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Your Resume MUST Look Like This, or Else!

Contrary to what some people are led to believe, there is not one definitive way to write a resume. While there are some general do’s and don’ts, in the end, it is your resume.

Over the years I have worked with many individuals writing resumes. Some come to me with preconceived notions regarding the “correct” way it should be written. Some admittedly have no clue and basically have me write it. There are varied professional opinions on this topic. I will address some common questions.     

One item that comes up frequently is the length of a resume. I have had some people emphatically insist that it cannot be longer than a page. They were told or read this and seem petrified to go beyond one page. So, what if it is longer?  Will the resume police come and arrest you? My thought on this is if you are a younger person, fresh out of college, your resume probably should not be more than one page. You simply do not have enough of a story to tell. However, if you are further along in your career it most certainly can be more than one page. 

Rebecca Mazin, co-author of the fabulous “HR Answer Book” offers, “resumes for some fields such as academia or not-for-profits tend to be longer.” 

However, it is important not to drone on. Check for repetition if you have held several similar positions. In the same vein, some worry that you must complete each page. Mazin says, “there is nothing wrong with a resume being a page and one half.” This often occurs if someone is presenting a functional resume. The first page will consist of skills and competencies. The next page (or half) will include work experience and education. 

Another item I am often asked about is listing volunteer work. In most cases, yes it should be included. Mazin suggests using the more contemporary title of “other experience.” She believes that it is particularly important if the volunteer work ties into the job you are seeking. For example, a young man she was recently working with was seeking a job in construction. He had volunteer experience with Habitat for Humanity which can and should be noted. 

Talent Acquisition Consultant Steve Green believes volunteer experience should always be included. Green says, “employers support different organizations” yours may just coincide with theirs. He adds, “employers want to see that you are well rounded, that there is more to you than just your job.”  

Resume paper is another concern. Should you use expensive, fancy ecru-colored parchment?  Probably not. Let’s face it, it is almost 2012, most resumes are scanned by software programs that prefer plain old white paper. Steve Green advises “use simple font” computers are not freestyle script friendly.        

Some other tips on frequently asked questions: Green encourages including your LinkedIn URL. He states, “it gives employers another perspective on you.”  Mazin cautions, “do not write email: xxx@wherever.com.” Fifteen years ago it may have been necessary to all attention to the fact that it is an email address.  Everyone pretty much gets it now. Rebecca and I both agree that writing “references available upon request” is old school and should not be written on your resume.

So there you have it. Suggestions for you to consider. The most important thing to be aware of is your resume is usually the first thing an employer will have to learn about you.  Make sure yours represents you well.       

