Resume Tips

Resumes summarize your relevant background information and qualifications. Resumes do not describe everything you have ever done. Instead, resumes highlight what is most relevant to the opportunity you are seeking. Use these resume tips to make sure your resume format and layout best showcases what we call The Real V.I.S.A. (values, interests, skills and abilities). Before broad distribution of your resume, please get feedback through our job board or from the Career Center on your college campus.

A word about resume writers

Professional resume writers agree there are many right ways to write a resume. Ten professional resume writers working for the same client could probably create 10 different resumes based on style and look. ALL of those resumes could be very good despite the look and highlighted content. One key resume tip when using professional resume writers is to make sure they use your voice. As a recruiter, I can tell you it’s annoying to have words on a resume that a candidate just doesn’t even use.

Resume Guidelines

There are many right ways to write a resume. The key is to use these resume tips to individualize your resume so that your unique qualities stand out! Resume tip #1 is – Do not just copy a sample resume because it may not highlight your strengths! Your goal is to organize and prioritize the information on your resume to support a current career objective. The list of resume tips below will definitely help you to do that!

Resumes today are SCANNED, not read!

Expect the reader to spend a few seconds doing a “power-scan” of a resume to determine if it ends up in the keep or toss pile. Personally, I don’t like this approach, but it is what most recruiters do. Keep in mind too that recruiters are using scanning software to screen resumes as well. Keep that in mind as you read through these resume tips.  Design resumes so the readers’ eye is drawn to key information by paying attention to “white space”, font, bullets, layout and margins etc.

Prioritize your information. Place the most relevant information at the top and on the left margin. What qualities and skills are essential for your objective? What do you want to emphasize? Focus on what you have to offer. Your resume must sell your strengths and positive qualities through your accomplishments and experiences. Prepare a summary of all your experiences so you can utilize those that relate to your career objective.

Stay positive and action oriented. Describe your experiences in a positive way and begin sentences with action verbs.

Be prepared to support your resume! Know, understand and own everything on your resume. Use the interview to bring life to your skills and experiences through real stories that showcase behaviors you want to interviewer to know about.

Resume Formats

Resumes will typically use one of the following two formats, but can also be a combination of both.

Chronological Resumes– This resume format lists education and experience in chronological order, starting with the most recent first and working backwards. This is the most common format and the easiest to write.

Functional or Skill Based Resume– This resume format lets you list experience and abilities by skill areas. Choose relevant skills areas and highlight those experiences. The emphasis is on what you have done rather than on when and where you did it.

Versions of a Resume

Traditional Design Resume

This version is typically mailed or presented at the interview

Scannable Resume

This resume version is developed without bullets and the other design highlights. The goal is for the resume to be computer reader-friendly.

Plain Text Resume

This version can be pasted into an email message or cut-and-pasted into online forms.

Mobile Resume

Career Builder data suggests that 90% of job applicants are now applying for jobs through some type of mobile device.  Mobile resumes are those formatted for smaller screens.

50 Resume Tips That Work

I’ve been updating this list every spring for almost a decade.

Our goal is that if you use this list and spend 60 minutes with your resume you can improve your resume in the process.  With social media increasingly becoming a part of the job search, many are debating the value of resumes.  IMO, (a first for me to use text language in an article) resumes are still important and these 50 resume writing tips still work.  Remember though that your resume has 20-30 seconds to make an impression on a reader who will have to decide if they will put your resume in the KEEP or TOSS piles.

Improve your resume in 60 minutes with these resume tips 

1. Skip the prepackaged templates. Start your own resume writing project from scratch.  Copy a layout you like.

2. Proofread resume for grammar, spelling and factual errors by reading from the end in reverse order.

3. Use consistent font size including bullet sizes on your resume.  New trend is to skip the old Times fonts and get something more contemporary.  Don’t force the recruiter to squint to read the text.  Stick to an ASCII font.

4. Limit or avoid graphics completely.  Don’t add your photo or picture of your dog or any fancy images.  Recruiters will see your profile photo from LinkedIn or other social media.

5. Use upper case letters sparingly and only when appropriate.  Upper case is actually very hard to read and it doesn’t make what you are saying anymore important.

6. Include short term projects that were great learning experiences.  Remember to write team outcomes.

7. Bullets will make resumes easier to read.  Definitely large blocks of text don’t really fit with the scanning approach that the reader will take.

8. Avoid useless words like “responsibilities”, “responsibilities include” or “duties include.” Also you don’t have to label your email address with the word “email” anymore.

9. Volunteerism and community service really enhance a resume.  Sometimes, especially, for new grads or even career changers moving from one industry to the next. this is all you have.

10. Adjust margins if the resume is slightly too long. Don’t go less than .5 inch, but don’t leave a few lines hanging on another page either.

11. No personal pronouns like “I”, “my” and “me” except maybe in the objective statement.  Some don’t like objective statements.  I still do.  They can’t be shallow however.

