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Addressing a Few Myths about Resumes

By Rosie Barry

Most people do not keep their resume as up-to-date as they would like. In fact, it's usually a job search that prompts people to bring the old one out and dust it off. What makes this more challenging is that there are trends in resumes, and most people don't keep up with them.

Myth One: One size fits all

If you haven't used a resume for a while, you may still believe that polishing a single resume and using it for every job is the answer. That's no longer true. The keyword today is customization. Because of the ease of producing many versions of your resume by using a computer, expectations have risen.

It's your responsibility to show the people who review your resume how well you fit the position. That doesn't mean that you should lie or stretch your background. (Employers are becoming more diligent in checking information.) It does mean, however, that you need to organize your information in a way that will be helpful to the employer.

Start by looking at the requirements for the position you are considering. Think about your background and experience and highlight those things that fit the requirements. In a listing of what you have done in various jobs, help the resume reviewer focus on your qualifications by placing those experiences first that best match the requirements. If the employer is looking for a particular educational background, education should appear high on the first page. On the other hand, if the employer is looking for certain experience, place that experience first on the page.

Myth Two: A resume must be one page in length

Fads come and go, and that applies to resumes as well. Some years ago, the trend was one-page resumes. Nowadays, use a second page if you need to adequately describe your experience. Don't fall into the trap of using very small type in order to fit everything on one page.

If you find that you are having difficulty including everything on two pages, think about the content from the point of view of the employer. Your task is to help the employer focus on how you will be able to help the organization. Resumes longer than two pages are unlikely to be helpful, and your message may be lost. Most research shows that resumes are reviewed only for a matter of seconds.

CV's are a different matter. They, of course, should include all professional activities, publications, and other information. There is no limit on length.

Myth Three: Modesty is a virtue

Modesty is a virtue, but it won't help you in the career/job search. There are ways to highlight what you have done without feeling like an egomaniac. One of the most valuable things you can do in your resume is to be very clear about your accomplishments and quantify whatever you can. If you have managed a budget, tell how large it was. If you have supervised employees, list how many people were in your group. If you have served customers, give an average daily or monthly number. Most people are comfortable identifying this information in a factual way and won't feel as if they are bragging.

Summary

A resume is a key tool in the job search. Keeping up to date on what employers are looking for today is an important part of the process.