Are you thinking about internships or summer jobs, or are you looking to start your career? A strong resume is the first step. Whether you’re dusting off an old resume or starting from scratch, you’ll need to capture your skills and experiences in a compelling yet concise document. But that’s not always as easy as it might seem.
Read on for some resume-writing Don’ts from UT career services experts.
0. Don’t Have Typos
This is No. 0 because it should be too obvious even to mention. Unfortunately, career services pros say this is the most common mistake they see in resumes. Even spell check misses the distinction between “to” and “two.” Typos are unprofessional and show a lack of care in your work. Make sure to proofread your resume.
Need a second pair of eyes? Have your resume reviewed by a career counselor in your college career services office or at the Vick Center for Career Counseling.
1. Don’t Have Messy Formatting
Don’t make a potential employer work hard to understand your information. A resume should be clear, organized and consistent. “If you say you are skilled in Microsoft Office, then your resume should demonstrate your knowledge,” says LaRae Tronstad, a career coach with the College of Liberal Arts Career Services Center. Avoid big blocks of text and too many fonts. Use bullets, short sentences and consistent heading styles to organize your information.
If you are emailing or uploading your resume, save it as a PDF. That will preserve your carefully planned fonts, spacing and margins.
2. Don’t Use Passive Language
Your resume is not the place to be shy. Be direct and strong in your writing. Action verbs stand out to someone scanning your resume, so lead with these stronger phrases. Use past tense unless the experience is current or ongoing. When describing your current position, use present tense and avoid passive verbs ending in “-ing.”
Before: “Worked on managing customer complaints”
Better: “Managed customer complaints about products”
Check out some helpful examples of how to use action verbs at The College of Liberal Arts Career Services Center.
3. Don’t Miss the Chance to Quantify Your Experience
Numbers can quickly convey the significance of your accomplishments. This may be easier for experiences that involve money, rankings or statistics. But no matter what kind of work you do, add data to your resume to quantify your experience. Don’t miss the chance to show your employer how often, how many times and on what scale you achieved your goals.
Before: “Edited the school newspaper, The Daily Texan.”
Better: “Edited 10 news articles per week while consistently meeting deadlines for The Daily Texan, a student-produced campus newspaper with a daily circulation of more than 12,000.”
4. Don’t Undersell Your Experience
Don’t have a ton of job experience? That’s no reason to assume you have nothing to put on your resume. Experience doesn’t necessarily mean paid employment. Include internships, traineeships, apprenticeships, self-employment, part-time work, miscellaneous informal services and volunteer performances.
“The key is to focus on transferable skills,” says Tronstad. “If you are applying to a company with a fast-paced environment requiring multitasking, then your experience waiting tables engages multitasking and managing competing demands.”
5. Don’t Use the Same Resume for Every Job
Don’t make one resume that includes all the work experience you’ve ever had and use it to apply for every job. Instead, tweak your resume to fit the position.
When choosing which experiences to include on your resume, think about the skills and abilities that would be of most interest to the potential employer. Ask yourself, would I speak about this experience during an interview? If yes, include it.