5 Resume Rules

A resume is a highly personalized document, a statement of your unique qualifications for the job. But resumes are also subject to a set of unwritten rules that are constantly changing to accommodate new technologies and employer preferences.

Writing a resume is a stressful experience, even for veteran jobseekers. No matter how much time you invest in your resume, there always seem to be lingering doubts about whether a different phrase here or an extra bullet point there will make a difference with employers.

Now here’s the good news: it’s unlikely that a single phrase or bullet point will jeopardize your chance of winning an interview. However, there are several things that are worth worrying about, including the following 5 resume rules:

  1. Identify Your Objective & Strengths Early

  2. Like it or not, most employers don’t thoroughly read resumes – they scan them for qualifications that are directly related to the position. If your resume doesn’t communicate focus (through a Career Objective) or competency (in a Summary of Qualifications) right out of the gate, it may be difficult to keep the attention of decision-makers. Also, make sure to tailor your objective or summary as well as other information contained in your resume for specific employers and positions.

  3. Choose the Right Resume Format

  4. There are multiple resume formats, each serving a specific purpose and function. The most common formats are Chronological, Functional and Combined/Hybrid (combination of Chronological and Functional). Do your research to make sure the format you select is the right one for your background and work history.

  5. Emphasize Achievements, Not Fluff

  6. Words matter in resumes. Phrases like “extensive experience” and “proven track record” sound nice, but they don’t communicate substance to employers. So instead of relying on fluff, fill your resume with career achievements, quantified results and specific outcomes.

  7. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!

  8. The best way to sabotage your resume is to fill it with typos, misspellings and grammatical errors. Even if everything else in your resume is perfect, employers will interpret a single typo as a professional weakness or lack of attention to detail, sending your resume to the bottom of the pile.

  9. Incorporate Hyperlinks

  10. These days, more than 80% of employers prefer to receive resumes by email. Although email resumes create certain challenges, they also allow you to incorporate hyperlinks to a LinkedIn profile or online portfolio. By directing employers to information contained online, you equip them with additional resources in the hiring process. The caveat is that any sites or profiles mentioned in your resume need to be appropriate (e.g. not a Facebook account full of photos from last weekend’s keg party), consistent with the information in your resume and spot-on perfect in terms of content.


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