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Dear Sam: Tailor résumé to showcase passion

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Samantha Nolin#webDear Sam: I hope you can help. I am in a specialized field. I am a minister and to have my résumé tailored for two different prospects.

I would like to be able to use my résumé to apply for a preaching position, as well as to apply for nonprofit funding. I am in the process of becoming a nonprofit, and my attorney told me I must have a strong résumé when I write for grants. One of my goals is to open a yoga meditation studio in a poor part of the city. In order to make this happen, I must have funding.

Also, it is my understanding résumé nowadays are only one page. Am I correct about this?

Thanks for the help. With your help we both are making the world a better place. — Perplexed Reverend

Dear Perplexed: I love your passion and desire to contribute to an at-risk area of the city. I believe you can have one résumé and meet both of your objectives — and you absolutely do not have to stick to one page (that’s an outdated rule at least 15 years old).

Because your background, community outreach work and contributions to your congregation would be key selling points in securing grant funds, the résumé you use to positioning yourself as a minister will also work very well for securing grant funding.

Your résumé would be developed just like any other in terms of adhering to today’s best practices, but you would have room to include more personal elements, such as your mission and vision, your personal outreach to the community and your personal — and professional — experience with yoga meditation.

Of course you would need to balance this — at least for your funding audience — with the presentation of your business skills and strengths in launching an operation from the ground up. I really wish you luck.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

April 20th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Spring makeover series — Target résumé to get results

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Samantha NolanI am always so excited when a client comes to me with a “dream” job in mind.

While the fact that my client will be applying for only one job certainly adds pressure — as I want to make sure the résumé is perfect for that one “dream” opportunity — it also provides me with a chance to be ultra-targeted in the résumé’s content and presentation.


Dan wanted to work for a fire and security company, in a territory account manager position. He had been with his current employer since 2004, where he had transitioned from maintenance to an account development role. He now sought to exit the industry and secure a more senior-level opportunity in sales.


Dan’s original résumé was lacking in the areas of strategic content, formatting, white space and prioritization of information. In addition, Dan had not yet updated his résumé with his most-recent position — so his résumé had a lot of room for improvement and development.


I created an engaging design for Dan’s new résumé, ensuring that the aesthetic would compel readership. We identified the keywords that Dan’s next employer would be seeking and wove those words throughout the new résumé.

I also used selective bolding, uppercase letters and separation of content to make sure the reader’s focus would be placed on the most applicable aspects of Dan’s background.

From the excerpts from performance reviews to select keywords being pulled out ahead of key contributions, the entire résumé is focused on helping Dan break into a higher-level sales role in a completely new industry.


Dan wrote to me about six weeks after I completed his résumé with the wonderful news:

“I wanted to let you know I received my job-offer letter last night. The annual salary was $5,000 more than what I was initially told. I have never been in a position in my life to resign from a job, have the right tools available to secure the job that I wanted and GET the job I wanted. I am so excited about this new chapter of life.”

View Dan’s before résumé and new résumé below.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit


Microsoft Word - © ladybug design, inc. - territory account man


Microsoft Word - © ladybug design, inc. - territory account man

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

April 13th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Professional network is vital tool in search

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Samantha NolanDear Sam: I need help figuring out where to start building my professional network. I hear all the time that it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Having just relocated to the area — due to my spouse’s career — I’m afraid I’m quite light in the “who you know” category. As the new kid on the block, where should I start? – Paul

Dear Paul: Building a professional network is one of the most impactful and empowering things a candidate can do to benefit his or her job search.

First, do you have a LinkedIn profile? Start online by reaching out to professional contacts and building a robust network of “virtual” connections. Through this, you will have access to many professional connections. This network will not only let you expand your network but will also provide opportunities for you to solicit recommendations or be introduced to a key decision maker at a target employer. Online professional networks also allow you to easily perform competitive and market research on employers and potential candidates.

Of course, taking your networking off-line is also important. Search for a local job-search support group — many cities have several options to support local candidates — and attend one of their meetings. I often meet newly relocated candidates when presenting to these groups. This will be a great way for you to be introduced to the ins and outs of the local job market.

Attend an industry association meeting to network with professionals in your field. Many professional associations hold free monthly meetings or networking sessions that are open to nonmembers. Check out the local chapter websites for information.

You could also volunteer in the community to meet other service-minded peers. Doing this provides opportunities to open dialogues with like-minded individuals.

In your case, you might also be able to tap into the new professional network your wife has gained since relocating and starting her new job.

