Resume Myths – Don’t Believe All You Hear! (part 1)

Let’s get one thing straight before we begin. Every resume is unique. Nobody has exactly the same background, knowledge, skill-set or aspirations as you. That said, there are of course many similarities between resumes, due to the standard approaches and conventions of job-hunting in different countries. Because this is the case, there are many misconceptions about the rights and wrongs involved in resume writing, formatting, styles, etc. In this article, we will lead you through some of the confusion that surrounds resume writing, specifically covering  the following topics:

- You should include all your jobs on your resume

- Resumes should only be one page long

- Employers expect to see a standard resume format

- Resumes are lists of your jobs, skills and previous duties

- You should always include your hobbies and interests

- Always end with ‘References are available upon request’

- A good resume can get you a job offer without interview

- White lies are OK on your resume

- Nobody reads cover letters

- If you have the right contacts, you don’t need a resume

- You should do mass mailings with your resume

- You are the best person to write your resume

You should include all your jobs on your resume

The most productive way to approach resume writing is to recognize that you can angle your resume to every individual vacancy, and the way in which you tailor it can involve changing which jobs you choose to include. Even if you don’t decide to omit any jobs, it is generally accepted that only jobs you’ve held over the past ten years get included in detail in your resume’s Career History or Experience section. For most people, this more recent experience will supersede jobs gained in the previous years. Therefore, more recent jobs are presented with bullet pointed sentences detailing some duties and responsibilities, earlier jobs are simply listed by job title, employer name and inclusive dates. As always, there are exceptions to this maxim: if an earlier job is more relevant than a more recent one, you can structure your resume slightly differently to encompass this. Likewise, if you have very valuable experience gained outside the workplace, this can be included, even if jobs are left out.

Resumes should only be one page long

Your resume certainly needs to be concise and to the point. Yet if you have had more than one job, it’s more than likely that your experience will extend onto two pages. To attempt to squeeze everything onto one page would be a mistake, as it would probably end up cramped, cluttered and unreadable. Exceptions to the two page maxim are people with little experience, who should aim to fit their information on one page. Some executives with several management positions behind them may need to extend their resumes to three pages. The myth of the single page resume probably arose because people have heard that most employers and recruiters make their decision on whether to shortlist an applicant before they’ve finished reading the first page. Indeed, it is said by many that you have only 20 seconds within which to impress the resume reader! For this reason, it is always critical that you include the most important points at the top of your resume, in your Profile and Achievements sections, followed by your Career History / Experience section.

Employers expect to see a standard resume format

While there are many conventions in resume writing, most of these are guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. If you have followed an idiosyncratic career path, or it doesn’t show a standard route when it comes to the job you’re applying for, it is perfectly OK to be flexible with formats to show yourself in the best light. Many people use ‘hybrid’ formats that accommodate their experience better. However, it is advisable to only divert from generally recognized formats when necessary – while you want to show your uniqueness in a resume, do not try to be individual simply for the sake of it.

Resumes are lists of your jobs, skills and previous duties

Resumes show that you know how to get results. The jobs you decide to include should be relevant to the vacancy, as should your skills and previous responsibilities. Most important, however, are the achievements you include, for these demonstrate that you are able to make a difference to your employer’s business or organization. They show that you are an individual they ought to be interested in.

You should always include your hobbies and interests

At one time, this was without doubt the conventional thing to do. Yet resume writing has moved on and the focus is now purely professional, meaning that anything you do in your time outside work is your own business, unless you specifically want to include it. You may, for instance, have identified some of your voluntary or community activities to be relevant to the vacancy in question. Even in this case, however, you may wish to include that information under the heading of  Achievements or Other Experience. The other exception is students, recent graduates, where you have so little work experience that you simply must include more information to provide an impression of yourself as an individual. However, group and sporting interests, especially those involving awards and other achievements, are always more important than solitary, more intellectual interests.

Always end with ‘References are available upon request’

Wrong. Most employers already assume that you are able to provide references. If they want you to include them at the application stage, they’ll tell you so in the job advertisement. Adding this line is absolutely pointless and is a waste of space. If you want to include a sheet carrying your referees’ details, then do so. Otherwise, don’t mention it, but instead use the space you’ve saved for more vital information that will strengthen your application.

Be sure to sign up for me email feed so you do not miss part 2 of this article, where I will reveal whether the following six resume myths are fact or fiction:

- A good resume can get you a job offer without interview

- White lies are OK on your resume

- Nobody reads cover letters

- If you have the right contacts, you don’t need a resume

- You should do mass mailings with your resume

- You are the best person to write your resume

Are you wondering if your resume measures up?  If so, email me your resume for a Free resume check up. Proreswriter (at) gmail (dot) com.