By Rebecca Scott
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new type of resume, and I’m feeling good.
Ok, maybe you’re not quite at the point of feeling good about resume writing, but after reading this article about resume dos and don’ts, you certainly will be!
Perhaps you’re at a soul-sucking job right now, desperately trying to get out (been there), maybe you’re fresh out of school ready to plunge into the job market, maybe you just want to revamp your resume, because you never know what’s going to happen. Regardless of what point you’re at in your career, you should have an updated resume on hand. Otherwise, you’ll be left scrambling trying to piece something together just before a job application deadline. Better to be proactive than reactive.
In the past few years, resumes have changed… A LOT. This probably started before the pandemic, but since so many people have switched jobs during this time, the need for an updated resume has been amplified. Trust me, I was one of those people. I remember having a Word doc version of my resume, with skills, my degree, and a detailed description of every past job I’ve had listed on there.
When I was applying to jobs in 2021 (peak frustration point), I had to update my resume. I had the exact same resume since 2014 (plus a few new skills and descriptions). I quickly realized that my outdated resume just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I needed a whole refresh and I’m sure you do too.
Revamping Your Resume
Let’s start with some basics, and then we’ll get into some more advanced tips so you can have a kick-ass resume and land that awesome job.
1. Don’t Include Your Address
I’m going to start with a simple one. I follow a lot of career coaches on LinkedIn, and I remember one in particular mentioning that you should remove your address on your resume. Why? Think about it: when you send your resume to a company, it passes through many hands — you don’t need that many people knowing where you live.
2. Do Include Your Contact Details
Some workplaces are going the hybrid route; others are fully in-office. So it’s good practice to at least include your city/country. Also include your phone number and email address.
3. Don’t Include The Year You Graduated
The hiring manager doesn’t care that you graduated in 2010. Unless you’re a recent graduate, no need to include when you graduated.
4. Do List Your Education
Even if your degree isn’t totally relevant to the job you’re applying to, some jobs may require a bachelor’s, master’s or even a PhD. List the college you attended, your degree, and any relevant certificates you’ve acquired.
5. Don’t Make It Hard To Find The Necessary Information
Hiring managers and recruiters don’t want to dig around for the necessary information (e.g. contact information, education, portfolio, etc.). If your resume is five pages long and the information is scattered throughout, chances are your resume pages will be scattered too — into the discard pile.
6. Do Format Your Resume
Format your resume so it makes sense, it’s easy to read and pleasant to look at. As you do this, make sure the necessary information is obvious — put it near the top, distinguish it with boldface or colors, etc. You’re making hiring managers’ jobs easier and will be more likely to hear from them to go to the next round of the application process.
7. Don’t Have Your Last Position At The Top
This is important if you’re pivoting careers. Say you want to be an operations manager but your last role was as a UX designer. You don’t want to mislead hiring managers into thinking you have the experience you are hoping to have in your next career, but you should be forthcoming with what you want. This of course doesn’t apply to everyone. If you’re looking for a similar role, keep your current/former title at the top.
8. Do Have The Position You Want
From the previous example, if you’re pivoting careers you could put “Aspiring Operations Manager, Former UX Designer” or simply “Seeking Operations Manager Position” or even “Career Pivot From UX Designer To Operations Manager.” You get the point. Be clear about what it is you’re seeking.
Oh — and this is advice for a lot of women (because we tend to act “small” and sometimes don’t feel worthy of bigger and better things) — aim higher. Say you’re a marketing director. Stop applying to jobs with the exact same title! Go for the VP of Marketing position; it shows you’re willing to grow (plus having a very similar role, just at a different company, won’t be challenging enough).
9. Don’t List Job Duties
If you’re including job duties for positions you held, you need to remove that ASAP. Nobody wants to read a long paragraph that describes every last little thing you did at your previous jobs. Here’s an example of what I used to have on my resume: “Prepared, edited and proofread correspondence, reports, presentations, and other required material/documentation.” This would be important for administrative type roles, but again, it doesn’t really say what I accomplished in that role. Nobody cares about generic descriptors, and it doesn’t make you stand out from other candidates.
10. Do Include Quantifiable Metrics
When you’re mentioning specific roles you’ve had, also be specific about what you achieved. These metrics are important because it shows that your work made a significant impact on the organization, it backs up your claims, and shows that you’re results-driven (which is exactly what companies want to see). You want to include figures that show the scope of your accomplishments. If you’re in sales, you can touch upon revenue growth (on a monthly or yearly basis), if you’re in marketing this could be conversion rates, even if you’re a teacher you can quantify the number of students taught and how much their test scores improved because of you. You get the idea. As much as you can, include measurable results.
11. Don’t Include Company Descriptions For Every Role
If you’re applying to a job in a related field and the company you worked for is well-known, no need to include a description of the company
12. Do Include Descriptions For Smaller/Unknown Companies
If the company you worked for is lesser known, serves a niche market, is a start-up, you’re applying to a position in a totally different industry, or you’ve built your own company, it’s good practice to include a description of the company, so the hiring manager has some context.
13. Don’t List Every Single Job You’ve Had
This should be a given, but I’ll say it in case it’s not — stop including jobs that you had 20 years ago (especially if they aren’t relevant to the position you’re applying for). No one, and I mean no one, cares that you worked at a retail store during college.
