There are a few general rules when it comes to resume writing. But there are a lot of rules you can – and sometimes should – break, if you want your resume to outshine the rest.
Rules to Keep:
- Keep it Relevant. Only include experience that relates to your current professional goals. This is especially important now that folks search resume postings using keywords. If you are tired of being an administrative assistant, downplay that aspect of your experience.
- Beware of Typos. Nothing gets a resume thrown into the recycle bin faster than a typo. Use spellcheck, use friends, do whatever you can to ensure there aren’t embarrassing mistakes.
- Be Clear and Concise. Your resume shouldn’t go on forever. Save details about your personal interests and outside activities for the interview.
- Be Consistent. Make sure the formatting and style is the same throughout the document.
- Use Action Words. Yes, “action words” are important, even if they make you a bit nauseas. Here is a great page I always use to find new, powerful words.
- Watch Your Tenses. If the job you’re describing is in the past, always use past tense. If you are describing a current job, use present tense. Seems simple, but this is an important and often overlooked aspect of resume writing.
Rules to Bend:
- Never use the word “I”. Depending on your career goals, it can be okay to have a slightly more conversational tone. Resumes without a clear narrator can sound clipped and cold, particularly if you are advertising yourself as a people-person.
- Keep it to one page. One page is not enough for many of us and that’s okay. If you’re clear and concise, however, it shouldn’t go beyond 2 or 2 and a half pages or so
- Skip Hobbies and Outside Interests: Be careful here – your resume isn’t a place to write 2 paragraphs about how much you love basket weaving/curling/playing the fiddle. But don’t be afraid to put in a line or two about your outside interests, especially if you feel they are relevant to your career pursuits. If you do include this portion, put it at the end and keep it short and sweet. You never know – it might grab someone’s eye.
- Use only one resume. It’s often useful to have more than one resume if you are trying to reach different audiences simultaneously. If you are casting a wide net (“I have experience in customer service but wouldn’t mind a job in IT”), tweak your basic resume and make a few different versions to send out. This is also useful because you can see which one works best.