Tag Archives: resume writing

8 outdated résumé rules you can break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 Let’s look at some outdated résumé rules.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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The 5 steps recruiters use to select the best résumés

18921009695_a3d7685229_zThis year my son wanted a Christmas tree, despite the fact he’s allergic to them. I was game. Besides, we know this great tree farm that isn’t well known by other Christmas tree buyers.

(You may skip this story and go right to the 5 steps recruiters use to select the best resume to present to hiring managers, if you’d like.)

My family and I arrived at the tree farm and were surprised by the sparse group of people eager to find their Christmas tree.

Looking up the hill I saw nothing but rows and rows of Christmas trees and a few people, some with dogs, walking through rows of those trees. No one was in a hurry. Why should they be in a hurry?

You might think I was excited to see such an abundance of trees, which at a glance all looked the same. You are correct; I was thrilled to find the perfect tree to take home to our living room.

However, as I got closer to the trees up on the hill, I noticed that they weren’t all perfect. In fact, some of them were pretty bleak with their pine needles turning brown, their branches missing here and there, they were scrawny. In other words, this was going to take work.

What I began to think about was how this mass selection of Christmas trees resembled the mass selection of résumés recruiters get for one job. How they have to sift through all those résumés in order to select the ones to submit to hiring managers (HM). Here are the five steps they must take.

First, reduce the number of résumés to be read

By now you’ve heard about the applicant tracking system (ATS) and understand its purpose, to eliminate as many résumés to read as possible. Simply stated, it screens résumés for keywords and phrases. Those without the proper keywords don’t make the cut.

To give you an idea of the sheer number of applicant for each job: according to Jobvite.com, nearly 100 résumés are submitted for professional positions and 150 for other entry level.

The ATS effectively eliminates 75% of résumés submitted for a position, but even reading 25 résumés can be a burden. (Read 10 reasons recruiters and hiring managers dread reading résumés.)

Second, read the 25 out of 100 résumés chosen by the ATS

Even after the résumés have made it through the ATS, recruiters will take approximately six to ten seconds to read each one to determine if it’s worth a second view.

Recruiters’ job is to look for résumés to disqualify from consideration, rather than qualify them for consideration. It’s a process of elimination. Résumés that make the cut are placed in the “must read” pile.

Third, read the résumés in the “must read” pile

A closer look tells recruiters if the résumés have what it takes based on:

  • Readability: the résumés contain short paragraphs, with no more than three or four lines. Important points are bulleted. Important text is highlighted in bold to stand out from the rest of the text.
  • Accomplishments stand out: they are measurable with numbers, dollars, and percentages. Executive résumés, according to Laura Smith-Proulx are quantified.
  • Shorter is better—two pages—but I’ve spoken with recruiters who will read three- even four-page résumés. The more pages, the easier the ATS to see you, my dear.
  • Demographics: Determine if the applicants’ demographics fit the role. Does he live close enough to the company? Does his work history show too much or enough years of experience? What size companies has the applicant worked at?

Fourth, determine which two, three, or four résumés to submit to the hiring manager

The recruiter’s reputation is riding on the best candidates to submit to the HM, so the résumés must impress him. He must be sold on the candidates’ accomplishments, which must be relevant.

For example, although a candidate has outstanding accomplishments as an individual contributor—increased revenue 80% by generating business in uncharted territory—but the job calls for a person with management experience, he probably isn’t a good fit.

Personality fit is also key in the recruiter’s decision. But how does the recruiter see candidates’ personality in a résumé? It’s not an easy task for the job seeker to accomplish, but a résumé that demonstrates a human voice without use of fluff and cliches is preferred.

The use of personal pronouns is typically frowned upon, but when used sparingly can emphasize the job seeker’s skills and accomplishments. By sparingly I mean used only in the Performance Profile section.

Fifth, defend the recruiter’s choice to the hiring manager

A well written résumé should not be difficult to defend. After all, it has passed the ATS, the six-second glance, a more extensive review, has presented relevant accomplishments, and has given the recruiter a sense of the job seeker’s personality…as best it can.

But the résumé is a document that can’t reveal as much as the interviews conducted by the recruiter, HR, and the hiring manager. This is a the first step in the process, albeit a very important step. The recruiter must sound convincing when she presents her decision to the HM, perhaps second guessing the choices she’s made. Let the interviews begin.

