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Do’s and Don’ts of Resume Writing

By Dawn Quesnel,

We know the job market is tough right now, and that a faulty résumé can hinder your job search before you’re able to get your foot in the door. We reached out to Dawn Quesnel, CPCC, PCC, better known as Coach DQ, to share some of her top tips for building a dynamic résumé that will keep you in the running.

DO think Results.When writing your resume, think about results you’ve achieved for your employer. What are your quantifiable accomplishments? Think in terms of achievements like:

  • Increased sales
  • Reduced expenses
  • Secured valuable exposure
  • Helped expand into new markets
  • Created systems to improve efficiencies

Quantifiable accomplishments show the exact impact of your previous work.

DO specify. Saying “significantly decreased customer wait time” has less impact than “decreased customer wait time from 15 minutes to 30 seconds.”

DO use action-oriented words. Make yourself sound proactive with terms like accelerated, chaired, changed, channeled, charted, debugged, decentralized, decreased.

DO go with a summary or profile instead of an objective. The goal of this section is to develop a hard-hitting introductory declaration packed with your most sought-after skills, abilities, accomplishments and attributes.

DO write your resume after you have identified your ideal job. Start by searching jobs for your ideal position. Compare the ads and write a list of common job requirements and preferred qualifications. The more closely you can target your profile to the employer’s needs, the better your results will be.

DO have a hobbies or special interests section (but keep it short).

Do you run marathons a few times a year? Are you into mountain climbing, building or restoring your own cars, or inventing gadgets and doodads? Certain activities are quite challenging –- physically, psychologically and emotionally –- and can show that you’re self-motivated, goal-oriented, persistent and unafraid of facing difficult circumstances. If your hobby or interest falls into this category, including it couldn’t hurt and could peak interest.

D0 use spell check, but DON’T rely on it. Using “their” when you should use “they’re” is just as bad as an outright typo. Have at least one other person proofread your resume for mistakes.

DON’T use “I”. A résumé is a source of professional details and facts. Cut the pronouns, passive and unnecessary words and get straight to the point.

DON’T put the years in your summary. Some disagree with me on this, but I advise you to leave out phrases like “15 years experience” – if your resume is accurate it will speak for itself.

DON’T get stuck on your job titles or descriptions. You’ve likely had many more duties and the skills required to do them than indicated in industry-standard job titles and descriptions. Accept this and let the content, not the title do the talking.

DON’T exaggerate.

DON’T overlook non-work experiences. Your time organizing a charity fund-raiser, presiding over a cultural organization or participating in groups not only looks good on resumes, but also gives you legitimate professional experience with value.

DO keep your resume updated — you never know when you might need it.

Dawn Rasmussen, a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), is the President of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services based in Portland, Oregon. She offers resume writing, cover letter crafting, and job search coaching services to clients across the U.S. and Canada. A renowned speaker on career management topics, she has shared her expertise as a columnist for One+ Magazine and a jobs expert for Talentzoo.

Additionally, she is recognized for her contributions to Careerealism, a top-ranked career advice blog, and the weekly Twitter discussion, #Tchat, hosted by TalentCulture. Rasmussen has also been cited in prominent media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune, CBSMoneyWatch, and Careerbuilder.


  1. Darrien Hansen

    I didn’t realize how important it is to determine what job you want prior to writing your resume so that you can write it with your employer’s needs in mind. My sister is interested in becoming a nurse since she enjoys helping others, but her writing skills are insufficient for writing a resume that will stand out. Perhaps she should look for a resume writing company that can help stand out when applying for a nursing position.

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