No more than one page! Two pages are OK! Times New Roman! Helvetica! 10 pt… 11 pt… 10.5 pt! Include personal interests! Definitely leave them out!

As I tell people who work with me on their résumés as part of their career coaching, if you ask three different professionals for their opinions about the best way to write and format a résumé, you will likely get four different opinions.

So, what’s a job seeker to do? The answer, from my perspective, is that while there are many résumé truisms to follow – such as be careful about spelling (of course), about grammar (harder), and about using clear, descriptive phrasing (hardest) – the successful résumé isn’t dependent on inviolate rules. Rather, as in much of life, if we keep some principles in mind we’ll be OK.

Dr. Steve’s Résumé Principles:

“¢ Résumé readers skim and read, skim and read – that is, the prospective employer or recruiter will casually glance at some parts of your resume, and read some parts in detail. So, make sure every sentence and bullet is crystal clear for the careful reader, but make sure you emphasize critical words and results that will likely stick in the casual reader’s mind (examples – raised revenues 15 percent; led a diverse team of professionals; was accountable for three geographic regions). Oftentimes, boldface can be helpful here.
“¢ Make it easy on the reader – If there’s a particular way you want the interviewer to think about you, consider writing it explicitly in a summary at the beginning of the résumé (example – Creative entrepreneur with diverse experience across multiple technologies and products…).
“¢ Value counts more than length – If you’re going to omit key information by keeping your résumé to one page, don’t.
“¢ Tailor your résumé to the job – No, don’t make things up, of course, nor even stretch too much. Your résumé should be truthful and, frankly, contain facts you can defend. But, if you’ve had a variety of experiences, emphasize the ones that fit the job best (examples – industries you’ve worked with; your technical vs managerial experience; the kinds of programs you’ve been responsible for). I strongly recommend that people have a “base” résumé and change it accordingly for a particular opportunity.
“¢ Résumés don’t get you a job; they get you an interview – So, follow these principles and build/use your network to get in the door. But don’t assume that there is one “magical” way to write your résumé that will get you the job you want. Your résumé is a sales tool to promote your value to a prospective employer; there are others.

In the coming weeks I’ll share more of these sales tools, as well as additional résumé tips, and advice about many other job-related and job search-related activities. And, if you have comments about this blog or any questions, please submit them. I look forward to hearing from you.