I’ve been writing resumes for close to three decades now, and it seems every few years new trends impact how we construct this job search document. Once again the trends are moving in a different direction, this time driven by the use of handheld electronic devices and advent of social media. Today’s resume is shorter, more succinct, and must quickly (within 7-15 seconds!) convey why you are a qualified candidate.
Here are some ideas to handle common problems encountered by job seekers as they strive to create a concise, but powerful resume.
Opening Summary: In my opinion, this is now the most important part of your resume. When someone opens your resume on their Smart phone, this first paragraph will fill the screen. If you can capture their attention with a powerful value proposition statement – what differentiates you from other candidates – chances are they’ll continue to scroll. On the other hand, if they read the same generic statements they see over and over, they may just move on to the next resume. Demonstrate right away that you are unique.
20+ Years of Job History: Keep in mind that your most recent experience (past 10-15 years) is of greatest interest to the hiring manager. After you have presented details and accomplishments about the more recent positions, either significantly scale back the information you include about earlier career positions or create a separate section labeled “Early Career History” or “Additional Experience.” You can then present your job title, company, and one sentence describing a key accomplishment. In this early history section there is no need to outline job duties – sharing the impact you delivered is more important than what you did back then.
Director of Marketing Communications (1992-1998), XYZ Company
* Grew sales 40% and launched catalog and e-commerce website businesses.
Short-term Assignments or Consulting Gigs: The job market over the past several years required many job seekers to accept short-term temporary positions or consulting assignments while looking for something permanent. Because a lengthy gap isn’t a good strategy, it’s necessary to cover time, but if you list each of these assignments as a separate job entry, the reader may assume (at a glance) that you are a job hopper. One strategy to overcome this problem is to group this experience under one heading and then call out individual assignments/accomplishments.
Marketing Consultant, various assignments (2009-present)
ABC Company – Brought in to develop and market new solar product line; positioned new division for sustainable market growth capturing 60% of the local solar hot water market.
XYZ Company – Recruited by CEO to lead new business development efforts; generated $850K in new revenues and $300K annual cost savings by developing online customer satisfaction and referral program.
TMI (Too Much Information): Many job seekers believe that the more information they provide, the better their chances of convincing the hiring manager they have the experience for the job. These days that’s not the case. Hiring managers don’t really care much about what you did – they want to know about the results you delivered. Rule of thumb is to describe job duties in a paragraph – 4-5 lines on recent positions and as you go further back in history scale that paragraph down. Follow that brief overview with 2-3 bulleted statements that describe the results you delivered. Keep these statements brief as well – 1-2 lines maximum. Writing concisely takes time and skill!
Ineffective Formatting: The length of your resume can be impacted by margin width, font size, and line spacing decisions. Striking an eye-appealing balance of text and white space is important. Ideally margins should be one inch all around, and depending on the font you select, 10 or 11 point is recommended. One line space between each section and each position is also a good strategy. If you have edited your text as much as possible, but your resume is still falling on three pages, don’t try to cram it onto two pages by using 8 pt. text and quarter-inch margins; a three page resume that is inviting to the reader is preferable to a two-page version that requires a magnifying glass to read the fine print.
Remember, your resume is a marketing piece. To get us interested in their product, companies show us a 30-second commercial that highlights the best features and benefits. You want to design your resume the same way – give them the highlights to grab their attention and tell the rest of your story at the interview.
As always, if you’d like a second set of eyes to review your resume, send it over to me for a complimentary assessment.
Kathy Keshemberg is a Nationally Certified Resume Writer and Certified Career Management Coach. Since 1983, she has created thousands of interview-winning resumes and related job-search materials for satisfied clients around the world. Need assistance with your career? We’re here to help! www.acareeradvantage.com