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How to Write a Resume

Resume Tips

Even if it takes using a magnifying glass, review your resume rigorously for typos.
Even if it takes using a magnifying glass, review your resume rigorously for typos.

As we mentioned earlier, it doesn't take much to ruin a resume. Although the major components listed on the previous page are important, the devil is in the details. The following is a list of what to omit from your resume:

Errors: Typographical, grammatical and spelling errors are some of the most common and deadly mistakes people make on resumes. The best way to rid your resume of errors is to have several people look it over.


Salary: Most experts advise against including your current or desired salary. Career changes offer great opportunities for pay raises, so stay mum about your wages to gain the upper hand in salary negotiations.

Low grades: As a rule of thumb, include information only when it will benefit you. Give your grade point average (GPA) if it's impressive. Experts disagree on the cutoff point, but in general they suggest listing it if it's 3.0 to 3.5 or above.

Irrelevant personal interests: Similar to the previous point, list just the relevant information. Although you may intend these details to offer insight into your character, they'll more likely serve to waste the reader's time.

Meaningless phrases: Use specific language and active verbs in concise sentences.

So what relevant information can you include on your resume if you don't have much work experience? Recent college graduates can list campus activities and relate them to the position -- same goes for people looking to change careers. Don't try to hide your inexperience behind meaningless language; instead, appear up-front and eager to learn, which a resume reader will appreciate. After you've got a few relevant jobs under your belt, however, you can start to take college details and less relevant work experience off your resume.

It can be difficult to assess what skills to tout on your resume. First, think about what skills the employer seeks and examine which ones play to your strengths. If you're particularly apt at generalized skills that apply to most jobs, such as people skills, by all means include them. However, because so many claim to have such nebulous skills, try to back up your assertions with evidence.

Aside from facts, don't underestimate presentation. Resumes should be clean without any extravagant, distracting graphics or colors. Of course, the writing should be consistent across the board -- verb tense, headings format, indentions and the like. Otherwise, you will confuse the reader. To avoid clutter, use plenty of white space, which is easy on the eyes. Don't use excessively small font; 10- to 12-point fonts are best [source: Curtis]. Although these tips might seem counterintuitive to maximizing space, your language should be concise and strong enough to convey extensive experience and accomplishments.

While we're on the subject of length, note that some experts don't confine resumes to one page anymore. Especially experienced candidates should feel free to use two pages (or sometimes more) [source: Ireland]. If you do use multiple pages, list your name on the top of each one. No matter how many pages you have, if you're submitting a hard copy to a prospective employer, you should cough up the extra money to print your resume on nice paper and with a sophisticated printer.

A cover letter should always accompany your resume. Although this, too, should be concise, a cover letter gives you an opportunity to explain why you're a perfect fit for the job in question.

If you want to learn about negotiating your salary or you'd like to see resume samples, explore the links below.


Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links­


  • Beatty, Richard H. "How to Write a Resume If you Didn't Go to College." John Wiley and Sons, 2003. (Dec. 16, 2008).
  • Curtis, Rose. "The Guide to Writing Unbeatable Resumes." McGraw-Hill Professional, 2004. (Dec. 16, 2008).
  • Ireland, Susan. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume." Alpha Books, 2003. (Dec. 16, 2008)
  • Isaacs, Kim. "How to Write a Career Summary." Monster. (Dec. 16, 2008)
  • Isaacs, Kim. "What's Your Objective?" Monster. (Dec. 16, 2008)
  • Kennedy, Joyce Lain. "Resumes for Dummies." For Dummies, 2007 (Dec. 16, 2008).
  • Rockport Institute. "How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume." Rockport Institute. (Dec. 16, 2008)