Debunking Common Resume Myths

Posted by Allyson Quibell on May 5, 2011
Debunking Common Resume Myths
There is no one best way to write a resume; there are no absolutes. Every career counselor and recruiter has his or her own take on resume writing. Even the formatting you use and the positions you list depend on the industry, the specific job, and your experience. But amid all the potentially conflicting opinions, there is some agreement on common resume myths.

1. Your resume must be only one page.

False. "Your resume should be as long as needed [in order] to get your concise message across with zip and punch," says Joyce Lain Kennedy, careers columnist and author of Resumes for Dummies. If your experience and background justifies two or more pages, so be it. Recent grads shouldn't go beyond one page, but senior executives with decades of experience will probably need at least two pages.

The rules are slightly different for resumes sent via e-mail. Laura Dominguez Chan, a Stanford University career counselor, says that in that instance, shorter is better for both cover letters and resumes.

2. Prospective employers don't read cover letters.

False. "Remember that anything you send is part of an image you're projecting," says Dominguez Chan. "If [nothing else,] your cover letter shows your writing skills…and if all the candidates [for the position] really are top notch, it could be the cover letter that lands you the job."

3. Resumes should include and describe your entire work history.
False. Your resume is a sales piece, a personal marketing tool. Take time to consider what skills the position requires. It’s likely that a part-time job you took for a few months isn't going to be relevant or impressive. Unless you need to cover a significant time gap, it’s wise to include only those jobs that will showcase your ability to excel in the position for which you’re applying.

Volunteer and other non-paid positions can be just as valuable as paid ones—especially if you’re a recent grad or are re-entering the workforce after an absence. Use your resume format to communicate volunteer work as experience.

4. It's okay to fib on your resume.

False. If you think "blowing smoke on your resume—inflating grades, inventing degrees, concocting job titles—is risk free because nobody checks, you're wrong," says Joyce Lain Kennedy. Employers do check, and those fibs will catch up with you.

"People think they have to puff themselves up," says Ronnie Gravitz, a career counselor at UC Berkeley. "You just need to make a good case for what you have done.”

5. Including "References available upon request" is standard resume protocol.
False. "An employer won't assume [that] you don't have references," says Dominguez Chan. “[Removing the line] gives you more room to include important information about who you are." She adds, "The only reason to include that [information] is if for some reason references are absolutely needed in the field. Academic positions, for example, typically ask for several reference names and/or letters."

6. If your resume is good enough, it will produce a job offer.
False. Your resume is only one part of the process. Its job is to land you an interview. "Once you get the interview, says Joyce Lain Kennedy, "you are what gets you a job—your skills, your savvy, your personality, your attitude."

About the Author