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The dos and don’ts of writing a great resume

Published March 28, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    The first step in a job search is writing a good resume. A good resume can make all the difference when it comes to getting noticed and being asked to interview for jobs.

    Sometimes, when an open position receives a high number of applicants, hiring managers and recruiters will scan resumes for grammar or formatting mistakes to quickly thin out the pile.

    There are also programs that scan resumes automatically for certain keywords and formatting, which could knock you out of the running before you’ve gotten a chance to demonstrate why you would be a good fit for a particular job.

    This means that your resume must be easy to read, have proper formatting and grammar, and grab the reader’s attention within the first minute to avoid being passed over.

    Let’s dive into the dos and don’ts of writing a strong resume.

    The dos of writing a good resume

    Stick to a page (or two at the most)

    If you don't have a lot of work experience, then you should likely condense your work experience onto a single page. For those who have more work history and experience to share, it's usually acceptable to write a resume that's two pages in length. There are exceptions to this — like for those seeking executive-level opportunities — but for the most part, stick to one or two pages depending on your work experience.

    Include your contact information

    Most employers will want to see your contact information on your resume, so make sure you include your personal email address (one that you think employers would want to see) and your current phone number. They'll likely use this to contact you to schedule an interview.

    Pay close attention to how its ordered

    Your employment history should be listed from the most recent first and then work backward. This means that your current job should be listed at the top, followed by the job before that, and so on. When describing your current role, use present tense to show the audience what you're currently working on and are responsible for. Write your previous work history in the past tense, so the reader can best understand what you did in your prior jobs.

    Make sure to format it consistently

    Make sure the formatting is consistent and that there isn't a lot of blank space on the page. You’ll want to edit your margins, use an easy-to-read font, and stay consistent in font size. You can use a larger font size or bold the headings, but make sure it's consistent throughout the document. For example, if each previous employer is in bold, then make sure the font type and size are the same for each.

    Speak in specifics

    One tip about writing a strong resume is to speak in specifics about your accomplishments rather than just listing your job responsibilities. For example, instead of saying you oversaw the onboarding of new clients, outline that you brought on 15 new clients in the last quarter — far exceeding your goal.

    The don’ts of writing a good resume

    Include unnecessary information

    When people are reading your resume, be mindful of the time they're investing in this process. This is why all the information on your resume should be relevant to the position you're applying for. Remove unnecessary information, including:

    • Resume objective statements: Sometimes called a resume objective or a career objective, this is a one or two-sentence statement stating a person’s short-term professional goals that you sometimes see at the top of resumes. While this used to be common to see on resumes, it has become increasingly less so. If you're running short on space, don’t necessarily waste space on this.
    • References: Don't include references on your resume. This takes up space that could be better used to list your current and past accomplishments. When an employer is ready, they'll ask for references.
    • Grade point average (GPA) information: Consider skipping this unless you're currently enrolled in a college or university or have recently graduated.

    Rely on spellcheck alone

    Spellcheck is a great tool to help catch some grammar mistakes, but it isn’t going to catch all the errors. This is why it's so important to make sure that you proofread your resume and have someone you trust look it over, too.

    Utilize trendy templates

    There are many creative resume templates that you can find online that are meant to visually capture a hiring manager’s attention. While they might be catchy and nice to look at, they can detract the reader’s attention from your accomplishments and experience. Hiring managers want to be able to quickly read over your experience in easy-to-read formatting, and creative templates may keep them from being able to do so.

    Final thoughts

    Writing a resume doesn’t have to be complicated. Following the tips above can help you build a strong resume and hopefully get you noticed!