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Getting Confusing Resume Advice?

Getting Confusing Resume Advice?

A reader writes:

Last week, I did a complete overhaul of my resume, specifically to cut it down from 2 pages to 1, because I keep hearing (from friends who work in HR, as well as in articles on the subject) that now more than ever, employers want a really clear, concise snapshot of each candidate with as little “fluff” as possible.

I decided to use a functional/chronological combo in order to highlight very specific areas of expertise, but to still lend a sense of when and where these skills were obtained.

I sent it to my father in law who has worked in HR for nearly 40 years for some feedback, and he in turn sent it to nine of his friends and colleagues (also in HR). The feedback has started coming in and it’s SO MADDENING! Not because I don’t appreciate their constructive criticism, but because so much of it is conflicting.

One person will say “great idea to cut it down to one page” while another says “don’t be afraid to use two.”

One will say “I love that she started off with a clear, concise profile highlighting her experience,” while another says “skip it.”

One will say “I love functional resumes because they really give me a sense of what the candidate’s greatest strengths and best developed skills are” while another says “I hate functional resumes because I feel like the candidate is trying to camouflage gaps in their employment.” (Which, by the way, is not at all the case here, since my resume does include a chronological component outlining my employment history.)

One will say “use a sans serif font,” while another says “garamond is a great font choice.”

It’s been maddening to read this feedback, because it often feels very “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” and also highlights how much we as applicants are at the mercy of the readers’ whims. Clearly, much of writing a “great” resume – one that will capture the attention of the very first person looking at it and pique their interest in meeting with you – is subjective.

What advice do you have for navigating the various personal preferences and pet peeves of HR professionals and hiring managers? There doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast “rules” when it comes writing a great resume that is going to get you a call back, but what – if anything – would you characterize as best practices or safest bets?

You are living out exactly what I tell friends about their resumes: You can give your resume to 10 different people who know what they’re doing, and you’ll get 10 different sets of advice.

There are no hard and fast universal rules aside from the obvious (no typos, no illegible fonts, no 10-page monstrosities, no inappropriate sharing).

What there are instead are preferences. Often deeply held preferences.