50+ Best Resume Tips, Advice, Dos & Don'ts, and Mistakes to Avoid

Writing a resume is hard work, but with our best resume tips and advice, it's a piece of cake. Here are over 50 of our professional resume dos and don'ts, along with resume mistakes to avoid.

50+ Best Resume Tips, Advice, Dos & Don'ts, and Mistakes to Avoid

Back on the lookout for the job and curious: what should a resume look like?

 

Or maybe you’re a fresh graduate wondering how to write a resume for the first time?

 

You’re in the right place.

 

In this guide, you’ll find:

  • Best resume tips and tricks sure to get your resume noticed.
  • Professional resume help for formatting, layout, skills, and more.
  • Resume writing tips and top resume suggestions so each section is just right.
  • Helpful resume guidelines and dos and don'ts to follow.

 

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1. Resume Tips for Writing an Effective Resume

 

Tailor Your Resume

 

If you don’t write your resume specifically for one job, it’s good for nothing. The recruiter will see through your trick and move your resume to the “no” pile. So instead—

 

Tailor your resume just for them by ensuring resume keywords they want are there.

 

Match your skills to list on a resume to what they’re looking for, and adapt your experience to the position.

 

As this guide from Trachtenberg School of Public Policy states, a resume must effectively answer these questions: “So what? Who cares? Why does it matter?”

 

Also—

 

Don’t over-tailor, either. Copying what the employer is looking for word-for-word will hurt instead of help writing a resume. They want your resume in their inbox, not their original job ad!

 

Style Your Work Resume Appropriately

 

Choose the best resume fonts that a machine scanner (ATS) is able to parse, and keep your normal text to around 10-12 pts. Leave your resume margins intact. Oh, and no cursive script!

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of white space. You may want to fit everything on there, but you’ve got to make it easy for a recruiter’s eyes to scan—white space keeps things organized.

 

Choose the Right Resume Format

 

The common resume formats are the reverse-chronological, combination, and functional (skills-based). However, don’t just pick the one you think looks best. Select the correct resume format based on your employment status and history.

 

In brief:

  • Use the reverse-chronological format if you want to highlight your work history and education (suitable for all candidates).
  • Go for the combination format if your focus is on skills and work experience (perfect for career changers and experienced professionals).
  • Pick the functional format if you prefer to showcase your skills rather than work history (good choice for creative positions).

 

List items in reverse-chronological order. This holds true for your education, work history, volunteer, and any other date-based resume section.

 

Check out our resume formats guide for more tips and hacks.

 

Use Subheadings

 

Want to know a simple way of how to improve resumes?

 

Use subheadings to highlight each and every resume section, about 4 pts larger than the regular text.

 

Subheadings let the employer easily skim to the parts of a resume which interests them.

 

Make sure the text is aligned to the left, or you’ll lose any skimmable benefits.

 

Read That Job Description

 

I’ll just read up on the job if and when they call back, right?

 

No.

 

A lot of candidates just see a matching position title in a job ad and shoot off that email, not bothering to understand what the job entails.

 

Well, you can do the same, but you’ll be severely reducing your chances of getting called back.

 

Plus, if you read the ad thoroughly, you’ll easily spot the ideal candidate for them: the coursework they’d like you to have, the skills and experience, etc.

 

To really write the resume right, keep the job ad open as you’re making your resume. And, never guess what they want when all the info you need is right there in front of you!

 

Make It Pleasing to the Eye

 

Resumes of yesteryear were boring, ugly things.

 

These days we can add color and style to make it pop. A second color can help differentiate a sidebar, and icons can help save space while drawing the reader’s eye.

 

But—

 

Keep it classy, and don’t go overboard. Too much of anything is good for nothing.

 

2. Write the Perfect Contact Section

 

Give Only a Professional Email Address

 

Here’s an example of a good email to give, and a bad one:

 

kayla.williamson@gmail.com

 

twerkmeister4life@hotmail.com

 

See what I mean? It’s one of the best, self-explanatory resume building tips. And if you don’t have one, make a new one.

 

Add Relevant Social Links

 

The key word is relevant. Always add your LinkedIn URL (fix that up now, as well!). Don’t add Facebook just because. However, Behance would be an excellent addition for graphic designers, for example.

 

Link to Your Personal Site or Portfolio

 

A link to your personal site or portfolio is good practice to showcase your work when you can’t on your resume. But—

 

A personal blog with your government conspiracy theories will hurt your case, so again, relevance.

 

Give the Right Contact Info

 

You want to get the call, don’t you?

 

Always give your cell over your home number. And make sure your voicemail message sounds professional.

