5 Questions About Resume Writing Job Seekers Often Ask



If you are embarking on a job search and gearing up to write your resume, you likely have lots of questions about what it should look like and what content it should contain. Professional resume writers are constantly bombarded by such queries, and here are some of the most common questions and answers to make your task more fruitful.


Is there a "right" length for a resume? There's no one "right" answer. If you are a recent college graduate or have only had a brief career, it's best to keep it to one page. If you are a mid-career professional, with multiple jobs and accomplishments, a two-page resume is a good rule of thumb. Senior-level executives, academics with many publications to list and other special cases often merit an additional page or even two.


That said, throughout years in recruiting and later in the resume-writing world, this author has never heard of a hiring authority who said, "I won't consider so-and-so because his or her resume is too long or too short." Rather, what's of key importance is using the resume to highlight your education, skills, the professional challenges you faced in your work and how you turned them into accomplishments.


How can I write my resume to avoid age discrimination? Age discrimination is rampant in America. However, there are three things that you can do on your resume to mitigate it, at least to a degree.


First, don't lead at the top of your resume by claiming how long you've been doing something. For example, "Salesman with 32 years of experience," clearly labels you as being in your 50s or beyond.


Second, remember there is a big difference between a resume and a job application. Absolute honesty is required in both, but in a resume, there is no obligation on your part to list employment history for more than 10 to 15 years, or so – wherever there may be a natural break due to a job transition. You can always conclude your professional experience section with a line like, "Details of prior experience are available upon request."


Third, you can omit the years you received college and advanced degrees, and many resume writers encourage people in their 50s and older to do so.


There is some debate on this, however. Rarely do younger workers ever omit their graduation dates, and you therefore give the unspoken message, "I'm an older worker." This might work against you if you are in your early 50s and the employer jumps to the conclusion that you are in your late 50s or 60s, making you even more likely a target of early stage elimination due to age discrimination.


What are the unbreakable rules of writing a resume? Your resume must look professional. That means there can be no typographical or spelling errors. Your grammar should be impeccable. And your sentences must make sense. Generally speaking, the font for the body of the resume should be between 9 and 12 points in size. Avoid the word "I" at all costs, and never include a picture.


These days, functional resumes are out of style, and you should have a clear chronological order of your professional history.


Save a line for something meaningful by leaving off "References available upon request." Everyone knows that they'll be requested at some point in the hiring process and that you'll comply.


There is a plethora of self-help resume writing books available from reputable professionals. Each author provides their own best advice, and it is worth getting two or three highly rated books to compare and evaluate the advice from different experts.


Anyone who knows my field will know exactly what I've done. Why isn't it enough to just list my job titles and responsibilities? Certain job titles imply consistent sets of responsibilities and expectations among a wide variety of companies, but most don't. You might be a director at a small or mid-size company with far less responsibility than someone with a lesser title at a larger company.


More important, however, is to explain to a potential employer how you specifically dealt with your responsibilities. Each worker is unique, and each person will go about a job somewhat differently and achieve different results. Don't ask to be lumped in with everyone else. Rather, provide the factual detail necessary to convey how and why you are heads above your competition.


Writing a resume seems like an insurmountable task. What should I do? If the task of writing your own resume seems daunting, think seriously about developing a collaborative relationship with a professional resume writer. Look for someone who is affiliated with professional organizations such as The National Resume Writers' Association, Career Thought Leaders or Career Directors International.


Each of these organizations offers professional development courses for career coaches and resume writers, as well as various certifications. With or without a certification, you can rest assured that these are the kinds of professionals who take their work seriously and are likely to be up to date with today's best practices.


Happy hunting!