Brief answers to common questions, with links to other places on the site where fuller answers are given, usually along with other information you need on the topic.
Topics under each head are listed in likely order of importance.
Fuller discussions of resumé basics can be found on the Resumé Encyclopedia page.
(There’s a separate section below on Document Formats, Resumé Formats, Resumé Types.)
• How long should my resumé be? Your resumé should be as long as necessary to convey your job-worthiness and answer any questions the reader may have at that stage, without wasting the reader’s time and effort. For junior people, one page is fine, and most junior people should indeed be careful not to go longer. But for more-experienced people in most skilled positions, two to three pages is common, and anything less would be inadequate. Senior IT people may go to five pages. (U.S. professional CVs may go much longer, but if you need one of these, you’ll know it.) The myth that nobody’s resumé should ever go longer than one page is one of the most common and most dangerous misconceptions out there. See Killer Myth #1: “Keep It On One Page,” on the Tips & Myths page.
• On-line job sites—how do I get results from them? Unless you’re already a sought-after person who gets calls from recruiters out of the blue, your chances of getting a good offer from a desirable employer through an on-line job site are about one in a hundred—if your qualifications are competitive. Your chances of being contacted by low-end operators, who may or may not be employers, are much higher. To learn why, and to learn what on-line job sites are good for, see On-Line Job Sites on the Tips & Myths page, where there’s also a special discussion of The Ladders.
• Keywords (a.k.a. SEO, search-engine optimization)—what do I need to know? It’s an important topic, but there’s a lot of hype on the subject. You definitely need to read the SEO, Keywords, Search-Engine Optimization article on the Tips & Myths page.
• Resumé—how do I spell it? See the Resumé Encyclopedia article on this subject.
• Can you make my resumé visually distinctive? I can, but I won’t. For technical reasons, resumés with non-standard fonts, colors, images, or even the tables most resumé services use for layout, either don’t get though electronic resumé transmission and processing at all, or come out so messy no-one will bother to read them. (There are, after all, a few hundred other resumés in the pile.) Also, Word just doesn’t offer the kind of fine control needed to make most attempts at visual refinement look anything but tacky. Fr more about thsi, see the sections on Fonts and on Other Technical Issues, in the Word article on the Resumé Encyclopedia page.
I did typography and graphics for leading ad agencies and design studios in New York for many years. I use that experience to make my plain-vanilla resumés look better than anyone else’s.
• Do I need a “functional” (or “skills-based”) resumé? You need to avoid them like the plague. Employers drop these resumés straight into the trash. When people call me and say they’ve gotten no response to their resumés, despite years of solid experience, the reason is almost always that they used a “functional” resumé. See Killer Myth #2: The Functional Resumé, on the Tips & Myths page.
• What do you charge for resumés? Depending on your field and your level of experience, fees for the Resumé Consulting service range from $225 to $650. LinkedIn profiles and cover letters are extra. (Free cover letters are worthless—see the discussion of that on the Tips & Myths page.) These are typical fees for high-end services, and you probably won’t get anything worth much at all if you pay much less.
The one-low-price-fits-all resumé services you see all over the place are not going to give you much, and are certainly not what experienced people in skilled fields need. For some price/value realities about resumés, see Cheap Resumés: Price/Value Realities in the Resumé Business, on the Tips & Myths page.
The fees listed on the Services page should give you a good idea of what I’ll charge for your project. I’ll give an exact quote when we talk on the phone, after I know what field you’re in and your experience level.
For payment options and policies, click here.
Like all resumé services, I have a no-refund policy. No experienced professional does first-rate work unless they’re certain they’re going to be paid for it—or unless they add a large premium to all fees to cover the risk of non-payment.
Like all resumé services, I require payment in advance before I commit time. For larger projects ($550 and up), we can do half up front, and half after I’ve completed the in-depth interview. Some resumé services offer what look like guarantees, or will take half the fee on delivery. But those claims don’t stand up to examination: see Half-Up-Front Deals and “Guaranteed” Resumés, on the Tips & Myths page.
• How long will my resumé take? Typically, it’s three weeks from the time we start the project (fixing the schedule and taking care of the payment) to delivery of the approval version of your resumé.
