Résumé Myths

Myth #1: Your résumé must be only one page.

False. "Your résumé should be as long as needed [in order] to get your concise message across with zip and punch," says Joyce Lain Kennedy, career columnist and author of Résumés for Dummies. If your experience and background justifies two or more pages, so be it. Recent grads shouldn't go beyond one page, but senior executives with decades of experience will probably need at least two pages. The rules are slightly different for résumés sent via e-mail. Laura Dominguez Chan, a Stanford University career counselor, says that in that instance, shorter is better for both cover letters and résumés.

Myth #2: Prospective employers don't read cover letters.

False. "Remember that anything you send is part of an image you're projecting," says Dominguez Chan. "If [nothing else] your cover letter shows your writing skills…and if all the candidates [for the position] really are top notch, it could be the cover letter that lands you the job."

Myth #3: Résumés should include and describe your entire work history.

False. Your résumé is a sales piece, a personal marketing tool. Take time to consider what skills the position requires. Make sure you include any experiences that would showcase your ability to perform the functions or skills for that particular position. You may not have a lot of professional or relevant experiences specifically, but you have other experiences in which you have perhaps utilized the same skills. Volunteer and other non-paid positions can be just as valuable as paid ones—especially as a recent grad. Use your résumé format to communicate volunteer work as experience.

Myth #4: It's okay to fib on your résumé.

False. If you think "blowing smoke on your résumé—inflating grades, inventing degrees, concocting job titles—is risk free because nobody checks, you're wrong," says Joyce Lain Kennedy. Employers do check, and those fibs will catch up with you. "People think they have to puff themselves up," says Ronnie Gravitz, a career counselor at UC Berkeley. "You just need to make a good case for what you have done.”

Myth #5: Including "References available upon request" is standard résumé protocol.

False. "An employer won't assume [that] you don't have references," says Dominguez Chan. “[Removing the line] gives you more room to include important information about who you are." She adds, "The only reason to include that [information] is if for some reason references are absolutely needed in the field. Academic positions, for example, typically ask for several reference names and/or letters." Oftentimes, this line is a way to use more space if your résumé appears a little sparse.

Myth #6: If your résumé is good enough, it will produce a job offer.

False. Your résumé is only one part of the process. The résumé's job is to land you an interview. "Once you get the interview,” says Joyce Lain Kennedy, "you are what gets you a job—your skills, your savvy, your personality, your attitude." So your résumé is simply your ticket in the door. You need to continue to work on your other skills to obtain the job.