Three Resume and Cover Letter Myths Exposed

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: June 12, 2008 - 10:42 AM

Based on the experience of writing and editing nearly 5,000 resumes and cover letters since 1996, Kevin Donlin is prepared to debunk some dangerous misconceptions.

Let's face it: there's a lot of misinformation about resumes and cover letters.

That's probably because most folks only have to write them every couple years. So it's hard to separate the good advice from the bad when it comes to writing these critical documents.

But after writing and editing nearly 5,000 resumes and cover letters since 1996, I've seen the same myths trip up job seekers week after week. And it's time to debunk those dangerous misconceptions.

So here, "from the trenches," is my best advice to help avoid three common myths about resumes and cover letters.

Myth: Your resumeshould be limited to one page.

Fact: A two-page resume is fine, if you need that much room to give employers enough information to want to call you.

I really have no idea how this one-page vs. two-page resume controversy ever got started. It reminds me of the Hatfields vs. the McCoys ... and it's equally pointless.

It boils down to this: if you can describe all your relevant experience and education going back 10-15 years on one page, use one page. If you need a second page to do that, fine.

Limiting all resumes to one page is like sending out a door-to-door sales rep and telling him, "Whatever you do, don't talk for more than 60 seconds." That would be ludicrous. A sales rep has to talk long enough to make the sale. In this case, that sales rep (your résumé) should be long enough to get employers to call you. No more, no less.

Having said that, try not to exceed two pages unless you're writing a curriculum vitae for an academic or medical-related position. A three- or four-page resume really is too long, in my book.

Myth: You don't need to send a cover letter when e-mailing your resume.

Fact: Yes, you do.

Sending a resume without a cover letter -- by e-mail, fax or any other means -- is like sending a birthday gift unwrapped, with the price tag on. It's a sloppy first impression you don't want to make.

When e-mailing your resume, write a personalized cover letter and include it at the beginning of your e-mail message. Then, copy and paste your resume below. Finally, attach one file with those two documents in the same order: cover letter followed by resume.

This way, even if employers can't (or won't) open your attachment, they'll still get your cover letter and resume in the body of the e-mail. And you'll make the right first impression.

Myth: Always put your education/degree first in your resume, followed by your experience. Because that's the order in which they occurred.

Fact: Relevance determines what goes where in your resume. Because you can't risk losing a reader's attention with stray information.

Know this -- the purpose of the first line in your resume is to get the second line read. The purpose of the second line is to lead readers to the third line, etc.

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