Know the purpose of your resume.
Some people write a resume as if the purpose of the document is to land a job. As a result, they end up with a really long and boring piece that makes them look like desperate job hunters. The objective of your resume is to land an interview, and the interview will land you the job.
One resume for each employer.
One of the most common mistakes that people make is to create a standard resume and send it to all the job openings that they can find. Sure it will save you time, but it will also greatly decrease the chances of landing an interview. Tailor your resume for each employer. The same advice applies to your cover letters.
Update your resume regularly.
It is a good idea to update your resume on a regular basis. Add all the new information that you think is relevant, as well as courses, training programs and other academic qualifications that you might receive along the way. This is the best way to keep track of everything and to make sure that you will not end up sending an obsolete document to the employer.
No fancy design details.
Do not use a colored background, fancy fonts or images on your resume.
Avoid a resume that looks too busy.
If your resume is wall-to-wall text featuring five different fonts, it will most likely give the employer a headache. So show your resume to several other people before sending it out. Do they find it visually attractive? If what you have is hard on the eyes, revise.
Do not include information that might sound negative in the eyes of the employer. This is valid both to your resume and to interviews. You don’t need to include, for instance, things that you hated about your last company.
Do not include “no kidding” information.
There are many people that like to include statements like “Available for interview” or “References available upon request.” If you are sending a resume to a company, it should be a given that you are available for an interview and that you will provide references if requested. Just avoid items that will make the employer think “no kidding!”
Proofread it twice.
It would be difficult to emphasize the importance of proofreading your resume. Your resume needs to be grammatically perfect. One small typographical error and your chances of getting hired could slip. Proofreading it once is not enough, so do it twice, three times or as many as necessary.
Make your contact information prominent.
You don’t need to include your address on your resume anymore, but you do need to make sure to include a phone number and professional email address (not your work address) as well as other places the hiring manager can find you on the web, like your LinkedIn profile and Twitter handle. (Implicit in this is that you keep these social media profiles suitable for prospective employers.) Also, be sure the information is correct. Double-check even the most minute, taken-for-granted details — sooner rather than later.
Design for skim ability.
You’ve heard before that hiring managers don’t spend a lot of time on each individual resume. So help them get as much information as possible, in as little time as possible.
Use keywords based on field research. These may include degrees, names of schools, licenses or certificates, honors/awards, abilities and training. Results and accomplishments may be more helpful than duties. Try to use industry-related terms. The more keywords that you match, the better your chances will be.
You can also scan the job description, see what words are used most often, and make sure you’ve included them in your bullet points (DO NOT fabricate details). Not only is this a self-check that you’re targeting your resume to the job, it will make sure you get noticed in applicant tracking systems.
List all your positions.
If you have worked a long time for the same company (over 10 years) it could be a good idea to list all the different positions and roles that you had during this time separately. You probably had different responsibilities and developed different skills in each role, so the employer will like to know it.
Going on too long or cutting things too short.
Despite what you may read or hear, there are no real rules governing resume length. Why? Because human beings, who have different preferences and expectations where resumes are concerned, will be reading it. That doesn’t mean you should start sending out five-page resumes, of course. Generally speaking, you usually need to limit yourself to a maximum of two pages. But don’t feel you have to use two pages if one will do. Conversely, don’t cut the meat out of your resume simply to make it conform to an arbitrary one-page standard.
Highlight accomplishments, not duties.
It’s easy to slip into a mode where you simply start listing job duties on your resume. Employers, however, don’t care so much about what you’ve done as what you’ve accomplished in your various activities.
Back up your qualities and strengths.
Instead of creating a long (and boring) list with all your qualities (e.g., disciplined, creative, problem solver) try to connect them with real life and work experiences. In other words, you need to back these qualities and strengths up, or else it will appear that you are just trying to inflate your resume.
Beware of interests that could be controversial.
Maybe you help raise money for your church or perhaps you have a penchant for canvassing during political campaigns. Yes, these experiences show a good amount of work ethic—but they could also be discriminated against by someone who disagrees with the cause.
What NOT to include:
Personal details. U.S. resumes should not list your age, gender, religion, political affiliation, marital status or social security number.
Photos. While inclusion of a photo is the norm in certain international settings, it should not be used on a CV or resume intended for a U.S. audience.
Salary information. Don’t include salary expectations or salary history on the resume.