE: The Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which is software that can read your resume, will also reject your resume if it seems irrelevant to the job you applied for. This is another major reason you should tailor your resume.)
Writing in complete sentences will force you to be descriptive. The worst resumes are filled with boring, bland, 2-4 word descriptions like, “Cleaned tables,” “Wrote reports,” or “Dealt with customers.”
Each sentence should begin with an action verb, preferably one that best describes the your responsibility. Some action verbs are better than others. Use this epic list to find just the right action verb for your bullet point!
For instance, the verb phrase “Managed 6 employees” is better than “Told 6 employees what to do”.
Here are some other excellent verbs you can use:
Use Verbs Like These To Start Your Bullet Points
Basically, if it’s a verb and it sounds good, use it. On the other hand…
Don’t Use These Words to Start Your Bullet Points
- Pronouns (I, you, we, us)
- Adverbs (Quickly, smartly, intelligently, efficiently)
- Adjectives (Massive, huge, small, smart, quick, efficient, intelligent)
3. You will quantify your resume to the best of your ability, adding numbers to describe your experience
Adding numbers to your resume makes them more descriptive and specific, which will catch the hiring manager’s attention. Numbers also allow you to show off your achievements and abilities that others may not have.
The rule of thumb here is this: if the duty you performed can be described in numbers, do so.
Browse these perfectly quantified resumes for a taste of how your resume should look:
Still not sure what we mean, or how to do it? In the following examples, we’ve written each job description twice to show an unquantified resume description versus a quantified one.
- Wrote reports for the direct manager, summarizing incoming data and suggesting courses of action
- Wrote three 1,000-word reports per week for the direct manager, summarizing incoming data and suggesting courses of action
Served food and drink and took orders in a fast paced restaurant
- Served in a 300-seat restaurant, handling up to 5 tables at a time in a fast-paced restaurant
- Upsold wine by using knowledge of wine and entrees to entice customers into purchases
- Upsold $250 in wine daily on average by leveraging knowledge of hundreds of wine brands and matching them with entrees to entice customers into bigger purchases
- Managed and trained new employees to successfully open a new branch of our office while maintaining company standards
- Managed and trained 6 employees, successfully opening a new branch of our office while maintaining company standards
Other items that can be quantified include:
- Customer satisfaction ratings
- Number of customers served daily
- The size of your company/establishment
- Total yearly/monthly/daily sales
- How much you outperformed your co-workers by
- How much money you saved the company
Using action verbs and quantifying will make your resume “Achievement Oriented.” The above two commandments have only been a taste — we have an in depth about how to write an achievement oriented resume here.
Including a section about your hobbies and interests is widely regarded as a newbie mistake. The company is interested in what skills you have that can help them earn more money, not whether you can juggle or swallow swords (unless you are applying to a circus, then these skills should definitely be on your resume.) For more detail, check out this guide about how to put skills on your resume.
If your hobbies, interests, and side projects do coincide with what the company is looking for, then you should include them in your Additional Skills or Qualifications Summary section.
If you have periods of time where you were not working professionally, avoid revealing those gaps on your resume at all costs.
There are a number of ways that you can accomplish this. The first is with resume formatting.
The first format you can use is called a Functional Resume, which leaves off work dates altogether in favor of simply listing your most relevant qualifications.
The other format you can use is called a Combination Resume, which splits your resume into two sections. In one section, your work experience will still be written in reverse-chronological order. Then, once you reach your gaps in work experience, you again simply list your qualifications and ignore dates altogether.
Finally, you can leave months off of your resume entirely. If you worked from June 1, 2013, to February 1, 2014 – simply leave off writing June and February, which will show that you worked from 2013-2014. If pressed in your interview, tell the truth.
The point is to get your foot in the door.
This mainly concerns your contact details section.
The 3 DON’Ts of Professionalism
- Don’t include your nickname. We once received a resume from Joey “The Hammer” Perkins. It was ineffective.
- Don’t include a picture of yourself on your resume. If you are an actor, then you will need to include a professional headshot. For all other industries, including a picture of oneself is considered extremely unprofessional.
- Don’t label your saved document “I hate resumes”, which we have also seen. It seems that sometimes people forget that the other party will see the file name.
The 3 DO’s of Professionalism
- Use a professional email address. For instance, firstname.lastname@example.org is hilarious, but we’re afraid it doesn’t exactly smack of professionalism.
- Make sure you resume is saved with your full name and the word “resume”. Example: “Joe Brown Resume” Include the position you’re applying for if you know it. Example: “Joe Brown Resume – Waiter”
- Be 100% sure that your contact details are correct. Not being able to contact you for an interview is the height of unprofessionalism.
Follow these 10 simple rules to make an aesthetically pleasing resume. Or, simply download some of the best resume templates on the web from our website for free.
The 5 DON’Ts of Resume Aesthetics
- DO NOT use font below size 10
- DO NOT use crazy font styles
- DO NOT write a “Wall of Text” (no spacing, too much text, too much information)
- DO NOT use bright colors that are difficult to read
- DO NOT include images
The 5 DO’S of Resume Aesthetics:
- DO leave spaces between your work experiences to make reading easier
- DO bold your headers
- DO italicize sub-headers
- DO create columns to save space and use more of the page
- DO use bullet points to list job descriptions
Getting caught for resume fraud will follow you for the rest of your career. It’s tempting to embellish or outright lie on your resume, as you can get higher paying jobs and well salaried positions by claiming credentials or skills that you do not have.
In all likelihood, you will get caught, because it will be obvious that you do not know how to competently do your work properly. (That is, unless you are Frank Abagnale, the fraudster portrayed in the blockbuster movie Catch Me If You Can).
Many people are tempted to lie on their resume because they falsely believe that their work experience and education histories are insufficient. In reality, many companies are willing to take risks on employees that have the basic skills and attitude to do the job.
For instance, if a company says in the job description that they require 2-3 years of experience in a position, that number actually represents their ideal candidate, not a hard and fast rule.
Your resume should be formatted with your most recent work experience towards the top, and least recent towards the bottom (reverse chronological.) That means any bullet points towards the top means that you know how to do that job responsibility already. There’s no point in repeating it again towards the bottom.
It’s redundant, and unnecessarily lengthens your resume.
Even a stellar resume is easily destroyed by simple grammar and spelling mistakes. Because it’s such an important document, mistakes immediately set off red flags in the hiring manager’s view.
The thinking is, if you can’t take the time to correct basic mistakes, then you might also be a low quality worker.
Take these steps to make sure your resume is error free:
- Run spell check
- Have two friends or family members look over it
- Look over it yourself