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: firstname.lastname@example.org.” 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.