Back to the story: The Christmas tree our family chose was one of the best in our family’s history. It was the ideal height and width. It only shed a few pine needles. But my wife wondered aloud if the short needles would be as good as the longer needles.

To me, it was a Christmas tree that we selected together. Was it perfect? No, but what is?

When someone writes your résumé, they need to thoroughly interview you. The experts will tell you

You’d think that writing a résumé that is typically one, two, three, or even four pages long shouldn’t be difficult, yet even the most accomplished professionals find it daunting. Self-analysis is not an easy thing, as it involves some soul searching and brutal honesty.

Although some can easily identify their skills and experience, others need help in the form of a résumé  interview. Professional résumé writers will tell you that the interview is just the beginning of the entire process.

My Résumé  Writing workshop attendees often confess that they dread writing their résumé —these are people who have written white-pages, proposals, product documentation, newsletters, and other business correspondences. To answer them, I’ll say, “You just have to do it. Your livelihood depends on this document.”

The workshop runs two and a half to three hours long, depending on the number of questions I get as well as how talkative I am. The focus of the workshop is to help my customers 1) formulate a strategy, 2) position themselves through a Summary/Personal Profile, and 3) sell themselves to the employer by showing quantified accomplishments. This, however, is all theory. In other words, it tells them how they should go about revising an existing résumé , how to make it stronger.

Where my customers benefit the most is when I meet with them one-on-one. They revise their résumé  after the workshop and then send a copy of it to me. I’ll review and write comments on it, usually pertaining to a lack of accomplishments and/or a Summary statement that fails to illustrate their job-related skills. If their résumé  is outstanding, I’ll say so; but in most cases it needs at least some minor work.

What results from the critique is usually a soul-searching meeting where I’ll interview my customers for half an hour to dig into their background. The interview process is where it comes together for them. It’s the “Oh Yeah” moment where they see better their accomplishments and understand why a Summary statement full of fluff is not impressive.

“You say in your Summary that you trained staff to be more productive,” I’ll begin. First of all, employers have seen this claim many times. How can you elaborate on it? Give me a WOW factor.”

“OK. When I trained other staff on how to use the proprietary office management software, I noticed a rapid improvement in their output, perhaps double what they were doing prior to my training. Do you mean like that?”

“Exactly. Now tell me more about your training style. Why was it effective?”

“Oh, and also I won an award for training my colleagues. I, like, totally forgot about that.”

And so it goes. With fresh new ideas in their heads, my job seekers leave my office armed to revise their résumé  for yet another time, and probably not the last.

Some jobseekers have the resources to hire a professional résumé  writer who will guide them through the entire process, beginning with the interview and culminating with a product that should get them a number of interviews.

I won’t dissuade my customers who ask me if they should hire a writer, especially if they can afford the cost. However, there’s one condition I lay down; if a résumé  writer is going to take their money, the writer must interview them for an appropriate length of time before going to work writing it.

I’ve seen too many job seekers come through our urban career center with a poorly written résumé . In some cases, they spend up to $700 for a résumé  that is worth no more than the paper on which it’s printed. One woman I spoke to said she was interviewed for 10 minutes. What she showed me was no more than a work timeline with a long column of keywords. Oh, but it had a nice border around it. Plainly stated, it wasn’t a résumé .

Writing one’s own résumé  takes self-reflection, so it follows that assisting with or writing another person’s résumé  requires the time to completely understand the client’s relevant experience, scope of their duties, and, most importantly, what accomplishments they’ve achieved that separates them from the rest of the pack.

WHAT THE PROFESSIONALS SAY:

Wendy Enelow, Co-Owner of Career Thought Consortium and author of many résumé  writing books, articulates in one of her blogs the need to capture her clients’ accomplishments: “As professional résumé  writers, we all know that a great deal of a résumé ’s effectiveness is based on accomplishments—what a job seeker has done to improve operations, increase revenues, strengthen bottom-line profits, reduce operating costs, enhance business processes, upgrade technologies, and so much more.” To write about a job seeker’s accomplishment, the résumé  writer must invest time in learning about that person. Wendy puts no limit on the time it takes to interview her clients and write some of the best résumé s out there.

