10 Resume Myths

Times change and there are some old, lingering rules that no longer apply

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It is getting close to that time of year when new graduates start job hunting. Many seasoned laboratorians are also looking to get that new job out of choice or necessity. In both cases, the job seeker will have to undertake the task of marketing themselves.

One of the most important tools in a job hunt is a resume. It is the single most important document that one uses to market oneself.  Studies show that the typical resume screener looks at a resume for approximately 6 seconds. They are looking initially for key words and phrases as well as layout. That might sound very unfair, but they are buying and the onus is on you to convince them they should "buy" what you have to offer.

A good resume can either make or break the search: it can be your admission ticket to an interview; or conversely relegate your prospects to the reject pile. There is a lot of information about creating the perfect resume: from information that should be included, to format, to keywords that should be included. There is no shortage of experts purporting to teach the rules of resume writing.

But times change and there are some old, lingering rules that no longer apply. We will look at 10 of the most common mythical rules which will certainly not give you an added advantage, and in fact can often count against you.

1. Always use Resume Paper: Remember that good ivory stock that you had to buy at a stationery store? You were told to print your resume on "good resume paper" and take along a few extra copies to the interview. That rule is from an era when most resumes were mailed in and were read by a (caring) human. Now, hiring managers do not care about resume paper. I have hired department directors and a vice president or 2 and none of them got the edge (or lost out on a job) because of the paper their resume was written on.

Most employers prefer that you submit an electronic version of your resume. That way, they will have it for their file, it will be easily retrievable and it can be scanned by software for keywords that they consider critical for the job. It is still a good idea to print a couple paper copies of your resume and take those with you to the interview for the hiring manager or (most often these days) the hiring panel. But plain white paper is fine. Remember if the best you have to offer is good stock (paper stock and not "stock" as in pedigree) then you have a problem.

2. Use a landline for a telephone interview:
That advice arose back in the dark ages when cellphone reception was unreliable. Interviewers would get miffed if an applicant kept repeating, "Huh?" or calls kept getting dropped. As mobile as we are these days, it is often much more convenient to be reached by cell phone. In most cases, a cell phone is fine for an interview.

One piece of advice I will add, is that when you have a telephone interview you come across better if you stand and even pace. Psychologically, movement gives you more energy and makes you sound more interested and engaged. In order not to be too distracted, make notes beforehand and keep handy a summary of your major achievements, and also questions to ask the interviewer. Make it sound like a natural conversation.

3. List every job chronologically:
Resumes can be written chronologically (usually in reverse order, with most recent job first) or by function of duties performed. I prefer chronological, but there is no need to list every single job you have ever held. For starters, most employers do not care about your life prior to 10 years ago (unless you are a mass murderer or were in jail). Concentrate on your most recent jobs with a few exceptions exceptions. If you have had only one job in the last 10 years, or if you had some phenomenally significant achievement years ago, you might devaiet somewhat from the rule of going back only 10 years.

Your resume is a sales pitch, so you want to emphasize why you are the best pick for THIS job. It should not be a biography.  Jobs which are not relevant can be omitted or downplayed.  Any obvious gaps can be explained simply: "time off to raise a family," "ran a small business," taught school' "traveled."  If I am applying for the job of a hospital COO, I would not necessarily list a 2 year period when I fell on hard times and worked in retail to pay the bills. Again, do not believe the old advice that you have to list every single job.

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Thank you for a wonderful article. That was very useful. I have only held a few jobs since college, but now it has become necessary for me to apply for a new job because of certain family situation. I realize the reality is that I might even have to look outside the lab in order to feed my family.

These suggestions are very helpful. Some of the suggestions I knew, but some I did not like using different versions for different jobs or not writing an objective. It all makes a lot of sense.

Thank you.

Jonas B.,  MLSJuly 24, 2014
Miami, FL


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