Dos and Don’ts for Writing your First Resume

If you’re just starting out in the professional world, it can be hard to feel confident in your resume-building skills. We’re here to help. 

When you leave college, your resume is an opportunity to make a good first impression. Whether you’re entering the job market, pursuing a graduate degree, or taking some other path in life, it tells people in the professional world not only who you are, but why you should be a part of their team.

It’s easy to find resume tips online, but how well can you trust the random corners of the web where Google can sometimes lead you? That’s why we asked Brittany Stoneman, associate director for career and personal development at Alma College’s Center for Student Opportunity, for her top tips. Brittany talks to hundreds of students every year about how to create a good first impression and help them on their next steps after college.

Quick Tips

DO: Brand your materials to match.

Your cover letter, resume and reference sheet should all have the same header, font and style.

DON’T: Get too fancy with the font.

Use a clean, easily legible font. For most applications, now is not the time to be overly creative. You don’t have to be boring, though — consider personalizing your materials to mirror the company’s branding in your resume style (in terms of color scheme or font).

DO: Pay careful attention to language in the job description and company website.

Buzzwords go a long way! If you mirror their language to yours, it could show that you’re a good fit for their organization.

DON’T: Make things complicated.

If you save your resume using an obscure file type, the company may not have the right software to open it. Save your materials as a universal format, like a PDF, and call it something simple, like “Jane Doe Resume” or “John Doe Cover Letter.”

More Specifically…

DO: Make it easy for the company to contact you.

The top of your resume should include your name — make it stand out, without overwhelming the rest of the information — as well as your contact information. Include a professional-looking email address, phone number, location and LinkedIn URL, if you have one.

DON’T: Forget to spell check.

Whether you’re applying for a job as a proofreader or not, companies will want to see that you pay attention to detail. Only use appropriate abbreviations and correct spelling, punctuation and grammar in your resume.

DO: Tailor your resume to the job for which you’re applying.

Clearly showcase transferable and industrial skills that fit the position. Your bullet points should explain the skills that you’ve learned through your experience, which you can apply at the position you are seeking.

DO: Put yourself in the best possible light.

Accomplishments should be qualified and quantified including the action, task and result by utilizing action verbs and specific examples. Using bullet points, explain the skills that you learned through your experience, which you can apply at your sought-after position.

If you’d like more help with resume-building, interviewing, networking and other career-related topics, check out the Alma College Center for Student Opportunity.

Type of blog post

Academic and Career Support