Some useful resume writing tips from the perspective of an experienced resume formattor:
It is said that nobody can be perfect. That is not correct. People often achieve perfection in their resumes and self-appraisal forms. As resumes come before the appraisal forms, let’s talk about them.
Well, the first resume writing tip you need to remember is that the perusal of your resume should demand minimal effort. Whether your resume goes directly to the employer or passes through a recruitment agency, nobody wants to spend time on it. Everybody is too busy and has too little time. If you send a resume that takes up more time than necessary, it is likely to win more curses and less favour.
So, here are the resume writing tips stating what you must never do in your resume
Don’t be difficult:
Be it font type, size, page setting, or document format, don’t make things difficult. These days, many people circulate their resumes in PDF or image files. Totally unnecessary. Such file types waste time of people who have to process your resume. Suppose, a recruiter needs to copy highlights of your resume to send to their manager or make a summary, a PDF or image will make it harder to do it. Mind you, both these formats can be converted to text. So, they are no more secure than a Word doc. Unless you encrypt them or password protect them. In which case, you are doing yourself more harm than good. Your resume text should be easily accessible to the people and automated systems that will process it.
And don’t use font or styling that makes resume harder to read. No matter how long your resume is, a font size 8 is still a big no. Font size 10 to 12 is your best bet. Avoid using fancy fonts. Helvetica, Calibri, Cambria, Garamond, Georgia, etc. are good fonts to use in a resume. Don’t use capital letters to highlight text. That’s considered shouting. Don’t divide a word across two lines by putting a hyphen (-) between it. That is outdated writing.
Also, tables, charts, statistic graphs, logos, images are best avoided. Columns can be included for skills, client list etc., but please don’t create them using Space Bar or Tab. If you are using MS Word, use the Columns tool in the Layout tab.
The thing is, most recruitment agencies clear away the original formatting of the resumes and serve them to the client in a clean, simple and agency or client-specified format. So, all the stylistic elements you put in will be cleared away. It will waste your time, and it will waste the time of people or systems processing your resume. So, stick to the text. Avoid all stylistic elements. Even avoid fancy bullets, borders and fonts. Keep your resume plain, simple, and easy to read/copy-paste. Avoid using abbreviations too. A resume too full of abbreviations or shortened words is irritating.
Don’t be confused or confusing:
Make sure your resume has clarity and consistency. If you write 10 years of experience with PowerPoint in Technical Skills, don’t make it 8 years or 12 years in Summary. If while mentioning a job duration, you put the month before the date, you need to follow the same format for all jobs. And if you mention date as 5/4/2019, the recruiter might wonder whether it is May 4th or 5th April. So, check your resume carefully to make sure all information is clear and updated. Different countries use different date formats. Better to check out the preferred date format of the country of your prospective employer.
Also, don’t put your experience in a continuous stream without a separation between two jobs. It will be harder for the recruiter or the hiring person to see where one job ends and another begins. It looks careless and untidy too. There should be a line’s space between two jobs or sections. Don’t go to the trouble of creating this space by adjusting Line Spacing. Use Enter to create a line’s space. Use Ctrl+Enter to create page breaks. Talking about page breaks, don’t put Orphans or Widows in your resume. That is, don’t let a single line or word hanging on one page while the rest of the paragraph is on another page.
And since our aim is to remove all confusion, try to put similar information in one section. For example, don’t put a section of Expertise on top of the resume, and then Skills in the middle, then Special Skills, Personal Skills, Other Skills at the end. It just creates clutter. Bring them all together under Skills or Expertise with subheadings.
Don’t clutter up your resume:
Clutter is never a welcome sight. So, don’t add clutter in your resume. Add nothing that is unnecessary. This includes objective, images, charts, headers, footers, your social media links, salary, hours per week worked etc.
Don’t make your page margins too narrow. Set your page margins to Normal. Don’t use font and font size that makes the resume appear cluttered. Don’t make your resume colourful. Black text on a white page works best. Don’t shout by using unnecessary capital letters or big font size.