I’ll need one week to prepare for the in-depth interview. After the interview, I’ll need another two weeks to get you an approval version for your review. Cover letters may require a few additional days. At the approval stage, I can usually turn around revisions within 24 to 48 hours. The same goes for the final package, when all the revisions are done.
Scheduling depends in part on my workload. I’ll also need to coordinate the interview and other contacts with you. So my timeframe depends in part on your schedule, too—on how quickly you get back to me when I need essential input from you, and on when we can schedule the in-depth interview.
• Do you offer a guarantee? No resumé service offers a guarantee. Some resumé services offer what sound like guarantees, but they don’t stand up to examination. (Few skilled service providers of any kind offer meaningful guarantees. Real guarantees are usually for physical products with simple uses.) See Half-Up-Front Deals and “Guaranteed” Resumés, on the Tips & Myths page.
• What’s your privacy & confidentiality policy? It’s total.
• Do you have references? The total privacy and confidentiality policy means I don’t give out clients’ names to anyone. But I do have a page of samples of the feedback I’ve gotten.
• “Format” seems to have several different meanings... It does. They’re explained in the resumé glossary entry for “Format.” Unfortunately, there’s no way around using the word in several different senses when you’re talking about various aspects of resumés.
• Word Resumés generally—what do I need to know? There are some very important things you need to know. See the Resumé Encyclopedia article.
• Plain Text (ASCII) Resumé—what is it? It’s the most important document format for resumés after Word. It’s much better than Word if you’re pasting your resume into an on-line form. You should definitely read the Resumé Encyclopedia article on this.
• PDF (Portable Document Format)—what is it and how do I use it? Don’t use it unless you are certain the recipient prefers it to any other format. Don’t ever send a PDF made by scanning a paper resumé. In certain situations in certain industries, PDF is a standard for resumés. But even in those industries, if you’re sending your resumé to HR, you should probably send a Word document. For more about this, and for other important information about PDFs (including how to make them), see the Resumé Encyclopedia article. Crystal Resumés provides all resumés in Word, plain-text, and PDF formats.
• Searchable (or SEO) Resumé—what is it? It’s a resumé written to include likely terms that employers will search for. The thing is, all resumés should be written this way. A LinkedIn profile, for best searchability, should also be written to conform to the peculiarities of LinkedIn’s information structure. See the Resumé Encyclopedia article on Keywords and SEO.
• Curriculum Vitae / CV / vitae—what is it? If you don’t know, you probably don’t need one. Note that these terms all mean the same thing—but it’s one thing in the U.S., and another thing in the rest of the world. See the Resumé Encyclopedia article.
• Networking Resumé—what is it? For people whose resumés run to two or more pages, it’s a one-page abridgement for use in non-hiring situations. See the Resumé Encyclopedia article.
• E-resumé—what is it? Just a uselessly broad buzzword for any resumé that isn’t on paper. Electronic resumé formats are so different from each other that there’s no point in lumping them together. See the Resumé Encyclopedia article.
• Federal resumés, statements, etc.—what do I need to know? If you’re applying for a U.S. government job, you need to know a lot. There are books on the subject you should read. Otherwise, you don’t need to know anything—the federal hiring process is a reality unto itself. Only a few resumé services do federal resumés, and they charge a lot, for very good reasons. Probably even fewer do them well. Doing federal resumés well requires a full-time commitment to expertise in the federal job-application process and all its nonsense and out-of-control ramifications. I tried it, and decided it wasn’t worthwhile. For a few basics, see the Resumé Encyclopedia article.
• A4—what is it? It’s the standard metric equivalent to letter-size. It’s for resumés sent outside the U.S. and Canada—even in electronic formats. See the Resumé Encyclopedia article.
• RTF (Rich Text Format) resumé—what is it? Once preferred by some employers, it’s of marginal or no importance now. See the Resumé Encyclopedia article. RTFs are no longer part of our standard package, but we will provide them free of charge on request.
• (OCR-) Scannable Resumé—what is it? It’s been obsolete for over a decade, but it’s a close cousin of what is today sometimes referred to as a “searchable” or SEO resumé. The hype about both is eerily similar. See the Resumé Encyclopedia article on scannable resumés.
What you keep out is just as important as what you put in.
— Marcella Hazan, on cooking.
Her recipes were often very simple indeed; one tomato sauce recipe has three ingredients. In other words, knowledge, experience, and technique are as important as ingredients.