The Howard Group


Candidate Advice


Resumes are the appetizer, not the entrée. The more you say, the more you'll get screened.

Resist the temptation to state your career objectives, goals, professional traits, or "skill-sets" at the top of your resume. Save discussions of traits and skills for the interview or incorporate those things into the cover letter (see below). Use a traditional reverse-chronological resume format.

Descriptions of your job duties should include applicable terms-of-art or acronyms. These are specific key words or phrases for which the employer is looking. Keep the job duty descriptions short. In a two or three sentence paragraph, briefly describe the task or product, who it was directed at, and why the task was important. Do not use bullets.

Focus on how well you did, rather than what you did. Now use those bullet points to highlight quantitative accomplishments (e.g., dollars, rankings, awards, percentages, and growth statistics). Other accomplishments can be included, but they must involve something you created or implemented that others adopted or recognized, or a task for which you were selected over your peers.

Never include personal background information regarding marital status, health, age, race or religious affiliation.

Outside affiliations listed should only include broadly recognized organizations, charities, or trade groups. Exclude religious, fraternal, or political affiliations. Hobbies have no place on a resume unless they are truly unique or showcase a special talent.

Education – If you have a college degree, state the degree (BS, BA, etc.), the major, and your University. You don’t get partial credit for “almost” having a degree. If you don’t have one, don't imply that you do. Go ahead and state that you're 6 credits short, etc. Include industry-related coursework or certifications only if you really had to work for them. Just sitting through a seminar doesn’t count.

References should be typed up separately. Resist the urge to put “References available upon request” at the bottom of your resume.

Use only white or slightly off-white, heavy grade bond paper. No colors and no photograph (most of us aren’t attractive enough to get a job based on looks and photos don’t transmit well).

If you are transmitting your resume to a database or job board, you will need to create a second, less visually appealing, "scannable" or OCR version just for that purpose. Avoid bold type, brackets, parentheses, italics, lines, bullet points, and fancy fonts. Use at least 12-14 point font size because smaller fonts don't scan well. Left-justify the entire document, i.e., no tabs or indents. Include a brief list of industry or job-specific "keywords" somewhere on your resume, to enable a database search by an interested party. Restrict the width of the resume to less than 70 characters, because many email systems cut off lines longer than that. Somewhere near the top of the resume state that this version is intended to comply with OCR requirements, and that a more readable version can be provided at the reader’s request.