When it comes to resumes, everyone has an opinion. Whether it's your parents telling you to print yours out on nice cardstock and to keep one on you at all times, or, it's yet another article (hi!) on the internet telling you how to format your professional accomplishments, it can be hard to navigate what advice to follow.
That's where we come in. As a career community immersed in the world of hiring, firing, recruiting and more, we have decades of collective experience in all sorts of industries to draw on. We gathered the very best to make this list of absolutes for your resume.
1. Make your resume specific and dynamic.
Hiring managers want to see your scope of duties and your impact; that means getting into the details and adding metrics of what you did in your position. If you just regurgitate your job description and list of tasks you were responsible for, you'll likely end up in the discard pile, especially for any position above entry level.
2. Include numbers whenever you can.
Hiring managers want to know specifically what you did. If you grew a team of interns from one to a dozen, add it! If you booked 35 conferences for your employer — you guessed it — include that number in a bullet. When you give generalities, you give the impression you didn't actually do anything, whether that's fair or not. So, take the guesswork away and strengthen your bullets with facts.
3. Be truthful.
While you may be tempted to fudge dates a bit, or, to round up on some numbers — don't. Remember, most companies will check references. You don't want to have your old supervisor tell the hiring manager something different than what's on your resume.
4. Include passion projects and side hustles.*
So many people have side gigs these days, it's almost expected from Millennial workers to have one or two at all times. If you want to showcase your work in your after-work life, include the gig or project on your resume. This especially applies to creative workers who may have skills in a related field not outlined in the job description; you never know if that photography blog you run may inspire the hiring manager to bring you in because they need a marketer and someone to take the occasional photo.
That said, a word of caution for anything that's not appropriate (as in, you'd feel embarrassed chatting about it to an interviewer); it's best to leave anything you're not comfortable explaining off your resume.
5. Keep it up to date.
There's nothing worse than catching a candidate with an outdated resume. Whether you didn't bother updating your employment dates (and are now unemployed), or, you left off key accomplishments, it doesn't foster trust or confidence in the hiring manager when you explain the actual situation, and how it's not on your resume "because you haven't had a chance to update it." If that is the truth, bring an updated copy with you to the interview; everyone will appreciate your preparedness.
6. Check your resume in PDF format and print it out.
Sometimes when you save to PDF images move or fonts don't translate. When you've proofed your resume and are ready to send, make sure to open the document as a PDF to verify everything is how you want it to look. Also, while this may seem like a pain, you should print at least one copy of your resume before sending it off. Some hiring managers prefer screening resumes in hardcopy, and if you don't print a sample of your doc, you may not realize how funky the margins are, or whether your info was cut off by the page break. Your eyes often have an easier job of catching typos and spacing mistakes when you change context; many writers print their pages to edit by hand.
7. Include certifications, continuing education, internships, speaking gigs, and awards and achievements.
While job experience is generally the first thing recruiters look at, you can still highlight your knowledge and interest in a field through other things, like the certifications and degrees you earned. Don't leave these items off, especially if your work experience is a little light.
8. Make multiple resumes.
You should never use one resume for multiple jobs. Each resume you send should be crafted with the company and job you're applying to in mind. That means reading the job posting carefully and diving into the company's "About" page to find out brand and culture values. You want to paint a picture of how you're the perfect fit for the job with your resume, so that means personalization each and every time.
9. Use powerful verbs.
10. Format your resume in the way that makes sense for the job you're applying for.
Don't feel tied to using only pre-made resume templates. While they're a great jumping off point, you should always feel free to tweak and rearrange until the resume makes sense to you. Perhaps you're a career changer who needs to explain and untraditional career history — add a summary at the top of your resume and maybe your recent education right below, because it displays your current experience.
11. Include technical skills and programs you're familiar with.
While soft skills are fine (and expected out of most employees in the modern workforce), you'll want to include any specific programs you're familiar with. Maybe you're a whiz with Adobe Premiere, or, have plenty of experience with Ahrefs or SEMrush; always add these specifics if you can.
Leave your college graduation date off your resume to avoid age discrimination. It's not required to include, and leaving it on your resume can invite unwanted bias, whether it's because you're deemed too old, or, too young. That said, it's fine to include if you're a very recent grad with a limited job history to show; having your graduation date helps paint the picture of what you were doing in the previous years.
13. Keeping high school on your resume if you have a college degree.
While some people include their fancy prep school on their resume for cache, we recommend leaving it off especially as you advance in your career (and really, after college, you shouldn't include it at all). If you don't have a college education but have trade school, coding bootcamp or other education to list, include those on your resume but leave off high school (unless it's specially mentioned in the job posting it's required).
14. Switching tenses.
Check that your resume is all in the correct tense. Jobs you no longer work at should be in the past tense. Your current job can be in the present tense.
15. Adding a reference section.
While it's not a red flag, it's unnecessary and can take up too much room. Wait for a reference request (which comes close to a job offer, usually right before or after).
16. Sending a link to your resume instead of the actual document.
Yes, it's the age of digital, but sending the URL instead of the actual document (when requested) adds an extra step to the recruiter or hiring manager. Make it easy for them and send them the document.
17. Including every skill from the job description, word for word, in your resume.
While you should include some, especially if you're applying to a large company that uses automated recruiting systems, you don't want to just copy and paste everything into your document. It reads a little bit suspicious, especially if it's not exactly true. When in doubt, default to the truth; otherwise, you may get asked about the skill you listed (especially if it's technical) and if you can't speak about it coherently, the hiring manager will know you included it only to get your foot in the door.
18. Exceeding one page (CVs can be longer).
Unless you're applying for a C-Suite position, you're fine with a one page resume. Most interviewers aren't interested in chatting about what you did 10 years ago, so chop off the resume bullets under jobs way in your past. While you're at it, you can also cut jobs or positions that don't align to field you're job searching in.
19. Including links or social share buttons without checking functionality.
Always give your resume the click test. Anything you link to, such as your portfolio, your social media handles or your LinkedIn, see if the URL actually still works. You'd be surprised how many people include broken links on their resume — even for tech-forward positions. Do yourself a favor and triple-check (and remember, try the links in the format you send; sometimes PDFs mess with URLs you link in a Word document).
20. Using atypical fonts or colors.
Most large companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) that autoscan your resume and pull your information into a filing system. If you use a font that's not compatible, you risk your information getting mistranslated. The best fonts for your resume are generally Arial, Times New Roman and Helvetica.
21. Sending without a final proofread.
Check that dates, names, formatting and grammar are good to go before you hit send.