The following is Part Two of an interview with Scott Bennett, author of The Elements of Résumé Style: Essential Rules for Writing Resumes and Cover Letters That Work, Second Edition. Below, you will find clear answers to nagging résumé-writing questions.
Read Part 1.
Do I need a Goal Section?
It depends. The only people who need a goal section on their résumés are those who are changing careers. If you are not changing careers, do not include one. If you are changing careers, then give the goal a lot of thought. It must clearly state your intent to transition from your past work experience to your desired work experience. A goal statement need not exceed two sentences. Avoid a common error: Do not use “To” as the first word in a goal. Instead, begin every sentence on your résumé, including your goal statement, with an action word. Also, avoid using ‘objective’ to replace ‘goal.’ When writing a résumé, think brief, active, and direct.
Do I need an Executive Summary Section?
No. A summary at the top of a résumé is often interpreted to mean, ‘My résumé is kind of long and tedious. Here is the good stuff you really need to know about me, so you need not actually read the whole document.’ Is this an admission you want to make? Properly written, your résumé is a summary. If it needs summarizing, then it needs work.
How much detail do I need to include in the descriptions of my previous jobs?
A ‘position blurb,’ as I call it, is not a job description. It is not intended to list everything you did in each position. Employers know this. Use from three to six action statements in a paragraph to construct a blurb for each position. Get to the point—without using bullet points. Bullets waste space on a résumé. No symbol will propel a reader’s eyes and interest on a résumé more powerfully than a thoughtful and succinct paragraph. Here’s another tip:
Resist the urge to change the name of any employer or other organization from text to a link. A link invites readers to navigate away from your résumé with just one click.
I’d rather not say when I graduated from college. Include or Exclude?
Include, and here’s why. Many employers interpret the absence of dates to mean candidates are attempting to hide their age and acknowledging that their age is something to be hidden. Why send these messages? Many talented, full-blown adults graduated from college before last Thursday. If you graduated in 1962, write it proudly. Don’t hide your academic history. Even if you are not a recent graduate, if you completed college or graduate school with a stellar GPA, you may choose to include this information on your résumé. If you attended school at night for four years, that says a lot about you too, so there’s no reason to keep it a secret either.
What’s the most useless, dispensable piece of information usually found on résumés?
The line: ‘References available upon request.’ Employers know this already.
Scott Bennett has reviewed more than 100,000 résumés, interviewed thousands of candidates, and hired and developed hundreds of employees at all levels in organizations ranging in size from 3 to 34,000 people.