As a dedicated job seeker, you’ve probably spent hours writing, tailoring and blasting your perfectly polished resume. You’re confident you have done everything right: The flawless document is confined to one page; includes a clear objective; and lists a plethora of soft skills.
But as it turns out, contrary to popular belief, those features don’t necessarily make for an ideal resume.
Here are 12 resume writing myths:
Myth: You must reference references. “While references will likely matter further into the interview process, noting on your resume that ‘references are available upon request’ will not make your resume stand out,” says Jacob Bollinger, lead data scientist at Bright.com, an employment site with more than 2.5 million job listings.
Myth: You must keep your resume to one page. Not true! “Page count is not as important as the number of words on the page,” Bollinger says. “The number of words actually affected recruiters in a bell curve manner. So what’s the magic word count that keeps recruiters reading (aside from your work experience)? About 390 words per page.”
Ann Baehr, an executive resume writer and founder of Best Resumes of New York says one page resumes are best for early career job seekers. “Even then, if there is a lot of valuable information that simple cannot fit on one page, a second page is fine. I have done plenty of two page resumes for early career professionals and it has never been an issue.”
Myth: Spelling errors immediately disqualify you. It is very important to proofread your resume before emailing it out, but spelling and grammatical mistakes do not necessarily mean your resume ends up in the trash, Bollinger says. Recruiters are more focused on work experience to determine fit. “A good habit is to re-read your resume whenever applying. Fresh eyes can catch mistakes previously overlooked.”
Myth: Using graphs are a waste of space. Tina Nicolai, a resume writer and executive career coach, says graphs tell a compelling story of financial earnings, savings, turnarounds, and more. “Graphs are a fantastic method of grabbing a person’s attention,” she says. “We are living in a point and click society. Apps are causing us to have a shorter attention span. By including a graph, we are able to tell a story quickly and succinctly to hiring leaders and recruiters who may not have time to read the entire resume.”
Myth: Fancy formatting matters. As it turns out, it doesn’t. “Many of the resume parsers used by job-apply services will destroy any formatting you use on your resume,” Bollinger says. “Even bullets on a resume can sometimes cause encoding problems. The best format to use is the simplest.”
Myth: You need an objective statement. Once it was imperative that you start your resume with a statement declaring your career objective. However, Bollinger says Bright found that having an objective statement didn’t make any difference in whether a resume was deemed qualified or not. “Recruiters are more interested in your experience and qualifications and are likely to skip over this section entirely,” he says.
Myth: Include all of your soft skills. “In an attempt to match a job ad’s requirements, some job seekers overuse the listed soft skills, such as ‘strong team leader,’ without placing enough emphasis on accomplishments,” Baehr says.“Many job seekers go as far as copying entire sentences from a job ad into their resume practically verbatim. Collectively, this creates a generic resume.”A resume with achievements that tells a story is best, she adds.
Myth: Never use color. Nicolai says color makes a statement and is an extension of your personal brand. “In today’s career world, a fully functioning and eye-catching resume includes an inclusive marketing strategy including splashes of color and tightly written copy. All colors, when used appropriately, have their place on resumes; from CEO’s to entry-level.”
She says when using color and the universal meaning of color, we are telling the prospective employer a bit more about our brand and our commitment to deliver.
“In short, your resume is your ‘soup can or cereal box label.’ If a company is shopping you, do you want to show up as a generic label, or a label with a brand promise?”
Myth: Achievements should be highlighted in a separate section. “Recruiters tend to focus on your overall work experience and are looking for related achievements from each position you’ve held,” Bollinger explains. Laying out your achievements in a separate section will likely cause recruiters to skip it in order to get to the meat of your work experience, he says. “To really put your achievements front and center, include them in a list under each relevant position.”
Myth: Targeted resumes are too narrow. Targeted resumes are both necessary and smart, Nicolai says. “Recruiters have little time to read through the piles of resumes. Do yourself a favor and take the time to focus your resume on the exact position you are seeking. If you build a comprehensive strategy into the content, layout, and design, you can build a targeted resume that can be used when posting for multiple (similar) positions.”
Myth: Hit the thesaurus for action verbs. “No need to break out the thesaurus,” Bollinger says. “Bright’s research has shown that it’s not necessary to come up with three different ways to say that you’ve achieved your goals at every position you’ve ever held.” So, don’t worry about coming up with a new action verb for every bullet point; it’s ok to reuse them. Just make sure you’re showcasing your skill set and qualifications to make the biggest impact.
Myth: Full name, address, email and phone number are required. Having a contact section has no impact on a recruiter’s decision to take your resume out of the slush pile, Bollinger says, “However, if you want to land that interview, make the recruiter’s job as easy as possible and include as much contact information as you are comfortable with sharing.”
By Jacquelyn Smith