Five essential resume do’s and don’ts for more successful job applications

When you’re looking to make a career move, it can be difficult to know where to start. Even once you’ve found some job openings you’d like to apply for, how can you stand out from the crowd of applicants and get noticed by employers?

Here is a short list of practical advice for creating a winning resume and landing the job.

Five resume do’s

Do use relevant keywords. Read the job posting carefully. Or if you are applying for an unadvertised job, read the job ads for similar roles in the industry. Make a note of the words and phrases employers use to describe the skills, experience, and credentials they are looking for in applicants. Closely mirror these when writing your resume. Many companies use software to screen applications for relevant keywords before a human recruiter even reads them. You increase your chances of passing this automated filter by matching the language the employer uses in your resume.

Do send a cover letter. It’s well known that not every recruiter reads cover letters. But you don’t want to be the candidate who appears to be cutting corners or putting less effort into your application. Write a cover letter introducing yourself and your interest and qualifications for the job. It may well be the first impression that a potential employer has of you.

Do double check your contact information. Make sure that you are using a professional-sounding email address that you actually check regularly. The same thing goes for your phone number. Use one that you answer or that has a professional-sounding voicemail. And make sure that you have typed both correctly. Spell check won’t catch errors in an email address or phone number – and these are easy to miss when you’re proofreading.

Do make all of the information relevant to the job you are applying for.
Your resume doesn’t have to fit on one page. It can be two or even three pages – just as long as all of the information is relevant to the job you are targeting and helps sell your candidacy. So, make it just the length it needs to be to highlight all of the reasons you are the right person for the job – and cut out everything else.

Do proofread. It sends a terrible message to employers when you can’t even produce error-free work when you are most trying to impress them – in order to get hired in the first place. Proofread your resume and cover letter carefully. Then take a break. Proofread them again. Then have someone else read it for you. Fresh eyes may catch things you miss.

Five resume don’ts

Don’t apply for jobs that you are not qualified for.
If you do not remotely fit the profile the employer is looking for, don’t just apply for a job because it’s available. You’ll be wasting both your and the employer’s time. Target your applications to those roles where you know that you could make a successful contribution. Then write an application that demonstrates how.

That’s not to say that you should never apply for a job when you don’t meet everything they are asking for. If you can legitimately do the job. Then apply and prove it.

How to apply for (and get) a job you’re not quite qualified for

How to apply for (and get) a job you’re overqualified for

Don’t go crazy with the formatting.
Keep your resume simple and easy to read. You don’t win bonus points from employers by including graphics, images or a variety of fonts and formatting in your resume. Employers want to be able to see who you are, where you have worked and what you have accomplished in a quick scan of your resume. They prefer your information to be in reverse chronological order.

Here are the first things employers look for in your resume

Don’t write an objective statement.
People used to open their resume with a paragraph about what they are looking for in a job. That is out of favour in the modern resume. It’s far more effective to open your resume with a professional statement about what you can offer the employer – a summary of your key qualifications. Make the first thing employers read be about what you can do for them – not what is in it for you.

Don’t lie. It can be tempting to play with your job titles, dates of employment, or education level in order to make your resume look better. However, this information is all easily confirmed in a simple background check. Even if you could be great at the job, employers won’t hire you if you are not honest with them in the hiring process. They don’t want to add someone to the team who isn’t trustworthy. Regardless if you get away with it and land the job, resume lies can still come back to haunt you even years later. Many high profile and successful people have been publicly fired from their jobs when it turned out they fudged their credentials to get where they are.

Don’t include references in your application or even write “references available on request.”
You want to know which employers are actually going to call your references so you can give them a heads up about the job. Keeping your network abreast of every job you apply for would be putting quite a demand on their time. Wait until you have actually interviewed for a job and the employer asks for your references before submitting them.

And including “references available on request” on your resume is passé. Employers know that you will provide references when the time comes, so writing that on your resume is just a waste of space.

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