Saturday, April 2, 2011

10 Resume Rules: Fact or Fiction?

10 Resume Rules: Fact or Fiction? by Jeanine Skowronski

For better or worse, the job market has certainly changed during the past few years. As such, the practice of looking for a job has evolved as well -- so much, it seems, that what was once considered a best practice can now in fact cost you an interview.

What tried and true résumé rules have become obsolete post-recession? MainStreet talked to some experts find out what exactly has changed.

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1. Your résumé should fit on one page.

Verdict: Myth

The conventional wisdom used to say that interviewers would not look at a résumé longer than one page. Not so, says Nick Jimenez, executive vice president of recruitment site For him, this "rule" applies only to entry-level applicants who don't have credentials that stretch beyond a page or, perhaps, applicants looking only for part-time work. Everyone else can (and should) feel free to type on.

"In today's electronic age, very few recruiters or hiring managers actually print the résumés out when they are screening candidates," Jimenez says. "I subscribe to the theory that a résumé should be as long as it takes to tell your story and convince the reader your background is well-aligned with the needs of the open position."

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Bruce Hurwitz, career consultant and executive recruiter at New York staffing agency Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, agrees. "The résumé needs to be as long as it takes to properly reflect the candidate's career," he says. "I have received horrible one-page résumés, fabulous five-page résumés, and magnificent 40+ page résumés from academics and scientists with multiple publications."

2. Always use a cover letter.

Verdict: Rule

Sorry to break it to you, but this résumé myth, it seems, is true. While most job experts admit that many employers do actually skip over a cover letter and move straight to the résumé, you should still always send one. According to Allison Nawoj, corporate communications director of, a recent survey conducted by the jobs site found that 20% of hiring managers would automatically dismiss a candidate who submitted a résumé without a cover letter, which means that those who don't want to risk having their application end up in the slush pile would do best to include one.

"[A cover letter] allows the sender to explain, succinctly, what their objective is, to answer any questions if they are responding to an ad and to refer to any issues that, by definition, would not be included on a résumé," Hurwitz says.

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3. Your résumé needs an objective.

Verdict: Myth

You can skip on including an objective on your résumé.

"Most 'objective' paragraphs are meaningless," says Hurwitz, the career consultant. "It means nothing. In fact, it's a waste of time and an insult to the intelligence of the recipient."

Nawoj agrees, saying that the résumé objective, a must-have inclusion five or 10 years ago, has slowly been replaced by what can be referred to as a "career summary," a short list of accomplishments that highlight your achievements.

"Like an objective, the summary should give the employer an idea of who you are, except it allows you to focus more on your experience than on your goals," she says. "You can briefly mention your career highlights, including past roles and your strongest skills."

4. Gaps in employment will cost you an interview.

Verdict: Myth

Before the recession, a gap between employment would have been a major red flag, but employers have become increasingly understanding in the current economic climate.

"Depending on the actual amount of time you were unemployed, as long as you were active and engaged, many employers will look at the employment gap as a non-issue," Jimenez says.

Laura Smith-Proulx, a professional résumé writer, agrees, but emphasizes that you will still need to be able to offer an explanation should an employer ask.

"Be prepared to explain the gap itself by pointing to an activity that filled it, such as volunteer work, caring for an ill family member, or launching a business, in order to explain time in between jobs," she says. "Try not to point out a gap that you can't name. Essentially, your best strategy when dealing with any potentially negative information is [to] focus more on the results you can bring to your next employer than anything else."

5. A little embellishment is OK.

Verdict: Myth

The current competitive job market may entice prospective employees to alter job titles, embellish achievements or fudge timelines, but our experts assert that applicants would do best to stick with the truth.

"Candidates should always be honest on their résumés," Nawoj says. "It's the first impression you make to an employer, so you want to show your integrity by being honest about your background."

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6. Organize your résumé in reverse chronological order.

Verdict: Rule

While it may seem unnatural to some applicants, this myth, experts say, is true., for example, surveyed recruiting managers and discovered that a majority preferred reverse chronological résumés, listing work experience from most to least recent. They preferred this traditional structure over the topical or achievement-based résumés that have emerged in the digital age. Why exactly?

"Topically oriented résumés are difficult to read, particularly when the recruiter or hiring manager is reviewing hundreds of other résumés for the same position," Jimenez explains. "By not providing the context for your accomplishments, you make it harder for the reader to draw comparisons between you and the other candidates."

Additionally, Hurwitz points out, a résumé should show growth. "Recipients want to know immediately where a candidate is now, not where they were five, 10 years ago," he says.

7. Educational background should be at the top.

Verdict: Myth

According to experts, this is another myth that gets perpetrated because it applies to entry-level applicants who have recently graduated from school. Experienced hires, in fact, should move their educational background further down.

"If you are an experienced professional, your education should always be listed at the bottom of your résumé," Jimenez says.


8. Your résumé should include references.

Verdict: Myth

Don't bother including a references section or even typing in "references available upon request" at the bottom of your résumé, since recommendations come much later in the application process.

