Which Of These Pieces Of Conventional Wisdom Is Actually True Regarding Good Resume Writing?

Resume writing can be very confusing. Some of the common questions when writing resumes are: what content should you include, what information shouldn’t you include, how should you format the resume, and what is the ideal page length for a resume. These are all very valid, and answers depend upon job tenure, role, industry, and other specific factors. However, on a broad scale, here are some true and false answers regarding good resume writing.

Lots of Formatting and Design Work

False. One of the most common misleading statements taught in college and high school is that your resume “must stand out”. While your resume should be differentiated from competitors, “standing out” usually implies some sort of fancy design, or complicated format, or intricate color scheme. None of that is necessary, and in fact, usually, those elements are negatives. Not only can images and designs mess with applicant tracking systems (ATS), but they’re also highly subjective, and you want the resume to induce as little bias as possible. A plain black and white resume that flows smoothly from top to bottom is your best bet for getting through the ATS and receiving a thumbs up from a recruiter or hiring manager.

Include A Professional Summary

True. A professional summary at the top of the resume is critical for modern resume documents. This is one of the best areas for keywords, as ATS usually scans the resume from top to bottom, and picks up more keywords and phrases towards the top. The summary is also a place where you can distinguish yourself by articulating what makes you different from your peers and colleagues. Items that can be included in the summary include personality traits (calm, energetic, passionate), skills (analytical, communication, problem-solving), and general experience (leading global projects, building teams, developing a book of business, etc.) A strong summary will go a long way towards getting you an interview.

Use Bullet Points

True. While the summary should be a single medium-sized (five to seven-line) paragraph, most of the rest of the resume should be in bullet points. These are much easier to read and digest than walls of text, and help recruiters and hiring managers to find key pieces of information and achievements much more easily. By breaking specific duties, accomplishments, and responsibilities into bullet points, you can more clearly showcase what you did, how you did it, and what the results were.

Include All Your Career Experience

False. While some people should include the entirety of their professional experience on the resume, such as entry-level candidates or people who have only worked one or two jobs, most professionals don’t need to list out every single position they’ve held. There are multiple reasons for this. First, if you’ve worked more than a few jobs, this can push the resume beyond two pages, which is not recommended for most professionals outside of certain fields. Second, a lot of times, such positions will be duplicative – if you’ve worked the same basic sales role at eight different companies, including largely similar bullet points won’t add anything to the resume. Finally, such experience can be dating (if older than 20 years/before the year 2000), and also probably just won’t be relevant, as technologies, systems, and processes were so much different even 10 years ago that the experience won’t be as impactful. So, under certain circumstances, you can include all of your career experience, but by no means do you have to.

Include Volunteer Work and Activities Outside of Work

False. Occasionally, it can be useful to include volunteer work or “extracurricular” activities. This can be for entry-level candidates, people who were unemployed and did such activities in that time period which can “cover” job gaps, or if those opportunities align with your professional career and what you hope to do (coaching your daughter’s soccer team on weekends when you’re trying to be a full-time sports coach). For most people, however, such volunteer and “fun” activities aren’t especially relevant, and won’t be of much interest to people reading the resume. Additionally, these topics are usually brought up in the interview or application process, so don’t need to be included on the resume regardless.

While certainly not a comprehensive look at good resume writing practices, we hope the above topics answer a few common questions regarding what you should or not be doing on your resume!


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