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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Good Resumes in Bad Times

In this economy, I wanted to reach out to candidates and give the do’s and don’ts of writing not just a good, but an EFFECTIVE RESUME. I asked my very opinionated team of K. Russo Associates executive recruiters to write down all the things that we as recruiters (and therefore Human Resource managers) find helpful and annoying when reading over a resume.


The Top DO’s for Good Resume Writing

·        Use a clean and simple font; stay away from anything cursive or hard to read.

·        “Let there be light!” Shorten the bullets, edit, edit, edit. If the resume looks as dense as your college thesis then there’s too much. 

·        Bullets are action in of themselves so start each with “action” words. (e.g., led, collaborated, managed, directed).

·        “Black is beautiful.” Use black ink. Not everyone has a color printer and your info will fade into the sunset when your resume is printed.

·        Be your own narrator. The “I’s” don’t have it – no first or third person.

·        If you have 30 years of experience, you should have more than a 1-page resume, but NO ONE’s resume should run more than 2.5 pages.

·        Use a format that you can easily adapt. You might need to highlight certain experience for a particular job, so select a format that lends itself to variations.

·        Clear “track changes” before hitting send or attach.

·        Make every position unique. It’s lazy and uninspired to use the same job description/responsibilities under two different jobs.

·        Make sure EVERYTHING that you send has your contact info on it – cover letter, resume, follow-up letter, email, response to a job board posting.


DON’T Let This Be YOU! The DON’Ts of Resume Writing

·        NEVER, EVER LIE! Keep your dates of employment, titles, job duties REAL. Stretching the truth can kill a deal!

·        Lose the inappropriate email name.  Hiring managers are looking for someone who wants to be treated like a professional, not bootyman or shoppersue.  Same goes for nicknames UNLESS that is how your are referred to in the industry (James/Jim; Richard/Rick; Elizabeth/Liz)

·        Check, recheck, and have someone check again for typos.  Don’t depend on Spell Check; it doesn’t catch missing or misused words. (I think of the girl who wrote candy “stripper” instead of candy “striper” on her college essay.)

·        Don’t send a resume as a PDF or in password-protected document -- a recruiter will not be able to open it.  Stick to Microsoft Word (but stay away from .docx version).

·        Don't put your high school on your resume. Nobody cares what high school you went to.

·        Don’t say that you are "pursuing degree" if it’s been 15 years since your last course. If too many years have elapsed, colleges will no longer honor the credits.  At some point you cross over from “in progress” to drop-out.

·        Avoid using dated and worn out words and phrases like "spearheaded." Action verbs can pack a punch but don't overstate your involvement or your level of authority.

·    Avoid acronyms that no one outside your company will understand.  Spell out the name of the committee, association, degree, etc.


What to DO When You Get the Call

·        When working with recruiters, it's important to be real-time responsive, especially in this market.

·        When you get called for an interview, don't think that you should wait 24 hours to return the call. Return that call ASAP- it could mean the difference between you getting the interview or the next person.

·        Call immediately after your interview so your recruiter can get in there, obtain feedback, and advocate for you. Remember time kills deals.

·        Be flexible - don't hem and haw about when you can go on an interview. Make interviews your priority and be willing to modify your plans.

·        Feel your best, look your best. No one was ever disqualified for wearing a tasteful, clean and stylish suit to an interview. Dispense with the bulky backpacks, dry cleaning that you just picked up, and the sneakers you commute in. 

If your resume is more don’t than do, than it’s time for a do-over… or else consider investing in a professionally written resume from somewhere like or check out reference materials (we like Carolyn Thompson’s book “10 East Steps to a Perfect Resume” available at or contact us at and we can send you a list of resume writers. This is all time and money well spent to get the call from a recruiter or a face-to-face with a Human Resources manager…which is what I want for you. I will continue to give more tips for candidates and I welcome yours. DO feel free to post your comments.


Carolyn Thompson said...

Karen's points are excellent and serve as a great guideline for anyone writing a resume!

Carolyn Thompson

schmegle said...

Great and timely post. I picked up more than a few things I overlooked. Looking forward to your next update.

Peter Karpf
IT manager

Kathy Walker said...

As an HR professional these points can make all the difference in landing your next job. I know that when I look at a resume if I see any of the "don'ts" mentioned here, that resume goes in the "no thanks" pile; it never gets to the hiring manager.

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