"It isn't necessary to include your references on your résumé," Nawoj says. "If a hiring manager would like to contact your references, they'll let you know. Save the space for more valuable information."

9. Use buzzwords.

Verdict: Rule (with some exceptions)

This myth is mostly true. Experts agree that you should include buzzwords in your résumé, because they may help a recruiter find you in their internal tracking system or while searching databases on sites like However, be careful what words make it into your final product.

"If it seems like the candidate has dumped a bunch of buzzwords in for show, the résumé might also get dumped," Tiffani Murray, a career consultant and former human resources manager, tells MainStreet.

Hurwitz agrees that "the résumé has to read like it is meant for a human being, not a computer. Just listing keywords reflects poorly on the candidate and impacts credibility."

10. You should provide a hard copy printed on fancy paper.

Verdict: Myth

The idea that you should bring a printed version of your résumé on glossy or otherwise fancy paper is absolutely false. While you should bring a hard copy to an interview, all experts agree that there's no real need for it to be printed out on thick and environmentally unfriendly résumé paper.

"The days of fancy résumé paper are all but dead," Murray says. "Companies are cutting back on paper, so your résumé is likely stored in an applicant tracking system that the hiring manager and recruiter can look at on their computer or smartphone whenever they need to review it."
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These comments are interesting. I have been lucky to stay in my job but doom, gloom, and the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train and I am trying to find something that pays what I make now. I am well qualified, degreed, with a well thought about certification. I'm not yet 45 and have been an employee, first-line supervisor and middle manager in my field. Graduated 3.75GPA in college, honor society member, on and on and on....I've submitted well over 150 applications and resumes in the last 4 months and have received 5 phone calls from 'screeners' just looking to screen you out. From there, I've had two phone interviews and it became apparent that with all I had to offer, having experience in several facets of my career field, I do not possess a certain 'specific' experience that these companies are looking for and I never hear back. It's really quite sad because if you understand the career field I work in, you can do pretty much any specific work within that field.

I think what's going on is that people are already selected for the few jobs out there and the process we go through to apply is nothing more than EO requirements to advertise, etc. Oh, and I'm not near 50 yet either so I doubt it's age.Reply.0 users liked this comment

These types of articles show up every couple of months, each time they contradict the previous one on about half the points, and agree on the other ones.

A lot of this is not true. i have worked for a number of employers and many of them say they will not choose someone with unexplained gaps in their resume. and the cover letter one is garbage too. and the one page thing is kind of true. if it takes more than a page to sell yourself to someone then you are doing something wrong. You should pop on page one. If you don't you are wasting your time and theirs.

My ex's father did his resume even though he's in his thirties. On it, he included his hair/eye color (to show he's white), his smoking status (occasional smoker), all the states/countries he's visited, and his hobbies. They both feel this is a brilliant resume. I no longer associate with them.

Supposedly, they can't ask your age, but by the time you fill out the application online with all your previous employers, they have a fairly good idea. Or they ask what year you graduated high school. D'uh???? Anyone that can do simple math can figure that you were around 17 or 18 when you graduated, so it's not too hard to figure out a person's age.

In this country, experience is a bad thing. You are OVERQUALIFIED. All they want is beginners that they can pay $20000 a year to. If you are over 50, forget it. And if you are over 60, grab your social security when you are 62 because no one out there will hire you. You are TOO OLD.I am an Air Force and single at present .I need a woman who can love me back ..I also uploaded my hot photos on U'niformedm'ate .℃○Munder the name of kobe2011..It's the largest and best club for seeking Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Police Force, and the admirers of those who wear the uniform. I just hope you don't mind me being a soldier ...Please Check it out! I'm serious.~~~~~~~~~~~~

My advice to recruiters and HR personnel: Beware of how the decisions your company makes today impacts the quality of your workforce tomorrow.

I am 50. I am very skilled. I am also semi-retired. Why? I have been blessed by God and have been very successful. I am one of the lucky ones. I can pick and choose my work.

Guess what? This trend will continue, and in fact is accelerating. I was recently on a flight coming back from Chicago, where I met two people who attended an employee retention workshop. The data they shared with me would scare the crap out of me if I was in charge of HR at a company. The number of people age 62 to 65 who are voluntarily leaving the workforce has accelerated to almost double the expected norm. Some of this was caused by the recession, but most is the result of people, like me, who have had enough with the abusive job market to say "enough already".

Guess what? This trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. One of the major outplacement firms (Challenger, Christmas and Gray?) has a report out there stating that the pool of skilled talent for technical and high responsibility service positions (market development, sales, etc.) will drastically shrink in the next 5 to 7 years. The report predicted employers will not be able to find the skilled workers they need.

People like me have already figured this out. I pick and choose who and when I want to work. I do great work at a fair price. I turn down opportunities. This is the future, and most companies, from my experience, can kiss my a$$.

Why does Mckinsey & Company the top consulting firm ONLY accept 1 page resumes...

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