Too Many Resume Rules But Only 10 Really Matter

Published: Aug 08, 2013

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Too Many Resume Rules But Only 10 Really Matter You'll Receive Many Opinions of Your Resume; Rely on 10 Sure Things
By Bob McIntosh, Career Trainer

Whose advice should you follow when you’re writing your resumes? Knowing the answer to this dilemma is like having a crystal ball; without it you won’t be 100% sure of who will provide the right answers.

Do you heed the advice of professional resume writers, recruiters, HR, or hiring managers? They all offer good advice, but their advice will be different. In fact, you can ask 20 resume experts their opinions on how you should write your resumes, and you’ll get 20 different answers. So who is correct?

The answer is, “Who knows?” The person who decides if your resume will get you to an interview is the person who invites you in for an interview. Resume reviewers are somewhat subjective when they read resumes, and sometimes there’s no rhyme nor reason.

While one person may like accomplishments listed upfront, another may prefer them listed in your employment section - the easier to know when and where you had your accomplishments. While one person prefers two-page resumes, another might favor one-pagers. While one person may not be concerned with flowery prose in your professional profile, another may hate it, as I do.

The point being, you’re the one who needs to decide if your resume is ready to go. Do you want to drive yourself nuts by having a slew of people give you their “expert” advice, revising your resume twenty times over? Or do you want to take your destiny into your own hands?

Now, there are certain rules on writing effective resumes that you should heed in no particular order. These are ten sure things that need to be in place to offer you the best chance of success.

1. Quantifiable results are a must. Employers are not interested in a grocery list of duties; they’re drawn to significant accomplishments that are quantified with numbers, dollars, and percentages.

2. Please no clichés or unsubstantiated adaptive skills. The new rule is to show rather than tell. Yes, you may be innovative; but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment, reducing violent crime by 50%? If so, state it in your profile as such.

3. Tailor your resume to each job, when possible. Employers don’t want a one-fits-all résumé that doesn’t address their needs or follow the job description. It’s insulting. By the way, for all you job board junkies, a resume using the Target Job Deconstruction method is an adequate alternative to tailoring thousands of resumes.

4. Your resume needs to show relevance. Employers are interested in the past 10 or 15 years of your work history; in some cases less. Age discrimination may also be a concern, so don’t show all 25-30 years of your work life.

5. Keywords are essential for certain occupations that are technical in nature. They’re the difference between being found at the top of the list or not at all. Again, job board faithfuls must have their keywords peppered throughout their resume.

6. Size matters. Some employers are reading hundreds of resumes for one job, so do them a favor and don’t submit a résumé that doesn’t warrant its length. The general rule is two pages are appropriate providing you have the experience and accomplishments to back it up. More than two pages requires extensive experience. In some cases a one-page résumé will do the job.

7. No employer cares what you want. That’s right; employers care about what they want and need. If you happen to care what they want and can solve their problems and make them look good, they’ll love you. So drop the meaningless objective statement that generally reads, “Seeking a position in a progressive company where I can utilize my journalism skills.” Great if the employer cares about your desire to employ your journalism skills. Super great if they need a journalist.

8. Start your resume with a punch. Below your name and contact information lies your branding title. Within 130 characters or so, you can capture the attention of the employer by stating what you do and in what capacity. Senior Engineer doesn’t do it like: Pharmaceutical Sales Rep | Biopharma | Committed to Increasing Revenue | and Enhancing Product Line.

9. Make it easy to read. Your résumé should not only be visually appealing, it should be visually readable. Employers who read hundreds of resume s will glance at them for as few as 10 seconds before deciding to read them at length. Make your résumé scannable by writing shorter word blocks, three to four lines at most.

10. WOW them. Use WOW statements in your professional profile section in the form of accomplishments. That’s right, grab their attention with quantified accomplishments early on. Volunteered to assume the duties of website development and design, while also excelling at pubic relations, resulting in $50,ooo in savings for the company will entice the reviewer to continue reading.

At some point you need to go with what works - a resume that will land you interviews. I don’t care if it’s written on a napkin and delivered in a Starbucks’ cup (it’s been done). If it’s getting you interviews, go with it. If it isn’t getting you interviews, there’s something lacking in your resume, but carefully chose one or two people who can offer you sound advice. And remember the 10 must have’s on your résumé.

About the Author

Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer at the Career Center of Lowell, where he leads more than 20 workshops on the career search. Bob is often the person jobseekers and staff go to for advice on the job search. As well, he critiques resumes and conducts mock interviews. One of his greatest accomplishments is starting a LinkedIn group, which is one of the largest of its kind in the state, and developing three in-high-demand workshops on LinkedIn. Bob’s greatest pleasure is helping people find rewarding careers in a competitive job market. Please visit Bob's blog at

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