General Resume Guidelines

Create one résumé that is the best representation of what you have to offer in your next position. Highlight those things that you feel demonstrate your skills and abilities. Be specific as to what you want the reader to know and the impression you want to leave.

As far as résumé length, the rule of thumb is one page for every ten years of experience. People simply do not want to read a résumé that is too long or bombards them with too much information. Make your case as to why you are the best applicant in a clear and direct format.

What to Leave Off Your Resume

  • Personal Achievements: Resumes should highlight your professional or academic achievements, but they should not list irrelevant accomplishments in your personal life. While it should interest a potential employer that you were recognized as employee of the year at your last job, they may not care that you took first place in a marathon or karate competition.
  • Irrelevant Information: Employers do not need to read about every detail of your professional or academic history — only include details relevant to the job in question. For instance, someone applying for a position as a chemical engineer need not mention the summer they spent working at an ice cream shop in high school or the weekends they currently spend volunteering for an animal shelter. Avoid listing hobbies and personal information such as date of birth or marital status. Many job seekers can trim the fat off their resumes simply by removing long descriptions of job duties or responsibilities. Instead, create a paragraph that briefly highlights the scope of your responsibility and then provide a list of your most impressive accomplishments. Remove the “References Available Upon Request” line Many job seekers waste the valuable last line of the resume on an obvious statement. Delete it.
  • Outdated Accomplishments: Most recruiters want to see the past 10-15 years of an applicant’s professional history. Even if a job, volunteer, academic, or extracurricular experience feels relevant to the position, if it happened in 1985, you might want to leave it off your resume. However, major accomplishments or experiences, such as winning a significant award, holding an esteemed position, or earning an academic degree, should be included regardless of when they occurred. Also, eliminate outdated technical or business skills.
  • Avoid Repeating Information: Did you perform the same or similar job tasks for more than one employer? Instead of repeating job duties, focus on your accomplishments in each position.
  • Partisan or Religious Information: You might want to remove or alter any information in your resume that could induce bias in a recruiter. For instance, if you volunteered for a particular political party or worked with a particular religious organization, you may want to neutralize the wording to prevent the recruiter from experiencing a biased reaction to your application.

Format your rèsumè

Do your best to keep your formatting straightforward. Bold is okay for highlighting, italics are usually okay, but underlining can sometimes cause problems in the ATS systems. Bullet points are also the most effective way of listing your experience. Be careful when creating box text as distortions in translation may occur. All bullets should commence with verbs that provide the reader with an understanding of what you did and the corresponding results of your efforts.

A sloppy, unorganized resume may signal to an employer that you lack attention to detail, patience, or organizational skills. To avoid looking careless, make sure to create a clean, error-free resume that adheres to a unified format.

Choose a Format and Stick to ItWhether you decide to create a chronological or functional resume, make sure to stick with one format throughout your resume. Create distinct sections (e.g., professional history, education, skills, etc.) and limit these sections to the appropriate and relevant information. The headers of each section should match, as should the style and format within each subsection.
Choose Font WiselyWhile it may seem like a fun way to stand out, a highly stylized or playful font may look unprofessional or make your resume difficult to read. Choose a simple, easy-to-read font — no smaller than size 9 — and use it consistently throughout your resume. Aside from the text you want to stand out, such as section headers, titles, or your name, the font size for bullet points and supplemental information should remain consistent. Avoid excessive underlining, bolding, or italicizing, and never combine two at once (e.g., do not underline and italicize a header).
Break Up Information with LinesAdding lines can help visually organize different sections within your resume. You can add a horizontal line under each subject header (e.g., work history, education, etc.) or add a vertical line to separate marginal information from the main body of the resume. Instead of lines, you can also create boxes around headers.
Use Color WiselyAlthough adding too much color can become a distraction or make your resume seem busy, adding a touch of color when appropriate may help your resume stand out. Color can also communicate certain character attributes. For professionals trying to sell a personalized image or brand, color may also help radiate a particular value, e.g., applicants in an environmental field may want to incorporate green text or formatting.
Use Graphs If ApplicableRather than communicating complicated numerical information through words, you can create a simple pie chart or graph. Graphs can help recruiters quickly assess information such as sales data, allowing them to engage with your resume in a deeper way. You can also create charts to show the breakdown of your skill sets or professional experience.

Be clear and concise

Make sure the bullets are compelling and tell an interesting ‘story’ regarding your potential in a new position. Be brief and succinct when you do this. However, it is important that someone be able to determine your ability to accomplish a task or project. Try to remain clear and concise. Make your point quickly but expand on the skills you have employed over the course of your career to generate results – how you did it and what was the result. Keep it simple.

