Hello, my name is Stephanie Hood, and I am an absolutely unreserved, unapologetic “resume snob.”
After more than 10 years in professional recruiting, I have seen thousands of resumes. So, when the subject of resume writing arises, imagine me letting out a little laugh with my nose in the air as I sip tea while flaunting a raised pinky to further emphasize my authority on such matters. (Can you see it? Perfect!)
While the ridiculous image of my faux-haughty stance hopefully makes you smile, there is more than a grain of truth in the overarching implications. Do you want a resume that will be hailed as your pièce de résistancerather than a piece de poo?
Ok, then you MUST adhere to this fundamental list, which I whittled down to 10. You’re welcome.
10 RESUME GROUND RULES
1. DOCUMENT/FILE NAME
Create a document name for your resume that is professional such as “Joe Smith – RESUME” or “Joe Smith – Marketing Director.”
The naming convention is important because when you email or upload your resume to apply for a job, the document name is visible and should not be generic (E.g. “RESUME 2016”) or look like you have an identity crisis such as “Joe Smith – Version 17.”
2. CONTACT INFO
Contact information should be visible, professional, and correct.
- Visible: Don’t “hide” your contact information in strange sections of your resume or in footers, which are often “grayed out” and difficult to see.
- Professional: Inappropriate email addresses such as “gimmeabeer” or “justinbieberismyhero” are sure-fire ways to immediately be perceived as unprofessional. (Don’t believe me? Read this article about email addresses by snagajob.)
- Correct: This should REALLY go without saying, but since I receive an inordinate number of resumes with incorrect email addresses and phone numbers, it seemed worth mentioning.
3. INTRO SECTION: OBJECTIVE vs. SUMMARY
Objective = Old School
In days of yore, resumes typically began with an OBJECTIVE. These objective statements were usually comprised of an awkward, clunky, incomplete sentence about the objective/goal of the job seeker that was often edited to match the title of each job to which he/sheapplied. For example, “Objective: To secure a position as a Marketing Director at XYZ company.” Now, onto present day...
By including a SUMMARY as your introduction, you are able to guide the resume reader by providing the “lenses he/she should wear” to review the information. I often encourage candidates to cast a net that is broad yet focused by providing a title, experience summary, and primary skills to direct the reader. For example: “Marketing Director with more than 15 years’ experience creating brand awareness, leading teams, and increasing market share for various medium-sized to Fortune 500 companies.” Ideally, the summary statement should be 1-3 sentences, which should either include a summation of high-level skills or be followed by a bullet-point list of those skills.
4. FLUFF VERBIAGE
You are a “team player,” “hard worker,” and “good communicator.”
Um, congrats? <insert slow clap here>
Do not waste your valuable resume real estate with fluff verbiage boasting about skills that any worthwhile employee should have. Honestly, if you are going to be that vague, you might as well add “breathing” to your list of skills.
- Length (1-page vs.multi-page):There is a long-standing, outdated “1-page resume rule,” which was formerly necessary due to pages getting separated when sentbyfax machines, etc. Those days are OVER.
- We now live in a virtually “paperless era” where resumes rarely get printed andkeywords are king (Unfortunately, resumes are often subjected tocomputerized screening systems that "scan" for specific job requirements). Therefore, it is important to include relevant keywords for the job's required skills and tools, and not abbreviate your experience into oblivion. That said, DO NOT go crazy with keywords and permeate every portion of your resume with unnecessary verbiage.
- New Graduates: Your resume should likely still fit onto one page.
- Seasoned Professionals: If you have held a number of jobs, your resume will likely continue onto a second page...or more!
- Boxes & Tables: Whether it’s your resume or an overly cluttered room, too many boxes and tables are annoying. What?? Avoid using “text boxes” and “data tables,” which make resume editing a nightmare!
- Above the Fold: The old term “above the fold” typically refers to the upper half of a newspaper’s first page that generally displays the most important/sensational stories to capture customers’ attention, but the idea is important in resume writing too! Be sure to include eye-catching information, skills, and/or stats in the top half of your resume's first page to capture the reader's attention.
- Font Fanatic: Decide if you are going to use a serif or san-serif font because alternating between the two looks messy. Personally, I prefer classic fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial (Seriously, no one wants to read a resume in Bauhaus 93, Comic Sans, or a cartoon-inspired font!).If you need variation to break up resume sections or highlight your employer/job title, the font you’ve chosen can be easily altered by changing size or boldface. Whatever you do, pick a font and stick with it!
Final thought regarding fonts: professional resume fonts are still predominantlyblack with SOME room for color variation, but your resume should not look like an art project.
6. BULLET POINTS
Resumes with huge, lengthy, overly-verbose paragraphs make it hard for the eye to “visually digest” the information. FACT: Bullet points are your friends.
7. EMPLOYMENT DATES
List dates for all relevant professional employment in reverse-date order (most recent employer should be first).
8. EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYMENT: NO-NO ITEMS TO REMOVE
Resumes should NOT include age, marital status, religious views, irrelevant hobbies, or photos.
Did she really say, “NO PHOTOS?!”
Yep. If you really want someone to see your pretty face, update your LinkedIn profile…and for heaven’s sake, make sure you have something more polished than a car/gym selfie. Thanks.
(NOTE: This "photo rule" varies from country to country. Most professional resumes in the U.S. donot have photos, but photos are apparently commonplace incountries such as Germany and Australia...therefore, do someresearch if applying abroad!)
Your professional references’ contact information should NOT be included in your resume. Create a separate document that can be provided upon request.
10. SPELLING ERRORS, TYPOS, & POOR GRAMMAR
No, not yet…Almost!
Now that you have reviewed your resume with the aforementioned tips in mind, upload your completed resume to this tool: SCORE MY RESUME. Although the results aren't always 100% aligned with what my personal preferences, this online tool is a helpful checkpoint since it reviews your resume for impact, brevity, style, and skills, and it offers notations with edit suggestions, which include catching minor errors that are often missed even by rock star recruiters (Ahem!).
FINAL TIP – RE: EMAIL SUBJECT LINE
As a recruiter, I receive hundreds of emails with the subject line “Resume.” Really?? You did not spend ALL this time and energy creating this gorgeous resume to get lost in the mix, right? Doesn’t something like “Joe Smith for Marketing Director in Houston, Texas” seem like a better way to get noticed? Do yourself a favor and use an effective email subject line when you submit your resume.
***Author's Note: Since publishing this article, I have receiveda LOT of favorablefeedback from people who "didn't know where to start" with their resumes, and I have also heard from recruiters and college career counselors who have sharedthisarticle withtheir candidates and students...and I am thrilled that so many have found it useful! My intention was to create a tool withbroad-stroke resume tips that were presented in an entertaining way in an effort to help people. So, to those who missed the sarcasm and as anyone who knows me can attest, I am not actuallya snob:)***
Looking for some additional reading material?
INTERVIEW TIPS: Don’t Be “THAT GUY”
AFTER THE INTERVIEW: Follow Up vs. Too Much Follow Up
MultipleJob Offers: When It Rains, It Pours!
WhatFlavor is Your Seasoning? (Reentering the job market after retirement)
Contemplating Career Moves? Be the Captain of Your Own Ship.