When it comes to résumés, there’s a ton of advice out there on how to get it right.
And, to be honest, some of it is just downright wrong.
A lacklustre résumé is the quickest way to get your job application thrown out altogether, so it’s important to separate the helpful advice from the nonsense.
Business Insider spoke with several résumé experts about the worst CV advice out there.
Here are their top picks:
1. Bad advice: Keep it to one page, no matter what
Better advice: Lengthen your résumé along with your career and experience
This seems like a controversial one, but four of the experts Business Insider spoke with said that one-page résumé are obsolete — at least when it comes to great or highly experienced candidates.
“This can be a job search killer, because a great candidate should have more than one or two accomplishments per role to promote on their résumé,” Amy Adler, a certified master résumé writer, management coach, and CEO of Five Strengths told Business Insider in an email. “If a candidate has held, say, five jobs in the last 25-30 years, and they follow the old-school approach of listing two to three ‘responsibilities’ per job, that gives the same amount of résumé real estate to the most current and likely the most advanced role as it gives to whatever that person was doing in the late eighties.”
She said that two to three pages is a fine number for more experienced candidates, if that’s what’s needed to “deliver a comprehensive, compelling résumé.” She added that a readable font and an appealing design are particularly crucial for longer CVs.
“Remember — the audience doing the hiring wants an easy sell, so if the candidate is keeping their audience’s needs for content and readability in mind, the hiring executive will certainly want to read more, not less, and use the résumé for what it’s designed to do — generate a call for an interview,” Adler said.
“Yes, statistics show that recruiters have short attention spans,” Augustine said. “That said, there’s no reason why a senior executive with 20 years of experience should be expected to condense all their accomplishments and major contributions to one page. It’s only if you’re new to the workforce that you’re expected to stick to a one-page document.”
So, if you’re no longer constrained by the “one page rule,” how can you make sure that your résumé grabs the recruiter’s attention?
“Our belief is that if you need a second page to complete your professional story, do it,” Loft Résumés résumé and career strategist SJ Sawhney said in an email. “The correct advice is, ‘Make sure the first page captures the hiring manager’s interest, whether or not there’s a second page.'”
2. Bad advice: Hide the gaps in your career
Better advice: Be honest and constructive
“The worst common résumé advice, in my opinion, is to hide the blemishes of your background in a functional résumé format,” executive résumé writer and Chameleon Résumés managing director Lisa Rangel told Business Insider in an email.
“This is horrible advice for a few reasons. First, anyone with a progressive, linear background will use a reverse-chronological format. So when someone does not use this format and uses a functional format, you are bringing attention to the non-progressive aspects of your background. It’s a résumé-equivalent of screaming, ‘I am trying to hide something about my background!'”
It’s never easy to fill in gaps on your résumé, but, as Mack Gelber writes for Monster, it’s best to just keep things honest and positive: “Before you go to the interview, try to identify a few things you gained from your time away.”
3. Bad advice: Use a fun, eye-catching design
Better advice: Stick the basics unless you’re applying to a creative job
While stories about unusual or unconventional résumés might be popular, Marc Cenedella, founder and CEO of job site The Ladders, said it’s important not to go too crazy with your design.
In most cases, your creativity will just annoy, rather than impress, the hiring manager.
“Don’t use design to show you’re clever,” he told Business Insider in an email. “Infographics, clever fonts, interesting styles, all make it tougher for recruiters, HR people, and machines to read your résumé. Unless you’re applying to be a creative, don’t get clever with your design.”
4. Bad advice: Send your stock résumé out everywhere
Better advice: Create multiple versions of your résumé targeting specific companies and positions
“The worst, common résumé advice is being generic with information and then mass mailing to any and all jobs,” Résumé Writers’ Ink CEO and founder Tina Nicolai said in an email. “This is similar to fishing for a specific fish and using the wrong bait. Far too many candidate leave off pertinent information such as metrics, achievements, business results, number of employees on their team, year-end fiscal results, and leadership competencies. The more specific the résumé is to the targeted job description, the better chances the candidate will be selected for an interview.”
5. Bad advice: Include an objective statement at the top
Better advice: Let your cover letter explain your master plan
Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job,” said that the résumé “objective” is totally obsolete.
“Everyone should have a career goal, job objectives, know where they’re headed, and so on,” Taylor told Business Insider in an email. “But putting an ‘objective’ on your résumé can limit your chances of landing a job.”
How’s that, exactly? Taylor said that your objective might completely miss the mark when it comes to the job you’re applying to. Instead, she recommended explaining your career objective in your cover letter.
“When you initially introduce yourself in a résumé and say, in effect, ‘Here’s what I want,’ is that the first message you want to convey?” Taylor said. “Do you want to put yourself in a box? Or do you want to communicate, ‘Here’s what I offer?’ The latter has more credibility and gives you greater latitude. A good hiring manager can distill from your summary and cover letter (if well-written), what you’re looking for. If not, then you need to rewrite them.”
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