Select only the most relevant accomplishments

Review your bullets to ensure they focus on the key accomplishments and skills that you want to use in your next position. Only reference things that you find exciting and challenging that you would like to do again. Other things can be referenced during the course of an interview. Evaluate the bullets to ensure you captured the most compelling information. Avoid redundancy.

Measure your impact

Provide examples of your specific impact to the business. Make sure you reference what you analyzed, determined, and recommended. Reference your accomplishments rather than referencing those things you are ‘responsible for.’ If you consider what your significant achievements were, it will help to streamline the document and provide a more compelling view of what you can accomplish. Your résumé is you on paper, your marketing tool. You need to use this as an opportunity to sell your accomplishments and what you bring to your next position. Generally speaking, you have little control over the overall interview process, but you do have control over your resume. Use the “So What” method in determining what to keep and what should go from your résumé. After every sentence say “so what,” keep it only if you can justify it.

Proof carefully

Make sure you carefully check your work for tense, spelling, and grammar issues. Ensure the bullets makes sense and the tenses are correct. It is imperative that there are no errors. All of the information should be formatted correctly, make sense with no typographical errors.

Write your cover letter

Your cover letter will be critical in pulling together all of your experience and explaining to potential employers your skills and qualifications. Spend the time to individualize each cover letter and tailor towards the position. Explain why you are interested in a company and how you can add value to an organization with your previous work experience.

Your first paragraph is your introduction. Express the position you are applying for and the relevant educational experiences that the reader should know. In your second paragraph, you should discuss those relevant work experiences that are tied to the position for which you are applying. Or in other words connect the résumé to the cover letter. Discuss what you can bring to a company that would be significant to their business. In the third paragraph incorporate something the business has accomplished that impressed you, or something they have done that is of particular interest to you. The fourth paragraph should then detail other ‘softer’ attributes like team orientation and self-motivation that further round you out as an applicant.

  • Do: Mention anyone who referred you to the job listing or currently works at the company or organization. You can also explain how the company’s product, location, or culture personally appeals to you. Do not fabricate personal ties, but if they exist don’t hesitate to highlight them.

  • Do: Use the active voice and action verbs (discussed earlier) to illustrate how your qualifications and experiences suit the employer’s needs.

  • Do: Keep your letter under a page. Most cover letters include 3-4 paragraphs of information. If applying by email, the cover letter should consist of around two paragraphs.

  • Do: Address your letter to a specific person at their professional business address. Ideally, you can find this contact person and their information through the job listing. If you do not know how to address your letter, address it to the hiring committee.

  • Do: Ask someone you know to proofread your letter before you submit it. Even if you look over your letter a dozen times, you might miss an error, typo, or something that sounds unclear.

  • Don’t: Say anything negative about your current or former employers. In addition to sounding unprofessional, this may sour the letter’s mood. The cover letter should feel positive and enthusiastic.

  • Don’t: Use the word “I” too often. Rather than talk about yourself and your history, the cover letter should primarily focus on the employer, the job, and how you can help an employer reach their goals.

  • Don’t: Mention pay. The cover letter does not serve as a place to discuss previous or current salaries. Refrain from including your desired or expected salary.

  • Don’t: Suggest that you could fill any number of roles within the company. The cover letter should specify which job you want to apply for, illustrating the experiences and skills that qualify you for this particular position.

  • Don’t: Repeat the information in your resume. Rather than mirroring your resume, the cover letter should supplement, enhance, and provide context for your resume. It should also reflect your personality. Discuss information not found on the resume, such as why the job excites you.

Test your rèsumè

An exercise to try is to take your résumé as it is currently formatted and paste it into Windows Notepad, a program that strips all formatting from the text. It might not look pretty, but is it decipherable? This simulates the effects of dumping a formatted Word document into a simple database. If it isn’t decipherable, your data may be lost and your chances of gaining employment with that company severely hampered.

  • 20 Second Test: Give your resume to a friend and allow them 20 seconds to look it over. If they can accurately glean the points you most want to convey to a recruiter you can consider your resume successful. If they can’t, try revising or reordering your resume to increase clarity and precision.

  • Spelling, Syntax, and Grammar: However basic they may seem, spelling, syntax, and grammar mistakes can make you appear unprofessional, careless, or sloppy. Make sure your resume remains free of errors and typos. In addition to reviewing your resume on a computer, print it off and closely review a hard copy. You can also ask a friend to lend a second pair of eyes or try reading it out loud.

  • Uniform Formatting: Check your resume for consistent formatting and style. Make sure the font type, size, and color remain consistent where you want them to remain consistent. Also double check spacings, page breaks, and graphics.