Don’t add unnecessary information like your present employer’s contact details (never!), reasons you left previous jobs, irrelevant experience or achievements like ‘won a milkshake drinking competition.’
Don’t puncture the punctuation and grammar:
Bad grammar can kill even an exceptional resume. So, always check your resume carefully. I have seen even highly qualified engineers and doctors leave silly spelling and grammar mistakes in their resume. That raises a red flag about their carelessness.
Make sure you use present tense for your current job and past tense for your previous jobs. It’s best to avoid personal pronouns, especially first person – I, we, me, my. Be sure of singular and plural. And if you don’t know the spelling of a technical word, Google it.
And be careful with the punctuation, especially commas and full stops. For example, WORD , WORD is wrong. WORD ,WORD is wrong. WORD,WORD is wrong. A word is immediately followed by a comma and then there is a space before the next word (WORD, WORD). Also, never use a semicolon (;) in place of a full stop. Don’t add space before a full stop. And please, don’t omit a full stop from your text! Otherwise, your paragraph will make little sentence And it will be too hard to read and process
Bonus resume writing tip: You can use online grammar editors like Grammarly to check your resume.
Don’t be arrogant, or too humble:
Our words can reveal our truth, even if they are lies. So, be very careful about how your personality is reflecting in your resume. If you stretch your name from margin to margin in big, capital letters, it won’t just look ugly, it will make you seem arrogant too. Same, if you start every sentence with your name. For example, ‘Jyoti Arora has twelve years of experience as a content developer. Jyoti Arora has an amazing experience with MS Word. Jyoti Arora has exceptional typing speed.’ Did you notice how ridiculous and arrogant that sounds? Now, sample this: “I am the One you are Looking For – Honest, Responsible, Integrity, Loyal and a Self-Starter!” This pompousness will do you no good.
On the opposite side, don’t be too humble. It is a good thing to be honest, but you need not reveal your weaknesses in your resume. For example, ‘Has 12 years of content development experience but has worked only with fiction writing. Knows MS Word but is not familiar with Excel. Has 35 WPM typing speed, trying to be faster.’ Now, if you yourself show that you lack the required skills and abilities, the hiring manager will think so too. So, don’t be too humble. Mention your strengths in a clear and honest way, don’t spoil them by adding ifs and buts.
Don’t be creative:
I am a novelist. So, I love creativity. I am an admirer of all creative arts. But a resume is not a place to show your creativity. Keep it simple, easy, and straight-forward. Avoid tables, they create clutter and difficulty in processing. Avoid all design elements like borders, page colours, font colours, images, text boxes, and other graphics. It’s best to use only text, without any underlining or italics. Just put the headings in Bold text.
Also, don’t get too creative with your words. If your resume uses words like ‘amazing experience, profound experience, awesome skills, superlative ability, stupendous success,’ it will only appear ridiculous. Don’t get creative in stuffing your resume with lies either. The recruiters and the hiring person will probably sniff them out.
Don’t be daft:
What might appear fun at home or college might not appear so in a resume. Be very careful about what you are putting in your resume. Sometimes, even email addresses can become a cause of rejection. So, avoid using email addresses that don’t sound professional. Cuteluv4u might sound fun to you, but perhaps not to the employer desiring a serious candidate for a responsible position.
Hobbies are usually not required in a resume. But if you do put them in, please make sure they don’t include things like ghost-busting or playing PUBG.
If you copy-paste your ‘experience’ from some website or use a resume creator, make sure you read what you have put in your resume. If your resume contains text like ‘for more information, click here,’ or ‘put your experience here,’ your brilliant Googling is not likely to work.
To summarize, remember that your resume must be Clear, Concise, Consistent and Correct. Don’t make it Complex, Cluttered, Creative, and Confused. Be simple, be direct, concentrate on the content, not the stylishness. And check your resume from the objective point of view of a stranger. Then send it out.
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