Resumes: Some Do’s and Don’ts

As a professor, I maintain a Curriculum Vitae, which is a fancy way of saying, I don’t use a traditional resume (CVs are longer and contain different kinds of information. You can see mine at However, this past week, I found myself needing a traditional one page resume. So, I had to ressurect an old one from the depths of my dropbox folders. But it got me thinking about the utility of resumes and some of the common mistakes people make when writing one.


  • Have a Resume. Even if you are a freshman in college, even if you are pretty certain that you are going to graduate school and won’t need one right away. Resumes are helpful in a variety of contexts at all stages, including applying for on campus jobs and scholarships.
  • Make use of Resume writing tools. When I went to edit my resume this week, I was pleasantly surprised that Microsoft Word offered to connect me with the tools available on LinkedIN. There are a variety of useful resume writing guides available on line, from professional development blogs (I’ve found to be one helpful place) to professional social networking sites, like LinkedIN. Just make sure that whatever you are using has been written by someone with actual credentials, and is not an answer by a random individual on a open questions forum.
  • Pay Attention to Formatting. Resumes should be concise, clear, and easy to read. The purpose of a resume is to convey a specific set of information about your job history, skill set, and education to prospective employers. If the reader has to go searching for the information they need, they will likely move on to the next resume in the stack.
  • Keep Your Resume Updated. You should revisit your resume at least once a year, not just when you leave a position or get a new job. You can add or switch out new skills, update any awards you have won, or include additional education you’ve achieved.
  • Make sure your resume accurately reflects any “digital resumes” you have. In other words, if you have a linkedIN page (and you should! See: make sure that it aligns with the information you have on your resume.


  • Get too focused on the formatting. There are a lot of really fancy things you can do with your resume. But style versus substance can be a fine line, and you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of it. Also, you don’t want to end up with a resume that’s hard to read.
  • Try to include everything under the sun. Resumes are designed to be short. One maybe two pages depending on your field. If you are considering going below 11 or 12 pt font, you’ve got too much information. If you are including every job back to the lemonade stand you ran at age 6, you’ve got too much information. You need to be picky about what you’re including–go for the most important/relevant items.
  • Send it out as a .doc. Unless someone has specified that they want that a specific document format, play it safe and send it out as a PDF. PDFs can be opened on all computer types. MS Word documents or Mac Pages can sometimes prevent someone from opening your resume if they don’t have the right program.
  • Forget to have someone else proof read it for you. God forbid you accidently send it out with a typo in your contact information. After you’ve spent so much time perfecting your resume, you may be “too close” to the document to see small mistakes. Outsource the final proof reading to someone who can look at it with fresh eyes.


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