Advice can get you into more trouble than a gun can.

—Will Rogers   


Beware of résumé tips and conventional wisdom. It’s true that some of the tips and conventional wisdom are good. But a very large proportion of what you read or hear—on the Web, on TV, in books, from “experts” (including plenty of “certified” résumé writers), and from your friends and family, has nothing to do with reality. Sadly, school and government counselors don’t seem to do any better. So you have to think critically, all the time, and make your own judgment about what sounds real and what sounds like hype.

The Résumé Realities articles on this site will inform you about many points on which conventional wisdom goes badly wrong—often so badly that a single piece of advice can cause your job search to fail even if you do everything else right.

The Résumé Encyclopedia articles cover a lot of the basic facts behind the realities of writing and using résumés.


Here’s why there’s so much garbage out there:

Much of what’s written about résumés (and about job hunting) is just “recycled” from other sources—which were themselves recycled from older sources, and so on.

Some of it has been “recycled” for decades, and has become badly outdated since it was first written. The people who repeat it have no idea how old it is—let alone what the original context was. So a lot of it also gets taken badly out of context when it is picked up and dropped into the latest hype. For instance, some of the conventional résumé advice (like “keep it on one page,”) was originally aimed at junior job-seekers, and never did apply to more experienced people.

A lot of résumé tips were originally do-it-yourself advice, meant to show an untrained person how to produce a mediocre but safe résumé. Professionals can cut things a lot finer, and get better results. It’s not a question of breaking the rules. It’s a question of knowing all the rules—editorial, typographic, and technical—, knowing when they apply and when they don’t, and knowing the best tradeoffs when the rules conflict, as they sometimes do.

Many of those who recycle erroneous, outdated, or out-of-context résumé information are just writing filler articles for Web media, newspapers, or magazines that want to fill the “news hole”—the space between the ads—as cheaply, quickly and uncontroversially as possible. The cheapest, quickest, and (in many people’s eyes) the safest way to fill space with words is to copy what other people are saying. The Web makes this easier than ever. You just change the words around a bit so no-one can say you’re copying. When people who don’t understand the subject matter change wording and combine information from different sources, the information degrades further. The result is sometimes a travesty even of the outdated information they were copying.

Books and courses—or coaching, for that matter—are no better. The people writing the books and giving the courses do the same thing that the other writers and advisers do: copy, chop up, and rephrase what others have said. A lot of people will buy anything that promises to help them find work, so there’s a huge and safe market for half-baked résumé advice.

And since bad information is so widespread, people you know are likely to recycle it to you when they give you advice. That includes friends, relatives, and, unfortunately, also many recruiters, counselors and teachers who’ve never explored the subject beyond the surface, and so have no idea how unreliable most of the easily available information is.

I’ve built Crystal Résumés—services, procedures, and technology standards—on independent research, and on years of experience in writing, research, typography, and technical production. You’ll see a lot of that research and expertise summarized on this site.








“Propaganda ... serves more to justify ourselves than to convince others; and the more reason we have to feel guilty, the more fervent our propaganda.”

—Eric Hoffer, The True Believer