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Top 10 R Sum Dos And Don Ts

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Madhu Menon

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User since: 07 Feb 2000

Articles written: 3

I tell ya', I get tired of scanning résumés sometimes. Having seen thousands of

them while hiring people, I can confidently tell you that the average employer

spends only 30 seconds per résumé. What does this mean? It means you only have

30 seconds to make the first cut. Since I see so many badly written résumés and

since someone on the Evolt list posted a question about résumés, here's my first

article. Follow these résumé tips and you'll improve your chances in the job hunt.

Since the

objective of a résumé is to get you a job interview, your résumé should keep

shouting, "These are my skills, this is what I have accomplished, and this is

how I can be an asset to your company". While no two résumés can ever be alike,

keep the following points in mind while creating your résumé.


  • Don't include too many

    personal details. Exclude information irrelevant to your job such as: Parents'

    name: Your parents have nothing to do with your job.

    Family history: Employers are more interested in what you can do, not whether

    your father is with the government or if your sister is married.

    Height, weight, blood group, and health: Not required unless you are applying

    to be a fitness instructor.

    Nationality: Not required unless you're applying for a job abroad.

    Languages known: Once again, unless it's a job requirement, it's a waste of

  • Don't write volumes

    about the companies where you have worked previously. While it may be good

    to have worked at a reputed company, a half page description of the company's

    activities is hardly required. Your résumé should sell your skills, not your

    previous employer. However, do point the skills you acquired at your previous


  • Don't give details of

    more than the last three to four positions/ companies where you have worked.

    Omit the rest or put them in a section called "Other positions held". If you've

    got 15 years of experience, writing about your first job as a trainee is not

    required and only makes the résumé long. Recruiters who often have to look

    through tens and hundreds of résumés may skip through your résumé, which is

    not what you want.

  • Don't give a long list

    of job responsibilities that you were entrusted with. Give results. Instead

    of writing, In charge of training of employees in computer applications,

    use, Trained 35 employees to use Windows 95, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft

    Excel within 4 months
    . This will help your potential employer assess you

    by what you have done and is more likely to get you an interview. A long list

    will also make your résumé excessively long. Most résumés should be a maximum

    of 3 pages in length.

  • Don't - and this is a big DON'T - create "fill-in-the-blanks" types of résumé

    cover letters. Letters that have blanks for positions and company names like

    Application for the position of _____ create the impression that you have

    been sending them out to plenty of companies, and can't be bothered to create

    a proper letter.

  • Don't ever write, application

    for any suitable post
    in your cover letter. If you can't decide where you

    will fit in, don't expect your potential employer to think of a position for


  • Don't photocopy résumés

    and send them. Get proper prints (preferably on a laser printer). It is very

    easy to distinguish a photocopy from an original. The minor extra expense

    is well worth it as an investment in your future.
  • Don't, for heaven's sake,

    type out your résumé in all caps and with underlining. This is one sure way

    to destroy readability. For section headings, use a sans serif font in bold

    weight instead.

  • Don't mention salary

    information anywhere. This may put you out of the race at the application

    level itself. Remember that you have to get to that interview! If your expected

    salary is specifically asked, put it as negotiable. Don't include a detailed

    salary history either.

  • Don't include a photograph

    unless specifically asked for. Passport photos have a way of turning bright,

    cheerful people into sulky, grumpy, stone-faced people and the recruiter may

    form a negative impression of you before he/ she even meets you.


  • Do give your name and

    contact information at the very top of the page. This will get the rid of

    superfluous headings such as "Name" and "Contact Address". It also makes it

    more likely that the recruiter will remember your name.

  • Do focus on all your

    achievements in the past. Be sure to quantify everything you have done. Sentences

    such as Reduced project expenditure by 20% and Increased sales in my region

    by 30% within 3 months
    have more impact than merely Overall charge of projects

    and Handled sales in region. They show that you have accomplished something

    instead of merely being involved in mundane activities. Employers want achievers

    so your résumé must tell them why they should hire you.

  • Do put in skills that

    are important to the job for which you are applying. For example, If you are

    applying for the post of secretary, skills such as knowledge of computers,

    shorthand, etc. are usually required. Once again, be specific. Use sentences

    such as Thorough knowledge of MS Word and Excel, Typing speed of 60 WPM,

    5 years experience as Secretary to Director to highlight your skills. Exclude

    information like School cricket captain unless it is relevant to the position.

  • Do use good quality paper for your résumé. Superior quality paper makes

    an excellent first impression and the cost hardly matters. Avoid old, yellowed

    paper and normal photocopying paper. Remember not to fold the résumé either.

  • Do write a proper covering

    letter to go with your résumé. A cover letter provides a short introduction

    of you, the position you're applying for, and the skills, qualifications,

    and experience you possess. Restrict it to half a page. Don't use clichés

    like I am enclosing my résumé for your kind perusal and consideration. Most

    recruiters will just skim over all that.

  • Do try and find out

    who will be reading your résumé and then address your cover letter to them.

    This will give your résumé a better chance of being read. If you don't know

    the person, call up the company, tell the person at the other end that you

    wish to send a job application and would like to know whom to address it to.
  • Do, and please

    follow this tip, proofread, proofread, and then proofread some more. Make

    sure you have a printed copy of your résumé and give it a thorough and careful

    read. Then look at it again after a couple of hours. Once you're satisfied

    that there is nothing wrong, give it to a friend and ask him/ her if everything

    looks right. Spelling and grammar mistakes show that you can't be bothered

    reading your résumé carefully. Some recruiters won't even call you for an

    interview if they find spelling mistakes. Don't create a negative impression

    at the beginning itself.

  • Do give your résumé a

    professional look. Résumés that are typewritten or printed on a 9-pin dot

    matrix printer don't really work well. If you don't have access to a laser

    or inkjet printer, go to a DTP bureau that will do it for you. Make sure that

    all section headings are clearly visible and the recruiter can quickly get

    to the section that he/ she wants to see.

  • Do create your own résumé.

    Don't merely copy someone else's and then change the information. Résumés

    should be different depending upon your qualifications and experience, the

    nature of the position, etc. A résumé that is suitable for someone else may

    be totally unsuitable for you. For example, for a person with 20 years experience

    in Administration, skills and achievements are more important than educational

    qualifications. For a software engineer with limited experience, however,

    education and technical knowledge are definitely more important.

  • Do go to a professional

    résumé service if you need help preparing a résumé. By this, I don't mean

    your corner typist or your neighbourhood DTP bureau. Résumé professionals

    will ask you for your qualifications, skills, experience, etc. and then create

    a targeted résumé for you. Though they may cost more than the DTP fellow,

    they are usually worth it.

Madhu Menon is a chef and restaurant owner based in Bangalore, India - the so-called "Silicon Valley of India". He has been online since 1994 when people used gopher more than the WWW. Madhu used to be a user experience consultant in times long gone but dumped his entire career in Web development to pursue the other passion in his life - cooking. He started an upmarket gourmet South-east Asian restaurant called Shiok in Bangalore where he serves food from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

In a past life, Madhu has been the Webmaster of several large sites, including the now defunct CNET India. He was last seen masquerading as the head of the user experience department at an Internet solutions company. When not doing anything useful, he can be found ranting on his weblog at

Oh, and he's also the Language Nazi admin at

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