Dear Sam: I am getting conflicting advice on writing a resume, leading to my questions. Can I use ampersand signs to save room? Can I abbreviate words to free up space? Must I spell out numbers? You also mentioned not putting your career objective on the resume; I heard differently. You mentioned leaving your address off the resume; I heard differently, and why is that? You mentioned putting your skills and experience on the top of the resume; I have always put them on the bottom? Since I have such an extensive background, is it okay to have a two-page resume? Should references be on a resume? – Dawn

Dear Dawn: All great questions! Here goes…

1. You can use the ampersand symbol in headlines but not in body copy.

2. I would not abbreviate words—unless it is a common acronym—as that may reduce your keyword relevance.

3. The general rule is to write out numbers between 0 and 9 and use numerical digits for 10 and above. If you have a sentence with a 4 and a 12 in it, for instance, you would use numerical digits for all. I sometimes break the rule in the resume world as numbers tend to jump off the page, so as long as you are consistent in your approach, you could present all as digits if you prefer.

4. Objective statements are archaic and have been replaced for 15+ years with qualifications summaries. Unfortunately, old advice is still floating around! A qualifications summary facilitates the brief 4-to-7-second screening process, telling the reviewer what you can do for them. Objective statements focus on what the candidate wants, which is not of paramount importance to the employer during the initial stage of the screening process. As its name suggests, this summary should summarize how you can add value, what experiences you possess that predict success, and how you are ‘right’ for the position.

5. Leaving off your address is a common practice. It stems from an awareness that it is unlikely to receive mail in a job search before you have phone or email contact, and because we are increasingly transient, meaning where we live does not dictate where we would work. Some also omit this information for privacy reasons. Presenting or omitting your address on your resume will certainly not make or break your candidacy. I often remove the physical address but leave the city and state for clarity’s sake. In addition, consider presenting your major metro area instead of your specific city/town. For instance, if you live in the Northeast corner of a city and a target employer is in the Southwest corner, they may believe your commute would be a distractor. Hence, listing the major metro area or the central city nearby will allow you to make those decisions, not the employer.

6. Skills are essential and critically important, so you want them to be seen during the screening process and on your resume’s most influential real estate: the top one-third of page one. Why anyone would tell you to list skills at the end of a resume is beside me!

7. You should have a two-page resume! One page would present a disconnect between your experience and the value you were able to contribute. Only an entry-level candidate would have a one-page resume.

8. References do not go on a resume; they are presented at an interview when requested.

Hope that helps clear up a few things for you!