Resumes Worth a Look Have Right Length, Content

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Q: I haven't written a resume for about 20 years, but I've got to write one now. I am confused about the conflicting information out there on resumes. What is the norm, one or two pages? Should I include personal information or not? Are there certain fonts or styles that work best with scanners? Do I have to transmit my resume electronically, or can I fax it or mail a hard copy? What are common mistakes I should avoid?

A: The other day, I read a resume that contained just about every common error you can imagine. It was four pages long, typed in teeny- tiny fonts and jammed with irrelevant details (one example: "1977 Rotary President"). There was no objective, no summary, no indication of where this person wanted to go next in his career. It had a litany of poorly written paragraphs describing his functional skills (amazingly, one of them was "Excellent Written Communication Skills"). His resume concluded with the tired standard, "References Available Upon Request." Anytime I read that line, I always think: "No kidding."

So those are examples of common errors. What can you do correctly? First, make your resume an appropriate length. Longer than two pages is an instant turn-off to a busy recruiter. One-page resumes are usually best for recent grads or those with narrow experience. Unless you have held the same job for 20 years, you will probably need two pages to adequately describe your capabilities and career history.

Recruiters always prefer a chronological resume, as opposed to a functional resume. Gene Bradshaw, human resources consultant at Verizon Wireless, says he likes chronological resumes because that style "makes it easy to see lapses in employment." Chronological resumes also make for a quicker read, and busy recruiters always appreciate saving time.

Bradshaw says he also likes to see resumes that list "PAR statements" -- descriptions of a Problem you encountered, the Action you took, and the Results you achieved -- because PAR statements help him understand what makes you stand out from the crowd.

Another way you can stand out, however, according to Beverly McGrath, director of human resources at Tele-Tracking Technologies, is to forget to include key data, such as your contact information, on your resume. …