Dissecting a Fantastic Resume

Your resume has to be wonderful. That’s all there is to it. No exceptions. It has to be easy to read and wonderful. We all have to be able to present ourselves in the best possible light when we are seeking a new job either to rejoin the workforce or to jump to the next step in our career. Your resume is frequently the first step of the positive presentation of you.

With that in mind, I decided that I should have Beverly Garland, our Career Specialist, work with me to write my resume. The last time I updated my resume was in 1992. I wanted to understand how far I have come, to see what I have accomplished and also to put myself in the shoes of having to present myself well in order to get a job. I have jokingly referred to this as resume therapy because as I talk to Bev I am uncovering so many things I have done that I have long forgotten. I’m also realizing more deeply that a resume isn’t just about what you have done or your skill set. It is most importantly who you are. It is a document that represents how you have navigated your life and your career, what resources you have utilized, what you have learned and where you have excelled.

As a result, we have updated our downloadable resume format onto our website to make it easier for you to create a beautiful resume. Many of the updates are a reflection of the changes in hiring today and some are from my adventures in resume therapy.

So here are some new things to consider as minor amendments to the resume format that I have been recommending for almost twenty years:

  • Objective with professional summary: This is no longer optional, it is now mandatory, regardless of your discipline or level. The top of your resume needs to clearly state the position you are seeking along with a 1 or 2 line professional summary of what makes you so fantastic at what you do.
  • Why you need to shine fast and hard: Hiring Managers and recruiters are now spending less than fifteen seconds looking at a resume. If they don’t see what they need for the position they are filling, they pick up the next resume.
  • Length of time at a job: Again, because of the quick scan, eliminate the months from your time at each position and just put the years. This format, 2007 – 2010, makes it easier for the hiring manager to glean your time at each position and years of experience in a particular role.

What hasn’t changed:

  • Resumes do not have to be kept to one page in length. This rule went out a long time ago. I still see people trying to squeeze fifteen years of experience onto one page and the result is a resume that is very hard to read. If you have multiple years of experience do not be afraid to expand to two or three pages. Make sure additional pages have your name and date on them.
  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS ALWAYS list your employment history with this format at the beginning of each job: Position, Company, Location, Dates – just years not months – in the first line across each of the jobs. It is easier to read in one line. And most importantly, your job title (which reflects the experience being sought) is the most important item in that first line. It should come first. Your job title is more important than the company name, location or length of employment. Make it dead easy for anyone reading your resume to see all your years of hard work.

Although we offer resume services, with this Standard resume format  we hope to make it as easy as possible for every single one of you to shine. Follow the outline, get a friend or two to proofread it. Ask a mentor to read it through for content. Now you have a wonderful resume and the best first tool to present yourself.

2 comments

  1. I have had my resume done by several different places and I now am somewhat confused. Some have said to keep the first person out of a resume – and in, don’t say, “I provided graphic services to a wide array of clients,” but rather say, “Provided (etc.)”. Others have told me to use the “personal touch.”

    So I am unsure. Do I say, “Seeking a position as a graphic designer,” or do I say, “I am seeking a position as a graphic designer?”

    • Hi, Amyellen!

      I help create resumes as one of Mary-Margaret Network’s career services. Mary-Margaret and I concur that every resume writer brings his or her own preferences to the party, but the first-person personal touch is appropriate in some instances and the impersonal, professional touch is appropriate for others.

      We suggest writing in first-person for a cover letter, as that is an opportunity to build rapport between you as a person and specific hiring manager. For resumes, though, drop the “I” so that the focus is on your deeds and accomplishments and readers can scan them more efficiently. I’m sure there are other reasons to follow this rule of thumb, but those alone are compelling in an age where incoming resumes get scanned and parsed by software more often than by human beings.

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