My Five Trend-Resistant Resume Rules

by Eng, Cathy Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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More than ever before, professionals are taking creative, and even risky, chances with their resumes in order to get noticed. While these risks can be a great way to catch a hire manager’s eye in a crowded job market, they can also turn those same managers away. Here are some resume writing rules that should not be broken:

1. Explain your responsibilities. So much advice is given nowadays to provide measurable, high-impact accomplishments, that importance has been taken off of what you actually did in your jobs. Hiring managers want to know you have the experience and skills to do the job, and that can do it better than everyone else. So, tell them what you did in a given week or what your high-level responsibilities were followed by a list of your top achievements or significant contributions.

2. Be confident yet grounded. In an effort to stand out in the currently crowded job market, candidates are desperately trying to stand out and sell themselves – but this backfire big time! I recently read that a hiring manager had a candidate arrogantly tell him, “I’ll have your job in five years.” There is a big difference between radiating confidence and coming off as threatening or boastful. A better way to have phrased that would be to say, “Enthusiastic in my aspiration to learn and grow within your company, ideally in your department and on your team.”

3. Don’t let your resume’s design overshadow it’s content. Including visuals is great, especially when they help to make a point or add a touch of interest (e.g. using a graph to show increases in your sales results, adding a blue line below your branding statement), but there is such a thing as too much. The rule for most professional resume writers is (unless you are an artist or photographer) do not include photos, designs, or other distracting artwork. It just ends up taking away from your fantastic qualifications.

4. Don’t go over two pages (unless you are a C-level executive or college professor). Unless you are a tenured college professor with dozens of books published (in which case you should present a curriculum vitae) or a top CEO with 35 years of experience, there is no need to go over two pages. In fact, most hiring managers will have moved on be the time they get to the end of the second page. For instance, if you want to learn about a person in a hurry and you have the choice of reading a one-page executive summary or a three-page resume, which would you choose?

5. Leave out information indicating religious or political affiliations (unless relevant to your work). Unless you are applying for a position at a church or with a political campaign, the general rule is to avoid including participation in these types of organizations. Although your involvement shouldn’t influence your chances, you would not want to diminish those chances by indicating views that may conflict with a potential employer’s stance or even affect your work.

It is essential to take some chances in your resume to stand out, but these resume blunders are still passé even in the current “anything goes” job environment, and are likely to get your resume thrown out. Use this advice and you are on your way to having a strong, professional resume.