Resume Basics

5 Resume Basics We Bet You’ve Overlooked


Here are five resume basics and the mistakes you make that break them. Thousands of job seekers make these mistakes. Are you making them, too?

Forgetting To Include A Cover Letter

Not attaching a cover letter to a resume is like shooting in the dark. Hiring managers receive hundreds of unsolicited resumes every week. Tell them specifically what opening you are applying to or the position you’re inquiring about. Do not presume they will figure it out from your resume.

Using An Objective

Point blank, objectives are bad form, self-serving and will get you nowhere in this job market. Instead of telling the employer what you want show them what you can do. When you buy something the store doesn’t tell you what they want from you. You know what they want; they want your business and your money. Employers know what you want – you want a job. Instead utilize a career summary that will “show” not just “tell” the employer how you can meet their needs and a completely customized personal branding statement.

Using Headers

Titling sections (career summary, qualifications summary) uses up valuable real estate on your resume. Space you could be using to advertise your unique value, talent, passion, and vision. Instead, create a catchy personal branding statement that immediately tells the employer who you are and what you offer.

Leaving Out Industry-Specific Keywords

Forget keywords and you’re neglecting all three audiences that will review your resume. Even worse you’re excluding yourself from being found in candidate databases, job search engines, social networks and more. First, your resume has to make it through the software scan, then the secretary or administrative assistant scan, then on to the hiring manager who actually knows what you’re doing and how you are supposed to do it – you NEED the right keywords. Here’s a hint: check the job description. They are in there I guarantee it.

Not Proofreading

One small mistake and you’re out of the running. Proofread your documents carefully. Take a night to sleep on it and then read it again. When you go back to read the resume the second time read it backwards one word at a time. Experts say this simple trick will catch any mistakes you would normally read right over.

Use this checklist to determine if your resume passes the “basics” test. If it does, you are well on your way to a professionally written resume. If it doesn’t, adjust what you can and if you feel like you’re hitting a brick wall check out our samples page for a few samples of professionally written resumes.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Jessica Holbrook Hernandez

Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, CEO of Great Resumes Fast is an expert resume writer, career and personal branding strategist, author, and presenter.


  1. A recruiter is going to look at your resume for SIX seconds. They are not going to look at your cover letter until they get past your resume. Many of the places that tell you to include a cover letter remove them from the resume, scan the resume, and if you don’t have the keywords they are looking for, they both get thrown out. You will get a second look of maybe 20 seconds if you make the first cut – but only if you make the first cut.

    One branding line at the top:

    Experienced, Sophisticated, Well-qualified Executive Assistant

    Why? Because then I know what you are looking to do for me. Don’t make me guess, and I will not fumble around for the email or the cover – too easy to just move on.

    Executive Assistant for the CEO of Blah Blah Corp, dates, location
    [bullet] Scheduled a busy calendar including contacts, information, dates, for over 15,000 connections, up to ten appointments a day
    [bullet] Supervised reception and secretarial, ensuring up to 100 contacts a day were well served

    Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, College, where it was [no dates]
    [bullet] some remarkable thing you did in college, if you did

    This kind of resume tells me what you want to do for me, why you think you can do it, and delineates your qualifications. Do ti right, you make the cut, I read the cover letter if you sent one (more likely it was attached to an email and the email was the “cover”), and I give you a call. Oh, don’t bother with a home number and a cell – if I have to choose, I’m not going to bother. I have 400 (average) resumes to sort through, and while yours might be easy to pull out of that pile, so were several others, and if THEY didn’t make me think too much, and yours did? Yours is gone.

    Oh – LINKED IN LINK at the bottom. Make sure your profile is well done to back it up. I might not look, but if I do, I’ll think it’s important – so it better be to you as well.

  2. I’ve tried this and it frequently doesn’t work. Hiring managers see one of these and just assume you’re trying to cover up a spotty past. However, hiring managers often use really bad heuristics for trying to predict good work performance.

  3. Donna Tucker, CPRW

    Ah, but remember that applicant tracking systems require the standard category headings. This is how resumes fall into a black whole.

    Perhaps two versions would be appropriate.

  4. I agree that the “Job Objective” section is self-serving and old school. Other comments ok too. I tell my clients two things about the resume: 1) on average it gets 15-20 second scan by a human so it must be “scannable” so that the person can get a quick read on you, and 2) the sole purpose of the resume is to answer the question in the mind of the hiring manager: “why do I even what to interview this person?”. So I suggest giving your resume to someone you know as an aquaintance and let them look at it for 20 seconds and take it away. Ask them “what did you learn about this person in those 20 seconds”

  5. I agree, I have left the subject titles out. I have just a chronoligical experience and my education at the bottom. I have found that resumes can best be organized with an administrative section, followed by bullets detailing work-related achievements that only I can claim. So far- so good. 

  6. Thank you for the helpful post Jessica. I must say that even though I was aware of the importance of personal branding, I never thought of rearranging the headers/titles on my resume accordingly.

    Could you please elaborate on that point though, as I am not sure how to approach the task? For example, as a marketing student with a passion for CRM and consulting, what would be the appropriate headers?

  7. Good article. I agree, and have a couple of other tips:
    -In addition to the industry specific keywords, make sure your resume includes the required skills from the job posting. If you have the skills but don't have them in your generic resume, take the time to customize the resume for each job. When I get resumes that don't have the required skills, I pass. I imagine some of those people DO have the required skills; I don't have time to contact them all to see if they forgot to include them.
    -I encourage everyone to do is a “Find” for the word “mange”. I see that word on resumes more than anything, for obvious reasons. That tells me you spellchecked your resume, but didn't proofread it.

  8. Jessica, I thought I knew all the resume tricks, but I never considered changing the section titles of a resume to reflect keywords matching the personal brand – great stuff!

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