Dear Sam: There’s so much, often conflicting, advice out there about how to create a top-notch résumé. Can you give me some key recommendations? — Jamison
Dear Jamison: There is far too much résumé advice floating around out there, much of which is dated and goes against today’s best practices. I spend a good portion of time educating clients about up-to-date résumé strategies and dispelling old advice that’s still being pushed as steadfast résumé “rules.” The following is some of the best, up-to-date advice for developing your résumé.
AESTHETICS AND FORMATTING
Lack of visual appeal is one of the major downfalls for many résumés. Many résumés are created using very common templates and are inconsistent in the use of fonts and spacing.
While content is very important in creating a résumé that will grab the attention of a hiring manager, the aesthetics of that document can either compel or repel someone’s interest. You must engage the reader through the use of a professional, visually appealing layout.
While many believe this element is self-explanatory, I often see major mistakes in the heading. Your résumé heading should include your name, address, cell number and email address. You may also list your home phone, but only do so if you are the primary person answering the phone; you don’t want someone besides yourself to create a first impression.
Never list your work phone number unless absolutely necessary — and never list your employer’s 800 number; this implies that you do not value your current employer’s resources.
Also, be sure to check the greetings on your voicemails for all phone numbers listed. Make sure those greetings establish the first impression you are seeking.
Finally, take a moment to look at your email address and make sure it reinforces the professional tone of your résumé. I see many email addresses that contain birth years, ages and other personal information that should not be presented on a résumé.
It concerns me that a large percentage of résumés waste space on a vague “objective” rather than a qualifications summary. Instead of simply stating your objective, this section — along with everything else on your résumé — should be developed to show how your skills and experience best qualify you for the type of position you are seeking.
Develop your qualifications section based on a primary objective, presenting a brief summary of key qualifiers related to your objective. To help engage the reader, make sure you understand the keywords for the positions that interest you, and infuse this section (and the rest of your résumé) with those keywords.
This high-level summary of your candidacy is the most difficult section of a résumé to write. As a tip, start writing your résumé from the bottom up, beginning with the easier sections and ending with the summary. I suggest writing the summary last so you will have a clear picture of what you have to offer your target audience.
Typically, when writing a résumé, I discover several key points in a client’s background that stand out as being the most important or impressive, and this guides my development of the qualifications summary. If you are still struggling with this section, check out books from the library, look at the samples on my website or ask a friend to help you identify your key offerings and value.
Read next week’s column for more tips on creating a great résumé.
— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.