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July 25, 2014

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Top Five Resume Myths Exposed

From screening job applications to conducting interviews, hiring practices have undergone a dramatic transformation over the past decade. Despite all the changes, common resume myths continue to plague job search practices at all levels. This article attempts to debunk some of these myths.

Myth 1: It's all about the number of pages

The one-page rule is probably the most common myth about a resume. Candidates, even senior executives, use microscopic fonts, leave off important information, use 0.1 inch margins, and resort to a myriad of unhealthy practices -- all in an attempt to restrict their resume to just one page.

Many well-meaning college counselors advise their students to be concise and limit their resume to one page. That was important when you were a student with little or no experience, but why subscribe to the same wisdom after rising to the ranks of a senior executive?

There is an opposing viewpoint. Some job seekers mistakenly believe that if they can somehow balloon their resumes to four or five pages, they will probably be considered for higher-paying positions. What? Will someone offer me $250,000 simply because my resume is ten pages and redundant to the point of boredom?

Content rules. The quality of experience should influence the length of the resume, not hearsay. If you have held only one job, then donít try to create a five-page resume, but if your background merits a lengthier resume then donít use eight point fonts in a desperate attempt to fit everything on one page.

If you are too concerned about the length of your resume, consider creating a one- or two-page resume with additional pages serving as an appendix or addendum. I have done that for many researchers and academicians. The first few pages focused on their background, while their publications and presentations were presented as an appendix.

Myth 2: Make up that degree -- no one will know

Lying on a resume is the worst mistake a candidate can make. Even if you pass the background check (very unlikely considering how sophisticated background checks have become), a savvy employer will discover the deception within days, if not sooner.

Apart from the legal ramifications, we live in a professional world that is influenced by social media. At the touch of a button, HR managers across the country can discuss their experiences. Maintaining a good reputation is more important than ever.

Myth 3: Your resume must have an objective

"Seeking a position that will be beneficial and mutually rewarding Ö and will make use of my experience and education ...." If that is your idea of an objective, donít bother using one. Every inch of resume space is precious. Donít waste it on generic information that can be found on almost every other resume. Every word, every character that appears on your resume must position you as the perfect candidate for the job.

Of the 5,000+ resumes I have written, I may have used an objective for maybe a handful of candidates. In place of objectives, I often used what many experts call "branding statements" or "headers". The concept can be explained with the help of an example.

In the case of a clinical researcher, for example, a generic objective would be as follows:

"Seeking a mutually beneficial position that will make use of my 10+ yearsí experience in clinical research."

An improvement would be:

HARVARD-EDUCATED CLINICAL RESEARCHER WITH 10+ YEARSí PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE

Worked with top five pharmaceutical companies. Leveraged clinical expertise to manage three blockbuster, multi-billion dollar molecules from Phase I to Market.

The generic example does almost nothing to position the candidate but the refined version, in addition to serving as an objective, brings out three to four prominent strengths and an overall value proposition.

Whether you decide to use an objective or a positioning statement, refrain from presenting generic arguments.

Myth 4: Your references must be listed on the resume itself

Normally, a separate page is used as a reference sheet. This not only protects the privacy of your references (imagine posting their contact information on every job board), but also makes the screening professionalís job a little easier.

Myth 5: I can use the same resume for multiple job targets

Recipe for disaster. If your current resume focuses on your laboratory background, please donít send the same resume for marketing positions. It is understandable that you may qualify for multiple positions or be interested in pursuing alternate careers. If so, try to create a customized resume for each job target.

When it comes to a resume, never follow the "one size fits all" approach.

- Nimish Thakkar, Career Coach and Professional Resume Writer

Nimish Thakkar is a sought-after career management coach and professional resume writer. He has helped thousands of clients through his professional resume writing service and free career information site. Thakkar holds two graduate degrees, including an MBA. He is also a graduate of the prestigious Career Coach Academy. Nimish can be reached at nimish@resumecorner.com

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