The Fairytales of Resume Writing Dispelled

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Let’s face it.

Styles change.
Times change.
Expectations change.

Fairytales change… not so much

A fairytale may be a cautionary tale at its inception, but over the years fairytales take on a legend-like status and despite wide ranging cultural, technological, commercial and lifestyle changes, these fairytales remain stubbornly at the forefront of our minds, entrenched and unquestioned.

Let’s dispel a few of today’s resume writing myths now.

Myth: A résumé must have an Objective as an opening statement

The tepid, cringeworthy statements made by applicants who state the obvious-—“I want a position that offers a challenge, working with a committed team of people in a progressive environment”—-have to be the most hackneyed statements committed to paper. A show of hands, please, from those who want to work in a treadmill position, surrounded by bored deadbeats, in a potentially bankrupt and stultifying atmosphere!

Myth: A résumé must be a complete chronicle of work history, concentrating on duties and responsibilities.

If you are 55 years old, do you intend to explore in depth the highs and lows of the paper route you had when you were 13? Or if you’re a contractor, are you making a list of every project you have worked on since you started your apprenticeship? We can just see the typical recruiter reaching for the painkillers at the very idea!

Myth: A résumé must provide a list of references and their contact details. References can be your friends, your coworkers, or Auntie Mary – anyone who has a good word to say about you.

Of course your Auntie Mary, coworkers and friends will have something good to say about you. The issue is whether they will be able to answer questions about your employment history and performance, since this is what your next employer will be looking for. Imagine the startled responses from your friends and Auntie Mary when the recruiter asks: “…and tell me, can you give me an example of how Cecil generated revenues in a saturated consumer market?”

Assurances that Cecil is a nice person with good manners and a love of stray animals is not exactly what the employer is looking for. This raises the subject of selecting appropriate references, which, incidentally, should be a separate document.

Myth: Education must include all subjects taken in high school and the results of each subject, followed with any University studies, subjects, and results.

This could be a reasonable suggestion if you are a new graduate. Just one full-time employment engagement since graduation, though, catapults you from student to experienced employee, and therefore, using valuable paper real estate to explore unnecessary information is a poor use of a limited resource. An employer will be looking for the real-life experiences and achievements of a potential employee, rather than an impressive list of classes studied by a new graduate.

Myth: A résumé must be no longer than four pages, and one is not enough.

This is one of the most important pieces of information you will ever hear about résumé writing that really will stand the test of time: Your résumé needs to be long enough to tell your story and to hold the reader’s interest—and not one word longer. It’s a little like a party. If it’s no longer interesting, starts to get repetitive, and you start to look at your watch—it needs to come to a close. Immediately. If that story has to end at two pages, three pages or four pages then that is where it has to end. Cutting out vital information to fulfil some arbitrary page preference is just madness. What part of your experience and skills do you want to leave out?

Or, as Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) so eloquently said: “The length of this document defends it well against the risk of its being read.”

Myth: An employer needs to know about your personal life to know you as a person. It it vital to disclose all personal information.

Are you an entrant in the Miss World Contest? Is a weekend lottery draw of lucky birthday years offered to candidates? Does parenthood make you more reliable or less reliable? Does bungee jumping qualify you for that accountancy position? No matter how many ways you look at it, personal details on a business document never make a great deal of sense. Employers and recruiters are not, as you may think, looking for hidden clues to your leadership or other strengths in a listing of your hobbies. If your experience does not indicate your strengths, nothing will.

Myth: A skills section, indicating that you have excellent communication, interpersonal and organisational skills, is essential.

Are you aware that nearly every résumé is filled with these terms? Do you think that being a communicative, team player with excellent organisational skills makes you unique? Does that mean that the surly customer service representative slouching, yawning, and slamming your credit card through the machine at the department store yesterday included the same wording on his résumé? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Myth: A résumé should reflect the following time-honoured format, without deviation: Objective, Personal Details, Skills and Education, Professional Experience, Hobbies/Leisure Interests and References.

So, should this time-honoured format be used if you are a barrister? A CEO? A nurse? A mechanic? Are all these occupations so similar as to follow the same career template? Marketing is marketing wherever it is applied; to win potential buyers (employers) you need to target their buying (hiring) habits. Do dishwashing liquid advertisements look the same as jeans commercials? Of course not! They are targeting completely different audiences with completely different needs. Remember that the next time you reach for a one-size-fits-all template!

Myth: It is important to name the document and any other piece of information with a subheading to circumvent any potential for misunderstandings. The document must be headed “Résumé,” the telephone number labeled “Telephone,” the job title labeled “Position,” the employer’s name labeled “Employer,” and so on.

Anyone with the authority to review your résumé will have the aptitude to understand what your document is without seeing a title, and will understand quite well that “7 Smith Street, Melbourne” is indeed an address. Readers are unlikely to misunderstand this information as being anything else. No one likes to be talked down to, as if he were unable to grasp the most basic information.

Myth: The font used in a résumé should always be Times New Roman or Arial, as these are standard fonts. Graphics or clip art should never be used on a résumé.

While using a calligraphic script typeface can be decidedly ill-advised and plain silly in many cases, there are numerous sophisticated, easy-to-read fonts that will add pizzazz and are standard across the majority of computers. Try Gills Sans, Baker Signet, Verdana, Palatino Linotype, and Book Antiqua for some interesting and conservative typefaces. Two typefaces can be combined, but the use of more than one is dangerous for a design novice and therefore, it’s best to use one typeface overall, leaving your expression of creativity and power to the words on the paper. Clipart used sparingly and in the right circumstances can be enormously effective. A child skipping or a red apple on a teacher’s resume, an airplane launching into the sky on a travel resume, or embedded Excel graphs showing a salesperson’s performance over previous years can be tasteful and exciting. Research your intended audience and industry, and err on the conservative side. If in doubt—don’t.

Myth: Little white lies will never be discovered.

They will. Businesses constantly perform background checks as a result of having been burned too many times. There are firms devoted entirely to verifying employee claims, and if you have misrepresented yourself, there is a good chance you will not only be found out, but also be asked to leave your employment no matter how good your performance has been or how long your tenure. Integrity still means something to many business-people and it is a fundamental part of their belief system. Put simply, lying is not worth the risk.

So here are just a few resume myths. Have you been guilty of thinking that the way things used to be done are the way they’ll always be done?


  1. Gayle Howard

    Updated my blog! The Fairytales of Resume Writing Dispelled: Let’s face it. Styles change. Times change. Expectati…

  2. Career Help

    RT @GayleHoward: Updated my blog! The Fairytales of Resume Writing Dispelled: Let’s face it. Styles change. Times change. Expectati…

  3. Job Coach

    RT @MonsterCareers: RT @GayleHoward: The Fairytales of Resume Writing Dispelled: Let’s face it. Times change.

  4. Soyoung Choi

    RT @MonsterCareers: RT @GayleHoward: The Fairytales of Resume Writing Dispelled: Let’s face it. Times change.


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About Gayle Howard

If you are interested in working with Gayle Howard—an executive resume writer, Certified Master Resume Writer, multi-award-winning resume writer, and Master LinkedIn profile writer, drop her a line now using the contact form at the link above. Gayle can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximizing your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.