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Updated by Ashish Gupta on Nov 19, 2015
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Ashish Gupta Ashish Gupta
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Resume dos and donts

Best practices for resume building, based on my reviews of dozens of real-world resume. The guidelines will help you make your resume go low on empty calories!

After following this master checklist, you reach the last step of resume making--there is no substitute of a human editor, so go get one!

1

Submit a PDF

Submit a PDF

Always submit a PDF copy of your resume instead of a Word file. May be a text file is also OK, but I don't apply to companies who request a Word file.

2

Submit a signed PDF

Submit a signed PDF

Better yet, deliver your resume as a signed PDF. Create your own digital signature in Adobe Acrobat Professional. It is tamper proof and shows that you care enough.

Submit a well-crafted signed PDF

Adjust the properties and metadata of the PDF to look professional. It shows that you care for the finesse and know your tools.

4

Use an appropriate citation style

Use an appropriate citation style

When providing references to your publications, use specific guidelines for referencing. For example, APA, MLA, Harvard, ASA, etc. Read this, to know which one is best suited for you.

5

Memorable content in the center

Memorable content in the center

The critical parts of the resume that you want to linger in the subconscious memory of the reviewer like your name, your primary skills, and keywords around your major achievement should be towards the center of the page, instead of towards the edges.

6

Dense and rich, without fluff

Dense and rich, without fluff

Read each word/phrase separately and convince yourself and two friends about the importance of each word/phrase in there. If you cannot convince two friends, then do away with the words.

Mailto link

Create a mailto link on your mail ID. Populate as many mail fields as you can. Highlight your email in blue to indicate that it is a hyperlink.

8

Formatting

Use only italics to highlight anything. Do not bold words or underline them to highlight. A printout of your resume should look neat and clean from more than a feet away. Of course, from nearby, it should read crisp too :)

9

Relative numbers and percentages

Relative numbers and percentages

Relative numbers, drawing contrasts, and providing percentages sound better most of the times. For example, 500% reduction in time sounds much better than "reduced effort from 2 months to 10 days".

10

Contact info

Contact info

Your residential address is not required unless you are sure the potential employer will send you snail mail. Save space, if you can.

Also, some employers can be biased knowing your commute. Avoid getting filtered out.

11

Readability matters

Readability matters

Use ample white space. Negative space never hurt anyone :)

12

Avoid personal information

Avoid personal information

For heaven's sake, please don't include your religion, your parent's name, your age, and other personal details. No employer is interested in such information and they are legally required to not differentiate based on such information.

13

Skills and work experience

Differentiate between your skills and your work experience. Work experience is the project-specific work you've done in the past. Skills are your learning and knowledge, resulting (may be partially) from doing that work.

14

Showcase soft skills and leadership qualities

Showcase soft skills and leadership qualities

Unless you are applying for a position of a one-man army (say for the post of a Superhero), do include all possible references to your work that showcase your soft skills and life skills, if you've done any such work. For example, mentoring or counseling, leading a project or a team, advising, torch bearing or pioneering, managing conflicts, volunteering, and so on.

15

Work experience and achievements

Work experience and achievements

Don't list projects and job description. Mention your contributions and achievements, the impact you had on the group, and the ROI for the organization. Being a member of any committee or a group doesn't count! What were your contributions as a member?

16

Impact and achievements

Impact and achievements

Instead of just using comparatives, mention the exact impact, if you can. For example, "lowered MTBF value by 10%" is better than writing "improved the process" or "lowered losses".

17

Page length

Page length

Unless you have many years of experience or are a genius who has created a lot of value in a short time, stick with one page resumes only. By all means wrap it up in maximum two pages.

18

Respect businesses and use proper branding

Respect businesses and use proper branding

Make sure the copyrighted, trademarked, and registered words are used with appropriate casing and branding guidelines are adhered to. It shows you care and have a good ATD. For example, JavaScript not Javascript, Microsoft not MicroSoft, LaTeX not Latex... you get the gist.

19

Basic grammar and writing style

Basic grammar and writing style

Watch out for casing, punctuation, hyphenation, and subject-verb agreements. And most importantly for the typos! "A 2013 CareerBuilder survey found that 58% of resumes have typos."

Not getting these basics right, is the most popular and sure way to get rejected. SMS language, lesser-known abbreviations, and obscure references left unexplained are a big NO. For example, engineering not 'engg', and not '&', information not 'info', and so on.

20

Don't divulge secrets

Don't divulge secrets

You may be under legal binding to prevent leak of company confidential information from previous employers. Don't divulge this in your resume. It could be a inside information, business secrets, or confidential market strategies. It goes to show you in bad light and any prospective employer will have trust issues.

21

Outright lies

Fake internships, dummy certificates, dubious jobs at no-name companies, etc. are surefire ways of hurting, not just your next job interview, but your long-term career as well. Just search here for CEOs fired for lying on their resume!

22

Don't make it boring!

Don't make it boring!

Easier said than done!

You don't need to go completely outside the box, like this. You can still give a fresh look to your resume for that stickiness factor. Some hints could be, a never seen before template, good use of design principles, extremely short but crisp resume, multi-layered PDF resume, and some such unconventional approach.

Heck, how about hiding an Easter Egg in your resume and ask the recruiter to find it?!

23

Link to your social profiles

Personally, I'd never shortlist a resume if it does not link to a social profile. All recruiters these days have a basic expectation around you having some social presence. At least, a LinkedIn profile.

I'd to a step further and nudge you to not just have a few but have a few well-maintained ones. Smartly reuse content to create a few blogs entries, videos, presentations, Tweets, Pins, and what not. You don't need to invent content all the time.

And it goes without saying to follow all the etiquette when communicating publicly. Don't leave a commentary on the Internet that can be used against you years later.

  • Ashish Gupta

    PRO CURATOR

    Ashish has several years of experience working with content. He is a technical communicator and a community builder by profession; UX advocate and a quality champion by nature; and a Chemical engineer from IIT Bombay by academic qualification.

    In his spare time he likes to spoil his son silly, test workflows, identify usability enhancements and new features in software that he uses, and indulge in the online communities. Other interests areas in which Ashish dabbles are Instructional content, eLearning, social media, SEO, project management, life skills, watching soccer, fantasize about running long marathons some day, and occasionally trekking in the Himalayas.

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