Here are some simple DOs and DON'Ts that can help you avoid many of the more common mistakes associated with a poor resume:
• Make sure your resume is easy to read. Remember, it's a summary, not an autobiography. Use concise, unambiguous sentences and avoid over-writing. The reader is likely to be busy and not inclined to struggle through flowery prose.
• Keep the overall length of your resume short. Depending upon your experience, one or two pages is ideal. A three-page resume should be considered only if it is absolutely necessary to do justice to your career experience.
• Stress your past accomplishments and the skills you used to get the desired results. Your accomplishment statements must grab the reader, and quantify the results. Did you increase profits? By what percentage or dollar amount? Did you save the organization time and/or money? How much?
• Focus on information that's relevant to your own career goals. If you're making a career change, stress what skills are transferable to support your new career objectives.
• Neatness counts. And how! A poorly structured, badly typed resume tells the reader much about the applicant — none of it good. Spend the extra money to have your resume typed or word processed, or even printed. It's well worth it.
• If you're considering enclosing a photograph of yourself, don't! It's not necessary, and no matter how attractive you may be, it's possible that you may bear a striking resemblance to someone the reader doesn't like, and that could mean a strike-out for you!
• If you're planning to include personal references on your resume, don't! A potential employer is interested in references only if he or she is seriously considering hiring you. At that time, you may be asked to provide reference information.
• Avoid odd-size paper or loud colors. 8 1/2 X 11-inch paper — in white, buff or beige, is appropriate. Also, be sure to use a good quality paper.
• Your salary history or reasons for leaving previous jobs should never be included in a resume. Also, don't mention sexual harassment issues, lawsuits, workers' compensation claims, or say, "they fired me for no good reason." In addition, leave out any discussion about hobbies, musical instruments you play, sports you enjoy, your marital status (with the number and gender of kids), age or race. This is a business marketing document, so limit the information on it to business related issues.
• Don't include references to areas of your life that are not business related, or have nothing to do with your current career goals.