| common resume myths

Many people who haven’t looked for a job in a long time are still carrying around a number of myths about what a private sector resume should look like. Here are the 10 most common myths:

Myth #1: Private Sector Resumes Should Be Kept to a Single Page

Wrong! Depending on the number of years’ experience you have, a 2-page format is quite acceptable. Generally, anyone with 5 or more years’ experience should use a 2-page format.

Myth #2: Education Should be Listed First

Wrong! At this age and stage, you are most likely “selling” your experience, not your education. Most employers value your experience most of all. The exception to this “rule” is for people who are new to the workplace and academics.

Myth #3: Unique/Unusual Resumes Attract Attention and Are Better Read

Wrong! Please, do yourself and your readers a favor; stay away from “gimmick” resumes. You do not want to be seen as nonconformist, oddball, loner, etc. Exception: Creative jobs requiring these traits

Myth #4: Exaggerate Accomplishments — Nobody Will Check

Wrong! Skillful interviewers generally ask probing questions and will not accept surface answers to interview questions. Exaggeration (and out-right lies) will likely be uncovered (if not during the interview, then during the reference check) and you will lose the job.

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Myth #5: References Should Be Listed on the Resume

Wrong! Listing references is on your resume is considered old fashioned. If a potential employer wants references, they will ask for them. All job seekers should have a separate reference page available.

Myth #6: Resume Content is More Important Than Layout

Wrong! The layout of your resume needs to be attractive and visually appealing. White space is important. And you want your resume to stand out from the pile. Regardless of content, a poorly organized or sloppy resume will likely go unread.

Myth #7: Personal Photos Enhance Resume Appearance/ Effectiveness

Wrong! Regardless of how attractive you may be, use of personal photos are a major no-no (unless you’re looking for an acting or similar job). Many employers may discard a resume with a photo automatically so they cannot be accused of discrimination.

Myth #8 The Cover Letter is Often More Important Than the Resume

Wrong! The advent of Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and online applications has changed thinking about cover letters. Many veteran employment professionals will only read the cover letter after they have read the resume—if at all. And, they know that cover letters often repeat the same information that is in the resume. Of course, if a job posting specifically requires a cover letter, be sure to include one. You want to demonstrate that you know how to follow directions!

Myth #9: Functional Resumes Have Greater Marketing Impact Than Chronological Resumes

Wrong! Generally, a chronological resume is more common, easier to follow, and typically more effective, especially when you have had a positive work history and career progression. Some reviewers of functional resumes may think you are trying to hide something—that’s never good. Stick with a chronological resume.

Myth #10: Objectives are Important

Wrong! Objectives are only about what YOU want (and besides, who doesn’t want a job that will allow them to grow, use their skills, etc.) Instead of an objective, you should use a Summary or Profile to show what you bring to the table.

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.