So it seems not a work day goes by that there isn’t another disgusting resume miracle cure article that is regurgitated around LinkedIn to the adoration of mindless, hyperbole-addicted LinkedIn users.
Resume writers looking for fame and fortune have been marketing the same “magic bullet” advice for years in one form or another. Unfortunately, much like real magic, those miracle resume cures are just illusions, and pursuing them is a complete waste of time.
You may be surprised at how many resume myths you’ve been duped by over the years. In an effort to open the world’s eyes, here are 5 resume realities that aren’t very sunny but will leave you better off in the long run. The only question is, how horrified will you be when you learn how much time you’ve been wasting?
5. The 6 Second Rule Is an Incomplete Average
The Ladders has published an infamous study about how HR managers spend on average 6 seconds reviewing resumes. Whether it was the big name branding or the tantalizing heat maps (who doesn’t love heat maps?) that magic number stuck and ever since job hunters have been obsessing over the number 6. (And this whole time you thought your company’s HR was trying to summon the devil while quietly muttering “66666” to themselves on the way to the water cooler)
Well, to test the validity of the fabled “6-second rule” and its claims, Resume Genius consulted a mix of statisticians and HR manager types from various industries and asked how much time they spent reviewing resumes. The results were not that surprising.
First of all, most HR managers explained that there is a large discrepancy between time spent reviewing one resume over another, as most stated that they usually know almost instantly whether any given resume is worth reading or whether it should just be rejected outright.
This means that many resumes don’t get 6 seconds of attention, as poor formatting, grammar mistakes, and errant qualifications may result in your resume landing in the recycle pile in under 2 or 3 seconds! Yes, resumes can be discarded in less than half the time The Ladders initially reported!
However, for those select few resumes that look nice and offer appetizing qualifications HR Managers will tend to shower with much more than 6 seconds of attention. For well-written resumes HR managers spent anywhere between 3-20 minutes of review time.
What does this mean? It means using an “average” figure for a data set with many outliers isn’t the best way to represent a common number. The average used in the 6-second study is actually the “mean”, and is best for data sets without many outliers. However, given the information above we know that resume review durations frequently include outliers, and thus the “median” duration might be a much more accurate way of determining total resume review durations.
So, all the time you spent fretting over that 6 seconds may have been time completely wasted.
4. Resumes Can Exceed One Page And Still Look Good
Perhaps the oldest resume writing myth in the book, the famous “your resume must not exceed one page in length” (or the world will end) rule sounds like something an under-qualified high school counselor thought sounded good in home-economics class (when those existed) and has forever been repeated by later generations.
It could also be assumed the origins of this myth came from a time when resumes were most commonly printed out on paper and mailed to people. By this logic it makes sense, nobody wants to be leafing through multiple pages of resumes because that increases your chances of getting paper cuts.
Thankfully times have changed, and pages are turned with the flick of a finger on a mouse, so physical length can no longer be viewed as an actual hassle.
Nobody likes that person who drones endlessly on about only themselves especially if they are a boring individual, and thus nobody likes resumes that are any longer than they have to be. Yet for many more “interesting” applicants with a rich history of experiences, having a few pages are only necessary to clearly communicate their experiences.
So, senior level applicants need not think twice about two page resumes. Entry-level applicants usually fit to one page simply because they just don’t have that much information to work with. Everything in between should be rounded up or down in a pragmatic fashion.
A resume that is one page plus one paragraph in length should probably be trimmed down to one page, which shouldn’t be too difficult with a scrutinous eye and a few formatting tweaks.
Likewise, a resume that is near to or over a page and a half should be left alone as there is no way you are going to reduce the document to just one page without removing some valuable information (unless you packed it with fluff in the first place, in which case you need to reevaluate the entire document anyways).
3. Resumes Are Professional, Work Gaps Are Personal
If I had a nickel for every article I’ve seen written with the goal of scaring people about gaps in their employment I’d probably have enough to buy a reasonably sized budget flat screen TV from Costco. Most employment scare tactics are just marketing, people preying off of others insecurities about how their personal life has collided with their professional life in the past.
