The Rules of the Resume Game
Resume writing is like tennis in that certain rules apply. The tennis court is a specific size. The net is a standard height. You can remove the net and hit the ball, but then you’re not playing tennis. Similar conventions apply to resume writing. You can make up your own rules as you go along. For example, you can print your resume on bright red paper–and you’ll have an eye-catcher all right-but you won’t have a decent resume.
Here are the features of the resume that always produces interviews and job offers:
- It’s accomplishment-oriented. Everything on the page is built around your achievements: your “triples” and “home runs.” They are its only reason for being.
- It’s organized.
- It’s broken down into sub-headings. No long paragraphs.
- It’s concise, not wordy. It’s written in crisp phrases, not full sentences. In resume language “K” means thousand, “M” means million, and “MM” means hundred million. Thus, $27K means 27 thousand dollars. Omit words like “a, an, and the” and “I, me and my.” Otherwise, don’t abbreviate. Take out the obvious. If you hit 85 home runs last season, you probably don’t need to mention you also hit singles.
- It’s written on one or two full pages, nothing else. Half-page or 1-1/2 page resumes look like you ran out of steam, or didn’t plan well.
- It’s normally limited to two pages, except for the occasional senior executive resume, which can go to three. Getting it onto two pages is part of the drill.
- It’s packed with important details. Nothing irrelevant. No personal data is included, except when there is an important reason to do so (for example, when industry standards require it). Let the resume simply show where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished. That’s its job. Don’t say anything about references, age, marital status, references, sex, race, family, personal interests, political or religious affiliations–unless mentioning these things will help.
- It’s typed or word processed–never handwritten–and it’s laser printed on plain white bond paper, or off-white grey or buff. Nothing else. Very clean photocopies onto good bond paper are more than adequate. No need to word process all originals.
(Key concept: You don’t make a better resume by using better paper. You make a better resume by using carefully-chosen words.)
- It’s one-of-a-kind, not canned. It’s not done by a resume service.
- It’s conservative, because business is conservative.
- It’s flawlessly clean. No typos, no misspellings. No white-out. One Human Resources Manager said he trashes all letters and resumes with even one spot of white-out. Perhaps short sighted, but that’s reality.
- It’s interesting, provocative, and enthusiastic. Not boring.
- It’s weighted to emphasize recent work experience. As a general rule, employers care most about what you’ve done recently, say within the last ten years. They care less about what you did earlier. (Exception: when something 10 or 15 years ago bears directly on their needs today.) So if you look at a well-written resume visually, it looks like an inverted pyramid. Your most recent experience receives the most attention (space), and earlier jobs get less attention (space) as you go backwards in time.