12. Do not list complete addresses of past employers, don’t even include your own address if you don’t want to.  This is a new trend especially in a job market where people are relocating often.  Your address doesn’t add anything new.

13. Don’t include names of references on the resume.  Also don’t use the line, “References Available on Request”.  We know that you have references who will brag about you.

14. Top 30-40% of the resume gets the most attention; Make it grab the reader’s attention.

15. Use little notes to steer the reader’s attention or spark interest.  For example, if you list a job that appears out of synch with the rest of your background, write a note “Ask me about my career change.”  Get help from a professional with this “personalization” of the resume.

16. Use page numbers if the resume is more than one page.

17. Add name, phone number and email contact to all resume pages.

18. Use tables to align columns.  Right click on tables to remove lines and leave a clean look.

19. Do not include any salary information or salary history on your resume.  The resume is not the place.

20. Use a professional email address or social media links on your resume.  Make sure when a recruiter does click over to your social media that they won’t be unimpressed at what they see.

21. Use no jargon or slang on your resume.  In my intro paragraph, I used “IMO” which means “In my opinion”. Did you notice? Please don’t use this on a resume.

22. Do not write any information above your name.

23. Follow sample layouts if you are stuck.  There is absolutely no reason to use a resume which doesn’t flow.  I still get them. Often. There are tons of samples to pick from and just follow.

24. Education information goes to the top of the resume for new grads.  It is the MOST important thing about you right after graduation.  With years of experience, move education to the bottom of the resume.

25. Create a new document called a “Resume Inventory” and this is where you will dump any information you eliminate from this resume.  You may want to come back to it at some time, if it’s more relevant.

26. Change the resume objective statement as needed according to the job.  Know how to write a great resume objective statement.  Full disclosure – You will read many career experts who say that the resume objective is not necessary.  I don’t agree, but it is up to you how you feel about using one.

27. Write a strong “Summary of Qualifications” or “Career Profile” instead of an objective.  Get professional help with this so you are as succinct as you can be and still be effective.

28. Use industry “buzz words” or “keywords” on a resume.  Not enough to go overboard with “keyword stuffing”, but enough so people know you know what you are talking about.  Keep in mind, technology tools with artificial intelligence techniques will be doing a LOT of resume reading moving forward.

29. Resumes must identify specific successful outcomes – not just what you did!  If you can’t share the outcome, don’t tell the story.

30. Quantify outcomes by using $, % and # to demonstrate achievements.  Use the appropriate action verbs to emphasize accomplishments.  Your college GPA if you are a student or new grad is an example of outcome.

31. One specific phrase to try and avoid using on your resume is “Entry Level”.

32. Do not use one-word resume objectives or one-word descriptions of what you did. eg. Sales

33. Which layout best represents you: Chronological vs Functional vs. Skills resume?  Know the difference and when you would use one over the other. Consider the Combination Resume which is built on skills and in reverse time order

34. Be consistent with dates and numbers eg 09/02, Sep 02, Sep 2019

35. Don’t fall in love with any resume content.  You may have to eliminate it or delete it.  I know it’s your background and you are proud of it, but eliminate it, if it doesn’t speak to your current mission.

36. Get others (career staff, colleagues, HR professionals) to proof read your resume – be open to criticism.  If you aren’t asking these types of professionals, then ask some who you know has looked for a job recently.

37. Relevance is key. Don’t include every job you have ever had.

38. If you are using a resume writing services make sure to keep your “voice.” Don’t write words you don’t use or can’t pronounce.

39. Always keep a resume accessible via email or in services like, Google docs or in an email somewhere.

40. Resumes, Cover Letters, Thank-you letters can have the same letter heading layout

41. No need to state why you left any organization – unless you are clever about how to share with what I call “love notes” to the recruiter eg. A small insert that says “Ask me about my career change”

42. Add your LinkedIn profile information on your resume. If you don’t have one.  Please create one.

43. Federal job applications may ask for social security numbers on your resume. Leave it out otherwise.

44. Describe accomplishments on your resume using Action Verbs such as “managed”, “improved” and “delivered”

45. Using short paragraphs, 3-5 sentences maximum, is possible.  Make sure these blocks of content are well written and says a lot about you.

46. White space on a resume is not a bad thing. Don’t cover every inch of it with words.

47. Make sure your resume contact information is current and that recruiters can find you if they want to reach out to you.

48. Ask a professional resume writer, HR person, mentor etc. for a free resume critique.  If you have the posting for the job you are seeking, share that with the person who is going to be doing your critiquing.

49. Remove “References Available on Request” as it is a waste of valuable space

50. If you just graduated and your resume is beyond 2 pages, you haven’t edited enough. Edit some more because you have cover letters and social media profiles with information as well.

More on Resumes, Curriculum Vitae and Job Search Docs:

All Resume Articles on The HBCU Career Center blog

The 41 Best Resume Templates Ever at

Freshman Sample Resume 1

SampleResume20 – (2 pager)



Assemble Resume Worksheet

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