Career Management · Creative Professionals · Job Search · Marketing & Brand Management · Resume

25 Rules of the Resume

25 Rules of the Resume

Resume Rule


Contact Information Ensure that contact information is on the top of the resume, is highly visible and accurate. Address is optional. If the commute may create a question of punctuality, leave it out. Some people may also prefer to keep their personal address undisclosed for safety or privacy reasons. Email should be professional. Voice mail and ring back tones should be professional as well. Website addresses and LinkedIn URL’s can also be used.
Basic Format There are two basic resume formats that are most commonly used; Chronological and Skills. Chronological is most common and highlights the details of your work experience. A Skills resume is a quicker way to highlight skills, abilities and accomplishments and summarizes work history.
Length of the Resume A standard resume should rarely be more than one page. Some Executive Resumes could be two pages. There are some cases (Federal Resumes, Curriculum Vitae etc.) where they may request much more detail and thus, more pages. Think of a resume as a one page advertisement of YOU!
The Goal of the Resume The #1 goal of a resume is to get an interview. Do not include weaknesses, barriers to employment, or anything that would negatively impact a chance for an interview. Always be honest. Wait until the interview to disclose accommodations or special needs. If possible, have the resume delivered by someone inside the organization.
Simplicity A resume should never be overbearing. Generally, there are so many applicants that a resume with too many words, graphics, detail or information may not get the proper attention it deserves.
Customized Resume THE MOST IMPORTANT RESUME RULE. Take the time with each job application to target the resume. Use the EXACT words and phrases found in the job description to state skills, education, and experience. Resumes should have a keywords or skills section that list specific programs, skills or programming languages required for the position. Many companies scan your resume into a reader and compare it to the job description to filter out “generic applicants.” Today’s resumes must be customized to the particular job you desire.
Lines and Graphics Lines can add clarity and character to a resume if done correctly. Don’t over-do it. One line on the top of the resume under the contact information gives the reader a point where he/she can begin. Graphics and logos should be avoided. Some minor exceptions may apply.
Objective Statements vs. Professional Summary Experts agree that the Objective Statement is outdated. The employer wants to see what you CAN DO not what you WANT to DO. Instead of an Objective Statement, use an Executive Summary, Professional Profile etc. Keep this to 2-3 short pointed sentences that address the job description or you can bullet point qualifications for the job.
Paragraphs Hiring managers do not have time to read long narratives on a resume. Keep in mind they are often reviewing hundreds of applicants and spend only 7-10 seconds on the initial review of a resume. If using a paragraph, such as in the Professional Summary, keep it short and powerful.
Proper English A resume is only as good as the spelling, capitalization, punctuation and grammar. The moment a resume has an obvious grammatical problem, the applicant suddenly is categorized as “NOT Detail-oriented.” Grammar on a resume requires perfection! Read the resume several times. Have others read and mark it up. Fix the errors. Then read it again yourself and edit. Once your generic resume is refined, adjust it for each job, repeating the process each time. Poor grammar can kill a resume fast!
Absolutes “Never” use absolutes, they “always” exaggerate reality.
First Person A resume is a document for the employer, not an auto-biography. “I”, “Me”, “We” etc. are not to be used in a resume. Resumes use fragmented sentences and the subject is often omitted.
Think Like a Recruiter- be an investigator What would a recruiter for the position want to know about the applicant? Go beyond the job description. Research the company to learn about culture, mission, goals, people and success of the organization and address it in the resume.
Unique A resume must follow standard rules, but it also must be unique. Find subtle ways to stand out. Develop a brand statement, use words that accentuate strengths and personality, and, if it can be done conservatively, add lines and graphics.
Brand Strategy Develop a personal brand strategy and stick to it. Use a brand statement that is catchy and accurate. Consistently highlight strengths and abilities across all communication. Online presence should also reflect that same professional brand strategy.
Bullet Points Bullet points are an effective way to break up information, summarize experience, and add a pleasing appearance to the resume. Paragraphs on a resume clutter the readability and comprehension of the information. If broken up into 3-4 bullet points, the information is easier to grasp and retain.
Action Verbs When using bullet points to highlight experience or accomplishments, begin each bullet with an action verb. Avoid repetition and be creative. Find a list of action verbs and refer to it, or use the Thesaurus function in Microsoft Word to identify similar words.
Quantify All accomplishments and tasks should be quantified. General statements of strengths are weak and get very little credit. Use statements such as, “Achieved an average score of 93% on two federal safety inspections and 96% on five company operational audits” instead of “safety minded individual.”
Dates If one falls in the “Too Experienced” category, avoid using dates. However, some employers may expel a resume without them. Don’t go back more than 10 years unless it is extremely applicable. A resume is not a “legally binding document” so you don’t have to include everything. If an application requires a complete history, it must be included, but the resume can include only the most applicable history (excluding dates).
Avoid Weaknesses Never divulge weaknesses in the resume. Prepare to address weaknesses in the interview.
Leave Them Wanting More Do not give all the details. Statements of qualification should create curiosity to the point that it generates questions like, “How did they do that?” This will also help reduce the use of the precious resume real estate.
Education Education is most commonly found at the bottom of a resume unless the degree is the most applicable qualification (as in the case of a recent graduate). List highest degree earned or most applicable to the job. One may list college with no degree if the job does not require any college or classes were taken to specifically qualify a person for a specific job. High school diploma or GED should be listed if no college. If the person does not have a diploma or GED, omit education from the resume.
Cover Letter Many employers put a lot of stock in the cover letter or the body of an email. A cover letter allows the applicant to explain in simple terms, why they are the ideal candidate. In addition when sending a resume via email, “Here is my resume” is not a very good sales pitch. Address the job directly in the cover letter or in the body of the email.
Interests and Hobbies Omit interests and hobbies. Don’t use your precious “resume real estate” on non-job related topics. In fact, a declaration of interest or hobbies may put the employer in an uncomfortable position if the interests indicate race, religion, marital status, age, disability or any other protected status.
References Do not include references in the resume. If they want them, they will request them. This must be a separate document that is available the moment it is requested. There is no need to state “References available upon request.” That is already understood and, if asked, one must provide the list.
Other Links

One thought on “25 Rules of the Resume

  1. Trenton, excellent summary, thank-you. I must say that following this BASIC format is what helped get me an interview for my current position, but you have made some vital points that will help me streamline and clean up my current version.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s