How To: 6 Surprisingly Simple Résumé Dos & Don'ts Most People Forget

6 Surprisingly Simple Résumé Dos & Don'ts Most People Forget

While landing a job isn't the easiest thing in the world, you can probably blame your résumé for a number of lost opportunities. Writing up a cover letter and résumé is frustrating and time-consuming, but if you spend the time to get them right, the effort will drastically increase your chances of getting employed.

We've already shown how to get your résumé past robot applicant-tracking systems, and how word clouds can help you figure out the most important keywords for a job posting, but there's so much more to it than that.

Peter Denbigh and Jenny Harvey, a couple of professional résumé writers, did an AMA on Reddit recently, and they gave out some really great tips to up your chances of getting a job. Since the thread is pretty long, I've highlighted some of the tips that stood out to me the most.

Tip #1: Personalize Each Résumé

Most people are lazy. This has got to be the easiest way to demonstrate that you're not, right off the bat. Never, ever turn in the same résumé for different jobs you apply to. You should tailor each one to the specific job posting. If you don't, you're passing up your best and easiest opportunity to make the you-on-paper shine as the absolute perfect match for the position.

If one potential job is at a retail store and the other's at a music store, highlight the specific skills in your résumé that will make you stand out to each one. This is as easy as reading the job requirements and prioritizing your skills and experience accordingly. Just don't lie and say you can do something you can't... unless you're sure you can learn the skill(s) before an interview (you ambitious go-getter, you).

According to the Pareto principle, 80 percent of your results can be attributed to 20 percent of your effort. For example, if you take one hour to send out 10 résumés, imagine what the results might be if you spend that same hour working on just 2 résumés instead, polishing them to perfection.

It's definitely worth a try. Plus, personalizing each cover letter and résumé will help keep you from slipping up by forgetting to change the company name or certain keywords.

Tip #2: Don't Ever Copy & Paste

This directly relates to the first tip. Sure, copying & pasting probably helped get your partying ass through college, but copy/pasting should rarely be used on cover letters or résumés. Copying something into your existing application could give you different fonts or sizes, showing your employer that you indeed pasted something in there and didn't bother taking the time to apply whole-heartedly.

Quick Tip: If you do copy/paste for some reason, highlight your entire document (Ctrl+A or Cmd+A) and find the font/size selections in the drop-down list in Word (or whatever word processor you're using). If they're blank, that means you have two different fonts and/or sizes. Fix them.

Tip #3: Don't List Job Duties

When filling out your résumé, don't just write all of the responsibilities from your previous employers. Instead, list how you positively impacted the job.

  • Don't: Cashier Responsibilities - greeted customers, handled money
  • Do: Work Impacts - guided and solved customer queries, provided training and assistance to newly joined cashiers, balanced money drawer at end of shift, etc.

The more specific and positive you are about the impacts you made at previous jobs, the more it will make you look like a valuable asset.

Tip #4: Limit What You Say

Showcasing your personality in a résumé is great because it helps you stand out. With that being said, you don't want to cross the line.

When filling out hobbies or any personal opinions, steer clear of any controversial or touchy subjects. Look into the culture of the business to see how far you can go. Some employers might be very conservative while others might be quirky or down-to-earth.

If you feel comfortable enough during the face-to-face interview, mention some of the things that you left out of the résumé that could potentially help you.

Tip #5: Have Someone Proofread It

Although it sounds simple, not proofreading effectively is one of the worst errors you can make before turning in your resume. Find someone who has a strong grasp of spelling, grammar, and tone, then have them read through it and give you honest advice.

It's not always easy to have someone critique your writing, but you should definitely swallow your pride when it comes to something as important as this. A thing as little as a bullet point not lining up exactly with the others could be enough to showcase your lack of attention to detail.

Tip #6: Apply for a Job Before You Move There

Say there's a city that you want to move to that's far enough that you'll need a new job. Should you move out to the city without a job (with money saved) or should you apply for jobs beforehand?

While it seems like common sense, you should definitely apply for jobs before you move somewhere. Some might think that moving to the city shows commitment to employers, but connections are an important part of job-hunting.

So what should you say to employers?

Tell them that you're moving regardless and that you're "really pleased with the response you've gotten from employers there!". This will help quash any questions about relocation money (if that's an issue), show the employer that you're desired by others, and will prove that you're not so desperate for a job that'll you move wherever you get hired.

When it comes to interviews, do them through Skype or any other available video services. Schedule in-person interviews during a specific timeframe and plan a trip to the city, if the job offers get any more serious.

Neatly put, don't leap before you look.

More Helpful Résumé Tips from the Pros

Here's a rundown of several other tips in the AMA thread on Reddit that could help you out.

  • Try to get your résumé into one page, two pages max.
  • Leave out irrelevant jobs that don't help you for a certain position.
  • Don't let your résumé smell like smoke (cigarette or marijuana).
  • If you're young and don't have much experience, don't worry. Mention things like volunteer work, boy or girl scouts, church groups, sports teams, events you've helped run, and anything that can show off responsibility.

And check out the full AMA thread on Reddit for more tips.

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Image credits: Proofreading, typewriter resume, typewriting qualifications, and map and classifieds via Shutterstock


The site is also a great place to identify keywords for your resume. All you do is paste in your resume plus the job description, then Jobscan analyzes your job description for you automatically and identify the most important keywords for you! it literally takes seconds and it so worth the copy and paste. Saved me so much time AND I got more interviews using Jobscan! I recommend as well!

I agree, jobscan has definitely helped me write my resumé. The amount of time it has saved has been incredible! Would recommend to everyone

Yes It is.. This is like a Careerpedia :) jobscan covers everything that you need to rocket your career forward

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