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These six pieces of traditional resume advice are totally wrong

While making one error might not kill your chances for an interview, it’s in your best interest to let go of these pieces of tired advice.

These six pieces of traditional resume advice are totally wrong
[Photo: Steve Johnson/Unsplash]

When you’re looking for a job, a good resume can get you in the door. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad advice floating around about resume best practices. While making one error might not kill your chances for an interview, you’ll want to avoid multiple offenses. We talked to hiring experts to find out the most common mistakes job candidates make on resumes:

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Tired advice: Sticking to one page

You’ve probably have heard the advice that a resume should be one page, but a study from ResumeGo finds otherwise. Recruiters were 2.3 times more likely to prefer two-page resumes over one-pagers, says Peter Yang, CEO of ResumeGo, a professional resume writing service.

Digging deeper, recruiters were 1.4 times as likely to prefer two-page resumes over one-page resumes when it came to entry-level job openings, 2.6 times as likely for mid-level job openings, and 2.9 times as likely when it came managerial-level job openings.

“The findings that pertained to entry-level jobs were particularly surprising,” says Yang. “The extra information contained on two-page resumes helped participants in their decision making and cast a positive light on the job candidates–even when it came to entry-level job openings, though to a lesser degree.”

Tired advice: Include a summary

A lot of resumes include a summary at the top, but this is a waste of time and space.

“A lot of recruiters are swamped and have mere seconds to digest a resume and decide if it gets moved on to the next step,” says Sarah Connors, principal and manager of human resources at the talent acquisition firm WinterWyman. “When I review resumes, I tend to jump right to the work experience section to see what someone has done, in what industries, company sizes, etc.”

Connors encourages candidates to provide a lot of details with each job, including accomplishments, projects they worked on, and a one-line summary under each company to say how many employees the company has and what industry it’s in.

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“That should help get their foot in the door and get an interview scheduled,” she says. “The interview is a better place to give more color and context around who you are, and to explain your top abilities.”

Tired advice: Using graphics

Resumes that are image-driven, such as those with graphics and charts instead of traditional text blocks or pictures look cool, but they could cost you the job, says Ruben Moreno, partner with Blue Rock Search Group, an executive search firm.

“Despite the recent fascination with the infographic format, they are not received well,” he says. “There is a slim chance they work in the software development vertical and some creative verticals, but not worth the prospect of getting overlooked based upon resume formatting.”

Same goes for videos that weren’t requested, adds Steven Rothberg, president and founder of College Recruiter.

“The vast majority of [employers] use applicant tracking systems, and almost none of these are able to handle video or graphics,” he says. “Candidates who rely upon video or graphics to communicate their qualifications or career interests put themselves at a significant disadvantage when applying to jobs advertised by these employers.”

Tired advice: Using a “master resume”

A common fail for job candidates is developing what they think is a great resume, and sending it out with every job application, says Corey Berkey, HR director of JazzHR, a recruiting software firm. “The truth is that a templated, shotgun approach doesn’t work because recruiters can spot it from a mile away,” he says. “Using a cookie-cutter resume looks lazy and unprofessional.”

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While a master resume makes applying easy, taking the time to tailor your resume to speak to the bullet points in the job description will help people see that you’re the right person for the role.

“For every one resume I get that’s compelling and thoughtfully crafted, I get about 15 generic, run-of-the-mill resumes,” says Berkey. “The resume is your time to shine as a candidate, give the recruiter a reason to put you at the top of the stack.”

Tired advice: Choosing a functional instead of chronological format

It can be tempting to create a resume that focuses on functions instead of reverse chronological order, but that’s a big mistake, says John Nykolaiszn, director of the Office of Business Career Management at Florida International University’s College of Business.

“Here’s my first thought when I see a functional resume: ‘What are you trying to hide?'” he says. “Please for the sake of all that is holy use a reverse chronological resume. Most applicant tracking systems these days will require you to enter this data in reverse chronological order, and if you then attach a functional resume to the application, you’ll confuse the recruiter.”

Hiring managers need your achievements and job duties placed within a company and timeframe context for your background to be taken seriously, adds Lisa Rangel, founder and managing director of Chameleon Resumes. “When you strip your achievements out of the company context and year you did it, the reader has no point of reference to evaluate your expertise,” she says.

Tired advice: Skipping the cover letter

Online job applications don’t often require a cover letter, but don’t skip this step; a cover letter is a key part of your resume, says Michelle Tillis Lederman, CEO of Executive Essentials and author of The Connector’s Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact.

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“It answers the ‘why’ question,” she says. “Why does the position interest you? Why are you a good fit? Why do you want to work at this company? I have hired people based on their cover letter.”

Take the time to create a cover letter, and write to the person as if you are talking them, says Tillis Lederman. “Show your personality and your passion and skip the form letters,” she says.

If the job portal only allows you to upload one file, combine the cover letter and resume into one PDF file, Tillis Lederman recommends. “I prefer to upload two files and name the files appropriately so they know what they are from the file name,” she says. “The best option: If they provide a contact person’s email, send a note with the cover letter letting them know you uploaded your resume through the system. [It’s a] great way to stand out.”

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