 

What about adding an address on a resume?

 

Firstly, your home address is not necessarily your mailing address.

 

Secondly, it’s the XXI century—there’s only a small chance you will receive your interview invitation by mail.

 

Skip the Photo

 

In the US and most other English-speaking countries, a resume profile photo is a no-no. Skip it, unless you’re in a trade requiring it, such as modeling or acting.

 

3. Write a Winning Summary or Objective

 

Choose the Right Heading Statement

 

You can either create a resume summary or resume objective, also called a resume profile. They look similar and go in the same place, but they are two different heading statements with two different goals.

 

Write a resume summary if you want to focus on an overview of work experience.

 

Go for a resume objective if you wish to highlight the skills which make you the perfect candidate for the position or if you are writing an entry-level resume without experience.

 

Keep It About Them

 

Remember that you want to be the candidate they need, so don’t needlessly tell them what you want from them:

 

Such-and-such candidate seeking challenging position and growth opportunities…

 

Such-and-such candidate seeking to use such-and-such experience and skills to benefit such-and-such company…

 

Can you see the difference? So let the recruiter know how you can transfer your valuable skills to the job you want.

 

Show, Don’t Tell

 

It’s one of the top resume objective tips: Don’t tell them you’re a results-oriented candidate; show it to them by giving them actual results with figures.

 

Likewise, telling them you’re an effective cost-cutter would be easily proven if you mention how you reduced costs on a previous position by X%. Check this example:

 

Created and implemented Agile ideation plan, gathering and acting on 25% more employee ideas than previous year. Saved $1.5 million in costs.

 

Impressive, innit?

 

Keep It Short

 

Objectives or summaries shouldn’t overwhelm the rest of your resume. Make it a short paragraph, about 2-4 sentences.

 

Got more to say? Add it to your cover letter or save it for the interview!

 

4. Write a Job Description That Turns Heads

 

Don’t List ALL of Your Experience

 

How far back should a resume go?

 

It’s best to keep it down to positions from the past 10 years at most, and just the relevant ones.

 

Pick past positions which add to your resume and will help you score an interview—no fluff or filler. List 3-5 bullet points per work entry just like this:

 

IT Specialist
Rigas-Bratland Manufacturing
2011–2012

  • Ran project to install hour-by-hour WIP monitors in all cells, boosting hourly efficiency by 20% and saving $340,000 per year.
  • Managed project to replace 100+ aging workstations. Worked with supplier to save 25% on costs. Saved estimated 150 man-hours a year in computer time.
  • Initiated project for improved security, cutting risk scores 25%.

 

Prove What You Know

 

Many people make the resume mistake of writing “responsible for such-and-such” under each work experience entry.

 

But, here’s the thing—

 

They know you made coffee and helped customers as a barista, and they know you catered to passengers as a flight attendant.

 

What they don’t know? How well you carried out those tasks.

 

To prove you’re the best, show resume achievements and accomplishments under each entry. Use numbers to quantify them along with verbs such as increased, reduced, improved, etc. For reference see the example above.

 

Use Action Verbs & Power Words

 

Speaking of verbs, if the hiring manager reads another work history line starting with “Responsible for …,” they’re really going to hit the roof.

 

Stop using weak and tired words.

 

Jolt them awake by using action verbs and more powerful words, like cultivated, mentored, and facilitated.

 

Mind the Gap

 

You may have some employment gaps on your resume, and that’s okay. Don’t lie or try to cover it up.

 

Instead, show the gap and explain it in a sentence or two. You can further explain on your cover letter, if you feel so inclined.

 

Get Experience

 

Worried that you’ve nothing (or at least nothing relevant) to add in your work experience section? Well—

 

Get some!

 

While you’re waiting for your chance at employment, do some freelance gigs, volunteer at local organizations, or do an internship to earn some valuable skills to put on a resume.

 

Promote Your Advancement

 

If you’ve earned a promotion, show it off—they’ll be pleased to hear about it. But you’ve got to go about it the right way.

 

So, instead of adding two separate entries, each with the same business name, stack each position inside one entry, in reverse-chronological order, like this:

 

Astoria Bar & Grill
Astoria, New York
Front-of-House Manager
June 2018 - Present

  • Responsibilities
  • Achievements

 

Shift Supervisor
January 2017 - June 2018

  • Responsibilities
  • Achievements

 

5. Show Relevant Skills and Achievements

 

Don’t List Them All

 

Like in your experience section, don’t just vomit out a list of skills to list on resumes. Tailor it for this one position by once again parsing the ad to see what they’re looking for.

