Resume Do’s and Don’ts

Every person that has put together a resume knows the basics, no spelling errors, limit to two pages, chronological format, use keywords and so on, but there are other basic issues that candidates do and don’t do that  have a big impact on getting their resume noticed. By getting noticed I mean read and ultimately you get a phone call or email.

Lets all agree there is only one reason for a resume, and that is to get an interview. That is it — PERIOD. A resume isn’t to get you a job, it isn’t a networking tool, it isn’t a bio and most important of all a resume  isn’t ABOUT YOU.

A resume is about the person reading the resume. If the only purpose is to get you an interview, then the resume better stand out so they take the time to read the resume. Standing out doesn’t mean gimmicks, highlighting or other tricks that only make you look desperate. Standing out means they see what they are looking for and want to read on and ultimately engage  you.

I believe candidates need to realize how people review resumes or take a step back, be very objective, and think about how they reviewed resumes when they had a stack of 100+ resumes sitting on their desk.

I know for me it starts with the 10 second review.  I’m looking for a few box checking items or points and if they are missing, or aren’t a fit, I move on. For example:

  • If my client isn’t going to relocate, and you are from out of the area, you are gone.
  • If I’m searching for a VP of X and you are a VP of Y you are gone.
  • If for whatever reason you have to have experience in a specific industry and you don’t, or haven’t at least worked in an industry that is a close fit, you are gone.
  • If my client is a small entrepreneurial company and you have only worked in very large companies you go into the “B” pile.
  • If you have had 8 jobs in the last 8 years chances are you are either gone or in the “B” pile.
  • If the scope of your positions don’t align with my client’s you are gone. For example,  if I’m searching for an International X and all your resume discusses is domestic, I think you know what is going to happen.

A recruiter, HR person or hiring manager can determine these in 10 seconds or less. Once all of these fundamentals are box checked then I’m going to take the time to read the resume in more detail. It is here that the rubber meets the road. This is where the resume needs to be about my client, NOT YOU. It is here that I’m making the decision of whether to pick up the phone and call you or not.

So it is critical under the “do” column of “Resume Do’s and Don’ts,” that you meet these basic screening issues or at least in one fashion or another address them.  For example, if you are open to relocation and willing to pay your own relocation expenses that should be in the cover letter. This could help level the playing field with local candidates,  if other points on your resume are compelling. You may go to the “A” or  “B” pile instead of being eliminated.

Under the “don’t” column of  “Resume Do’s  and Don’ts,” you need to make sure that when the person gets to the reading stage of your resume that you don’t discuss  irrelevant issues or accomplishments. This is the time to stand out, differentiate yourself and hit a home run.

The biggest “don’t” is don’t try to get by with a one-size-fits-all resume. These resumes are so generic it is impossible to know exactly what the candidate actually did. The bullet points don’t include results and are so vague the reader could change the name at the top and the resume would be like all the rest.

Don’t regurgitate the duties, tasks and responsibilities of the job in bullet point format.  Most companies will not consider you a great hire if all you do are the very basic duties of the job. Your bullet points should demonstrate the exceptional work you have performed. The resume bullet points should sing out loud and clear, “Here are the benefits to you if you hire me.”

Change  your perspective on the resume. Stop thinking of it as a resume about you. Start thinking of it as a marketing document or advertisement. These are generally about the targeted audience and designed to get their attention.

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To help  you build a great resume, we have a put together our “Complete Resume Writing System.” Everything  you need to make sure  your resume is compelling and about the reader is included. Candidates spend hundreds of dollars on resume writing  services when they don’t have to. Our Complete Resume Writing System is available for just $39.95. CLICK HERE to at least see if it can help you. It will save you hundreds.



Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard

About the Author

Brad Remillard and Barry Deutsch are founding Partners of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, and co-authors of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad and Barry are award-winning international speakers, retained executive recruiters, and experts on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By mansi sanghvi, November 4, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

    A very good article. It is to the point and hits the nail on the head. Worth reading for anyone trying to make their own resume.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, November 4, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the comment. Please feel free to pass along to others in your network so we can help them.

  • By William Downey, November 5, 2009 @ 10:03 am

    Enjoyed the post, very good points. Particularly the one about the resume not being about you. Illustrating how you have helped your previous employers/clients and how that impacts your future employer is critical,especially in today’s economic turmoil.

  • By Patrick Bivins, November 5, 2009 @ 10:33 am

    I explain this very same point about 50-60 times a day. Job seekers explaining that the job they applied to online is the perfect fit for them but they did not get an interview or even a response. It all comes down to the simple fact- “did you explain who you are and your skills in such a way that the person reading the resume can see you doing the job?” If not, you are in the “B” pile which never gets re-visited.

  • By linda, November 5, 2009 @ 11:04 am

    The best advice I’ve read so far.

  • By Tom, November 19, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

    Terrific article and spot on. Candidates need to put themselves in the shoes of the person doing the hiring…so simple yet hardly every done.

  • By Kathleen, January 4, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

    Thanks for a wealth of information. I have been out of the job market for quite a while, but it looks like I may be re-entering. Really scary at my age, but
    I have been backed into a corner where I may have no other choice…..this article may be the first step for me. I have not updated my resume in over 15 YEARS!!

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