20 resume questions you’ve been too scared to ask

A refined and up-to-date resume takes any application to the next level and puts you on a strong footing to ace your interview. But in an ever-changing job market, what should your resume look like?

Your resume questions may seem too obvious, or too complicated, but we’ve got your back. Follow our tips to craft a polished resume and put your best foot forward.

1. Why is a resume important?

When you’re in the midst of a job hunt, constantly editing your resume can be exhausting. But representing yourself with a polished, professional document that shows off your experience and reflects your personality can give you an edge on other applicants. If you haven’t updated your resume in a while, now is a good time to dust it off.

2.     Can my resume be longer than a page?

Ah, the age-old question. And really, it depends. If you have less than 10 years of experience, one page is plenty. But if you’ve climbed from one role to the next over a long career, you may need two or even three pages. Ultimately, if you use brief and compelling language to describe yourself, your resume will end up the right length.

3. If I use an online template, will my resume be boring?

Whether you create your resume from scratch or go with a snazzy online template, use your judgement to settle on a design that is unique, sleek and professional. If layout isn’t for you, check out our free resume template for a boost getting your foot in the door.

4. Should I use color to spice things up?

Less — and we cannot stress this enough — is more. A splash of color in your header can give your resume an aesthetic edge, but too much will almost certainly turn off recruiters. Save the color-coding for your calendar.

5. Am I overthinking fonts?

While you don’t want anything distracting or hard to read, a unique font can help your resume match the tone of the employer. Times New Roman might be too old school for a hip tech startup, but a sleek, modern font could turn off a more traditional recruiter. And don’t be afraid to blend fonts to distinguish headers from body text.

6. Should I attach a photo?

It’s only natural that you want to show off a great headshot, but you should probably leave it off your resume. Use that photo as your new profile picture instead. Dazzle employers with your spectacular resume, and when they search you up they’ll be dazzled by your radiant smile.

7. Should I describe my roles in the past or present tense?

How would you talk about your experiences in real life? If you’re sharing an anecdote from a past position, you’d use the past tense. But when you have a stressful day at your current job, you vent to your friends about the big project you’re tackling, the high expectations your boss has and the goals you’re setting for yourself, all in the present tense.

8.     Where should I list my education?

Unless you’re fresh out of school, keep your most recent professional experience at the top of your resume. Despite the hard work you put into your diploma, the hands-on training you’ve gotten through your work experience will probably factor more directly into your job prospects.  

9.     What about references?

You’ve got glowing references and you’re eager to show them off. But don’t jump the gun — if an employer wants to check your references, they’ll follow up with you. Even writing ‘references available on request’ takes up valuable space which you can put to better use.

10.  Are resume objectives outdated?

Starting your resume with a paragraph about your career aspirations can be clunky and waste valuable seconds as recruiters make snap-judgments. Rather than an old-fashioned objective, consider using a professional summary to advertise your qualifications and career readiness.

11.  I volunteer in my free time. Is it worth the resume space?

Imagine talking about this volunteer experience in an interview. Are you nailing it, or are you babbling? If your volunteering is relevant, shows off your skills and makes you stand out, it might be worth including (especially if it fills a gap). But if it’s more of a distraction, go without.

12.  How far back should my resume reach?

The answer is yes, you should ditch those high school extracurriculars. For resumes spanning long and full careers, you should be able to refine the last ten years down into just a couple of pages, only going further back for the most relevant experiences.

13.  How should I rewrite my resume for a career shift?

If you’re preparing for a big career change but it’s been a while since you were on the job hunt, make sure your resume is up to date. Reword your experiences to align with your new career goal, remove non-essential information, and be sure to reflect your current professional brand.

14.  How do I make sure my resume stands out?

Tailor your introduction and experience to each position you apply for. Take the time to highlight the skills you’ll need in the job you’re aiming for, and yours will stand out to recruiters amid the stacks of cookie-cutter resumes they see every day.

15.  What are immediate turn-offs for recruiters?

Steer clear overly flashy designs. Proofread to be sure there’s not a single misspelled word or a misplaced comma. Make sure to avoid using any of these seven words resume experts caution against. Follow our advice, and your resume will look sharp and impressive.

16.  Should I hire a resume writer?

Bringing in a resume writer to shape up your resume can take your job application to the next level. A professional pair of eyes will make sure your resume is polished, tells a cohesive story, and clears all the hurdles to stand out to recruiters. As an investment in your success, why not?

17.  Is a resume the same as a CV?

No, and thankfully most jobs do not ask for a CV (that stands for curriculum vitae, or ‘course of life’). A CV is an exhaustive list of your experience and credentials, while a resume acts as a summary and highlights your skills.

18.  When should I use a CV instead of a resume?

You’ll probably only need a CV for jobs in academia or other specialized industries. While it’s not a bad idea to keep an updated CV, most recruiters will just want to see your resume. And since you have just six seconds to make an impression, keep it brief and to-the-point.

19.  Should I post my resume online?

Use your LinkedIn profile or a personal website to expand on your resume, showcasing the portfolio of projects through which you learned your professional skills. But if you post a downloadable document, your tailored resume might look less unique to employers.

20.  Will resumes ever become obsolete?

Despite arguments that we should ditch resumes as part of the hiring process, they are still a bellwether for recruiters seeking strong applicants. LinkedIn gives you more space to share your experience and skills, but it’s not replacing clean printed paper anytime soon. The market may be changing, but your resume is still your first impression and your golden ticket to an interview, so it’s worth taking the time to make sure it’s perfect.