Resume Writing Do’s and Don’ts

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By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP, FAAN

Although a good resume can’t get you a job, a poor resume will keep you from getting one. A resume is a professional marketing tool, a written record of your accomplishments and professional credentials. Because it usually represents the first impression a prospective employer will have of you, your resume must be top-notch in format, content, and appearance. Follow these simple guidelines to improve the impression your resume makes.

What to do

DO use a chronological format. Start by listing your current or most recent job and work back from there. This is the format most employers are looking for, and anything else makes them suspicious and impatient. Although every rule has exceptions, stick to this format to be safe.

DO focus on your accomplishments and more interesting or marketable skills and experiences. Your resume should highlight the best that you have to offer, not read like a job description. If you’re a staff nurse, the interviewer will expect you to have provided patient care and administered medications. Instead, include special activities such as conducting patient and family teaching, making presentations to outside groups, sitting on interdisciplinary committees, and budgeting and scheduling responsibility. If your experience is limited, focus on the more significant clinical skills, such as ventilator care, chemotherapy administration, and attaining I.V. certification.

DO print your resume on good quality paper and with good quality print. Most laser printers will do the job. If you don’t have a good printer, put your resume on a disk and bring it to a local printer or office services company that has a letter-quality printer. Ask to see samples of good-quality resume paper. Chose one that is white or off-white, never use colored paper or paper with designs or borders. Make sure the print on your resume is crisp, dark, sharp and clear.

What NOT to do

DON’T list personal information about your health, height and weight, marital status, and so on. This information shouldn’t be part of a job search process. In fact, asking about such matters in an interview is illegal, so don’t offer this information. You want the interviewer to focus on your job-related experience, not your personal attributes.

DON’T list hobbies and personal activities such as reading, skiing, and sewing. Discussing these in an interview is fine if you’re asked–they can even help establish rapport with a prospective employer. But this information, just like your height and weight, doesn’t belong on your resume.

DON’T list references with names and addresses. In fact, you don’t even need to say “References Available Upon Request.” If employers want references, they’ll ask for them. Keep your resume free of unnecessary information.

Send us your questions
Do you have other questions about resume writing? Forward them to me and I’ll answer them in a future column. In the meantime, use these tips to bring your resume up to snuff. Happy job hunting!

For more information about resumes and CVs check out: The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses – Practical Strategies for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career

Reprinted with permission from (
Copyright by Verticalnet, Inc., Horsham, PA., 215-315-3247.

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