There are a lot of resume “rules” out there. But in my opinion, there aren’t any actual resume rules. More so there are resume best practices, and that’s what this video covers.
Let me debunk some resume myths, disprove some bad resume rules and advice, and demystify resume misconceptions.
1. Your resume must be a certain length, either 1 page or 2 pages.
Your resume needs to be as long as it needs to be to tell your story properly.
If you feel you need a rule of thumb in order to guide you with building your resume, I go by these guidelines:
Less than 5 years of work experience in target role = 1 page resume
More than 5 years of work experience in target role = 2 page resume
C-suite level executives can often find themselves needing a 3 page or 4 page resume.
2. You should hide your career gaps.
This is dangerous advice because anyone who reviews resumes as part of their job, like a recruiter or talent acquisition professional, will quite quickly see through any attempt to hide a career gap.
Instead, you want to address your career gaps head on, with a 1-line explanation.
You need to tell the reader how you’ve productively been spending your time.
You can watch any of these videos where I dig into career gaps in more detail:
3. A designed resume is necessary to stand out.
Spending a lot of time on designing your resume won’t help you get an interview.
Especially if you’re using a resume template from say Etsy, Canva, or Microsoft Word. They aren’t optimized for both reading by a human and reading by the Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS.
Instead, go for a simple structure.
A simple resume will beat out a sexy resume any day.
Check out this whole playlist on resume formatting.
4. All accomplishments need to be quantifiable accomplishments.
A quantifiable accomplishment isn’t always the best accomplishment.
I have experience managing budgets of $500,000 annually. But I’m applying to a job that requires me to manage a budget in the millions of dollars. Will mentioning my $500,000 budget look good on my resume? Possibly not.
When quantifying an accomplishment makes it look like we play smaller than we actually do, we need to reassess how we communicate that accomplishment (probably a number won’t cut it).
Check out my JobScan article on how to write an accomplishment that isn’t actually quantifiable:
I do recommend quantifiable accomplishments when they make sense. Emphasis on when they make sense.
5. If your work experience isn’t relevant to where you’re headed, you need to cut it from your resume.
I’ve seen job seekers create huge career gaps for themselves this way.
Please don’t start chopping roles from your resume simply because they don’t seem relevant.
There’s always a common thread that connects even the most disparate roles. All skills are transferable.
When a job seems irrelevant, you need to work on reframing the work experience to make it make sense to your target direction. Make it relevant to the reader.
6. Everything in your resume should be in a bullet.
BARF. Bullet barf in fact.
Bullets are to be used to highlight information, not convey ALL the information.
Using all bullets to communicate all the information in your resume is like highlighting an entire page of a text book. You’re effectively highlighting nothing.
Instead, I recommend a structure that uses a mix of short paragraphs, followed my strategic use of bullets to highlight accomplishments.
7. When you have a non-traditional or “diverse” career, you need to use a functional style resume instead of a chronological style resume.
Functional resumes include huge blocks of skills at the top of your resume, followed by your jobs, but without any accomplishments allocated to the jobs.
The functional resume doesn’t work. It’s a hated format by people in hiring. They don’t work for the 6-second scan.
Instead, we want to go for a chronological format to give ourselves the best shot during that 6-second review.
8. You don’t need a cover letter.
A cover letter is your opportunity to tell more of your story, as well as address any red flags.
There’s always the possibility your cover letter doesn’t get read. But you can’t control that part. You can only control how well you write your cover letter and that you actually submit it.
What resume rules have you heard that make you scratch your head? Tell me in the comments!
I just want to leave you with this: in my opinion, there is only one rule for resume writing and that’s that you always want to make sure what you share in your resume is honest and truthful. Other than that, just focus on a well-written document with a simple structure, and you’re setting yourself up for success.