What to keep — and leave out — of your resume

Your resume is the gateway into securing an interview with a hiring manager. While having a resume is important, having a great resume is vital.

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, make sure your resume not only stands out from the rest but makes you stand out as well. Here's how.

Resume must-haves

A resume is basically showing yourself off. Your skills and relevant job history are basic requirements. But you need more than a job history to stand out. Accomplishments, metrics, and a clean format are a must, according to Melanie L. Denny, certified resume expert and the president of Resume-Evolution.

Serious businessman reading cv new job candidate and using laptop. Handsome young leader listening terms of transaction from partner. Difficult business decision about make corporate deal.
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“Accomplishments are important because they tell the story of the value you're able to bring to an organization,” Denny said. “[They’re] proof that you're great at your job.”

Accomplishments vary by industry, your experience, and the job at hand. For instance, if you’ve worked for yourself at any point, you can detail your time as a founder or CEO and starting a company. Use actionable words and specific figures to detail your experience, even when you don’t think you have any. Good accomplishment examples include:

  • “Operated register cash flow and handled $50,000 per week.”

  • “Created an email template and funnel system that brought in $7,000 per month.”

  • “Designed and implemented a new user interface, resulting in a 10% sales increase.”

  • “Employee of the month three times in three years.”

  • “Streamlined workflow to cut down on wait times by 25%.”


For those in leadership or management positions, metrics are a good way to show how many people you oversaw and how you managed a budget, Denny said.

“If you're in leadership, tell us how big the budget was,” she said. “That way, the new employer understands the level at which you are able to operate and gives context to how much you can handle.”

Even if you’ve never managed others, metrics are important. You can detail your proficiency in certain skills. For example, a website developer can use metrics to show proficiency in different website languages.

“A lot of people don't incorporate numbers,” she says. “They don't think it matters that they managed a warehouse that was 50,000 square feet or that they supported an organization with 12,000 employees. These numbers help paint the picture of your day-to-day duties and can uncover a lot about how much you can handle.”

Clean format

Employer assessing candidate filling form sitting in office back view close-up
(Photo: Getty Creative)

A clean format should be your go-to. Hiring managers only spend six seconds looking at resumes, according to Glassdoor. With such a small window of opportunity, you need to immediately catch their attention. Along with that, application tracking systems (ATS) don’t have the capacity to understand resumes that aren’t in a preferred format.

“Not only does the ATS need a clean layout that can be understood by the software, but human readers also need to be able to find information quickly and scan through your resume easily,” Denny said.

Resume don’ts

Even though resumes have quite a few requirements, there are some things you should leave off.


“I see a lot of people still putting their whole physical address on the resume,” Denny says. “Back in the 90s, this was important, because the company would correspond via snail mail. This is no longer the case.”

If you’re trying to edit your resume down to one page, you can remove your entire address. If you’re applying for a local position and think you need to show where you live, a city, state, and zip code will suffice.


You can also leave off references in any mention, Denny said.

“References Available Upon Request,” she said. “This is an unnecessary waste of space and hiring officials skip right over it.”

Keep a references page handy that’s separate from your resume that’s ready to go when a potential employer asks for it. Avoid the unnecessary tease of information.

Bad formatting

It’s also a good idea to use the right resume format for your job and industry. And that’s different for everyone.

“I believe no two resumes should be alike, because no two candidates are alike — down to the format of the resume,” Denny said. “Your resume format should definitely change based on your targeted industry.”

And even though you’re trying to show yourself off, take a step back and understand your potential audience and what level you’re at. Unless you’re applying for a senior or C-level position, you don’t need a resume more than one page long.

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Dori Zinn is a personal finance journalist based in South Florida. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, CNET, Quartz, TIME, and others.

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