The thing is, most employment gaps are for personal reasons and don’t have any bearing on the effectiveness of the resume itself. Got pregnant and stayed home for a year to take care of your child? Great! Nobody should be shocked. Have a death in the family? Sorry to hear that, don’t worry, nobody will question you about it. Gaps that exist for personal reasons are nothing to worry about, many very qualified people have them.
Only those applicants with 2+ years of employment gaps have reason to worry, and even then this worry can usually be nullified by including part-time experiences, volunteer experiences or continued education. If you frequently drop off the grid for years at at time you can STILL write a resume, just do it in a functional style instead of a reverse chronological style
At the end of the day if you were unemployed for over 2 years and it wasn’t for personal reasons and you didn’t do any volunteer work or learn anything new as mentioned above then you unfortunately will probably be unemployed for another 2 years as you sound like a bit of a couch potato. These types of people should seek work that doesn’t require a formal resume. For everyone else, just R-E-L-A-X about your employment gaps. Life throws everyone a banana peel once and a while.
2. Know the Technical Definition of Insanity Before Spamming Employers
So, you’ve spent hours butchering your resume by trying to shrink your healthy, naturally plus-sized two-pages down to one page by cutting out a bunch of valuable experiences. Next you went and tried to explain all the gaps in your work history by including a bunch of personal information no HR wants or needs to hear about. Now you send this exact same crippled resume to 50 different job postings and call it a day.
…And you wonder why you don’t hear back from anyone? Instead of wasting time needlessly chopping up your resume to fit it to a single page consider instead investing that time in customizing your individual applications.
Remember, each employer is looking for something slightly different, so sending the exact same resume with the exact same cover letter to each every single job opening means you are targeting zero job openings. The best applications are laser targeted, like homing missiles, as that’s how they pique HR attention and make themselves out to be “the perfect puzzle piece” to any given company’s needs.
Instead of sitting down and trying to apply to as many jobs as possible in one day try to focus on quality and only apply to 2 or 3. This might seem like a small number, but after 2 weeks of applications you’ll have hit up just as many jobs as you would have in a couple days of employing the “blast and pray” technique. Most importantly, these applications will be much more likely to stick than the lackluster copies being sent previous.
To put the mailing of identical resumes to different positions into perspective, think about the last time you read an email that started “Dear Sir/Madam” and never once mentioned your name or related any piece of information to you personally? As a savvy internet user you instantly sniff it out as a template lacking any personal or relevant information pertaining to you as an individual and that it’s probably been sent to 2,000 other people so you promptly trash it.
Resumes with generic career objectives and cover letters written for a group of people instead of an individual give HR managers a similar feeling to being spammed. They communicate that this person isn’t passionate about their company or this particular job in particular but is instead throwing lines out everywhere and hoping something, anything bites. HR’s don’t like to be likened to fish. Frustration is not an emotion you want to impart upon the reader of your resume.
1. It’s not all about the resume – it’s all about you!
Finally, the biggest and perhaps most horrifying truth about resumes is that they’re not the all-powerful make-or-break documents they are often amped up to be. Yes, they are very important and vital to gaining quality employment but at the end of the day they are simply professional autobiographies.
Autobiographies can be great and they can be awful, depending on who they are written about. This means that if you are a horrible candidate even the sharpest resume won’t be able to hide the fact you are unqualified or lack the skills for any given job.
Sometimes good medicine can be hard to swallow (sorry, metaphors and resumes go together like PB&J) but will ultimately have positive effects. If you are being held back from applying from jobs because you’re under qualified or lack a specific skill then you may want to consider acquiring said skill to improve the power of your resume. Fluffing up a resume with lies and exaggerations are not lasting, viable options.
Just like getting in shape and looking good requires hours of hard work exercising and monitoring what you consume, so job hunting may require some serious reflection, discipline and self-improvement. It won’t be easy, but it’s not that hard either.
Be disciplined in your job hunt. Acquire the skills you need to make it in your industry and worry about the margin width or sentence spacing of your resume later, as they are second fiddle to real applicable qualifications.
You may be horrified about how little basis in reality many resume myths have however you’re the better off because of it. There is still time to right the wrongs of the past and create a resume that reflects you accurately and strikes a chord with the HR it’s being sent to. You can change. You don’t have to live in ignorance or fear. Now, go forward and job hunt with confidence!