Black woman with curly hair and black turtleneck smiling at laptop in blue chair

Top 7 Do's and Don'ts for Crafting Your Best Résumé

Are you certain you know how to create a winning résumé? This quick guide will ensure you're not using outdated practices or leaving out important info.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a graduate fresh out of college or a seasoned professional with decades of experience—finding a new job starts with creating a great résumé. But what does a great résumé look like? What should it include? What shouldn’t it include? Whether you’re creating your first résumé or need to update one from 20 years ago, here are seven résumé do’s and don’ts you need to know.

Top 7 résumé do’s

You need to do these seven things if you want your résumé to stand out.

1. Customize your résumé for each job

Having one great résumé just won’t cut it. Instead, you should create one master document then tweak it slightly for each job you apply for. Every résumé you send should stress the relevance of the skills you have for that particular job. Sending the same one to all employers is a major mistake.

2. Show off your experience and transferable skills

Highlighting your soft skills is important—especially if the job you’re applying for isn’t exactly like a job you’ve had in the past. This is especially important for college grads who don’t have a lot of professional experience and people looking to make a career change. Rather than highlighting specific skills you learned in a former job, highlight the skills that will be useful in the job you’re applying for. For example, let’s say you worked as a barista in a coffee shop. Unless you’re applying for another job making lattes, it’s not relevant that you know how to work a coffee machine. Instead, highlight skills that can be useful in a variety of positions, such as customer service.

Related: How Useful Transferable Skills Can Land You a Job 

3. Include keywords

It’s likely your résumé will only get a brief glance before it gets a full read, so make sure your summary statement at the top includes relevant keywords. Depending on where you’re applying, there’s a good chance your résumé will go through an applicant tracking system before a human ever sees it. Over 98% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking system software. If your résumé doesn’t include the keywords being scanned for, you may as well not even bother applying.

4. Include your accomplishments

Having years of professional work experience is great—but you have to assume everyone else applying has the same background. If you’ve ever received any awards or special recognition from a former employer, include it! After all, this is the first chance you have to sell yourself to a potential future employer.

Related: Writing a Postgrad Résumé With Little to No Experience 

5. Be specific

Including specifics, numbers, and evidence to back up your experience is a great way to make your résumé stand out from the competition. If you increased sales by 90% at your last job, say so. The more specific you can be with your accomplishments, the better.

6.  Proofread

If you submit your résumé with typos and grammatical errors, you can be sure of one thing: you will not get the job. From misplaced commas to misspelled words, little mistakes make it clear that you don’t pay attention to detail. Always share your résumé with a few trusted colleagues or friends so they can spot any errors you may have overlooked.

7. Try to keep it short

One page is ideal, but if you have an extensive job history, you may need two pages. Don’t leave out relevant work experience just to make everything fit on one page. At the same time, don’t cram it all on one page using eight-point font that will require a magnifying glass to read. Include what’s important and if it ends up on two pages, so be it. If you do need a second page, just make sure your name and header appear at the top of each one.

Related: How to Write a Great Résumé That Will Get You Noticed 

Top 7 résumé don’ts

You need to avoid these seven things if you don't want your résumé to get instantly axed. 

1. Don’t lie

It’s important to be 100% honest about your prior work experience, former employers, dates of employment, and education. These things are extremely easy to verify, so there’s no point in lying about them.

2. Don't use a complicated format

Keep your résumé format simple. Use a clean, neat, professional font, and be wary about adding colors, imagery, or photos. The easier it is to read, the better.

Related: 6 Smart Tips for Selecting the Best Résumé Format

3. Don't include salary requirements

Salary requirements and previous salary history don't belong on a résumé. If an employer asks for it, include it in a cover letter. Otherwise, discuss it during your interview.

4. Don't include high school information

If you went to college, don't include any information about high school. If you have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, everyone will know you have your high school diploma. Unless you just graduated from college, there’s no need to include your GPA either. Recent college grads who don’t have any professional experience can include their GPA (if it’s high enough to be impressive), but in most cases, this information doesn’t belong on a professional résumé.

5. Don't include personal information

There’s no need to include a photo or disclose your age, marital status, or religion on your résumé. Personal information like this should not be included under any circumstances.

Related: Entry–Level Résumé Mistakes to Avoid as a New Grad 

6. Don't include references

There’s no reason to include references or say “references available upon request.” This just takes up an extra line at the bottom of the page that you could use for more relevant information. If you ace the interview and the company wants to hire you, they’ll ask you for references at that point. Have those references ready when you get the request; prepare a list that includes names, job titles, email addresses, and phone numbers. When you're asked for references, you should be able to supply that list in an instant.

7. Don't send your résumé as a Word document

One of the biggest mistakes people make is submitting their résumé as a Word document. Before sending it off to a company or uploading it to a job search site, convert it to a PDF. That way the formatting of the document will remain as you intended it to be.

Related: An Easy 4-Week Plan to Perfect Your Résumé

From recent college grads to seasoned professionals, having a great résumé is the only way you’ll get an interview, let alone a job. Follow these résumé do’s and don’ts and you just might land the interview you want. Ignore them and your résumé is likely to end up in a giant stack of no’s.

For more help finding jobs and fine-tuning your résumé, check out our Internships and Careers section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

careers finding a job job search resume tips resumes

About Cat Thomas

Cat Thomas

Cat Thomas has over 15 years of combined experience in multifamily, retail, and other industries. As Director of Marketing for Broadstone Brickell, she oversees research, discovery, and execution of creative, content, digital, and strategy efforts.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Damian Rangel

Damian Rangel

September 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me tackle college expenses, which will allow me to put more of my time and effort into my studies without the need of worrying as much about finances.

Jessica Rinker

Jessica Rinker

Student, Fairhaven High School; CollegeXpress Student Writer

My high school counselor introduced me to CollegeXpress freshman year. It has made such a difference in high school, and I plan to continue relying on it in college. CollegeXpress is my go-to because it addresses each aspect of being a student. There are the articles you’d expect regarding college applications and financial aid, but you will also find advice on things like de-stressing and maintaining relationships while balancing a heavy course load. CollegeXpress will also keep you updated on current scholarships through e-mails each Saturday. (They don’t harass you with any product promotion like so many other sites do.) CollegeXpress is a lot like an older sibling who has already conquered the challenges you are facing. Now, they are reaching out a helpful hand. I say take it.

Josiah Kegg

Josiah Kegg

High School Class of 2021

I want to sincerely thank you all for this amazing website that's legitimately helped me find so many different scholarship opportunities. I've been stressing out for the longest time about paying for college since I would rather stay out of debt and have been working days trying to find any scholarship opportunity. When I found CollegeXpress, I discovered many easy scholarships that have given me hope for the future. Thank you and God bless!

Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

Hailey Riddile

Hailey Riddile

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me find scholarships to apply for and look into more colleges. While there are many websites similar to CollegeXpress, every website is different, and I've found a lot of good insight on this website. Receiving emails from CollegeXpress about scholarships is extremely useful, and getting insight about colleges near, far, and anywhere in between helps me narrow down my choices to what I want, which is also super helpful. The articles are always really good reads, and I can't stress enough how helpful this website has been to me. Anything related to college is beneficial to me as a senior, and I have learned lots of useful things to help me on my college journey this year.

College Matches