Alexis Grant

Avoid these resume traps to make yourself an appealing candidate

The digital revolution may have changed the hiring game, but for most applicants, the resume is not dead.

Candidates can now expect to be Googled and scoped out on social media, but in most cases employers still want a resume to learn about your skills, experience, and career path. A resume also makes it easy for them to make the case for hiring you to colleagues or bosses.

Here are five common misconceptions about resumes and how you should approach them during your job search:

1. It has to fit on one page.

We've all been told at one time or another to keep our resume to one page, but this old standard no longer holds true. If you have enough experience to highlight on two pages, go for it.

Of course, if you're new to the workforce, one page should suffice. But now that resumes are often entered into an applicant-tracking system, it's more important than ever to include keywords that help the system match you to appropriate positions--and you might need more space to do that. This is even more essential to workers in certain technical fields who need to list, for example, fluency in multiple technical languages.

So experienced applicants, if you need the room to show how you're the best candidate for the position, don't be afraid of that second page.

[See The Death of the One-Page Resume?]

2. You need an objective statement.Objective are out, professional summaries are in. As our blogger Alison Green often points out, objectives often don't help your case, and they have the potential to hurt it. Hiring managers want to know you're passionate about working for their company, notanycompany that fits your vague description.

A professional summary, on the contrary, allows whoever's recruiting you to understand what you have to offer in a quick skim. It's also an opportunity to present your experience in a way that applies to your goals and the company's goals. Don't just summarize what you've done; take it a step further and show what you have to offer the company you want to work for.

"Companies who are interviewing you don't care about your objective, they care about their objective," says Tony Beshara, a recruiter and author of Unbeatable Resumes. He advises against both an objective and a summary on a resume and says job seekers should dive right into experience.

3. You have to include all of your past experience.

A friend who's looking for a new job after only a few months with her current company asked me recently whether she needs to include the last few months on her resume. Here's what I told her: You don't have to include anythingon your resume. What you include is up to you.

Everything you write on your resume has to be true, of course, but omitting certain positions that won't help you get your next job and replacing them with experience that will put you in a better light is not only acceptable, it's smart. Your resume is your chance to tell your career story, so weave that story in a way that's beneficial to you.

In this case, the friend would likely have to explain a gap in employment if she left off her most recent job, which might be a good reason to include it. But nothing has to be on your resume.

4. Once you send it in, you're off the hook until you hear back.

With a crowded job market, following up is more important than ever. Even if the company asks you not to follow up with a phone call or email, you have plenty of other options. Research the company on their website, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and look for ways to connect with employees. Figure out where those employees hang out online or in person. Contact them in a non-annoying way, establish what you have in common, and you might earn an "in" with the company.

You can also research the hiring manager specifically. And if the company has a Facebook page or Twitter feed, interact with them there. Your goal is to come across as interested and enthusiastic, but not desperate. Failing to follow up after submitting your resume is a sure-fire way to let it disappear into a black hole.

5. It has to look interesting to catch a hiring manager's eye.

Yes, you want your resume to be interesting, but more in content than appearance. Aside from the content you choose to include, the next most important aspect of your resume is that it's easy to read. De-cluttering, or getting rid of experience that's not relevant or necessary, is one way to do this. Another is to use bold type, bullets, and plenty of white space.

For the average position, your resume is in competition with 110 others, Beshara says. "If it doesn't hit them in the mouth real fast by having what you've done and who you've done it for [front and center], it gets passed over," he says. "They move onto the next one."

Available at Great on the Job






5 Common Resume Misconceptions