 

Involve Only Relevant Skills

 

Out of all resumes I’ve seen, the most common thing seems to be putting proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel as skills.

 

These are great skills, indeed, but not necessary if you’re applying to be a line cook. Likewise, Photoshop aptitude is useless as a personal banker.

 

Show Transferable Skills

 

If you’re moving from one industry to another, you may be hard pressed to add relevant skills.

 

But that’s where transferable skills help out. These are skills that you earned in Trade A but can also be relevant in Trade B. The key here is to write it out intuitively.

 

Worked in customer service and looking to become a hotel receptionist? Highlight how helpful and accommodating you were with clients you had.

 

Going from IT to graphic design? Your attention to detail carries over beautifully (along with your ability to stare at a screen for hours).

 

Be Humble

 

Don’t call yourself the best of this or master of that. That’s subjective, and you’ll look like an ass.

 

Rather, let your resume stand on its own merits, and allow those quantified numbers from earlier speak for themselves.

 

6. Turn Boring Education Into a Reason to Hire You

 

Consider Making Education More Prominent

 

For most of you, you’ll have a heading, followed by your experience, and then your education.

 

However, if writing a student resume or you're an entry-level candidate with irrelevant past jobs, switch some sections around to give your education more weight.

 

Add Your Coursework

 

When you’re doing your resume education section, don’t just add the name of the school, year you graduated, and your major.

 

If you have a university entry in your education area, add relevant coursework in bullet points to show them you’re perfect for the job.

 

BA in Project Management

City University of New York, New York, NY

Relevant Coursework: technology integration, risk management, procurement, and communications.

 

Leave Too-Low GPA & Dates Off

 

Adding a GPA could backfire if it’s too low, so skip it if it’s under 3.6, unless the employer asks for it. Also, adding dates to your education may hurt your case, especially if it’s been decades.

 

Skip High School

 

If you’ve completed a degree, no need to add your high school. Add it only if it’s the highest finished education, such as if you’re still in college.

 

Advertise Honors

 

Building a resume is about selling yourself, so don’t be shy. If you graduated with honors, add that under the appropriate listing!

 

7. Level-Up Your Resume with Extra Sections

 

Add Certifications & Awards

 

Certifications and awards prove your proficiency right out of the gate. On top of that, they help with resumes to put you ahead of your competitors.

 

Already have that food safety certification from your last gig? That’s definitely something to put on your current food service resume.

 

Add Volunteer Work

 

Volunteer work on a resume is experience, even when you don’t have other work history.

 

But—

 

Remember to keep it relevant: volunteering rebuilding homes after that devastating storm is useful on a construction resume, but not so much on a graphic design resume.

 

One added benefit: you look like a hero!

 

Add Hobbies & Interests

 

Hobbies and interests on a resume may seem useless, but they have their place.

 

Besides adding a human touch to this document, many hobbies and interests show skills in a roundabout way.

 

For example, your decade-long coaching of the little league team? That implies loyalty, teamwork, and great management ability, all in one!

 

Add Languages

 

A second language is always impressive, and if it’s relevant, add it to your resume.

 

Latin American Spanish is a great choice in most of the US, but another language might be even more dominant in certain communities or industries.

 

8. End Your Resume Properly

 

Skip the “References Available Upon Request”

 

Because they know your "references are available upon request."

 

It’s implied, and adding it here takes up some valuable real estate you could use more wisely on something else.

 

Proofread (and Then Twice More)

 

Seems like lesson 1 of Resume 101, right? Yet, somehow, candidates continue to hand in resumes with typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes.

 

Use Grammarly to find spelling errors, and click on each URL you used to make sure they’re correct.

 

Laszlo Bock, former SVP of People Operations at Google, gives this resume advice, “Read your resume from bottom to top: reversing the normal order helps you focus on each line in isolation.”

 

Save & Name Your Resume Properly

 

When you’re wrapping up, you’re going to have to save it and name it.

 

Save your resume as a PDF, which ensures that everything stays intact and renders nicely on any device.

 

Now, what about the naming convention? Instead of saving it as Resume_1.pdf, go for something like this:

 

charles-mccarry-junior-analyst-resume.pdf

 

Include your name, hyphens or underscores, position, and the word resume.

 

ALWAYS Include a Cover Letter

 

Even if they don’t ask, always include a cover letter with your resume.

 

An effective cover letter “demonstrates that the product suits the consumer's—your future employer's—specific needs, [and] it assures the customer that the quality of the product (you) is superb,” says John Borchardt for Science magazine.

 

Check Your Online Presence

 

You added social profiles to your contact section, but, before you send this resume off, make sure you’ve sanitized your presence online.

