Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog

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Breaking the Rules of Resume-Writing

As old as the art of resume writing is, you’d expect there to be changes in standard practice, right?  After all, the way we communicate has changed dramatically, both in content and speed.  We like our information given to us Just-In-Time and in Sound-Bytes.  However, many resume writers still provide the same formula in presentation, format, and content to be included.

My guest blogger, Brendan Cruickshank, Vice President of Client Services of Job Search Engine, provides his thoughts on the subject, and of course, I couldn’t resist adding my two cents along the way.  If you know me at all, you’re not surprised. 

See if you agree with our thoughts.  If not, feel free to chime in within the Comment Section.


Thinking Outside the Margins:

Five Old-Fashioned Rules of Resume-Writing that You Should Break

Brendan Cruickshank Job-hunting can be a job in and of itself – and it’s a job that has changed over the past several decades. The rules of resume-writing that applied in the 1980s don’t always apply today. Here are five old-fashioned rules that you would be well-advised to break:

1. Your resume should be no more than one page. The length of your resume depends on you and the job you are applying for. If you are a recent graduate, chances are that you don’t have enough experience to justify more than a page – but if you do, don’t hesitate to run a little longer. On the other hand, if you feel strongly that you want to keep your resume to one page, but you have more experience than will fit, the solution is to include a link to a web site where a potential employer can get the rest of the details.

Jeff’s Two-Cents:  Couldn’t agree more.  Many hiring managers first review a resume on their computer, not paper.  There are no pages to turn, just scrolling down.  Often times, you don’t even notice you’re on page two or three.  The key is to include all pertinent info, but be concise.  I’m not a big fan of a second source (link to a web site)–don’t make your reader do extra work to learn the pertinent facts.  A good use of links:  examples of your work.

2. You must include an objective or a summary section. Most career advisers still swear by this, but my feeling is that you should include personal objectives or a summary at your own risk. A well done summary can do wonders. But I can’t remember the last time I saw one. Most summary sections, and most objectives, are full of corny jargon that make the job candidate sound sycophantic and brainless.

Jeff’s Two-Cents:  I definitely agree an Objective statement is not needed when you are applying for a job that matches your background.  If you are changing your career path (i.e., from Finance to Sales), you’ll have to spell that out (likely in a cover letter or email).  However, I think Professional Summaries are critical.  The first one-fourth of Page 1 must tell the reader who you are and what you’ve achieved.  As cautioned above, stay clear of the generic, mundane phrases:  A team-player who contributes to the bottom-line of successful companies using clear communication, excellent problem-solving skills, and keen decision-making.

More on this topic is covered in a video with Peggy McKee–link is below.

3. You must include an education section. Whether or not you include an education section depends on you – and whether or not your educational background will help you in the job you are applying for. If you didn’t finish your degree, mentioning the college you attended for only two years will only draw attention to the fact that you didn’t finish. There is no need to mention your high school diploma or where you attended high school.

Jeff’s Two-Cents:  I agree.  Keep in mind, Education includes training and certificate programs.  Where you have applicable skills through training include it.  Often times, I tweak resumes to have the heading:  EDUCATION and TRAINING.

4. Include a letter of reference with your resume. If you include something like this, it is most likely to be thrown into a file and never looked at again. Likewise, don’t add a line to your resume that says “References available upon request.” Instead, bring names and phone numbers for your most recent supervisors when you go to your interview. Most human resource managers will not check references for all job candidates, just for the ones they are seriously considering hiring – so they won’t check any references until they have already talked to you.

Jeff’s Two-Cents: Correct.  And do you really want to bug your references that much?  You want to have them called only when the hiring manager is serious.  And obviously, if you hold references until asked, you will know when to give your references a head’s up on who might be calling them.  Some hiring managers will ask for three completely different references than provided.

5. Print your resume on the nicest paper you can afford. This rule is an outgrowth of the rule that says you should wear a suit to your interview. You should still wear a suit to your interview if you can, but printing a resume on special paper is just silly.

Jeff’s Two-Cents: Yes, any paper will do, because most likely the interviewer will have their own copy anyway.  I always thought fancy paper was a distraction.  It’s like saying, the content of my resume isn’t so great, so let’s make it as pretty as possible.  Again, in the digital age, paper is secondary.  Although, always bring the extra copy.  One of my most recent interviewees didn’t, and my client was testing him to see if he’d bring it.  Never know…

Brendan Cruickshank has been involved in the online job search and recruiting industry for over eight years and has acted in senior client services roles with companies like and His advice is often sought on topics in employment and jobs trends from publications including the Washington Post, Forbes and US News & World Report.


Additional info:

Video with Peggy McKee on this topic:  Formatting Your Resume to Be Read!


March 3, 2011 - Posted by | Guest Post, Resume Writing


  1. […] Breaking the Rules of Resume Writing at Jeff Lipschultz’s blog. Jeff’s laying out the latest common wisdom, and we share his point of view. […]

    Pingback by Resume Tip Roundup | Resuminx: Make the First Move. | March 3, 2011 | Reply

  2. Nice post Jeff. But how do you condense 7 pages down into 1 page?

    Comment by John Littler | June 11, 2011 | Reply

    • John,
      The advice in the article is that you DO NOT have to condense to ONE page. (Keeping to one is an old rule.) Although, seven pages might be a little too long. Condensing to three to four for a long career is doable if you summarize some of the earliest jobs with just some key accomplishments. And keep the information relevant to the position. Most resume readers don’t care about experiences that are completely unrelated.

      Comment by jefflipschultz | June 13, 2011 | Reply

  3. Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful post. Thanks for supplying this info.

    Comment by great resume template | September 9, 2012 | Reply

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