Crafting a resume is an important part of your job search. A well-written resume should highlight your skills and experience in a straightforward manner that aligns with the position you’re applying for. Unsure how much to include, or what to leave out? Here are some do’s and don’ts of resume writing and editing that will help see you through to the interview round.

What is the purpose of a resume?

Think of your resume as a calling card, a means of selling yourself to a prospective employer. A resume is typically a one to two-page summary that showcases your work experiences, skills, capabilities and accomplishments. Resumes can take many forms, from a website to a LinkedIn profile to good old paper. Depending on the need, your resume should be available in more than one format.

Before you begin writing your resume

The first step is understanding what makes you stand out. Begin by identifying your unique strengths, skills and capabilities. Include a mix of soft and hard skills on your resume. If you need help understanding the difference between capabilities and strengths, the Prepped Learning Library can help.

A resume for the financial industry will look different from one for a creative industry, where you could make use of infographics or multimedia to stand out from the competition. Research resume examples from other people in the industry or with similar positions to the one you’re applying for. You want your resume to look professional, so start with a template. Prepped has free templates available to help you effortlessly build your resume (and the accompanying cover letter). 

Resume do’s

Make your resume shine with these tips.

  • Customize your resume for the position you’re applying for. Simplify the process by starting with a master resume, which lists all your skills and experience in the one document, then tailor each resume highlighting your relevant skills to reflect the job posting.
  • Make your resume easy to read. Use a clean, easy to read font and refrain from squeezing too much information on one page.
  • Keep each section of your resume brief, including your summary and work or volunteer experience. 
  • Job titles and companies should stand out — bold the information or use a slightly larger font size. A busy recruiter may only spend a minute on your resume, so you want important information such as this to stand out.
  • Verbs are your best friend on a resume. For example, to showcase your leadership qualities, use words such as “accomplished,” “achieved,” and “led.”
  • List your accomplishments rather than job duties. For example, rather than saying “event planning,” write “coordinated annual company-wide town hall for 500 employees.” If there are any numbers or percentages, and you can put what you’ve achieved, even better.
  • Spell check and proofread before you send it out. If grammar isn’t your strong suit, there are online tools available or have a friend or colleague review your resume.
  • Send your resume as a PDF rather than a word file. That way, margins will stay put, and you can be confident that when an employer opens the file, the resume is formatted the way you want.

Resume don’ts

Here is a list of things you want to avoid having on your resume.

  • Don’t include a heading that says “Resume” or “CV” (curriculum vitae). It’ll be self-evident to a hiring manager, plus you’re taking up valuable real estate you could use to highlight your achievements.
  • There should be no explanation needed, but stretching the truth or outright lying doesn’t belong on your resume.
  • Don’t use a lot of jargon or acronyms. You might be familiar with a GUI (graphical user interface), but an HR professional may not be.
  • Sure, you have a life outside of work, but a recruiter doesn’t need to know you spend your weekends playing D&D. Don’t list any hobbies that aren’t relevant to the position or industry. It’s a resume, not a dating site.
  • Don’t include your high school information, unless a high school diploma is the highest level of education you have. If you’ve completed a university or college degree, include that. If you’re due to graduate soon, include “Class of 2020,” for example, so it’s clear to an employer.
  • Leave off any personal data beyond your name, address, email address and phone number. This includes information like your date of birth, marital status, religion, sexual orientation or other confidential information. Not only could it unintentionally prejudice your application, but information such as your Social Insurance Number (SIN) puts you at risk of identity theft.

How to optimize for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

The reality of the job market is hiring managers in larger organizations do rely on an applicant tracking system (ATS) to help filter through resumes. No matter how well-written your resume is, you may still have to get it an ATS. The system scans each resume, matching skills and qualifications with the job description.

More tips to optimize your resume:

  • Incorporate important keywords used in the job posting in your resume, especially for skills listed as “essential.”
  • Make sure your resume is formatted correctly (and simply!)
  • Include standard headers, so information is easily searchable.
  • If you use acronyms, such as CPA, spell them out in full as well.

Prepped can help you build a great resume for the right job  

Resume writing is a skill that needs practice. Prepped is here to help guide you through the process of developing your personal brand and translating that into a resume. Sign-up for Prepped to get help with developing a knock-out resume based on your personal brand that will help get you noticed.

 


This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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