Check Your Resume for These Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Patra Frame
resume don'ts

Your resume is designed to get an employer interested in you so that they contact you. Employers expect resumes to show a person at their best. They are looking for what you can do to solve their needs. Your resume needs to answer their questions clearly. It should be easy to read with plenty of white space and a common font in size 10-12. Entice the reader!

Let’s start with what not to do, then we will move on to some additions or enhancements to improve your chances.

NO: Functional Resumes

I really like functional resumes. I used to teach them three decades ago, especially to career changers and women returning to the workforce. But hiring managers, in survey after survey as well as in my own experience talking with them, HATE functional resumes. Many assume the person is hiding something really bad. Most want to see achievements in the related job so that they can assess your work and growth in a specific context. Recruiters don’t want any resumes that make more work for them in assessing a person against job requirements. Most are far too busy already and they will just ignore such resumes. So skip the functional resume – or expect a longer, more difficult job search.

Successful resumes are still mainly the classic reverse chronological listing of jobs and achievements. If you have recent jobs which are not directly in the common roles related to the job you want next, show the achievements in each of those jobs that most closely match the requirements for the job you seek.

If you already have a functional resume that you have spent a lot of money or time on, or if your area military/federal retiree counselors suggested them – they can be useful as extra detail on your social media profiles. Also, you can use them as a networking resume. But don’t use them when contacting an employer or applying for any job.

NO: Pictures

HR people and recruiters are suddenly seeing resumes with pictures on them. About 3-4% of resumes submitted for ClearedJobs.Net job fairs this year have pictures.

Don’t. Just don’t. US employers do not want pictures, as they fear these may create discrimination claims under EEO laws. Even if you are in a ‘hot field’ or have those top clearances, recruiters are going to have to remove the picture from the resume before they can send it to hiring managers – and thus your resume goes to the end of the line after those which are easier to pass on quickly.

NO: Tiny margins and small fonts

In their effort to cram in every possible advantage, far too many people cut down on the white space on their resume. Dense blocks of text, especially in small type, make it far more likely your resume will be ignored. Keep those margins to an inch on each side. Choose clean, easy to read fonts in size 10-12. Skip lines between entries. Make it attractive and easy to read.

Also Omit:
  • Total years of experience, especially in your summary – this can make an employer assume you may be too expensive, set in your ways, or too old. Don’t give them an excuse to stop reading! If a specific job states it requires a specific number of years of experience, you can say, “over five years of X.”
  • Work experience over 10-12 years ago. Hiring managers do not care. Use that space to show what you have achieved recently.
  • References available on request.” We know that.
  • Pages 4-11+ of your resume. These pages show you cannot prioritize what is relevant to your job search now. OK, so you loved that job back in 1994 and it shows you were working at a high level compared to most. IF you absolutely cannot give it up, add a short section of “Selected Previous Employment” at the end of your resume. Show your title and organization, “NASA Astronaut, 1987-95” – and nothing more.
  • Fancy formatting. Keep that for the paper resumes you hand out at interviews or when networking. Fancy fonts, 22 point name in bold, and lots of italics and bolding waste space and make it hard to read – so you get ignored. Some of these, along with logos, also can mess your resume up in the applicant tracking system – and the recruiter sees endless nonsense and coding stuff.

How to Enhance Your Resume

Social Media Profiles or Personal Website

These can help you make the case for why you are a great hire. Add the URL of your LinkedIn profile or website into the contact information at the top of your resume.


A newer trend that many hiring managers and recruiters do appreciate is a headline. This goes between your contact information and the ‘meat’ of your resume. It is a simple job title or job field, done in all caps. This is especially useful if you are changing careers, or focus within your field, or moving from military/government jobs to the private sector. Examples:


You still should write a compelling resume but it focuses your audience’s attention on what you want them to be considering you for.

Professional Summary or Objective

Go with the Professional Summary. This is the ‘sound-bite’ advertisement for you. Keep it short and simple. Three or four bullet points or short sentences is good. Show some of your expertise or unique qualifications. Throw in a power skill, like communicating effectively, where you can demonstrate the skill and a bit of personality.

No matter how experienced you are, this is a short summary as above. Respect your audience and demonstrate your ability to prioritize in these few bullets.

Far too many people write long summary statements in dense paragraphs in an attempt to convey their entire career. Then they make it worse by adding a long list of common ‘skills’ following the summary. Others write a statement about their objectives and desires – which does not entice a recruiter or hiring manager to keep reading, because it does not show what you can do for the employer.

Hiring managers really want to see what you did, and where, and how. So you want a brief summary that will entice them to look at the rest of your resume. And you want your specific jobs and achievements to be no lower than above the mid-line of the first page.


Common errors include extraneous details, oddly formatted entries, and misspellings of college names.

The standard format is:

  • MBA, Organization Design, The Wharton School (with or without dates)

In the first few years of your career, adding details about Dean’s List, thesis or special projects, or what percentage of the cost you paid for by working is fine. After that, no.

If you are working on a relevant degree and are expecting to complete it within 12-18 months, add it at the top as:

  • BA, Cybersecurity, UMGC, expected December 2023

Once you have a Bachelors degree, remove your high school and any associate degrees from your resume.

Once you have a good version of your resume, ask two or three people to review it for improvements and corrections. We become blind to our own errors after a few revisions.

Make sure your resume shows you at your very best for the job you want next. That is what employers expect and want. Show your relevant achievements. Make it modern. Keep it easy to read. Your job search will be more successful faster. Surely that is what you want!

Patra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 29, 2022 7:00 am

One thought on “Check Your Resume for These Do’s and Don’ts”

  1. I haven’t been in the market for a new career since the 1990’s. Thank you for these important tips. A lot has changed since then.

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