Even though the process of relocating to a new city and starting a job search can be overwhelming, think about building your network as a way to solicit assistance and support. While you are seeking out others who can help you, remember that you can also help them, based on your connections.

Networking is a two-way street where you have the opportunity to help others, just as they have the opportunity to help you, making it a vital and value-added part of any search.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

April 6th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Recent grad seeks help with résumé content, format

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Dear Sam: I have a bit of a dilemma on my hands. I am 23 years old, out of college and heading into the real world. I have sent out applications and résumés seemingly every few days. I have a job, but I do not feel it is a long-term role; instead, I would like to find something that is more in line with my skills and education. I haven’t received much interest from my résumé, and I do not know why. I have had friends and family make suggestions, and still no improvement. Is my résumé holding me back from a better job offer? — Matthew

Dear Matthew: Yes, there is so much more you could do with your résumé to showcase your candidacy and open doors to career opportunities. Allow me to paint a picture of your résumé for readers.

You open with an objective statement that relates your desire to transition into a human resource role. Next, you present experiences — gained while completing your degree — in retail management, team supervision and administrative support. Then you present your degree and a skills section. Lastly, on Page 2 of your résumé, you list awards from your professional and academic experiences.

First of all, it is great that you know you want to pursue a human resource role, as this will allow for much stronger, targeted content.

However, up-to-date, practices-based résumés do not have objective statements; instead, they have qualifications summaries.

Your qualifications summary should convey experiences, skills and education that qualify you for an entry-level human resource role. Read job postings of interest, and emulate the theme of the jobs, ensuring that you are speaking the same language on your résumé.

In your professional-experience section, you must dig deeper. Presenting a handful of bullet points, each less than a sentence, is not enough to show the value of these roles.

Think about your positions in transferable terms.

What roles did you play that are similar to the functions of an entry-level human resource position? Prioritize content accordingly, and omit details that do not support your candidacy.

For example, when working as an assistant manager for a retail store, did you perform talent acquisition, onboarding, training and development, personnel administration, compliance coordination, scheduling and payroll duties?

You must explore the transferability of your roles much more fully, presenting highlights of your contributions or actions — including your awards — in bullet points following a paragraph overview of your job description.

I also would relocate your education section to follow your qualifications summary, as you are indeed a recent graduate. By doing this, you will ensure that hiring managers will see you as an entry-level candidate.

You could note some of the related coursework you completed during your academic career, presenting the names of courses or even key projects that are related to human resources.

Instead of a skills section, incorporate skills into your qualifications summary.

Be sure to focus the majority of your summary’s content on the uniqueness of your transferable experiences, perhaps including some of your soft skills at the end of the summary. Most of your competitors also will claim the same soft skills, so you should focus on what makes you unique — your experience.

Also, your résumé should only be one page. It would be fine to have a lengthier résumé if you had more information to present — but in your case, with just a few entry-level, pre-graduation roles, I think a one-page résumé would represent you best. Check out my “Dear Sam” blog online to find inspiration for content and formatting.

I am confident that with a rework of your existing résumé, you will begin to receive the response you are seeking.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

March 30th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Errors on résumé will quickly eliminate seeker’s candidacy

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Samantha NolanDear Sam: I am struggling to get any attention or response to my current résumé. People look at my résumé and see that I have never held the specific job title I’m applying for, whether it is administrative assistant or receptionist. Although I’ve never held these titles, it is everything that I have been doing at my current job (plus my actual position) for the past five years. I also feel that my personality isn’t shining through my résumé. I’ve tried numerous different attempts to get some sort of response and am at a complete loss as to what to do. Is it OK to list my job title as an administrative assistant or receptionist? — Desperate

Dear Desperate: Thanks for attaching your résumé so I could see what you are submitting to prospective employers. In less than two seconds, I could see several issues with your résumé.

Let me take you through what employers will see and think when they look at your résumé:

Uninteresting and nondifferentiating design: You used a very common Microsoft Word résumé template, so your résumé will immediately look like that of many others applying for the same job. Incidentally, I use this same template when facilitating seminars to show how not to design a résumé.

Typo in the first line of your résumé: Did you know that 23 percent of hiring managers discard a résumé that has just one typo? If you are claiming to have
HIPAA knowledge, you should spell the acronym correctly — it’s not HIPPA, even though I know it sounds like it should be.

Poor prioritization of duties: You open with your photographer/customer service role and immediately present a bullet point about resolving customer-service complaints. This will make the reader wonder how well you did your job if you spent this much time resolving complaints, especially when it seems you are the one with direct customer contact.

