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Our  Resume 101 Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Our Latest Blog Entry

April 10, 2021

10 Resume Dos and Don'ts 

Showing Off Your Experience


1. Do Highlight Your Most Relevant Experiences

Rule #1 of resume writing is that you should be turning in a different version for each role you apply to, tailored and targeted to the position. After all, your resume should demonstrate you have the specific set of skills, experience, and accomplishments necessary to do the job—not just a set. Make it easy for the hiring manager to see why you’re the right fit.

2. Don’t Freak Out if You Have No Relevant Experience

Whether you’re fresh out of college or switching to a brand-new industry, you can help bolster your lack of relevant work experience by listing your transferable skills, related side projects, and relevant coursework. Read more about how to do this here.

3. Do Optimize for Applicant Tracking Systems

Many large organizations (and even some smaller ones) use applicant tracking systems to weed out unqualified applicants. The systems scan your resume for contextual keywords and phrases, mathematically scoring them for relevance and sending only the most qualified ones through for human review.

As you can guess, this strategy isn’t perfect. To ensure your resume makes it past the ATS and into the hands of a human, keep your formatting simple, include the right keywords (but don’t go overboard), and quadruple check for spelling mistakes. (More on how to do it right, here.)

4. Don’t Steal the Job Description’s Exact Wording

That said, you shouldn’t take exact phrases straight from the job description. If a company says it’s looking for candidates who “learn rapidly” and “have a diverse knowledge of programming languages,” your skills section shouldn’t read “learns rapidly” and “has a diverse knowledge of programming languages.”

Instead, find a different way of saying the same thing—maybe devote a resume bullet to a software you learned in two weeks, or list the seven different programming languages you’re familiar with.

5. Do Use Data

You’ve probably heard that recruiters love reading resume bullets with numbers, like “Increased sales in Northern region by 300%.” And they do! So use them whenever possible.

Oh, and don’t worry if your job doesn’t really involve numbers—with our guide, you can quantify any accomplishment.

6. Don’t Include Anything Confidential

Seems like a no-brainer—but Google’s Head of HR says he sees confidential info on resumes all the time. When deciding whether to leave something on your resume, use the New York Times test. In other words, if you wouldn’t want it published next to your name on the front page of a major national newspaper, take it out.

7. Do Include Soft Skills, Too!

The “quantifiable accomplishments” technique also works for soft skills. Make sure each bullet point describes a skill the hiring manager is looking for, then use facts and figures to show—not tell—just what a “skilled manager” or “effective communicator” you are.

Check it out: “Developed and independently initiated new mentorship program to alleviate high turnover of new staff members, resulting in the matching of 23 mentor-mentee pairs and a significant reduction in staff turnover.”

Sounds like a “skilled manager” to us!

8. Don’t Include Obvious Skills

Because everyone assumes you know how to use Microsoft Word. And the internet. Use your valuable resume space to highlight skills that actually make you stand out.

9. Do Consider Volunteer or Other Non-Work Experience

Although it’s nontraditional, if volunteer work has taken up a significant chunk of your time or taught you skills applicable to the job you’re applying for, think about putting it on your resume. Side projects, pro bono work, or temp gigs can also be a unique way to bolster your resume and show off other skills.

10. Don’t Include Work With Controversial Organizations

Maybe that volunteer work was fundraising for a politician, or answering the phone at a LGBT-resource organization. Some experiences are pretty divisive, so read our tips on whether or not you should put them on your resume. 

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