Dear Sam: I just started reading your column and wondered if you could provide me with a critique of my resume. With so much - and often conflicting - advice available, could you give me some of the key points on your recommendations to create a top-notch resume? - Jamison
Dear Jamison: Absolutely. And, yes, there is far too much advice floating around that is dated in nature and goes against today's best practices. Many times when I work with clients, I spend a good portion of my time educating him or her on the most up-to-date resume strategies. As such, I have to dispel much of the old advice that's still being pushed as steadfast resume-writing rules. Here is what I promise is up-to-date advice to developing your resume - your brand.
Aesthetics & Formatting
One of the major downfalls with resumes is that most lack visual appeal, are typically created using common templates and use fonts and spacing inconsistently. While content is very important in creating a resume that grabs the attention of a hiring manager, the aesthetics of that document can compel or repel someone's interest. You must engage the reader through the use of a professional and visually appealing layout.
While most may feel the heading is self-explanatory, I often see major mistakes in this section. It should include your name, address, cell phone number and email address. You may list your home phone number, but only do so if you are the primary person answering the phone.
Take a moment to look at your email address and be sure it reinforces the professional tone of your resume. I've noticed many email addresses that contain birth years, ages and other personal information that should not be presented on a resume.
Also, never list a work phone number unless absolutely necessary, and never list your employer's 800 number, as this could tell a prospective hiring manager you do not value your employer's resources.
Lastly, listen to the outgoing messages on all phone numbers listed to ensure that each one establishes the first impression you are seeking.
I am concerned that a large percentage of resumes still do not contain Qualifications Summaries and instead waste space on a vague objective that serves no purpose.
Defining your purpose or objective is critically important to the development of this section. But, instead of simply stating your objective, this section - along with everything on your resume - should be developed to sell yourself for the type of roles you are seeking.
Develop this section based on a primary objective, presenting a brief summary of your key qualifiers related to your objective. Engage the reader or screener by performing due diligence to understand the keywords for the position of interest, and infuse those keywords throughout this summary and the remainder of your resume.
This is the most difficult section of a resume to write, as it is a high-level summary of your candidacy. As a tip, start writing your resume from the bottom up, beginning with the easier sections and leading to the summary. Write the summary last so that you have a clear picture of what you have to offer your target audience.
After I write a resume, I typically have several key points from a client's background that I remember as being most important or impressive, and this guides the development of the summary. Writing this section immediately after creating your resume also helps because your background, qualifications and education are fresh in your mind.
If you are still struggling with this section, check out books from the library, samples on my site or ask a friend or spouse to help you identify your key offerings and value.
Next to the qualifications summary, a strong professional experience section with achievements highlighted is critical in driving a successful job search. A lot of readers struggle in determining how many years of experience to disclose, and unfortunately while there are guidelines, there are no steadfast rules. In general, you should include about eight to 15 years of experience depending on how much of it enhances and supports your candidacy. Executives should include more experience as it is assumed that when you reach a certain level, you have the experience to complement your high-level objective.
Include only years, not months and years, of employment in order to minimize the appearance of gaps, overlaps, and job-hops. Quantify experiences when possible, and be sure to focus more on accomplishments versus daily responsibilities.
When presenting accomplishments, highlight them as such, do not intermingle them with daily responsibilities or the hiring manager will not be able to ascertain your value. Lastly, present the big and save the small, meaning do not tell your life story, but present a succinct image of what you have done that positions you for your current career interests.
A lot of the resumes I review included unnecessary information within the education section. Don't be afraid to omit the education section if it detracts from your candidacy. If you never went to college, that's okay, but this does not mean that you have to have an education section presenting only your high school diploma.
I hope these tips will help you identify where you may be able to make changes with your resume to improve its effectiveness. For visual representations of many of the strategies reviewed, there are limitless resources available to job seekers including great resume books at the library, free assistance from local agencies, online resources and professional resume-writing firms like my own who partner with clients to identify their objectives, develop engaging content, and craft highly effective resumes. Best of luck to you.
Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a leading résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam's résumé-writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.comor call
(614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).