Great resume advice – that is really terrible

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Dec 04

There is a lot of resume advice out there (including this site). The brutal truth is...a lot of that advice is really, seriously terrible. If you follow that advice, you won't get the interview and wonder why that happens when you are following supposedly good advice.

So let's get rid of some resume myths and why you shouldn't do what those pundits say.

Your resume should be a single page long

Even if you are just coming out of college, your resume should be more than one page long. And if you have any sort of time in your career, even two pages is too short.

Yet pundits keep pointing to having a single page resume.

Yes, the first page of your resume is vitally important -- but most pundits don't address this. Instead, they simply promote having a single page resume.

You can't possibly describe your accomplishments on the job, describe your job skills, and show how your job skills match the job description on a single page. Unless, of course, you like reading 3.5 typeset or something.

Should your resume be one page? An emphatic "no" -- the first page is important, but if you need more space, you should use it.

Write a custom resume for every job

You have to wonder how people do this -- unless they are writing a single page resume!

Writing resumes is hard; writing a new resume for every position you apply for is difficult and time consuming. You'll spend more time writing resumes than finding jobs.

The key to customizing every resume for every job isn't to rewrite your resume for each submission, but have a way to customize your resume that is easily done and doesn't take too much time.

Using key words to beat the Automated Tracking Systems (ATS)

This is a bit tricky as ATS systems will reject your resume in an Intel microsecond.

So the pundits give you advice that says to "select key words" to put in your resume:

Another key to passing the bot test is tailoring your resume to include some of the keywords or skills from each job posting. If you’re unsure of which words to choose, Augustine recommends pasting the text from the ad into a free word cloud app, which will tell you which resume skills, technologies, and qualifications the posting references most frequently.

Here's the reason this is tricky: you need to have the ATS find your resume. But the way you do that isn't for you to figure out what key words to create in your resume -- how would you know how to do that? 

And besides, it's way overcomplicated. 

Do you want to know how to get your resume found for the position by those nice automated systems? And then have the human that reads the result figure out that you have the job skills to do the job?

Here's how:

  • Use standard job titles in your resume. If your corporate job title is " Data Janitor III," put that in your resume as your corporate job title. But also put your title in there as "Database Administrator" because that is the standard industry job title for the position you are looking for. 
  • Ensure that each job skill required or optional in the job description is in the job skills section of your resume. You have to have the skill, of course. 

Instead of you trying to figure out what key words to use, do those two things and, trust me, the automated system will find you. And so will the human who wants to give you an interview that reads the results.

Use the bottom of the resume to show your personal interests

Put your personal interests at the bottom of the resume. And the reasoning that is always given is that the hiring manager will somehow magically have the same interests as you and want to hire you.

My humble response to that is the hiring manager could also look at those interests and just as easily not bother giving you an interview.

Suppose you are an animal activist and you put that down in the personal interest area of your resume. Then you apply to a company that has a division -- one you are not applying into -- that does drug testing on animals (as it is required to do in the US). Do you think that company wants any animal cruelty activists employed in their company. 

Um...no.

Now if you get to an actual interview and you are asked about some job skill you don't have from your work, but do have from activities you participate in (like President or on a board of a non-profit group), you can consider bringing that up during the interview.

But the Cubicle Warrior rule is talk about business accomplishments and results, not personal hobbies or activities.

There are more...

You get the idea - it's tough to figure out what's "good" advice and what's "bad" advice.

Here's a framework:

  • Does the advice help you match your job skills to the resume?
  • Does the advice help you show your job skills on the first page?
  • Does the advice help you show your accomplishments on the first page?
  • Does the advice help you show you can achieve business results for the potential hiring manager?

I have a point of view of what should be in the resume, of course. If you read resume advice and wonder if it's good or not, this framework will help you make a decision.

What's the worst resume advice you've been given? The best?

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