Read this First - 5 Critical Resume Writing Rules

Lesson objective: To share some important rules you need to consider when writing or updating your resume.

Instructions: To complete this lesson listen to the audio, read the summary of key points below, and complete the quiz. Most importantly, ensure that you take these rules into account when creating or updating your resume.

Time required: Approximately 10 minutes, including time to complete the quiz at the end of the lesson.


This section of the course is all about writing your resume, so we want to start by sharing 5 critical resume writing rules that you need to consider along the way. These rules should be helpful whether you are writing your resume from scratch, or simply updating an existing version of your resume.

Audio - 5 Critical Resume Writing Rules

In this audio recording you'll hear us talk about some 'golden rules' of resume writing. A summary of each rule can also be found below.

Summary of Key Points - 5 Critical Resume Writing Rules

RULE #1 - Get everything important on the front page

The first rule is to make sure that all important and relevant information for the role and industry you are targeting is on the front page. Why? So that anyone who is quickly 'scanning' your resume will see everything that’s important right away.

This is particularly important for any advertised roles you apply for, as it's quite likely that a lot of applications have been received - sometimes several hundred. This means that recruiters and potential employers are often scanning all of the resumes and cover letters that have been received quite quickly, and making some really fast decisions about who makes it into the shortlisted pile. They might spend only a minute (or even less!) looking at each resume.

If your resume is one of many in a large pile, you've got a better chance of being shortlisted if the most important information is easy to find - which means putting it on the front page. Some resume experts actually suggest that where possible you put critical information 'above the fold' or on the top half of the page, as people typically read from top to bottom.

RULE #2 - Ensure neat, professional & consistent formatting

Formatting is REALLY important - make sure that your resume is formatted in a way that appears 'clean', neat, professional, and easy to read. We've included some resume templates in the Bonus Resources Section to help you with this.

What exactly does this mean? Make sure that the borders are even, the text is properly indented, the formatting is consistent throughout the whole document, and wherever possible any dot points or sentences are short, concise and easy to read quickly. Use a modern, neat looking font that is of an appropriate size to read. AVOID cursive, fancy or 'different’ looking fonts – just stick with simple, professional and modern fonts. Use the kinds of fonts that you see on business and news websites.

Why? Again, imagine that a recruiter or hiring manager is looking over your resume quickly, trying to figure out whether or not you should be shortlisted. The neater, clearer and easier to read, the more likely they are to find the information they want and shortlist you. And the more likely you are to leave a good first impression with your resume. Good formatting can also help you to get the most important information on the front page, as discussed in the first tip.

RULE #3 - Tailor your resume to suit different roles & industries

Make sure you tailor your resume to suit different roles and industries – don't expect that you can just use the same resume across your entire job hunt. Instead, again think about the most important information to include for specific roles, industries, and organisations, and use a resume version that includes this information (on the front page - see Rule #1). In later sections of the course we'll talk about the value of identifying and addressing specific challenges that exist within companies and industries - by tailoring your resume, you can demonstrate your understanding of these challenges and really demonstrate your ability to add value.

You might have a standard version that you adapt for each different situation, or a 'master' version that includes everything, allowing you to simply remove anything that isn't highly relevant. This is perfectly okay. Make sure you have a system for naming the different versions too, and keeping track of which one you've sent to which recruiter or employer.

RULE #4 - Check your spelling & grammar (please!)

Please, please, PLEASE make sure your spelling and grammar is 100% accurate! If you think you might miss some mistakes, then ask someone who has good attention to detail to review it for you. A lot of people don’t do this very well and end up with mistakes in their resume - quite often on the front page!

To a recruiter or a hiring manager this can be perceived as 'sloppy' or unprofessional, and a sign that you aren't able to accurately communicate in writing. This interpretation is fair when you think about it - because this is a document you should get 100% right. After all, it can either 'make or break' your chances of getting the job.

Furthermore, if the job requires you to communicate in writing with internal or external stakeholders or customers, then there's a pretty good chance that someone will be formally reviewing your cover letter and resume to ensure it is accurate, professional, and free of errors. In fact, I'm regularly asked to do this when evaluating candidates for client projects.

RULE #5 - Don't lie or 'embellish' the truth

This shouldn’t need to be stated explicitly, but unfortunately some people do this – DON'T lie on your resume! Be truthful and accurate – do NOT lie about your past experience or achievements, or your qualifications. Even the slightest exaggeration on your resume can catch up with you in the long run, so just keep to the facts, and don’t bend or 'stretch' the truth.

There’s nothing wrong with learning how to write up your experience and achievements in a way that showcases your skills – in fact, we’ll help you to do this in this course. But don’t claim that you performed duties you never did, or change dates on your resume to avoid explaining a 'gap' in your employment history. Just don’t.

Quick Quiz

Now complete this lesson by answering the 4 questions in the quick quiz below - we promise they aren't too hard!

How did you go on the quiz? If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below.

What's next?

In the next lesson we talk about "keywords" and resume formatting, and why these topics are so important.