5 Old School Résumé Rules You Still Need To Follow

Top five you should follow to make the most of your résumé.

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By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes

I recently worked with a new client, Mike, who came to me after spending six months in the job market with no luck. Mike was just a few years out of undergrad, so he was still pretty new to his field, but had plenty of accolades even at this early stage of his career. I was eager to work with him and help him get more leads. As soon as saw his résumé, I knew why he was having such a hard time…

It was three and a half pages long!

Listen. I get it. He was proud of his accomplishments and wanted to showcase them thoroughly for prospective employers. But what he didn’t realize was that his much-too-long résumé had the opposite effect: employers weren’t even reading it because of the length.

He didn’t know any better, but he shot himself in the foot. Even professionals with 20 years of experience should be able to whittle their résumé down to about two pages. Times are indeed changing, probably at a faster pace than any point in history due to advances in technology, but there are a few résumé conventions that still hold strong. Here are the top five you should follow to make the most of your résumé.

  1. Keep it brief.

It’s all about brevity and knowing which skills and accomplishments to highlight and which to ditch. The one-page rule is still a thing, and that’s with font no smaller than 11 point. Unless you have more than a decade of professional experience, you should be able to fit everything into one page. And regardless how much experience you have, you basically should never exceed two pages total. This may seem difficult, but considering the typical recruiter only looks at an applicant’s résumé for mere seconds, the key to a strong résumé is the quality of the content, not the quantity.

  1. Keep it simple.

Don’t use flashy templates or decorative paper. Unless you’re in a specific industry that requires a special, creative format, stick to the basics. Use normal margins, a standard font type, and appropriate headings and bullets.

  1. Company descriptions.

Including a company description is still a good idea, but only if there is value added. If you’ve worked for a small, lesser-known company, including a sentence or two about what the company does will assist a recruiter in fully understanding your background. If your former employer is one that is well-known, however, you can skip it.

  1. Objective statement.

Objective statements are still okay, but only if it’s not apparent from your work experience where you’re headed next in your career, like if you’re switching fields or are just starting out and your educational background is broad. This one won’t make or break you — I’ve never heard a recruiter say they ditched a candidate for having or not having an objective statement — but again, since you only have a few seconds to shine, only include it if it adds value or clarity somehow.

  1. Edit, edit, and edit some more.

I don’t care how informal communication has become now that we’re all so accustomed to texting and emoji’s and keeping our post to 140 characters or less, your résumé should have zero grammar errors and typos. None. Give it to a friend to review. Hire a professional to edit it. But make sure it is perfect before you send it anywhere. Grammatical errors and/or typos in your résumé can and will cost you jobs and could potentially haunt you in the future, as many employers keep résumés on file.

As much as our society is shifting towards a more casual and informal approach to communications and interactions, some conventions still hold strong. Your résumé is the first contact you have with a potential new employer, so make sure it accurately and professionally reflects who you are. And make sure it’s concise. As soon as Mike and I were able to cut his résumé down to one page consisting of solid content that truly made Mike shine, the calls started rolling in and he landed his new gig within a few weeks. Invest the time in you to follow these simple conventions, and your résumé will have recruiters knocking your door down in no time.

By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes

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