Paul Feiner November 12, 2011 at 11:34 PM
I enjoyed reading this article. Yesterday I interviewed on my WVOX radio show (1460 AM)a rivertowns resident: Peter Herzog who wrote an easy to read book (available on Amazon) giving tips on resume writing--based on his personal experiences. For those out of work- I recommend the book! How To Prolong Your Job Search: A Humorous Guide to the Pitfalls of Resume Writing [Paperback] Peter S. Herzog (Author) I formed a job club a few years ago and share job opportunities with people who join our group. If you'd like to receive job posts at least a few times a week please e mail me at pfeiner@greenburghny.com
Bill November 13, 2011 at 05:38 AM
Another suggestion is to proofread it for obvious (or non-obvious) typos. Good advice for writing articles on Patch as well (hint).
Jerry Eimbinder November 13, 2011 at 12:17 PM
When sending out resumes, here is a piece of advice I have never seen in resume writing guidelines. Check the wording of your telephone answering message. A prospective employer might be turned off by a silly or inappropriate recorded message (even if your friends think it's hilarious).
Lisa Stamatelos November 13, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Excellent point Jerry. Thank you for posting.
Lisa Stamatelos November 13, 2011 at 12:32 PM
Thanks Bill! :)
Maggie24 November 13, 2011 at 01:14 PM
The number one thing missing in this article: always, ALWAYS include a cover letter with the resume, something that speaks to the individual company where you are seeking ajob. Nothing long, two paragraphs at most. Your resume will do the talking about the jobs you've held, but tell me why that experience may be applicable to the position I have open (briefly!!). Show me that you know something about my company, that you have something to offer me if I make an offer to you. That you've taken the time to research what my company does, what it offers. that you aren't just doing some mass mailing. Don't waste my time. Back when I was in management, I would sort through resumes when they came in: those with cover letters in one pile, those without in another--the pile that was tossed. I believed that if the applicant for the job didn't care enough to take the time to add this important element in his conversation with me, he or she wouldn't take the time to do the same with my customers. I hired hundreds of people in my career. This habit never, ever failed me. There are many things that may now be considered old-school--but courtesy is not one of them. Not when it comes to me considering you for a job.
RJ November 13, 2011 at 01:47 PM
Many job postings ask you to email your resume. It's important to know that different people use different programs on their computers and they are not all compatible. Microsoft's word processor that comes free on a home pc is not compatible with the Office version on most business computers. PC's have trouble with files created on a Mac as well. Simply convert your resume to a PDF file before sending it off. PDF files can be opened on both Mac's & PC's. A prospective employer who cannot open your resume will not bother to let you know-he will delete it.
Walt November 13, 2011 at 02:03 PM
Many corporations and organizations also have filters that do not allow "inappropriate" files from being opened. I'm being totally serious but where I used to work a candidate, whose resume was emailed cited "Magna Cum-Laude", would not open on the computer network. I kid you not.
Donna November 13, 2011 at 02:20 PM
If you need help with writing or updating your existing resume, or with career coaching, please contact dave@dlrassociates.biz. visit www.dlrassociates.biz.
Bill November 13, 2011 at 02:28 PM
I'm not sure that I agree with your comment about Office not being compatible with what comes free on home machines, but I do agree that PDF is a good idea if for no other reason that it ensures that the formatting will not change when the recipient opens the file. And there are free programs out there to convert to PDF. For Windows, I like PDF Creator (available from SourceForge), it simply installs itself as a printer and is very easy to use.
Lisa Stamatelos November 13, 2011 at 02:37 PM
While I agree with you, there are those who feel differently. A recent CareerBuilder survey revealed 52% of employers indicated they would consider an applicant resume without a cover letter, 29% said it depended on the position and only 19% said they would not consider an applicant who did not include a cover letter.
Lisa Stamatelos November 13, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Great advice! I can confirm I have deleted resumes that I cannot open.
Lisa Stamatelos November 13, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Wow! Sounds like a great candidate got away.
Lisa Stamatelos November 13, 2011 at 02:42 PM
For free help writing your resume and/or cover letter, come to my class on any Saturday 11:00 - 12:30 at the New Rochelle Library.
Lisa Stamatelos November 13, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Additional free job search assistance: New Rochelle Library BTOP Help Center Located on the library’s 2nd floor conference room, the center is equipped with three computer stations and easy to read resource guides. The activities of the Help Center include one-on-one job readiness sessions (drop-in until appointments are required) with a trained coach/advisor (two days per week); Mondays 10:00a - 1:00p and Saturdays 1:00p - 4:00p
Bill November 13, 2011 at 02:49 PM
On the other hand, unless the same survey said that some companies would NOT look at a resume with a cover letter, including one ensures that you do not get lumped in with the 48% of companies that may not or will not look at it without one.
Bill November 13, 2011 at 02:54 PM
BTW one suggestion related to Linkedin is not to include a link to your Twitter account unless you only post business-related stuff there (and maybe not even then). My son is looking for an internship in the finance industry (he has had interviews with E&Y and Deloitte and has one with Chase this week) and one person he spoke to suggested that he to create a Linkedin account. He did that but then linked his Twitter account there. I suggested he remove it since, while I know there is nothing embarrassing there, prospective employers do not need to see his posts about sports and the like. Do others agree? Would it be better to leave it there so they can see that he is a responsible person?
Leslie Lawler November 13, 2011 at 02:55 PM
I feel differently. I can't tell you the number of cover letters that "pack a punch," and when looking at the resume, I can't believe it's the same applicant. Some applicants tend to oversell themselves in their cover letter. To me, the cover letter is insignificant, and more often than not, the time waster, especially if we're in a crunch for the right candidate. It's the content of the resume that I feel is the draw. I immediate zero in on qualifications, experience and then education and screen and interview based on those criteria. I think caution should also be taken when tossing resumes that did not include a cover letter. If the job posting or ad didn't contain "must include cover letter with resume" as a requirement, there could be potential exposure for discriminatory hiring practices.
Lisa Stamatelos November 13, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Bill - I have my Twitter account connected to my LinkedIn, but, as you suggest, ONLY use it for business related items. From what you have indicated, it does not sound like your son's Twitter posts would hurt him. It might even help if the person is a fan of the same team! (I know, I know what if they like the other team?)
Frank Cimino November 13, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Do you think your job club idea can be expanded to include members by municipality?
Heron November 13, 2011 at 05:26 PM
OHHHHH. This is my problem. I worked at the same company for 25 years. ): Little did I know. I was happy there.
ec November 13, 2011 at 05:34 PM
As a Career Coach (SynergyHRPartners, Inc.) I've encountered many clients who struggle to get "the right resume," as if there is some Platonic ideal resume. I think prospective employers aren't too picky about format (as long as format and length are "reasonable" and spelling is correct). Above all, reviewers are looking for meaningful CONTENT, i.e., what your accomplishments have been and what differentiates you from the hundreds of other applicants. Make sure you know what it is you have to SELL in the marketplace, and please do not lift the verbiage from a job description! Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date (preferably with a photo) and includes at least two recommendations.
Leslie Lawler November 13, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Heron, I assure you that working for one company for 25 years speaks of loyalty, longevity and committment. I've seen many a resume wherein the applicant has listed a dozen jobs in the course of three years. Some of us in HR don't equate that to "an abundance of experience," but rather to "job-hopping." A sound screening, which should include a phone conversation to start, would help the recruiter obtain more details supporting the resume.
Jerry Eimbinder November 13, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Well done everyone. An informative article followed by thoughtful comments.
Bob Gilson November 14, 2011 at 12:45 AM
Another suggestion. Send the resume in Word format as opposed to a PDF. Many systems require the conversion of a PDF file to a Word document. When hundreds of resumes are submitted for one job, the PDF documents often go to the bottom of the "electronic in-box".
Todd Cody November 14, 2011 at 04:03 AM
Thank you very much for that offer. Is that class this Saturday, Nov. 19th
Heron November 15, 2011 at 01:15 AM
What an incredibly condescending comment. "you have all been good here and haven't gotten into any arguments."
Bill November 15, 2011 at 01:40 AM
So you chose to ruin it?
Bill November 15, 2011 at 02:57 AM
Can others comment on this? We had an earlier suggestion to use PDF, and now you're saying not to.

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