Be aware of the types of myths that are out there and make your own informed decision about how to craft and use this important marketing and job-hunting piece.
Myth #1: Your resume must only be one page in length.
Resumes continue to evolve in style, content, layout and focus. Your father’s resume from the 70’s is not the resume you should be presenting today. When someone tells you that your resume must be one page, ask them “Why?” They will most likely reply that most employers won’t read more than one page. Well, it is true that employers don’t read resumes—they SKIM them. And they are skimming them looking for your accomplishments that match up with the needs of the open position. By eliminating key accomplishments you can be certain they cannot match you with their needs.
Additionally, the “one page only” rule began in the 60’s and 70’s when employees only needed one page. Think of all that has changed: people now change jobs 5-7 times, versus maybe once in a lifetime. We’ve added email addresses, cell phones, graduate schooling, multiple continuing education, certification and training classes; volunteer and leadership positions in many volunteer, professional and civic organizations. How could anyone cram all that into a meaningful one page?
Myth #2: If you do not know what you want, create a general resume so you can be open to lots of different types of jobs.
Would you hire a generalist as your hair stylist? Someone who has had four different careers, one of which was a short stint in hair styling? Or, would you rather hire someone who presents herself as a hair stylist, conveys her passion for her field and is very focused in her goals? You would probably prefer to hire the professional rather than the dabbler.
A general resume is just that, “general”. It focuses on things you have done in your career that YOU think are important. You’ve missed the point. Resumes answer the question of whether you have unique skills for a specific position. By trying to do all things for all people, general resumes end up not showing expertise in anything. If you do not have a specific job and/or industry target, then you are not ready to write a resume.
Myth #3: You must use a reverse-chronological resume that lists your job history.
A reverse-chronological resume details your work history beginning with your most recent job and going backward to your first. You might be told to use this format (especially by a recruiter or staffing agency) because it is “easier” for the reader. It is easier: it points out any gaps in your history, if you jump jobs a lot, if you have gotten promotions in your line of work, what kind of work you have the most experience in, and what industries you know.
However, all of that may not benefit YOU if you have any of the resume issues, problems or challenges listed above. Since a resume tells a story, the reader may assume that you have no focus or very little experience in the job you are seek.
For example, Susan had worked in marketing, as an administrative secretary, had taken time off to raise her daughter, and completed several volunteer leadership positions. She wanted a job in training. A reverse-chronological resume will likely not get her the job she wants.
Instead, she can go through her different experiences and pull out the ones that show she has experience in training: creating presentations, presentations, dealing with customers, public speaking, and scheduling and planning large meetings. These targeted experiences should be showcased in the beginning of the resume, in what is called a “Functional” format.
After all the hard work you put into your resume, you’d like to think that everyone gives your resume the same love and care you gave it. However, the reality is quite different.
A study was done in H.R. offices where the incoming resumes were counted, and the reviewing time clocked. The result was that employers only give your resume between 8 and 15 seconds. They don’t read it, they SCAN it. And so your resume should be formatted and written to tell them what they need to know. No more. No less.
Myth #5: My friend/cousin/neighbor/boss told me…
It is natural to look to others for advice. Be careful though. It is very easy to give advice to others on career issues—many people believe they are qualified to give this advice. Do they know your field intimately? Do they have top-notch business writing skills? Have they done any creative layout and publishing? Have they reviewed hundreds of resumes in a hiring capacity? Can they tell you which keywords are important for your field?
If not, consider taking their advice, mulling it over, and making the final decision yourself. For example, while your son may be a chess player, unless you are highly skilled in the game, your well-meaning advice might actually be harmful to his game!
Remember: the only point of the resume is really to showcase your unique skills and accomplishments to the employer whose needs match watch you offer. There really isn’t a Universal Law passed by Congress that specifies a resume format!