There is a lot of misinformation floating around regarding what is acceptable in resumes and what isn’t. What frustrates me most is that there are people out there sharing this “advice” as fact, and other people, out of fear, are taking that advice seriously.
Last week, I was chatting with my friend’s colleague and we got on the subject of resumes. Here’s what she said:
“I need to update my resume because I know you’re only supposed to use 3 bullet points per job now.”
But, it isn’t this person’s fault. There’s bad advice EVERYWHERE. I hear of from friends, clients, and even online.
And I’m hear to put a stop to it.
I am a reliable source.
I’m a Certified Resume Strategist with the Career Professionals of Canada.
I’ve had samples of my resumes evaluated in 2019 by fellow Certified Resume Writers this who called my work “exceptionally strong”.
I also review hundreds of resumes per year as a hiring manager.
If you can’t trust my advice... who can you trust?
(As you can see, the title wasn’t an exaggeration... I really am pissed... yay emotions!)
Now for the helpful part...
1. Your Resume has to be One Page
Unless you’re applying to a job that specifically asks, then no, there is no rule about page count. The goal is to show the hiring manager that you will be good at all the things they need you to be good at. For most of you, that’s going to take more than one page.
If they don’t ask for a specific page count, here’s my suggestion: write a two page resume, unless you are a student or new grad (one page should suffice for you), or you are an executive and/or have 15+ years experience (you could afford three pages).
2. Limit Bullet Points to 3 per Job
There is no limit on bullet points per job. It’s all about prioritizing how you use your space. Typically, your most relevant jobs will use more bullet points than less relevant ones.
*I’ll often include 6-8 bullet points for the most recent job and then 2-3 for older ones.
My advice is to use as much space as you need to show them exactly what you did, as long as it’s relevant to what they’ll want you to be able to do for them.
3. Your Current Job should be Written Exclusively in Present Tense
Yes, when you’re describing the job duties which you currently do on a daily or yearly basis, you should use present tense. But if you’re writing about accomplishments in that same role (which you should be), then those should be written in past tense (because you already accomplished them).
4. You Only Need One Resume
It’s true, you only need one Master Resume, but you should have several slightly different versions for each job you’re applying to. You should be carefully looking at each job posting, identifying what they need you to do in that role, and then tweaking your resume to highlight those skills.
Also, if you have any branding tools involved in your resume (headlines, values, career highlights, key skills) you should be altering those based on the job you’re apply to as well.
5. Its All About Keyword Matching
Using keywords is important but do not obsess over it. I had a client once who’s old resume was filled with nonsensical phrases that had nothing to do with his actual experience. He was proud he had scored an 86% on Jobscan (God, I hate Jobscan), but was confused why he hadn’t gotten a callback for a job in 3 years.
Remember this... easily comprehensible resumes are important and honest resumes are even more important.
Also, if you overuse keywords, automated scanners are going to dismiss you for “keyword stuffing”.
6. You Need a Pretty, Modern-Looking Resume in 2019
I honestly wish this one were true. There are so many beautiful resume templates out there but sadly, we have the dreaded Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to compete with.
Most ATS scanners aren’t sophisticated enough to pick up on things like multiple columns, graphics, or even creative headings. Sadly, the truth is, a simple resume format is the most effective. Sorry, buddy.
7. Bullet Points Should Only Be One Line
WRITE THIS DOWN —> A good bullet point needs: at least one action verb, specific/quantifiable detail on what YOU did, and a tangible result of this action.
If you can fit that in one line, great. If it takes two, that’s fine as well. If it takes three... it better be a very important accomplishment, otherwise, try writing it more concisely.
Most bullet points I write are two lines.
8. If I Practice for Interviews, I Will Come Off as Rehearsed and Not Genuine
Sorry, I know this one’s not resume related but it makes me so mad so I’m including it.
This one’s wrong for three reasons:
You don’t have the exact questions they’re going to ask so there’s no way to practice word-for-word.
You’re just practicing the skill of responding to questions so that you can formulate a nice cohesive interview answer.
Contrary to this theory, the more you practice, the more natural you start to sound. Unless you want those oh-so-natural long-awkward pauses and non-nonsensical repetitive answers to be what they remember you for. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people and it’s easy to tell who has practiced and who hasn’t.
I know practicing seems scary (which is the real reason people don’t do it), but you should be a lot more scared of going into an interview without any practice.
9. You have 6-10 Seconds to Catch Someone’s Eye with Your Resume
I’m not debunking this one, so much as telling you that it’s pretty much true.
This is why branding, and an easy-to-read layout are critical.