James R. GettysResume Design and Useful Tips when Applying for Jobs

Here are a few things I have learned after reading and working with thousands of resumes for more than 30 years!

By James R. Gettys, President, International Staffing Consultants, Inc.


Use a Permanent Email Address: You should try to use a permanent email account that will stay with you throughout your career or at least for a few years. Once you leave your current employer, companies you contacted during your search may want to contact you. Set up a free Yahoo account www.yahoo.com, Google account www.googlemail.com or another free email account instead. Using your home Internet provider’s free account is not always a good idea either, because you might move or change providers. Learn the rules about keeping your account up to date too, because some free accounts expire over time if you don’t use them regularly.

Use a Personal Email Address and not a Company Address: It is never a good idea to use your company email to look for employment, even if your employer knows you are looking. Setting aside the ethical questions, and there are many, if you are looking for a job your company address is temporary. And don’t use your Spouse or another person’s address, because it is looks tacky, confusing and lazy.

Hide Your Distribution List: Do not make it appear that you are “shot gunning” your resume everywhere. A recruiter may be discouraged from contacting you if it looks like you are working with hundreds of other firms. When sending your resume to more than one company in the same e-mail, use the “undisclosed-recipients” feature in your e-mail program, or the “bcc:” field to hide the list. If your e-mail program does not offer a way to hide your list, simply send a message to yourself and then list your other addresses in the Blind Carbon Copy (bcc) area. This will make your contact seem more personal.

Attach Your Resume: Don’t Use Hyperlinks Pointing to Your Resume! This may be confused with Spam and may never reach your intended target, or not be opened by the reader for fear of receiving a virus. You should paste your resume in to the email, attach it, or do both. Never use links to a web based resume.

Don’t Fax Your resume:  In today’s world there is no good reason to fax your resume unless you are asked to do it. Faxes are difficult for the reader to work with and to distribute. Faxing makes you look “old school” and unqualified to work in a modern business. Don’t do it!

LinkedIn and Indeed “Easy Apply” Resumes: Most recruiters I talk to say they just delete these without even looking at them.  They look terrible and don’t give any useful information. So, be careful when submitting your resume through LinkedIn, Indeed and other job board generated resumes services.  While these “easy apply” systems make it very convenient to send your resume to multiple jobs, be aware that they produce a generic “one size fits all” style that quite often deletes too much information and destroys all of your hard work you put into formatting a good resume.  When possible, avoid the “Easy Apply” button and apply directly to the employer or agency with your personal resume.


Keep it Clean and Simple:  Loud colors and funky fonts belong on birthday party invitations, not your resume. You may not be a professional, but you don’t want to look unprofessional, so keep your resume clean and simple. Use a 10 or 12 point font throughout the resume. Do not highlight information unless you are asked to do so. Instead, reference how you qualify in your cover letter. And don’t use bullets, underlining and deep indentations that break up your document and take up space.

Limit the use of pictures, such as logos of past employers, associations, etc. You are sending your resume and not a product marketing brochure. Exceptions to this is if you are an artist or marketing professional trying to demonstrate your design skills.

DON’T CAPITALIZE EVERY WORD!  This is equally true with your email messages too. CAPITALIZING EVERY WORD OF A DOCUMENT MAKES YOU LOOK RUDE, IGNORANT OR LAZY. In emails it is considered to be SHOUTING or YELLING, and it makes the document harder to read too. You only have one chance to put your best foot forward, so DON’T DO THIS!

Use a Reverse Chronological Format:  A functional resume that does not give dates, titles and duties is going to be viewed as a gimmick to hide your real experience and job progression. Most recruiters want to see what you have done, when you did it, and how you progressed in your career. And just stating your accomplishments is not good enough. Start with your current job and work backward and NEVER start with your first job and work forward.

Including your Picture:  Unless you look like Tom Cruise or Rebecca De Mornay, including your picture is “Risky Business”. You may not be as handsome or beautiful as you think and doing this is unlikely to serve a positive purpose. Most employers do not require one and it can bias the reader.

File Formats – Best to Use MS Word:  Make sure you are saving in a text readable format. Almost everyone can read M.S. Word files.

Myths about Resume Size:  “Conventional” wisdom by resume “experts” will tell you to limit your resume to one page, but actually there is no magic number for the amount of pages needed for a resume. In fact, recent studies have shown that resume readers prefer a few more. The trick is to give the reader as much information as they will need to gauge your skills and experience. Try to limit it to about 2-3 pages to keep from overloading the reader, but don’t sell yourself short just for the sake of brevity. Try using a smaller font if you need to reduce the size of your document, but never use smaller than a 9 point font. 10, 11 and 12 point font size is best. Try to be consistent throughout the document and limit the number of times you change font sizes. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a 10 point Arial font used throughout the entire document gives the most information in the least amount of space while still looking clean and professional.

Don’t abbreviate words for people. places and things: This is a very common mistake. Do not make the reader guess what you mean.  And if you do not know how to spell it look it up! (Common contractions such as don’t, can’t, etc. are usually OK, but limit their use in a resume).

Include Your Full Permanent Address:  If you are working away from home, include both your temporary and permanent address and contact information. Don’t rely on providing your contact information only in your email or cover letter. Documents have a way of getting separated, so adding your full contact information to your resume is important. Also, companies you contacted during your search may want to contact you later, so give them information that is not likely to change. NEVER include your Social Security, Driver’s License or Passport Number and if anyone asks for it assume they are scamming you. (Exceptions may be after you know you are dealing with a verified and legitimate employer to formalize the job offer, travel arrangements, etc.).

Use Block Style:  Be careful when using Columns or Tables to create your resume. They take up space and don’t add to the clean, professional look you want to create. And don’t waste your time with MS Word’s default resume templates or free online services. They tend to add too much function and not enough substance. Instead, use a Left Justified style similar to the way these tips were created.

Highlight your Stability:  Show the full length of your employment right from the start. Don’t break it up as shown in the “fictional” example below. And your job title, dates, company can stand alone. You don’t need to give them a label.

Jack of all Trades and Master of None:  It is a common mistake for job applicants to try and come across as “multi-talented,” thinking that this makes them look like a more desirable job candidate. What they don’t realize is that this only proves to be distracting, causing many strong applicants to be passed over for great positions, even when they may have a tremendous amount of experience in one specific area.

Citizenship and Visa Status:  If you are a US Citizen or Permanent Resident (Green Card) and you are applying for a job in the USA be sure to include that on your resume.  If you are working overseas consider including your visa status if it helps to expedite working in that country.

In the USA (and many other Western countries) employers can’t ask about National Origin for jobs in the home country, but they can ask you if you are a Citizen or if you have a legal right to work in the country and your current visa status. This may not always be true when recruiting for an offshore location with a foreign company. Outside of the USA, such as in the Middle East, it is common to ask about Citizenship and National Origin. In some overseas locations, citizenship questions are justified by the restrictions placed on the employer in the foreign country.

Give some thought about including citizenship and visa information when it can help you get the job, but don’t feel obligated to do it in situations that could give the employer a reason to discriminate against you for reasons of race, or national origin.

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