Resume Rules Not Up for Debate

The other day, a co-worker and I debated whether or not to include a graduation date for degrees on a resume. My co-worker, who is older than me, argued a graduation date is an arbitrary piece of info that may unnecessarily reveal your age. I argued as a young professional, a graduation date is a useful starting point for a chronology of post-graduation jobs or a clear indicator that you held internships and professional positions while in college.

I know, I know. A graduation date seems like a tedious detail to debate, but when you sit down to write your resume, you’ll have to make dozens of these decisions. Should I include an objective statement or summary? If so, what should it say? Should I lead with education or experience? Should I include my grade point average? What work experience is relevant? What action verbs, keywords, and skills best describe my previous job duties and relate to the job I’m seeking? What quantifiable data best conveys my accomplishments? Can I fit all this on one page? Does it need to fit on a page? And, of course, should I include a graduation date?

If you’re having trouble making these decisions, I’d recommend talking with your advisor, who has direct experience in your field, or someone at the CSU Career Center, who has training and extensive experience crafting resumes for people like you. You can also comb the Internet for tips, templates, and good advice, or enlist the help of a professional resume writer.

Despite all the subjectivity surrounding resume writing, there are a few rules that are not up for debate. No matter how long you fret and fuss over it, if you don’t follow these rules, your resume is destined for the “maybe” pile or, even worse, the trash.

  1. No errors. Your resume should include no spelling, grammar, or formatting errors. By no errors, I mean zero, zilch, nada. Have someone you trust review your resume, even if you consider yourself to be a good editor. You’ve likely spent too much time with the document, and your eyes will gloss over typos. Errors in a resume convey a lack of attention to detail.
  2. Be truthful. Don’t list phony degrees. Don’t make up job experience. Don’t fudge dates. “In today’s transparent society, this information is easy to verify,” says certified resume writer Susan Geary, who regularly contributed to Blue Ridge PBS’ Emmy award-winning show Job Quest. Simply put, don’t lie.
  3. Easy to read and scan. You have limited time to make an impression on the person reviewing your resume. You might have 30 seconds – sometimes as little as 15 seconds – so you need to make pertinent info, like required degrees, job titles, length of experience, and certifications, easy to identify. Consider bolding this information, or placing it in a summary at the top of your resume.
  4. Target your resume. When crafting your resume for a specific job, search through the job description and note keywords, such as required skills, degrees, certifications, etc. Sprinkle those keywords throughout your resume where appropriate. If the employer is using a computer scanner to sift through resumes, this will ensure yours makes the cut.

Do you have any useful tips or advice for writing a resume? If so, post a comment below. For additional resume resources, check out the CSU Career Center, Purdue’s Online Writing Lab, or these video clips of Geary from the Job Quest show.

By the way, in one of the clips, Geary recommends including your graduation date for five years, then dropping it to avoid revealing your age. Good luck on the job hunt!

13 thoughts on “Resume Rules Not Up for Debate”

  1. I recently went to couple of employment agencies and got my resumes fixed. It’s the time again to apply for a better job. You have some great points in there which I have implemented in my resume. thanks.

  2. I find that more and more often a portfolio is needed for jobs that may have nothing to do with art. I try to bring mock business plans and what not when I attend a job interview.

    1. Yes, habib, there are great jobs out there. We just need to market ourselves correctly. Thanks for the post!

  3. Pingback: How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

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