14. Do Be Intentional About The Positions You’re Listing
If you’re fresh out of college, it might make sense to list some volunteer work you’ve done, teaching positions you’ve held or even projects you’ve worked on at school. As long as the experience makes sense and ties back to the role you’re applying for, include it. If you’re a professional and have been working for a few years (or maybe even a few decades), you have to draw the line somewhere. Include your most relevant positions that can demonstrate that you’d be an excellent fit for the role you’re applying for. Your resume shouldn’t be a novel of every single position you’ve had. Be consistent and be concise.
15. Don’t Use The Same Resume For Every Job
Every job you apply to will be slightly different, because no two companies are the same, and what they’re looking for varies (regardless of if the job titles are the same). Shooting off the same resume to every company isn’t going to get your foot in the door.
16. Do Include Keywords
Be intentional about reviewing the job description to make sure you’re hitting the right points. Look for recurring keywords especially and be sure to include them in your resume. There are plenty of online platforms out there (like JobScan) that can help you determine the most essential keywords to add to your resume. Make sure the information you’re presenting is aligned with the job description for the role you’re applying to.
17. Don’t List Traits
I feel like at some point we were taught to list traits about ourselves to show that we were exemplary employees. For example, listing things like hard-working, organized, self-motivated, punctual, excellent communicator, resourceful, etc. These traits should be a given. I cringe at this one because I’m guilty of including most, if not all of these traits on my former resume. After I had someone review my resume, they were quickly removed.
18. Do Include Specific Skills
Include any platforms you’re comfortable with (e.g. Hubspot, Salesforce, Shopify), your areas of expertise (e.g. career coaching, SEO, LinkedIn optimization), and any languages you’re fluent in. Keep this section concise; don’t list 20+ skills, rather, include the most relevant ones for the job you’re applying to.
19. Don’t Be Boring
Unless you want your resume to be forgettable and lost in a sea of applicants, you want your resume to represent you. Even if you’re applying to technical roles, you can still include a short executive summary that describes who you are, what you’ve done, and what you’re looking for.
20. Do Stand Out
Personal branding extends beyond your social media and includes your resume. Especially if you’re in a creative field, make sure your resume represents YOU and stands out from other applicants. My current resume isn’t anything extremely bold: I just added in some color (purple and orange), trimmed it down to one page and made it easy to read. Everything from the colors to the executive summary clearly represents me (for reference, my LinkedIn banner uses a similar color theme). If you want to include a headshot because you feel like it adds more personality to your resume, go for it. I’m personally not a fan because I don’t find it adds anything new that the hiring manager can’t see from my LinkedIn profile. If you want to make your resume pop, use a design platform like Canva to add some pizzazz to it.
21. Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Now is not the time to be humble and downplay your accomplishments (ladies, I’m looking at you). No one, and I mean no one, is going to demonstrate why you’re the best candidate for a job other than you. Look for areas in your resume where you’re not giving yourself credit (even giving it to others), and downplaying your accomplishments. You could even have someone who knows you well highlight areas where you can boast about yourself more.
22. Do Sell Yourself
No need to brag about yourself or be cocky, but there is a way to truthfully and confidently demonstrate your abilities. When it comes to your quantifiable accomplishments, make them clear and concrete, take credit for them, and own your successes. You worked hard to get where you are, now is the time to show it.
23. Don’t Include Jargon
Unless a technical term is related to the position you’re applying to, don’t include it. Make sure that the hiring manager will be able to understand your resume and won’t be scratching their head while having no clue what you’re talking about.
24. Do Limit Academic Language
Similarly, for those of you who are coming straight out of school into the workforce (especially an industry that isn’t academia-adjacent), don’t use fancy terminology that no one understands. You don’t want to come across as a snob, unrelatable, or too zany. Try to frame your academic projects in an understandable fashion and even add some flair and personality to your resume. Use the acronym KISS to help you – keep it simple, stupid.
25. Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute To Update Your Resume
This comes back to the beginning — stop waiting months, or even years, to update your resume. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute, putting together some sloppy resume, sending it off to a recruiter, and then missing out on a chance to land an amazing job.
26. Do Continuously Edit Your Resume
Don’t put it off. The longer you go without noting your quantifiable metrics, the harder it will be to remember what they were. Take time, even just 5-10 min every few weeks to jot down your accomplishments, add new skills, and edit your resume. Even if you’ve landed an incredible position, have a resume ready to go when a lucrative opportunity comes up. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did!
I know that updating your resume can seem daunting (especially if you haven’t done it in a while) and that there’s a lot of tips and tricks listed here. It won’t be done with a snap of a finger, but if you break it down into manageable steps, your success rate will quickly skyrocket!
I am a freelance copywriter. I love how this career allows me to learn about a variety of topics. One moment I’m writing about finance, the next about the latest in design technology. No matter the subject, I’m ready to learn about it, write about it, and craft a clear message for your audience.
I have pivoted my career from psychology/academia (I worked as a research assistant and research ethics coordinator) into marketing and now into copywriting. I’ve learned a lot along the way from how to properly research and be a critical thinker, and using marketing (SEO, A/B testing, target audience) to be a strong copywriter.
I love the value that Roostervane provides because the old way of thinking about careers (having an education, then having a job for 20+ years) just isn’t cutting it for today’s world. Even the way we apply to jobs has changed a lot in the past few years.
If you’re in need of a consistent brand voice, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.
P.S. People often ask me if I prefer being called Rebecca or Becky…either one works!