Consider Ignoring These Resume Rules

Nancy Anderson
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A resume is often your first — and last — chance to grab a hiring manager's attention and land an interview. Yet, it can be hard to show the value of your work experience when you stick to the traditional rules of resume writing. You are different from every other candidate, so your resume should tell your unique career story. To stand out to employers, ditch stale resume practices that make your application a snooze fest.

1. Work Experience Has to Be Chronological

The most common resume format lists your current and previous jobs in reverse order to show your progress and whether or not you had continuous employment. However, it's most important to hook readers in the first few seconds, which isn't possible if your relevant work experience is buried at the bottom of the page.

Make your resume format fit the content, not the other way around, says Dana Leavy-Detrick, founder of Brooklyn Resume Studio. One option for showcasing a nonlinear career is to use a functional resume organized by related work experience or skills, such as fundraising or project management. You can also create an "Additional Experience" section to highlight older jobs where you used skill sets that are closely related to your target roles.

2. Personal Details Are Off-Limits

Personalizing your resume is the best way to give readers a preview of your character and professional passions. To be clear, "getting personal" on a resume doesn't mean rambling about your quirks, social activities or pets.

Use your career summary, education and work experience descriptions to convey what matters to you and the positive impact you have on your work environment. Do you volunteer or do pro bono work? Did you solve a major problem for your boss? Are you proactive about taking courses to expand your skill set? Let employers see why it's worthwhile to meet with you.

3. Resumes Must Show Your Complete Work History

You're lucky if hiring managers even read your entire resume, so you don't have to be nervous about leaving out unrelated work experience. Employers just want to know if you have the qualifications to work for them and verifiable employment to back up your claims.

The more you refine your resume to match your target job, the easier it is for hiring managers to see why you're a good fit. Focus on emphasizing jobs and skills that show how your growth and competence have prepared you to solve problems for each specific employer.

4. Resumes Shouldn't Exceed One Page

The length of your resume doesn't matter if it's boring. While one-page resumes were the norm when everything was printed, this rule is less relevant now that most applications are stored digitally. Just make sure you only use two pages when it's necessary. Again, you don't have to include all your work experience, especially when it undermines your current career goals. Edit out any nonessential details that don't strengthen your resume and sell you as the right candidate.

Resumes aren't means to be one-size-fits-all because your top priority is to distinguish yourself. Bending the rules can help you find a format that works for you. Which resume rules do you find outdated? What techniques do you use to showcase your work experience? Share in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Kandukuru Nagarjun at


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  • Michelle Lockett
    Michelle Lockett

    Needed that reality check thanks!!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Pamela W. thanks for your comment. It's tough to break into a new career for sure. A suggestion for you is to go through a temp agency. They are usually pretty lenient and will help you. Make sure that you are taking time to learn some software packages, too. Like MS Office. You would more than likely need to be proficient in word, excel and powerpoint. So, take the time, before contacting a temp agency to practice up on those because you will be tested. If you can test out on these, you will have a better chance of being placed into an office position. All the best.

  • Pamela W.
    Pamela W.

    What if you have any of those work skills or experiences. For a position you have never done before, and your trying to applied for it. Like you want to work in office as reception or office assistance. But you work in factory on assemble line in the past. In your trying to get out of factory work jobs.

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