Crafting an effective resume isn’t solely an artform—there’s science behind it, too. That means some advice floating out there is just plain bad and incorrect. To combat this, here are seven pieces of obsolete resume advice—and better advice to follow instead.
1. Open with an objective statement
Instead of wasting your resume’s valuable real estate with a vague objective statement, include a professional summary. A professional summary focuses on your accomplishments and experiences and expresses your career goals. It acts as a synopsis, ranging from three to five sentences, before launching into the line-by-line details of your experience.
2. Implement a fun design
Although you might be tempted to include graphics, icons, or a headshot, resist the urge. Crowding your resume with these visual elements makes it difficult for a recruiter to focus on what’s important: your skills and accomplishments.
Additionally, many recruiters use an applicant tracking system (ATS) that automatically analyzes resumes and weeds out what it considers the least-qualified candidates. Unfortunately, these systems aren’t privy to graphics, and ultimately it’s best to play it safe by utilizing a straightforward format.
3. Whittle your resume down to one page
If you’re relatively new to the workforce, the classic one-page guideline still applies. However, if you’re a seasoned professional with approximately seven years of relevant experience or more, go ahead and fill two pages if you need.
It’s true recruiters have short attention spans, but as long as your experience is valuable and relevant to the position you’re applying for, don’t feel bad spilling onto that second page.
4. Practice a one-size-fits-all approach
You’ve worked hard to perfect your resume, but here’s the thing: Resumes aren’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. Just like your cover letter, you’ll need to tailor your resume to fit different positions. For example, the resume you submit for a SEO-writer role will differ from the resume you submit for a social-media marketing position.
Additionally, consider that the ATS scans for keywords. These aren’t SEO keywords or fluffy buzzwords. Rather, they’re words highlighted in similar job descriptions.
Figure out which keywords are important by running three to five similar job descriptions through a word-cloud generator like Wordle. The most frequently used terms will pop out in big letters. Lace those, as long as they’re relevant, into each version of your resume.
5. Save as PDF
Unless the job application explicitly says a PDF is an acceptable file format, play it safe by submitting your resume as a Word document. Again, the ATS software could have trouble reading the PDF format, so when it doubt, Word it out.
6. Leave room for references
Although a potential employer will likely ask for references at some point, your resume isn’t the place for them. To save space, some job seekers might include a line like “References available upon request.” But that goes without saying and is unnecessary.
Remember: Your resume is valuable real estate, and you first want to sell a recruiter on who you are and what you can bring to a company. If the recruiter needs references, they’ll ask later on.
7. Ditch the cover letter
Although this final piece of bad advice doesn’t directly pertain to your resume, it’s just as important: Always submit a cover letter unless the job description discourages it.
Some professionals might claim the cover letter is becoming a thing of the past thanks to online social platforms. Even if a recruiter can look you up online, a cover letter gives you one page to explain who you are, what you’re doing, and why you want the job. And you know those details that don’t fit on your resume? Include them in your cover letter.
Submitting a cover letter will never hurt you—it can only help.
All in all, remember the professional world is always progressing. What might seem like tried-and-true resume advice five years ago could easily be outdated now.
Carson Kohler is a regular contributor to TopResume and StudyClerk, the largest writing services in the world. TopResume offers a range of services including expertly written and keyword-optimized resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles. Request a free resume review today to find out if your resume is ready for today’s job market.
Want to be found by top employers? Upload Your Resume
Join Gold to Unlock Company Reviews