The New Resume Rules

Rewrite your resume for success.

As the job market has changed, so has the job search process. Employers today receive hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes for each open position—which leaves no room for error on your resume.

A resume isn’t everything, but it is a first impression that may or may not get your foot in the door. Some of the old resume rules are obsolete, which means that if you haven’t updated your resume in the past few years, you may be lagging behind the competition.

Follow these dos and don’ts for a resume that reflects your strengths and wows employers.

 

DON’T…

  • Limit your resume to one page. This is an outdated practice. Instead, focus on a resume that properly reflects your career.
  • Include an objective statement. The objective statement is usually meaningless—of course your objective is to land a position in the industry in which you are applying. Why state the obvious? It wastes valuable resume real estate. The objective statement has been replaced by the professional summary. (See the list of dos).
  • Include references or worse, the statement “references available upon request”. Again, you’re stating the obvious—of course you’re going to provide references if they’re requested. The resume is simply the first step. References come later—if you’re being considered for the position.
  • Organize your resume in categories. It’s confusing. Don’t make your reader work for it. They shouldn’t have to attempt to discern your organizational methodology.
  • Put your educational background at the top. Employers want to see your experience. Only recent college graduates should place their educational background at the top of a resume.

DO

  • Write a cover letter. Always, always, always include a cover letter. Address it to the right person. Keep it brief and on-topic. Sell yourself.
  • Include a professional summary. The professional summary has replaced the objective statement on a resume. The professional summary can be written as a short paragraph or a bulleted list and should be placed at the top of your resume. It should highlight your unique skillset and career achievements.
  • Organize your resume in reverse chronological order. Standard procedure is to list your employment history from most to least recent. This makes it easier for the reader to develop a clear picture of where you are and where you’ve been.
  • Include white space. White space makes it easier to read a resume because the fact is, most readers will skim. Resist the urge to fill every inch of space on the page with text. Instead, use clear, concise language and bulleted lists. Allow your reader to skim without missing something important.
  • Customize your resume. There was a time when resumes were typed on an antique instrument called a typewriter and then photocopied for distribution. Those days are over. There is no reason to distribute the same resume for every position. Instead, customize your resume and be sure to include the language used in the job posting.
  • Use keywords. Many large companies now use computer programs to screen resumes for keywords. These resumes then pass to the next level for human evaluation. If your resume does not contain the appropriate keywords, it will be passed over—even if you have the appropriate skills and education for the position. Keywords are tricky—this is like SEO for resumes. Write your resume for a human audience, but include keywords where possible. Your best keyword clues appear in the exact phrasing from the job posting. Use these words throughout your resume.
  • Include your web profile. If you have a professional website or a profile on a site like LinkedIn, include the address in your contact information at the top of your resume. Be sure to get a customized domain on LinkedIn—it’s free and only takes a minute to set it up.
  • Edit. This should be obvious, but it bears repeating. Edit your resume. Then edit it again. Then have someone else edit it. Don’t rely on spellcheck to catch everything—because it won’t.
  • Save your resume as a pdf file. Saving your resume as a pdf preserves the formatting so that your resume appears exactly as you intended.