6 Resume Rules for 2017 That You May Not Know About

Resume Rules for 2017We’re only in the second week of the new year, so this is a great time to talk about resume rules for 2017. This time last year, readers talked about whether or not they apply to jobs when they don’t meet all the requirements (also see our imposter syndrome post), and a few years ago Kat answered a reader email about unusual ways to get your resume noticed.

Here are six resume rules for 2017 that you may not have heard:

1. Know that the “one page” limit no longer applies. Depending on your career and circumstances, it’s OK if your resume goes beyond a page. To figure out whether to make your resume one, two, or even three pages, check out these guidelines from Monster. No matter what, though, keep it concise — and make 100% sure there are no typos!

resume rules to know in 20172. Tailor your resume to each position and company; don’t keep sending every employer exactly the same one. Use the words and phrases from the job description in each resume, especially because it’s more likely to be read by a computer first than by a human.

3. Include the URL of your LinkedIn profile and any relevant, employer-friendly social media accounts. (After all, the company is going to google you anyway!) If you have a portfolio website, include that too. By the way, if your LinkedIn URL looks something like this: linkedin.com/in/jane-smith-5cu95802, create a custom URL for your public profile (e.g., linkedin.com/in/janesmith) by updating your public profile settings.

4. Include a summary or “personal branding statement” rather than an objective, which has fallen out of favor over the years. Here are some examples from the web:

  • “corporate troubleshooter regularly assigned to the most challenging initiatives” (source)
  • “cost-conscious benefits manager who has creatively tailored plans to employee needs at below average employer cost” (source)
  • “online ad sales director with 12 years of experience leading sales teams in start-up, rapidly growing, and established companies” (source)

5. Don’t leave college activities on your resume forever. Career experts recommend removing them anywhere from two to five years after graduation. And unless you’re a recent graduate, don’t include your graduation year. Once you’ve past the “young professional” stage, leaving it off may protect you from age discrimination (and motherhood discrimination). (You might ask, “Well, can’t they tell how old I am by looking at my listed positions?” but Alison Green of Ask a Manager recommends removing jobs that you held more than 15-20 years ago.)

6. Save and send/upload your resume as a PDF (rather than a Word document) so that the formatting will look exactly the same to the hiring manager as it does to you. Tip: I literally did not learn this until today, so some of you may not know this either — when you choose “Export” in Word and create a PDF, the formatting will be preserved, including hyperlinks. (A note based on some of the comments — if you KNOW a bot will be looking at your resume, upload a plain .txt version as well as a PDF version for human eyes, if you can.)

When is the last time you updated your resume? How long is it? How much do you alter it for each position you apply for? For those of you who REVIEW resumes, what are your main takeaways? Have you read about any other resume rules for 2017?

Further Reading:

Pictured: Pixabay

Can your resume go over a page? What's the best way to get past the HR bots? Lots of good tips in here you may not know...

New rules for resumes in 2017


  1. I would be weary of the PDF rule. I always used to submit resumes as PDFs – it just seemed more polished. But one of my friend who works in HR for a big multi-national company says that they get so many applications for each job that they all get scanned by automated software for keywords before ever being seen by a person. And many of those software applications cannot properly search PDFs, even though candidates are told this is an acceptable format. If your application is being submitted to what is obviously HR software, I’d think twice and submit a Word document if it’s a supported format.

    • an0nym0us :

      They probably can’t search PDFs if they’re a scan of something. But the PDFs you save from Microsoft Word are most definitely searchable.

      • I don’t know how the search function of these software applications work, but apparently a number of them struggle with PDFs. Knowing that, why take the risk?

        • They’re only not searchable if they’re scanned. I think it’s riskier to send a .doc than to send a searchable, natively created PDF.

    • Here’s an example where spellcheck won’t help you. You meant wary but wrote weary. Both are words, so spellcheck is going to think you’re fine. Always have a good friend or colleague check your entire resume.

    • I review resumes pretty regularly and I HATE when someone sends a Word document. Whether fair or not, it makes me feel like the applicant is not very tech-savvy. Even when the format stays as the applicant intended (which it seldom does), I always use the Show/Hide formatting button and can often see that s/he made the resume “look” good but is not a very adept/efficient Word user. In fairness, my organization does not use automated software but I haven’t heard of problems with resume scanning software and PDFs as long as OCR is applied.

      Another big turn-off is people who describe themselves as “detail-oriented” but have an error in their resume. I am much less forgiving of an error when the applicant has listed “attention to detail” as one of their selling points. Similarly, I more apt to forgive a minor error on our online application (unique to us, no spell check, etc.) than I am to overlook an error on your resume or cover letter, which you’ve had time to prep, check and have others review.