 

(Remove all those naked photos, drunk videos, and other non-professional items.)

 

Oh, and do this on all your social media accounts, not just the ones you gave, because they’ll likely look you up anyway.

 

Find the Hiring Manager’s Name & Email

 

You could just send your resume email to the catch-all address for the company. Or, you could deliver it straight to the HR manager.

 

Doing the latter feels more personalized, and it’ll go a long way towards getting you that interview.

 

However, don’t do this if the ad says to send it elsewhere—they also want candidates who can follow directions!

 

Send It Right & Track It

 

A generic email, like a generic resume, will see your resume immediately passed over. You’ve got to know how to send your resume in an email.

 

Also—

 

Check the job ad once more—it could say what to put in the subject line. If you skip these instructions, everything else you’ve done will’ve been in vain.

 

Finally, track your resume with a tool like Mixmax to see when your email was opened. This way, you can forego the anxiety that comes with not knowing if they got it.

 

Follow Up

 

Been a week after sending your resume and no response? Time to send a follow-up email. Too soon and you’ll appear desperate and annoy them, so always wait at least a few days.

 

Also, use this email wisely. Don’t just remind them that you are waiting; instead, reestablish why you are the perfect candidate for them and what makes you stand out.

 

9. Avoid These Resume Mistakes!

 

Don’t Make Your Resume Too Long

 

Dimpler writing is simpler to process. When that HR manager has 250 resumes to sift through, you want that.

 

So try to get it down to a one-page resume, if possible, and two pages is fine, as long as it’s not crammed.

 

Don’t Lie

 

Just don’t. Even if it gets you to the interview now, the truth will come out eventually, and it’ll be all the more painful and embarrassing when it does.

 

Don’t Add Certain Personal Details

 

Adding your date of birth in the contact info could lead to ageism. Forget including your marital status and citizenship info on your resume, too. Stick to the (relevant!) basics, and you’ll be fine.

 

Don’t Speak in the First Person

 

Using the first-person (“I,” “me”), and pronouns in general, is a major resume no-no. Save these for the cover letter, email, and the interview.

 

Instead, use power verbs and action words, which we talked about earlier.

 

Don’t Use Passive Voice

 

Bad resumes use passive voice, which makes sentences evasive and confusing:

 

Product launch was spearheaded by…

 

Chose active voice, always:

 

Spearheaded product launch.

 

Don’t Go Heavy on Buzzwords, Jargon, and Overly-Complex Wording

 

Buzzwords and jargon are niche vocabulary, and you run the risk of the hiring manager not understanding what you’re talking about.

 

So stick to using standard language, unless the job ad calls for a particular word—then it makes a fine resume keyword.

 

Remember: when wording gets too complex, it does the opposite of making you look smarter or more qualified (probably what you were going for, right?).

 

Don’t Go Overboard

 

Keep things simple and toned down. Adding every job title you’ve had may be too much.

 

Similarly, be selective in other resume areas. Bolding and italicizing help to highlight particular passages, but don’t bold or italicize the entire document (oh, and skip underlining, as it just adds to the cluttered feel).

 

Don’t be Inconsistent

 

A quick example: If you use “Feb 7, 2018” as a date in the experience section, don’t let the next date on your resume use a format such as “11/11/2019.” Also, use the same verb tenses throughout, except when it’s a current job.

 

Key Points

 

Remember these tips for writing an effective resume:

  • Tailor each resume to the job description.
  • Format your resume in an eye-friendly way. Keep it reverse-chronological.
  • Highlight only the skills and achievements relevant to the job.
  • Quantify your achievements.
  • Use action words when describing your duties.
  • Write a resume which is consistent throughout.
  • Remember about the cover letter!

 

Still have questions on how to do a resume? Were our resume tips, advice, and the dos and don’ts helpful? Got any job resume hacks or mistakes to add? Let’s chat below in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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Christian Eilers
Career Expert at ResumeLab
Christian Eilers is a resume expert and a career advice writer at ResumeLab. His insights and career guides have been published by Business Insider, FitSmallBusiness, Business News Daily, OppLoans, First for Women, and UpJourney, among others. Christian offers comprehensive advice on career development and each step of the job search, from start to finish and beyond. His guides cover looking for new jobs, sending application documents such as resumes and cover letters, acing interview questions, and settling into the new position. Since 2017, he has written over 200 in-depth, meticulously-researched career advice articles in collaboration with the most renowned career experts in the world. Hundreds of thousands of readers visit Christian’s articles each month. Christian majored in Communication & Culture, Anthropology at the City University of New York. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling and learning about cultures and traditions from around the world.

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