The Only Hard and Fast Rule in Resume Writing

There is only one concrete rule when it comes to writing résumés. Just one.

Are you ready for this? OK, here’s the rule:

If your résumé is generating interviews, you’re doing the right thing.

That’s it — the big secret.

“But wait a minute,” you may be protesting, “that doesn’t tell me how to write a résumé.”

Listing of rules for a hotel poolNo, it doesn’t. That’s because to a large degree I can’t tell you how to write your résumé without knowing all the details. Sure, I can (and do) offer guidelines on this blog for writing a résumé, but none of those are etched in stone.

In fact, there is a great deal of “fuzzy logic” that I apply when crafting résumés for my clients because so many of the decisions that go into a quality résumé are based on the individual circumstances of the person.

Take a look at the following questions by job seekers to see what I mean:

“Should my résumé be two pages or less?” Yes… and no. It depends on factors like your field, how long you have been in your career, the level you are working at (middle management, CxO, etc.), and who the audience is.

“Should I include my street address on my résumé?” Maybe. Are you applying for a local job or for a position halfway across the country? Do you want to position yourself as a local for a job you really want to get (and don’t mind paying your own relocation costs)?

“Does the type of font matter?” It can, depending on if you are going for a more modern look or a classic look. And then there is how the page is formatted. Oh, and if you use a font that is not very common, there’s a good chance that the company’s computer won’t have it and will substitute a different font. That really screws up the formatting.

“How far back should I go with my work history?” Generally 10-15 years. But that can vary depending on relevant work history, how long a person has been with his/her most current company, the field the job seeker is in, and so on.

“How can I write out my accomplishments to have the most impact?” Using numbers is always good to help quantify the results of your work, and telling stories will paint a vivid picture of what you have done. But none of that matters if your accomplishments 1) don’t promote your skills for the type of job you want to have, and 2) don’t address the needs of the company.

A lot of factors to consider, right?

But here’s the thing — if you are sending out your résumé and you are getting called for interviews, you don’t need to worry about it. The job of the résumé is to generate interviews. If that is happening, you’re good to go with your résumé and just then need to focus on your interview prep.

However, if your résumé is getting no callbacks and/or is resulting in negative feedback, then you have a problem on your hands. Your résumé is breaking the only rule there is and is hampering your job search.

If you find yourself in the latter category, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to sit and brood, or are you going to enlist some help to get your job hunt moving in the right direction?

Image courtesy of Peter Dutton

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