If you're like most people, almost everything you think you know about resumes is dead wrong. Here are the popular myths about resumes, along with the unvarnished, reality-based truth.
Myth 1: A resume is a work-focused biography.
Truth: A resume is a sales document. The purpose of a resume is not to provide an explanation of your life or lay out the (boring) details of your employment history. The purpose of a resume is to convince somebody that you're worth interviewing.
Myth 2: The important part is your job experience.
Truth: The important part is your potential. A resume must sell the recruiter or hiring manager on the idea that you might be able to do the job at hand. Your previous job experience is only important insofar as it provides proof that you can do that job.
Myth 3: A resume should describe positions held.
Truth: Your resume must describe results accomplished. Job titles vary so much from company to company and are so inflated (many big companies have hundreds of vice presidents) that nobody really pays much attention to them. Recruiters and hiring manager want to see how you've helped, not what you've done.
Myth 4: A resume should mention hobbies.
Truth: Your hobbies can lose you the job. Your future employer interprets hobbies as a sign you'd rather be doing something else. Despite what they say in employee handbooks, companies don't want "well-rounded individuals." They want workaholics.
Myth 5: Update your resume regularly.
Truth: Every resume must be customized. A standard resume, even if accurately updated, forces the recruiter or hiring manager to map your generalized experience into their specific requirements. Since they probably won't bother, your resume should do that for them.
Myth 6: A resume must be comprehensive.
Truth: A resume must be relevant. Listing job experience that isn't relevant to the job you're seeking is counterproductive. Best case, irrelevant experience shows a lack of focus. Worst case, it shows you don't understand the job you're applying for.
Myth 7: A resume will get you a job.
Truth: A resume is necessary but not sufficient. "I sent out hundreds of resumes and haven't gotten a single interview!" That remark is so common because the interviews and the jobs mostly go to "people who know people." Your resume usually comes into play after you've made the connection.
Myth 8: A resume should be a single page.
Truth: Most companies just check LinkedIn. Your LinkedIn profile, which isn't formatted into pages, is your real resume. Edit your profile as often as necessary to match whatever job you're pursuing at the time. Keep it short and sweet, though.
Myth #9: Job boards are the future.
Truth: Job boards are almost obsolete. In the future, companies will increasingly recruit by searching the web for people whose LinkedIn profiles and online activity (yes, you're being watched!) matches a profile of the sort of person they'd like to hire.
Note: I got that last point from Steve Goodman, founder and CEO of Restless Bandit, a recruiting platform used by companies like Four Seasons, Applebee's, and Gannet.