Old Legends of Resume Writing

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Dragon MythFor job seekers, there’s nothing worse than getting bad resume advice – and the Internet has no shortage of misinformation circulating about resumes. There is actually so much old and outdated resume advice out there that it practically has its own mythology.

Let’s look at some of the old “truths” of resume writing that you’ve probably heard before, and see if they hold up to close scrutiny.

  • Your resume must be one page: Simply not true, with one exception – students and young professionals who don’t have much experience should keep their resume at just one page. Seasoned professionals, however, should expand to two pages if necessary, in order to better reflect the scope of their experience and achievements. Three pages is not preferred, and typically unnecessary, but for some professionals, such as software developers and scientists, much longer resumes are commonplace and even expected. Don’t get too hung up on the length of the resume at all. However, do pay attention to design. If it’s scrunched up or too airy, you need to make some formatting changes. A quality resume should look natural and strongly placed on the page – not either stretched or crammed into a particular space.
  • Your resume needs an objective statement: These “filler” statements can often a waste of space and rarely communicate any valuable information to recruiters and hiring managers. In fact, a poorly written or nonspecific objective statement may end up hurting your chances of landing an interview – best to leave it off and take advantage of the extra work space. Almost all job seekers quickly alter their objective statement in order to provide a “custom” look to their resume. They will change “to get a position in customer service” to “to get a position in customer service management” and other rather trivial updates. A quality resume should be tailored individually to meet the needs of the job you are applying for and show your history of past performance. Unless the objective statement is very specific, powerful, and meaningful, you might want to nix it.
  • It’s OK to stretch the truth on your resume: It’s never OK to lie. Even stretching the truth “a little” is a risk not worth the trouble, and social media has made it even easier to discern whether a candidate is telling the truth. Your resume will be fact-checked, and any inconsistencies between reality and the paper will put you out of the running. Understand that more emphasis than ever is being placed on pre-employment screening. Automated assessment checking can compare your resume to past applications and publicly available information. If you lie in the twenty-first century, there is a good chance you’ll be caught.
    • Additionally, it is important to know that social media is now being used for the actual job application process. Many large employers are using tools such as the Apply with LinkedIn button, which automatically ports your online profile into the company’s database. So think about how you portray yourself online and in every resume and job application that you create. Assume public knowledge of each of your descriptions of yourself – make sure they all line up and that you are saying the absolute truth.
  • Your resume should be paired with additional documents: While the “tag-team” resume and cover letter combination is a traditional pairing, many job seekers don’t realize that the two documents rarely stay together. In the age of the applicant tracking system (ATS), resumes are stripped, chewed up, and filed away – don’t expect any additional documents to come along for the ride. You might be better off thinking of the resume not as a document at all, but a key repository of data. The right keywords and the freshness of your application probably matter a lot more to a large corporation than the fact that you paired your resume with a cover letter and letter of recommendation. That being said, there is room for both – consider personal/hard-copy presentations to be the time for multiple documents and Internet applications to be the place for technical optimization.
    • While we’re on the subject, many recruiters and hiring mangers don’t even read a candidate’s cover letter and go straight to the resume. Supplemental materials like references and work portfolio pieces see a similar fate. Unless specifically asked or if you have a very compelling personal in-house reference, etc.. you might consider just leaving other documents out. Hiring managers will let you know if they need references or a work portfolio that you can bring to the interview.
  • Your resume is a golden ticket: Even the greatest resume won’t land you a job on its own. It may get you an interview, but the rest is up to you. You can pay a top resume writer to construct you a masterpiece of a career marketing document, but if you can’t stand behind it in an interview and present yourself clearly and succinctly, then your resume is essentially worthless. Think of resumes as first and foremost an opener – a marketing document to entice employers to let you in the door. It’s not the place for a lengthy discussion of your career history, hopes, and dreams – that’s for the personal interview discussion. Your resume is the place to sell yourself to the employer. Keep it tightly focused, polished, and with hard data about how you fit well into the particular job for which you are applying.

No matter what you do with it, take the time to know your resume and know yourself – your strengths and weaknesses, your achievements and experiences. Once you have a thorough understanding of what you have to offer, it will be easy to put together your resume. Try to think outside of yourself – examine your core skills and personality traits in order to deliver a concise and targeted message to employers. And take all resume advice (including this article) with a grain of salt; no one knows better how to portray your professional experience and skills than you do.

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Marie is a writer for Recruiter.com covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.