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Resume Dos and Don’ts (Plus Resume Makeovers)

This is a guest article by Ginger from Girls Just Wanna Have Funds. Ginger teaches women how to break financial ceilings one stiletto at a time! Join the social network, Girls Just Wanna Have Funds on Ning to connect with other financially savvy women.

This week I’ve been helping out my company’s HR department by reviewing resumes and conducting interviews. The experience levels range from those who are new graduates to people with years of experience. Sadly, I was disappointed with how many people didn’t have the basics down when it came to writing their cover letters and resumes.

Now isn’t the time to slack in this area if you’re looking for a job, you’re competing with literally hundreds to maybe thousands for one position. If you’re looking for work, take a second look at your resume and make sure your resume and cover letter at least falls within the following guidelines:

Do not:

… ask how much the position pays within the cover letter until you’re on the interview and/or sure that you will be offered the position. I personally don’t have a problem with someone asking but I think it rude to ask in an informally written cover letter without a resume, then telling me that you’ll send the resume after I tell you how much the job is paying. Seriously? HR managers and recruiters don’t have time for that, it’s rude and unprofessional. Needless to say I didn’t respond to said applicant.

… use an email user name that isn’t related to your government name. I can’t tell you how many times I saw email addresses like [email protected], [email protected] etc. I moved on to the next person because I’m a firm believer that if you don’t know these basic principles of resume writing then it will be questionable on whether or not you’ll conduct yourself professionally. Your email address should be some combination of your first and/or last name.

… use different fonts throughout your resume. Using different fonts makes your resume hard to read and it shows that you’re not as detail oriented as you need to be. Set the view on your resume to 70% and make sure everything is uniform and in line, especially bullets and indentation.

… extend your resume beyond one page. Unless you have 5-10+ years of relevant experience, you don’t need a 2-3-4-5 page resume, especially if some of your experience has nothing to do with the position. Try to keep the positions listed relevant to the job.


List your achievements throughout your resume. Time and time again applicants literally copy and paste their job description without any consideration to how their actual work contributed to the organization’s goals. You need to ask yourself: how does this description convey my worth to the organization? Does “putting files away at the end of the day” really convey my value? How about: “Systematically reorganized files to increase organizational productivity and efficiency.” Sounds highfalutin but it works!

Apply for jobs that are best suited for your skills and experience. Skip the long shot positions where your experience can’t possibly match with the requirements. Look at your resume and scan the job post, how can you honestly and ethically marry up what they are looking for and what you have to offer.

Maintain a consistent theme. If you’re a jack of all trades then it’s now time to settle down on one career area. Here’s a comment from a friend who works at Homeland Security: “When you have too many degrees and you’re not working in your field of study then most likely you are a risk to hire. Why? We are looking for people that are career driven and not job driven. Just some insight from looking over countless resumes.” How’s that for sage advice? Pick an area and stick with it or create different resumes for each area. Employers want to know that once hired, you’ll be committed to the job and organization, not planning for your the next jump 3 months in.

Have a friend, preferably someone in a managerial position, review your resume for errors. Sometimes having another set of eyes review your resume helps because they might see things you won’t after looking at it day in day out. Everything starts to look the same after a while.

Make your resume skimmable. Recruiters and HR Managers spend 3-5 seconds tops skimming resumes. If your resume is hard to read or the important information is lost in the layout then you put yourself at a disadvantage. Here’s an example of a resume makeover which resulted in the resume being easier to skim:

Before After
Resume Before Resume After

Take a second look at your resume and make a few edits if needed or revamp it for a bold and fresh look. Focus on your strengths and make them apparent throughout your resume. Recruiters are bogged down with countless resumes, make sure yours makes the first cut.

If you enjoyed this article, please visit Ginger’s blog Girls Just Wanna Have Funds and subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed. If you’re in the DC area, join the Girls Just Wanna Have Funds Meetup group and for the Atlanta, GA area join here. We would appreciate your comments and reactions, so if you would like to contribute to the discussion, add your comment below.

Updated August 14, 2017 and originally published April 17, 2009.

About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of shizennougyou. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I think it is ok to have a resume that is 2 pages long, if the information you are providing is relevant to the job you are applying for. I got a resume one time that was 5 pages long all work experience where the applicant had changed jobs every 2 years. It looks pretty bad when you have 3 whole pages of just work experience.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

One point I’d like to add is that it’s okay to leave out irrelevant work experience — like the food service jobs you did in college. In fact, if you had to choose between putting in a job unrelated to the one you’re applying for, or a hobby that was very relevant to the job you’re applying for, I would put down the hobby.

When I was helping to hire techie people for help desk positions, most of the resumes I was looking through were from younger people who didn’t have a lot of work experience. For a lot of them, though, they did have plenty of “hobby experience” (eg., in building their own computer, creating websites for friends and family, etc) that were way more relevant to the help desk position. If more of them listed their tech cred (via their hobbies) instead of their lame fast food jobs, more of them might have gotten offered an interview.

Bottom line: put in what’s relevant for the job you’re applying to. Leave out the cruft.

This is a very helpful post! I’m going to link to this article from Wise Bread’s resource page for folks recently laid off:

Thanks for writing it, Ginger! Thanks for posting it, Flexo!

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