8 Resume Myths Debunked

When you set out to find a new job the first task at hand is to update the dreaded resume. I say dreaded because most people have no idea what to put on a resume; they either include every personal detail about themselves or so little information you’d think they were part of the witness projection program.

The truth is a good resume lies somewhere in between. And even though everyone conceptually knows that, people are never quite sure where to draw the line. So to see if you have respectable, up-to-date resume-writing skills, take this true-or-false resume quiz. You may be surprised to find out you don’t know as much about writing an effective resume as you may think.

1. A resume is a personnel document

False. A personnel document lists facts about you, such as your name, address, phone number, birthday, education history, etc. It’s all dry data that doesn’t tell the reader anything about who you are or what you’re capable of doing.

A resume, on the other hand, is a promotional piece about YOU. Think of it as a commercial that sells you to a company that’s considering you for work. You have to ask yourself why would this company want to hire me? Think back to the previous work experience that set you apart from others. Are you an industrious worker? An idea person? A problem solver? Give specific examples that illustrate your strengths by stating a problem, then explaining how you solved it. For example, “Developed an in-house inventory database that saved the company $150,000 in its first year of use.”

Here’s a good way to tell if your resume works: If you can take your name out and replace it with any other person you worked with at your old company, and it’s still basically true, then your resume is junk.

2. A resume is about your past jobs

False. The folks hiring don’t really care what you did. They want to know how effective you were at doing it. So just to say you were the “HR Manager; duties included maintaining the employee handbook…” doesn’t tell us if you were good at your job or not. However, if you were to say, “HR Manager; Converted the employee handbook to an online, interactive document so that employees always had access to the latest information…” well, now we’re learning more about what you’re capable of.

And by the way, avoid using passive terms like “duties included,” “responsibilities were,” and instead replace them with proactive, task-specific statements about yourself like “Wrote a software program that automated the analysis of wind tunnel data, thus increasing the return of test results by 50%.” If possible, list your work as quantitative – meaning your productivity was measurable.

3. The most important thing on a resume is your objective

True. An objective shows your interviewer that you have a sense of direction. In the past, you may have heard that listing an objective limits your possibilities. On the contrary, it indicates you’ve put some thought into your future and that you have career goals. Employers like to hire people who know what they want out of a job, because these are the people who come up with the big, creative ideas to get there.

4. Never list unpaid work or work gaps

False. List it all; volunteer work, internships, boards on which you’ve served (if your service is relevant to the job you’re applying for). You should even go ahead and include the years you took off to stay home and be a parent. Used to be you were encouraged to try to hide that stuff, but not anymore. The reason? It shows you’re not always motivated by just money. And in the case of staying home to be a parent, it implies you can handle this job and parenting, or else you’d be at home with the kids in the first place.

5. Combine short term jobs into one line item

True. Individually listing every little, short-term job you ever had clutters up your resume. For example, if you were a self-employed graphic designer for three years, and in that time you had 10 clients, then just say, “2001-2004: Graphic Designer (self-employed). Client list and references available upon request.” But then have that list and those references on hand in case your interviewer asks for them.

6. Go back only 10 to 15 years

True. Good gosh, if you’re 51 years old and your first job out of college 30 years ago was working as a Fed-Ex delivery guy, but now you’re applying for a position as a branch manager at a bank, we don’t care that you used to drive a truck. Plus, going back only 15 years allows you to be vague about your age, which legally an interviewer can’t ask you about, anyway. Just list your history as Recent Work Experience, and don’t include your college graduation date unless it’s a requirement for the job (like an M.S. or Ph.D.).

7. Listing hobbies on your resume is a good idea

True and False (trick question). If you have a hobby that’s pertinent to the job you’re applying for, then yes, include it. For example, if you’re applying as an art director, and you dabble in photography, then that might help get you hired. However, we don’t care if you’re into needlepoint, scrapbooking, Moroccan cooking, or origami napkin folding. Share those fascinating nuggets around the water cooler after you’re hired.

8. Decorative resume paper gives you an edge

False. It looks pretentious and goofy, plus black ink on colored paper can sometimes be hard to read. According to the career website, The Employment Spot, it’s true that there may be that one interviewer out there who loves it when applicants get artsy, however you just never know. It’s not uncommon for resumes on colored paper to become confused with junk papers and get tossed in the trash. Better to stick to white or ivory paper, using a resume format appropriate to the job you’re applying for.

So how’d you do on the quiz? Are you a resume king or queen? If you have additional thoughts or a resume tip you’d like to share, we’d love to hear it. Post a comment and enlighten us all! (Every little bit of advice helps.)

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One Comment

  1. Dee Peressini
    Posted March 5, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Great advice Stacy. I’m re-doing my resume right now!

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