Darrell DiZoglio, Owner of RighteousRésumé s, emphasizes the importance of setting his clients apart from the ordinary. He states, “[Clients] want a serious advantage over their competition in the race to get hired and do not mind paying for it. It is my mission in life to give it to them.” I’ve spoken with Darrell on a few occasions and got the impression that he loves what he does and takes pride in producing the best possible résumé s for his clients. When talking about the time he takes to interview his clients, he says, “I don’t wear a wristwatch.”

“The amount of time I spend interviewing a client before pen is put to paper is no less than 2 hours, but there is no restriction on time. Our process is one of working to accomplish a goal that is not driven by time.” states Marjorie Kavanagh, President of Panoramic Résumé s. She also says the interview process helps people realize accomplishments they may not have considered.

Tracy Parish, CPRW, Executive Résumé  Writer, says that sometimes her clients don’t talk enough. But knowing the importance of getting valuable information from them, she won’t give up until she has that information. She mentions a funny occasion when her fear of a silent client was subsided after she used her charm to warm him up, “I’ve also had the extreme where you couldn’t get them to talk at all. I’m usually great at getting them to open up. One guy had his wife sit in on the call too—she warned me he wouldn’t talk much so I thought having her there for input would be nice. However, he talked so much [his wife] was shocked. She told me she had never seen anyone get him to talk so much!”

Whether my customers attend my workshop and a critique session or pay someone to write their résumé , the interview process is an essential component of the process. I understand the difficulty of interviewing job seekers, as do the professional résumé  writers who I contacted; but when done well, it lays down the foundation of the most important document of their life.


For those of you who are trying, hang in there and have hope

I’m going to preface this article by saying plenty of jobseekers I know are conducting a proactive job search but to no avail.

They’re not relying completely on the job boards, placing all their cards on recruiters, sending out cookie cutter resumes, and wasting their time on more ineffective job search methods. In other words, they’re trying. I and other career trainers see your efforts and applaud you.

A recent article on wjs.com called No Market for Lazy Jobseekers, Ruth Mantell, might give you the impression that we career search pundits think conducting the proper job search will guarantee you a job. That we don’t understand the emotional and financial difficulties that consume many people who have been unemployed for one month or one year.

The article notes 10  lazy job-seeking habits. And while they may be accurate, the article doesn’t take into consideration the complexity of finding a job in today’s economy. It doesn’t feign empathy for those who have done what has been asked of them in terms of conducting the proper job search.

But our mission as job search trainers is to give guidance. It isn’t to dwell on the unfortunate realities of unemployment. To that end, we can only point out obvious mistakes, as noted in the article, and offer up suggestions that make for a more productive job search.

Some career trainers like me have lost a job, or two, and understand the despondency heightened by day after day of activity with little progress. The words “it sucks” don’t quite cover the emotional rollercoaster you…I’ve…gone through.

To say, “We get it” is accurate. We understand that telling jobseekers how to find work is often easier said than done; but, at the same time, to conduct a job search based on blasting out hundreds of résumés a month does not constitute a viable campaign.

Point two of the article, Using a Stock Résumé, is very sound advice. Violating networking etiquette is not cool, and asking only what your network can do for you is asking for trouble. There’s no arguing against Ms. Mantell’s advice. To honestly say, “I’m doing everything right but nothing’s working” is fair and should be rewarded.

For what it’s worth, I appreciate you following through on writing targeted résumés, cover letters, and approach letters; going to the interviews prepared for the tough traditional questions and even tougher behavioral question. I’m thrilled to see your efforts on LinkedIn. Glad to link up with you when you send invites to me (even with default invitations). All of this is not for naught.

When you get a job, I’m thrilled. I don’t attribute it to my advice, because you’re the one who did the leg work and sat in the hot seat. You sent the thank you letters. Some of you came back after a short stint, while others made the temp-to-perm job a permanent one. (Pete, you still owe me a cheesecake.)

I still assert that there are proper methods to use in the job search and will continue to point them out. I will not provide the slightest window of opportunity for self-pity, as this is behavior for you to harbor and not let it surface in workshops or while networking or at an interview.

I’m fond of saying, “Hang in there” when other words escape me. So that’s what I’d like you to do. Never give up. Never question your abilities, even if you’ve been off the horse for a while now. And know that you have the support of career trainers, because our mission is to help you to find work. If you read this and feel that I feel you, drop by to say, “Hey” or send an e-mail to confirm you’ve gotten my message. Hell, tell me to jump off a cliff with my condescension. Whatever works…works.