  2. Is #4 actually a thing people recommend now? I always think it looks a bit cliched and useless, and as a hiring manager, I wouldn’t even bother to read it. If you have some special skill/relation to the job, tell me in your cover letter or email – don’t give me random marketing jargon.

    • Anonymous :

      Agree, I would be surprised to see this on a resume and would assume the person is out of touch with current norms. This should be in the cover letter.

      Keeping it in is a waste of space.

    • I see this a lot so I know it’s done. I’m not in Law, though, so that may be the difference? It doesn’t bother me as long as it’s brief. Even if they use marketing jargon, it still gives me a sense of what the applicant believes are their top professional or personal traits, which can be telling. It’s like the classic interview question, “describe yourself in three words” (or some iteration of that). The cover letter, on the other hand, is how their skills and experience will align with my organization and the position.

  3. I am really, really against “personal branding statements” on resumes. I don’t need or want that on your resume. The resume is valuable space and should be devoted to highlighting how the applicant’s skills and experience match the employer’s need.

    I would keep graduation year on resumes, but that may be a law-specific thing – I need to know when you graduated so I know what kind of level of seniority I’m looking at.

    I’m also really against wasting resume space on “other interests,” but I know lots of people here disagree with me. And I do get that, say, summer associate candidates may not have a ton of stuff to include on the resume and thus the fluff gives the interviewer something to talk about. But if you have enough substantive material to fill up a page, please, for the love of god, do not cut any of it so you can include that you enjoy hiking, cooking, and SEC football.

    • What would you think of including law school graduation year, but losing college graduation year and grad school graduation year? In my case, I graduated in 2010, but did grad school before law school, so I’m 39. And don’t really want to broadcast that to a prospective employer. But neither do I want to make the employer suspect I’m even older.

      • Honestly, if you graduated in 2010, you’re not applying for entry-level jobs, so why would your age be concerning? I think that age discrimination of the kind you’re worried about really pops out when you’re looking for that first post-law school job and you’re 10 years older than your classmates – I’d be more likely to do what you suggest then. At this point, you’re well into your career so personally I wouldn’t see a significant risk there.

    • Ha- I’ve seen the personal interests work against applicants. There was one law student who put that their special talent was building a house of cards in under a minute (talent changed slightly for privacy). Several people wanted to hand this person a deck of cards to test them during the interview. They were also known as the card student when discussed internally. Don’t be that person.

      • But why? It wasn’t an offensive interest. To the contrary, it appeared rather impressive and memorable to the people.

      • Senior Attorney :

        Yeah, if he can deliver I think that would be epic. And I would be pleased to be known as “card student.”

        • The “card” applicant goes right along with the applicant who wore the really cool/funky/hot thing to the interview. Unless it’s relevant (card-house building prepares me for a career in cup stacking), metaphorical (building card houses requires a keen sense of balance, as does this position, and each piece must be in place) or network-y (when I was at the card house tournament, I met person X, who you may know), why bring it up?

          • Senior Attorney :

            I’m not bringing it up. I’m putting it on the very bottom of my resume as a fun fact to reward you for plowing through the rest of it. Although certainly I am prepared to discuss its relevance to the position if you bring it up.

      • Anonymous :

        I think it can work for and against… I am off the opinion that card building is pretty awesome.

        The ones I think should be avoided:
        -Watching sports
        -Travel… And then listing places

        • maple legal :

          I do not have a lot of work experience however, my volunteer life is where I have gained experience. SO I don’t put my interests (reading, knitting, scrapbooking) but I put my volunteer experience that is relevant to the position I am applying for (for example, I volunteer as an instructor/trainer for girl guides and that gives me experience in public speaking/presenting and facilitating, things I want to do in a career but do not have the experience in that yet).

      • I remember the year everyone was fighting to hire the law student who took a year off school to drive the Weinermobile around the country. He had the best stories. The one that was a subject of debate was the guy who put on his resume that he ran the Boston marathon with a broken foot. Shows determination or stupidity? Don’t think he got an interview.

    • +1 to everything cbackson said.

    • Yeah I agree with all of this. #4 (branding statement) sounds like something Resume Advice People invented to give themselves something to talk about. No one is (or should be) actually doing this.

      Also… #3… unless you’re super hard to find on LinkedIn (why, though?) or have a super common name, you don’t need to include a link. I’d frankly rather google it.

    • Anonymous :

      Agree on keeping the grad year. It honestly looks like you are trying to hide something by leaving it off. I would be wary of a candidate who did.

