When It Comes to Your Resume… Good Advice or Bad Tip?

4 min read
A client just shared one of those “trendy” resume articles, written by a renowned national career expert, that appeared in a leading business magazine.

As a career coach and resume writer for 20+ years, I’ve seen the trends come and go. And I’ve also seen, year after year, bad advice that truly hurts jobseekers… at least those naive enough to believe it.

Some of these article writers and experts must not be in the day-to-day business of assisting clients. If I give bad advice, I hear about it, often immediately. If my resume writing, interview skills coaching, or job search services collide with real world realities, I get push-back and feed-back that necessitates that I readjust to ensure the success of my clients.

Other experts are located in the nation’s top markets, like New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, or D.C., locations where resume norms and job search practices can, at times, allow for greater creativity and risk-taking than the rest of the country.

A few selected career fields, primarily in the creative services, designer, and entertainment realms, have always accepted more flair and experimentation in their resumes than allowed by traditional business models.

Now don’t get me wrong… There is plenty of good advice out there – more than ever before. The advice to customize resumes for specific industries and even for specific jobs, the advice to insert measurable data and results, the advice to highlight specific projects and initiatives, and more.

However, here are a few “gems” of really bad advice that I’ve seen recently in “helpful” articles:

Worst Advice Ever

It’s hard to believe that there are so-called experts out there still insisting that everyone should use a 1-page resume. Sure, a single page can be fine for new grads, blue collar folks, those with a limited career background, and for certain specific scenarios…

And by all means, if everything important about your career fits on one page without shrinking the typeface or obliterating the margins, by all means, go for it. However, for the vast majority of professionals, mid-career rising strivers, and others, it is generally understood that a well-crafted, concise, attractive, and accomplishment-based 2-page resume is the safest bet and surest strategy to land most jobs. Some technical or advanced positions may even require additional pages.

Be Careful If You Follow This Advice

One recent article advised jobseekers to remove their physical addresses from the resume… This goes 100% against the current trend toward ATS (computer resume scanning & tracking) systems used more and more frequently by mid to large-sized firms.

ATS software looks for a zip code, partly because of the fact that it will help to generate data by location for EEO and other regulatory reports that can be required by government or lawsuits. Resumes without zip codes are not forwarded by ATS software.

Advice That Is Widely Accepted Yet Partly True

A number of years ago, a ton of articles proliferated stating that the “Objective” – a standard feature of resumes for many decades – had become taboo. This advice, though a bit simplistic, has now become so well established, that it does make sense to follow it, or else appear out of step.

Of course, objectives can be redundant, take up space, be too all-encompassing, or simply represent fluff… However, smart resume writers understand that decision-makers may not wish to take the time to read through an entire resume to determine whether the candidate is applying to be the company’s CEO or custodian.

In many, if not most cases, a resume should, in fact, state the job(s) that the applicant is seeking. This can be accomplished by simply inserting a branding or other statement at the top that identifies the position(s) or levels sought, without using the term “Objective.”

Wacky, Crazy Advice You Should Probably Avoid

The article my client shared with me mentioned at the top of this article had some excellent pointers… Tell stories, insert your LinkedIn profile URL, create framing statements for employers and roles. However, the article, IMHO, ran off the tracks completely when it advised jobseekers to abandon the typical resume voice and style, and instead adopt the use of “I” pronouns and use a casual, conversational tone.

The article also urged readers to stop using bullets, eliminate all job descriptions, and drop off jobs that are not relevant or a number of years back. Each of these admonitions, while perhaps well-intended, could seriously harm your prospects.

Using the “I” pronoun in a resume, while it may sound edgy, will brand you as unintelligent.

Likewise, eliminating all job descriptions from your resume will decimate your ATS scoring and ranking. Removing all bullets out will deter visual clarity. Leaving off jobs from years ago will probably hurt you, as well.

Certainly, you don’t necessarily have to put every single job on your resume, and there is a limit (on a case-by-case basis) as to how far back to go, but just dropping jobs from your resume willy-nilly can absolutely create more questions than it answers.

Totally Insane Advice from Left Field

Then, there are those saying that you should use a video resume. Except in certain very limited cases (entertainers, etc.), this is impractical and unwise. Some say to place your photo on the resume… Don’t do it! Most HR departments will disregard any resume with a photo for EEO compliance and discrimination reasons.

I’ve even read some supposed experts saying to ditch the resume altogether… Good luck with that!

For most jobseekers, and for most positions, there are tried and true best practices that continue to yield the best results, and that’s exactly why they are widespread and enduring.

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