Online career experts frequently talk in terms of must and always when they talk about how to write a resume. They claim to be presenting rules. But their advice often does not have any reason or strategy behind it. Below are a few examples of what I like to call “resu-myths”.
1. A resume should always be one page.
Busting the myth: I’ve met very few hiring managers who agree with this claim. Many of my clients have gotten great jobs using two page resumes. Moreover, if this expert advice were true, why don’t employer list instructions in job posting to limit resumes to one page?
2. All bullet resumes are easier to read.
Busting the myth: All bullet resumes might look easier to read, but that’s not true once we start to read. We’ve read paragraphs since we learned how to read. We know how to skim information in that format. Bullet tell us to stop. If we stop at the beginning of each line of the all bullet resume, how can it be easier to read? The flow of information is broken.
Should there be no bullets in a resume? Absolutely not! Bullets are very useful to call out achievements and key words. However, if all information is put forth as bullets, nothing is called out and the information becomes more confusing.
3. Employers know what you can do by the titles one your resume. They want to see achievements and numbers. That’s all that should be listed on your resume.
Busting the myth: I’ve never seen a job post that says, “Send us a list of achievements.” Instead, job posts ask for requirements, including experience, education, certification, and technical skills. These items need to be presented on your resume. Once you done that, it is very important to show achievements and success stories. A good resume will have a balanced overview of experience and achievements.
4. A resume should cover every job you have ever held.
Busting the myth: Employers care most about your career as it is related to the open position they are trying to fill. In most cases, a resume should cover the last 10-15 years of your career. Early work is usually not relevant.
5. A resume should never [or always] have an objective.
Busting the myth: Rather than say always or never, I’d say there are times when a resume needs an objective and times when one is not needed. My strategy is that resumes sent as replies to job posts should have a simple objective: To obtain a position as (TITLE). This objective simply lets the reader know what position you are applying for. On the other hand, if you are networking or if you’re going to a job fair – situations in which you won’t know what jobs are open to you – an objective is not needed.
I recommend that every resume have a profile that outlines your qualifications and included key words. See the sample resume section for examples of how objectives and profiles can be laid out.
6. A resume must show quantified achievements.
Busting the myth: To a degree, this one has some merit. If you can use numbers to show the scope or impact of an achievement, it gives that point more validity. On the other hand, if a success story cannot be stated in terms of numbers, you should still put it on your resume. Demonstrate your strengths whenever possible even if they cannot be quantified.
7. A resume must display your work history in reverse chronology [most recent to least recent job]
Busting the myth: If your work history follows this pattern, that’s great. However, what if you were a successful sales professional for eight years and then spent the next three years as a business owner? Your current goal is to find a job in sales. My recommendation is to break the chronology and put the most relevant information first. A few hiring managers might be upset that you did not follow a “standard” form. More will be impressed that you put what is most relevant first.
8. Education must be listed as the last [or first] element on a resume.
Busting the myth: This is a great example of why you should avoid “always” rules when writing a resume. If you’re a new graduate or if you’ve just completed a graduate degree that is relevant to the job you are seeking, education should come first. It is the most important information you want an employer to see. On the other hand, if you have experience in your field, education usually should be placed at the end of a resume. In this case, you’re telling a prospective employer that your experience is more important than your education.