    • I am also against putting “interests” on resumes. It’s not relevant to whether you can do the job–I want to know your education, experience, and interest in the actual work. Also, maybe I’m overthinking things, but I think there’s too big of a risk that your interests are boring (hiking, reading, traveling), will be perceived as taking too much time or energy away from work (triathlons, writing screenplays), falling into or out of some gender stereotype (sewing, baking, metalworking), or being too idiosyncratic (card guy).

      There’s a possible exception of summer associate applicants because it’s expected. But I also think law firms should stop asking.

      • Senior Attorney :

        I kind of feel like if you’re a card builder and you’re interviewing with a firm that is anti-idisyncratic, then that’s good information and it’s a useful screening device on both sides, no?

    • Brunchaholic :

      Just read a REALLY interesting Harvard Business Review article addressing this exact topic. Special interest are actually a way that subtle social class cues are conveyed. There’s been research conducted specifically in a law firm setting and (not shockingly), the male with interests like polo and sailing was 4 times more likely to get a callback. When asked to give reasons, employers made generalizations about “good fit.”

      In a frustrating twist, having money as a woman worked against candidates because they were perceived as not needing to work because of family money. That’s not frustrating at all…

      I’ll post the link to the article in my reply. All in all very interesting.

  4. Trying to lateral or possibly go in house (ouch, paycut) after being told I’m out in my “up or out” big firm. 18 big firm apps via recruiter and so far 11 rejections. SIGH/Terrified.

  5. I don’t know that I’d waste time or space on the LinkedIn link – if people want to see your LinkedIn profile, don’t they just open up Linkedin and search?

    • numbersmouse :

      I agree.

    • I agree too. Plus, my LinkedIn profile had essentially the same information as my resume (educational background, experience). Unless your LinkedIn profile reflects something important that you can’t fit on your resume, I’d ask why you bothered to include the link. Even then, you should be able to include anything you really want an employer to see in your cover letter and resume, especially if you can break the one-page rule.

  6. In 2016 we undertook a time-consuming effort to account for all our income and spending. There are probably tools that would have made this effort easier, but I did it “by hand”: I built a spreadsheet and recorded each month’s income (my salary; husband’s salary; other income) and all expenses (utilities; car expenses; groceries; eating out; travel; discretionary; childcare; etc.). It is not quite complete yet because I am waiting for the next credit card bills to enter all the end of year expenses. But, it’s provided very interesting, fairly accurate, and generally reassuring data about the choices we are making. I don’t plan to do the same in 2017 (because it was a lot of effort), but I will continue to track my discretionary spending (which I’ve done for several years) because it really helps me to curb my unnecessary purchases. I tend to use Marshalls/TJMaxx as a form of entertainment, but all those $30-70 purchases really add up (and I’m mostly buying little bit of stuff I really don’t need).

    • Senior Attorney :

      I’ve been doing this for years. One of the things I love about it is that the record of my expenses is also the diary of my life: trips, house projects, tuition, weddings (!), and so on.

    • I’ve been tracking my expenses and income by hand using spreadsheets for a few years now, and if you enter things a couple of times a month it doesn’t take that much time. This is also a good way to keep track of where you are each month WRT your budget for a particular category. I got all excited the other day because I started using if/then formulas to alert myself to categories I’m approaching the limit on or have exceeded.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I’ve been doing it for the last 7 years with YNAB. It is still eye opening to me to this day. I think it is an excellent habit to create.

  7. notyourlawyer :

    Lawyerly ladies – I’m currently struggling with how to include this information in my resume: my law school graduation year and firm class year are different. I have a really specialized skill set and worked full time for my current firm while attending law school. Post-graduation, they offered me a three year bump in seniority to stay with them, and within the firm, I operate at that level of seniority (now a senior associate). I’m basically looking for a way to say “I graduated in 20XX, but am compensated as and given the responsibility of a 20(XX+3) grad.”

    Any advice?

    • Anonymous :

      In the scoping sentence under your company/job, I would say a concise version of just that.

  8. Thanks for this post and the links, which absolve me from guilt over coming to a “fun” site when I have other stuff I should be doing!

  9. That Harvard Business Review article — ouch. A resume showing a guy comes from money (sailing, polo) does better than lower-class-looking guys and all women. A resume showing a woman comes from money (sailing, polo) gets the least amount of interest b/c the reviewers assume she’ll quit because she will have a rich husband.

    • @ORD –
      I just finished reading that, too. I guess I should’ve put sailing on my resume all these years…
      Or maybe work “desire to stay single forever” into my mission statement.

  10. I enjoyed reading your post. I worked as a career coach for a few years and everything you covered here it’s on point!

  11. Great article!

    It is critical to optimize your resume to each position and company culture.

    There is a free AI resume tool that helps do just that. Super helpful in any job search!


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