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5 Resume Rules You Can Break

The way resumes were written, many years ago when I first got started in my career, is very different to how they are written now. Today resume writers (me included) and job seekers are breaking some of those traditional rules. Why? Well, it’s not how your resume looks that is important. It’s what it says about you.

Okay. Let’s go.

Rule 1: You must include your address!

No! Feedback from some of my clients is that their address has eliminated them from being shortlisted. So as a resume writer, I suggest to you that you leave your home address off. Other reasons are: It’s not necessary, and it could be a privacy issue. So leave it off.

Rule 2: You don’t need a headline or a branding line!

Wrong! A headline/branding line positions you in the right spot for being the best candidate. So it appears at the top of your resume underneath your contact name, email and phone. (Remember no address.) It briefly describes what you do and some of your areas of expertise.

Key points about a headline are:

I recommend you keep it to one or two lines, and here’s an example for you.

Financial Accountant Professional
….meticulous analytical, and 100% committed.

Do you see how it is a short line or two describing your top key strengths?

Rule 3: You should not brag on your resume!

What if you don’t brag on your resume? You won’t differentiate yourself from everybody else. So brag, and turn your grocery list of duties into accomplishments or achievements. It doesn’t take much to do it; just a little bit of thought put into it. Here’s an example about accounts payables.

So if I’m a financial administrator or accountant, and I do accounts payable and receivable all day, every day in and out, I might have on my duties list – process accounts payable/receivable or export financial reports. You know, all the boring stuff that we all know that an accountant does.

Well, wouldn’t it sound better if you had something like this – ‘Streamlined accounts payable functions, established common vendor files, eliminated duplication, and reduced monthly processing time by 20% shouted out’.

Shout it out! It’s not wrong to brag about yourself.

Rule 4: Using the first-person tense!

When talking to my clients about this, many have said, “No, no, don’t do that”, but let me explain first. The first-person tense is when we speak like, “I did something”, “This is my resume”, “That was the job that I had”. That’s speaking in the first-person tense.

Now, you may have written your resume like that, but that’s not the way today’s recruiters and employers expect to see your resume written. They want all those personal pronouns taken out, and we call that ‘resume speak’. Initially, it can be a little bit uncomfortable when you are not used to it. But, when you come to think of it, your name is already at the top of your resume, so don’t they know that the resume is about you? Therefore, you can leave out those personal pronouns.

Now this is a crucial point! Decision-makers, executive recruiters (especially the higher up you go) and HR executives usually expect and appreciate resumes written in this style. My advice is to do it or get help to do it.

Rule 5: Page length!

Some of my clients come to me with a one-page resume with 20 years of experience crammed into it. You can imagine how hard this would be.

Have you been told that your resume should only be one page? Have you Googled it? I’m sure you discovered everybody out there is saying one page, but then everybody else is saying two pages, three pages, and on and on. It’s all very confusing.

My take on this is – one size does not fit all!  Your resume should be as long as it needs to be.

According to recent studies, recruiters are 2.3% or more likely to prefer a two-page resume over one page, especially if you’ve been in the workforce for five years or longer.

My opinion – two pages are acceptable, even three pages, depending on your level or position and the complexity of your roles and accomplishments you want to include.

So one size does not fit all.

When it comes to your resume, the one key point is to make sure you place the most relevant information on the first half of the first page. That way, if they don’t get to the second or third page, it won’t matter because they’ve already seen what you have to offer. But, believe me, if you put the best things there, the things that will catch their attention, they will read the rest.

If you would like to know more about the author Kathryn Burke, click here.

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