7 resume-writing myths that can cost you the job
From generic resume templates to keyword overload, this is what you need to know to separate fact from fiction on your way to a new job.
There are so many unwritten rules when it comes to resume writing. The problem is, if you haven’t been paying attention (and who could blame you?), you might not realize that the resume format has changed. Unsurprising, some of those old rules no longer apply—and frankly they didn’t make a whole lot of sense to begin with!
As you prepare your resume for job searching, check out some of the most common myths that might strip some shine from your candidacy.
Myth: One resume will work for all jobs
If you think that once your resume is ready you can start sending it all over town, think again. “That could work for job seekers with one clear career goal, but most professionals have several directions they could go,” says resume expert Kim Isaacs. Instead of using a generic “one-size-fits-all” resume template, have a few versions that are tailored to different types of roles. For maximum results, tweak your resume to reflect the requirements listed in each specific job ad. “Employers will appreciate that you cared enough about the job to customize your resume and show how you’re a perfect fit,” says Isaacs.
Myth: Resumes must be exactly one page
Years ago, word got out that a resume should be no longer than one page—and it stuck, says Isaacs. “The resume should be as long as it needs to be to relay the value you bring to the table,” she says.
In fact, if you’ve had several years of experience, it might seem weird if your resume is on the shorter side, says Rachel Gauthier, vice president, practice leader, health care software and services with the Tolan Group, an executive search firm. “Resumes are not getting tossed in the garbage because they have three pages,” she affirms.
What is most important is to make sure that your recent and most compelling information appears on the first page, and that the resume as a whole offers the best snapshot of your accomplishments and qualifications.
Myth: Employment gaps will hurt you, so try to hide them
Some job seekers think that by keeping employment dates vague they can get away with not having to explain a period of unemployment. But it’s more important to be honest, says Isaacs. “Let’s face it—very few people have a perfect job history with no gaps,” she says. And going to great lengths to hide gaps to the point that it verges on dishonesty can backfire.
Along the same lines, it’s also not OK to fudge dates to hide what might appear to be a pattern of job hopping, says Gauthier. “Instead, you can add in the reasons you had transitions. It could be that a company was acquired or absorbed, so you didn’t actually change jobs, but you switched roles,” she says. Or, if you left a job to care for a loved one or to relocate, a very short explanation will suffice.
Myth: Only paid experience counts
The reality is that any experience (paid or unpaid) can be valuable and added to the experience section of your resume, says Isaacs. This is an especially important if you don’t have a long job history, or if you’ve been out of the workforce for some time.
And in many cases, if your volunteer experience is related to a new role that you’re seeking, it might be the very thing that helps you land the job, says Gauthier. “Sometimes if I’m working with a company in a nonprofit space and [a candidate] is active in the community, it can be really important to [the company],” she says. “It shows there’s a passion for the work they do.”
Myth: The more keywords, the better
There’s a lot of misinformation about how applicant tracking system (ATS) technology works; there are multiple platforms on the market, each using a different algorithm, says Isaacs. “Stuffing resumes with keywords you think are important sometimes renders the resume almost unreadable for a human reader,” she adds. A better approach is to naturally weave keywords that pertain to the job throughout the resume. The reality is that a human—not a machine—will make the final decision to interview you or not.
Also worth noting is that ATS technology can recognize a variety of formats, but you should avoid fancy graphics, and know that content found in headers and footers might be passed over.
Myth: Social media links have no place on a resume
While you don’t necessarily want your prospective employers looking at your Snapchat page, they are likely going to research your social media pages anyway. “Including direct social media links that reinforce your brand message—think professional, not personal sites—can save them time,” says Isaacs. Of course, if you’re in a field in which social media stats are important, go ahead and include your number of followers, engagement levels, click-through rates, and other metrics, she adds.
Myth: A resume should only be black and white
For this one, it really depends, says Isaacs. On the one hand, a splash of color could help your resume get noticed in a sea of plain resumes. If you’d like, go with something tasteful, like a simple border, or your name in color. However, be mindful that certain career fields are more open to creativity (i.e. marketing, design) than others that are more traditional (i.e. finance, legal).
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