Tag Archives: Breaking Resume Rules

8 outdated résumé rules you can break

The way résumés are written today is different than it was 10 years ago. Résumé writers and job seekers are breaking some résumé rules, and…that’s okay. Because what it comes down to is not how a résumé looks, it’s what it says. Let’s look at some outdated résumé rules.

Broken Rules

1. It’s okay to brag

If you want to call it that. There was a time, not too long ago, when touting your success was considered bragging. Now you need to separate yourself from other job candidates. It’s simply not okay to present a grocery list of duties; you need to show how well you performed those duties.

So, if you trained 12 employers on CRM software over the course of 9 months, precluding the need to hire a consultant. And if this saved the company $200,000, shout it out. It’s not wrong to tout your successes.

2. Font

Résumés used to be written in serif font, such as Times New Roman, but the trend now is sans serif, such as Arial and Calibri. Although it was believed that reading text on paper is easier if the content is written in Times New Roman, this belief has been thrown out the window. I must agree that reading a magazine that has sans serif font is a bit strange.

3. Bold words and phrases

How do you get words to standout, jump off the page, make an impact? You bold the text. Don’t bold all the text on you résumé, only a few words and phrases. I know it looks a little weird, but help the person reviewing your résumé to see what’s important. You get the idea.

4. No Address

Sorry, I’m not home. Résumé writers are suggesting to their clients that they preclude their home address. I am, too. The reason I advise my clients to leave their home address off their résumé is because 1) it’s not necessary 2) hiring authorities might rule you out of consideration because of location, and 3) it takes up space.

To the second point: I recall asking a recruiter friend of mine to take a quick glance at one of my client’s résumé. That’s exactly what he did; after looking at it for 2 seconds he told me the résumé was no good. Why? My client lived 50 miles from the company.

5. Headline

Go ahead and let loose; write a headline, like that on your LinkedIn profile, that briefly describes what you do and some of your areas of expertise. If you’re worried about space, it should only take two lines. I like to call this a Branding Headline in my Résumé Advanced and LinkedIn Profile workshops. Here’s one from one of my clients:

Sr. Director New Business Development
Major Account Management | Marketing | Sales Growth | Relationship Development

The Headline is a fairly new idea, but the most professional résumés have them under their contact information.

6. Point of view

Some people recoil when they see a résumé that is written in first person point of view. I’m guessing that 20 years ago we were told no personal pronouns like I, me, we , they, etc. on your résumé. Why? Just because. A better answer to this is that your name is written at the top. It’s assumed that you’re writing about yourself; therefore, no need for writing, “I.”

I’m of a different opinion on this matter. I think it’s fine if you want to use personal pronouns in your Performance Profile or Value Proposition. But to use them throughout, that goes a little too far. Thank goodness for the LinkedIn profile, which encourages personal pronouns.

Please read: 4 reasons why personal pronouns are acceptable on your résumé

7. Page length

Your résumé should be one-page long, no exceptions. Bunk. Two pages are fine. Even three pages depending on your level and/or the accomplishments you must tout (within your 10-15-year work history).

The problem with limiting your page number is 1) you can’t describe your greatness, unless you only have five-years of experience, and 2) you limit the keyword density required to pass the applicant tracking systems (ATS).  One-page résumés are old school.

8. Your résumés can include clichés

It pains me to say this, but if you want your résumé to pass the ATS scan, you may have to include some words résumé writers consider to be taboo. My clients will tell you that clichés, or fluff, is one of my pet peeves; however, it all begins with the employers. They are the ones that write horrid job posts loaded with fluff.


These are 8 résumé rules you can break. Actually I forgot to mention one I just broke in the previous sentence. Forget the rule that says you have to spell every number less than 10. No one said the résumé has to be grammatically correct—after all, we don’t begin each sentence with a subject. Do we?

Photo: Flickr, Jordi Calaveras

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