Break The Myths of Résumé Writing

Learn the true purpose of résumés as defined by those who use them to hire.

Learn How Résumés Are Treated and Rejected

Resumes Work Only As Hard As You Do

This article is part of a series, and dives straight into what employers are really looking for from resumes, and the common errors that job applicants make. The article briefly covers the different types of resumes, but assumes that this information is fairly common, and will be obvious to the group of readers (i.e. you) who are instead looking for more insight and useful analysis of employer trends and behaviors. Note that throughout this article, we have used the term ‘resume’ without the accent on top of the ‘e’. This has been deliberately done to comply with certain devices that may render the term in HTML or ASCII characters.

Get To Know The Two Primary Resume Forms

A functional resume lists all the duties and responsibilities spanning a person’s career first, then goes on to describe the companies, titles, achievements etc. Functional resumes are generally not a good option because of the loss of context. Functional resumes are useful for people in technical fields (e.g. medical practitioners, Java programmers, and automative engineers) where the duties and responsibilities remain pretty much unchanged. But for most of us working in more creative or fluid fields, it is better to use a reverse chronological resume. Reverse chronological resumes list the details of your employment history, starting with the most recent, then cross-reference these details with your achievements. In doing so, reverse chronological resumes ensure (to a large extent) that these valid points do not get hidden. In a nutshell, use reverse chronological resumes (starting with your most recent job and its relevant details).

Resumes: A Stage In The Job Process You Can Actually Control

The purpose of a resume is to get you an interview, not a job. Most of us will fret over a resume because we feel it is the key tool to getting a job. Wrong. The key tool to getting a job is acing an interview (more on that in another article). The purpose of a resume is to gain access to this key tool i.e. getting an interview. Apart from this purpose, resumes need to fulfil another, more strategic objective: to not get eliminated. We like to think that the purpose of submitting a resume is to get selected, at least for an interview if not the job. But from an employer’s perspective, resumes arrive in batches (usually 200 to 300 per week per job) and need to be sifted, sieved, and culled. Winning resumes are therefore survivors, not chosen recipients. The difference is subtle but the impact is massive and once we realize that resumes are eliminated, our strategy changes. We have to make our resume survive the elimination process so that it is left behind after the others are taken to the shredders. So what makes a resume survive? The next section deals with this critical question, but first let’s be very clear about the first purpose of a resume. Resumes get you interviews. And interviews assess your personality as well as your past achievements. Interviewers want to see if you have a history of translating what you learned (in the past) into successful outcomes (in the future). The more you demonstrate this in your resume, the higher your chances of getting a job.

Treat Each Organization As You Would Like Them To Treat You: Special

Remember this rule: one resume per job. Sounds tedious? Probably. But you as a candidate are special and unique and don’t like being treated as part of the mass. Then don’t treat your future employers as a mass market either. Take the time to prepare one resume per organization. This helps for 2 reasons:
1. You can tailor your resume (truthfully) towards the organization’s requirements.
2. No two of your resumes are exactly the same so you’re individual traits are highlighted when organisations compare (they also feel special that you took the time to craft a unique resume for them). Take heart when doing this additional step because it does not take much time to customise each resume since so many of your qualities will undoubtedly overlap. In other words, it’s totally worth it.

Who Will Read Your Resume?

The chances are extremely high that your resume is not going to be read by the primary decision-makers of the job you are applying for. Instead, all the resumes are put through a filter first. In most cases, these filters are either recruitment agencies (with no direct experience for the job you are gunning for and are relying on information given by someone else at the company you are targeting), junior staff of the key decision-maker, and the human resources team. Only after the filters have worked their sieves, the few resumes left over will reach the person you will potentially be working with. So you may imagine you are writing your resume for your potential boss, but the truth is your resume will probably not even reach your potential boss. What’s worse, on average, a resume gets “read” in about 15 to 20 seconds. Okay so enough with the bad news. The good news is that there is plenty of information (useful and relevant) on hiring trends and practices that we’ve compiled throughout our research for Quantico (Singapore’s) Resume Writing Course, and we’ve compiled the good stuff here. Read on.

Straight From The Employers: The Down-Low on Resumes Once It Leaves Your Email

The following is a summary of questions, and advice in dot points, that deal with the resume elimination and selection process. Rather than going through the theory (of which there is an abundance across the Internet, on reputable sites) we’ve compiled the main questions and the responses we’ve found to be universally acceptable across industries and countries. These are also the strategies used in the resume writing course. Remember, a resume’s purpose is to get you an interview since virtually no one is going to land a job on the strength of your resume alone. (That’s like reading the cover of an encyclopedia and claiming to know its contents inside out.)

What is essential for a resume to be a success?
• Reverse-Chronological order
• Names of companies and what they do (explained clearly)
• Very clear dates of employment
• Very clear list of titles, duties and responsibilities
• Measurable results and traceable accomplishments
• No typos or grammar errors
• Written by the candidate himself or herself, and not by a professional writer
• Answers the question: how can you contribute positively to the job right now.

What helps you choose a resume, when scanning through a resume?
• Professional experience that is relevant to the job being applied for
• Key skills that match the job being applied for
• Stability (at least a year or more on average and not too many companies in a short time)
• Accomplishments that qualify the candidate for the job being applied for
• Clear, concise information
• Job stability and consistency
• Professional layout without being crammed
• Easy-to-compare past experiences to the job being applied for
• A customized resume to that particular organisation
• Awards and recognition for relevant activities to the job being applied for
• Attention to detail such as correct grammar and spelling
• A common connection (bonus but not essential)

What is the best length for a resume?
• 1 to 2 pages but depends on the industry (academia and medicine go beyond)
• As long as these questions are answered on page 1: What have you done? What you can do for me? Why you should get time for an interview?

What are the things most disliked in a resume?
• Long and unclear descriptions of past jobs, responsibilities, and duties
• Excessive job description with no factual achievements
• Personal information (children, marital status, religion etc.) especially when not asked for
• Generic competencies instead of specific accomplishments (metrics are always good)
• Every class and course ever attended, instead of only what is relevant to the job being applied for
• References available upon request. (You need the job so you anticipate and give them the information)
• Resumes written by copying the job description word-for-word

Are cover letters important?
• Not really unless specifically asked for. General rule: If they don’t ask for it, don’t give it.

And that is pretty much what you need to know when considering why resumes get rejected, and what goes into those resumes that survive elimination. This is also the reason why the resume-writing course is designed for you to build your own resume within an environment that’s aware of the trends and practices that shape effective resume-writing and hiring practices.

Quantico Workshop: Build a Résumé (In Real-Time)

Résumés are a collection of your achievements, but also your potential. Well-built résumés not only tell organizations what you have done, but what you can do. In our networked world, your résumé will travel across countries, cultures, and communities, detailing why you are the ideal applicant for the perfect job.

You will learn about the psychology of selection and elimination, how to integrate your online presence, and why behavioral-focused résumés are receiving more attention from businesses.

At the end of this workshop, you will have built, in real-time, a competency-based résumé that aligns with current hiring models, and highlights your strategic intent to your target employers.


A complete overview of workplace workshops.