  • Does the Content Relate to the Job?: Before sending in a resume, read through and make sure the version you plan to send feels relevant to the job in question. Remove any irrelevant or unnecessary information and add information that speaks directly to the position.

  • Uniform Language: Make sure the language you use throughout your resume remains consistent. When talking about current jobs, use the present tense; when discussing previous jobs, use the past tense. If using bullet points, decide whether to write in complete sentences or fragments, and make sure you remain consistent throughout. If using an oxford comma, use it consistently.

Apply and follow up

Make sure you do research on companies to which you apply. Make sure you understand the business and are prepared to discuss a company’s background and other related information. Be clear as to why you are applying for a specific position and how your background and skills match their needs. Do not wait for the company to call you. Follow-up with them 3-4 days after you send out your résumé and cover letter. Try to arrange for a personal interview at that time.

Engage your network

Networking is going to be important to aid you in your job search. Think broadly and remember the adage about six degrees of separation. For every six people you speak with there will be a connection to the first. Contact friends, former classmates, work colleagues, social, civic and religious contacts. Networking often forces you to contact people that you do not know. This is a necessary evil however. The connections that are formed through this process can very well lead to your next opportunity.

Writing Beginner's CV

Did you know, on average, recruiters spend just 75 seconds reading your CV? This means you have just over a minute to sell yourself and your strengths to the reader. This is easier said than done. Three quarters of CVs are rejected due to bad grammar, spelling or poor visual layout.

It’s not easy to convince a recruiter when you have very little (under 5 years) experience. To solve this problem, we have created the starter CV. Our starter CV emphasizes your skills while minimizing your lack of experience. By highlighting your training and skills, this CV will present your application in the best possible light. 



Create a master statement of career goals that relate to the position for which you’re applying. 



Include a list of skills related to the workplace and the current job opening in particular. List software competencies, research specialties, social media aptitude and programs, and foreign languages.



If students have no career-related experience, they can cite their education, academic accomplishments and grade-point average (if it’s a high score, of course).



Include practical experience, internships, volunteering, professional or student associations, leadership positions, travel abroad or military service.

Ensure your CV is no more than two pages long. Choose a clear, legible font and stick to a couple of font sizes throughout. The body of your CV should be no smaller than size 11 font.

Identity / contact information

Instead of putting “Curriculum Vitae” at the top, put your name and make it larger, centralized and bold. Next should come your address, followed by your email address and contact number. Try to use a sensible email address. 

Personal Statement

Write a brief personal statement directly under your contact details. Make sure it’s no more than five sentences long and should cover who you are, what you can bring to the table and your career aims. Rather than reeling off your hobbies or interests, use this section to tell the employer why you’re a good fit for their organisation. Ensure you tailor your CV to each individual job you apply for. Identify skills in the job spec and include examples of these. Make each version of your CV a clear reflection of you as the perfect candidate for the job.

Your training

For each significant degree (of yours) or any acquired professional training certificate, give details. Do not forget to mention any internship(s), even short ones as part of your curriculum. Include qualification, subject, grade, institution and date. Embellishing your grades is fraud and you may get caught out.

However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on the positives of course, the course content, for example. Remember to include qualification, subject, grade, institution and date. Only add in further information if it will help the recruiter understand the context of a course in relation to the role you’re applying for.


Aside from qualifications, help yourself stand out from the crowd by listing any additional skills or other information that will strengthen your application. These are your professional skills, mainly foreign language(s) spoken, computer tools (name of each software, version, level, system …). This heading allows you to highlight the skills you have acquired during your training and internships, but also during your personal, cultural and leisure activities, etc. This could also include relevant awards or membership of professional bodies.

Professional experience

Don’t forget to enter your internships in this heading. You can also delete it if you haven’t had any internships. Mention your jobs, summer jobs and internships, and for each one, give the name of the company / employer, duration or range of dates, position held and summary of the work performed. Explain briefly what these experiences have brought to you. List your most recent role first and, in terms of layout, list your job title and company of employment in bold, with dates of employment in brackets. Include any key points that may resonate with the prospective employer. 

What interests you (various)

Be modest, no hobbies or pastimes, speak only of what may interest a recruiter, for example, sports, arts, social activities, volunteer for non-profit association(s) as well as your license(s),car, motorcycle and others,. Add the fact that you have your own transportation, if this is the case.

Little or no professional experience does not preclude you to value all the elements of your CV. Be sure to emphasize your autonomy for key skills, talk about your organizational skills, your leadership and your ability to work in teams.

How strong is your resume?

The CV that will really get you a job interview!

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