Too many short-term jobs: You have presented two jobs that you held for just a few months, when instead you could completely omit these short-term jobs (presenting only years of employment so not to show gaps) and focus on your customer-service experience in a consistent retail setting. You could title this section “Related Professional Experience” to ensure that the strategy is not seen as misleading. This would bring alignment and fluidity to your résumé.

Vacant content: If you have provided no explanation of what you did for an employer, how do you expect a prospective employer to “see” the value in that experience? Don’t list a job on your résumé and then not explain anything about it.

These are the errors I saw in a very brief review of your résumé — and they are ones prospective hiring managers will also see. I urge you to revamp your résumé using today’s standards.

You don’t need to resort to changing your titles to something that isn’t accurate; you just need to do a much better job of translating your experiences into language that will attract your target audience. Check out books at the library or samples on my website for ideas on how to do this.

I have also showcased a résumé this week (see below), which you will see is for someone just like you who does not have a traditional administrative-assistant background but is seeking a position in that field. I hope this gives you ideas and inspiration. You can create a fantastic résumé that reflects your administrative skill set; you just need to be more strategic.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit


Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

March 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Transitioning into the civilian sector

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Samantha NolanDear Sam: My husband is retiring from the military after 20-plus years of service. He has never written a résumé, and we were wondering if he should include his years of experience in the résumé. If he were to put more than 20 years of experience in aviation, will an employer think he’s old (which he’s not) and not consider him for a position? — Debbie

Dear Debbie: Great question. The worst thing you can do on a résumé is omit all dates, so the short answer is yes; he should indeed include his years of experience.

The longer answer, however, is that you can use a combination of inclusion and omission. For instance, if the roles he is currently seeking only require an average of seven to 10 years of experience, then including and dating 20-plus years of experience would unnecessarily age your husband’s candidacy. In this situation, it would be prudent to list his years of employment after titles and review 10 to 12 years of his experience. Perhaps you could “byline” foundational experience that adds value to his candidacy but present it without the context of when it occurred. This strategy can be very effective in presenting a complete yet advantageous picture of a person’s candidacy.

However, if he is pursuing a senior-level role, it is not uncommon to find résumés including 20-plus years of experience. At a senior level, the hiring community would expect a certain amount of experience; therefore, your husband would not be considered overqualified.

Remember, it is not just the thought of someone’s age that causes hiring managers to think a person is not the best candidate for the job — sometimes there are assumptions of higher-than-average compensation requirements.

Paint the most strategic image you can, including most of his years of experience, but bylining any foundational experiences that add value without the dates. If you follow this approach, his résumé will not unnecessarily age his candidacy.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

March 16th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Functional résumé format is sometimes appropriate

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Samantha NolanSandra came to me with a wealth of nursing experience — and some major concerns.

First, some of Sandra’s most impressive experience occurred during the 1980s and 1990s. Second, Sandra was concerned that she would be competing against younger, less-experienced (and therefore potentially less-expensive) candidates. Lastly, she was seeking employment with a major health system and knew there would be hundreds of applicants for just one open position.

Sandra provided me with nine pages of handwritten notes, most of which were a simple narration of employers’ names and locations, the titles Sandra held and a few words about what she did in each setting. It was clear that she really placed a lot of value on some of her earliest roles, including one that she had pursued on a volunteer basis.

After learning more about Sandra’s background, I decided a functional format was necessary. While I take this approach on very few résumés, I felt in this case that it was vital in minimizing the appearance of the number of positions Sandra had held in recent years. This approach also greatly reduced the redundancy that would come from presenting the same job functions multiple times.

Fueling my ability to position Sandra in this manner was the additional insight I gained during our consultation. During our chat, I captured a sense that one of Sandra’s strengths was the ability to identify conditions others overlooked. Due to her maturity and her volunteer work in launching a free clinic, she also possesses excellent patient- and physician-relations skills. I used these, along with her fantastic accomplishments, as differentiating factors on her résumé. This painted a picture of a true professional who, through experience, could offer a refined bedside manner and an expansive nursing skill set.

The key to success for Sandra’s résumé is the unique Notable Accomplishments section. Following a brief qualifications summary, this accomplishment-focused section provides a window into the value Sandra provides. By showing examples of opportunities she had to participate in capital-improvement projects, initiate process improvements and launch a free clinic, as well as a reputation for excellent patient care, this section is vital in differentiating Sandra from her potentially less-expensive competitors.

Following this is a Professional Highlights section that reviews key aspects of Sandra’s nursing roles. Combining all past experiences to create one very strong section, this provides a much more engaging read than a reverse chronological résumé. In a standard résumé format, the number of positions she has held (and the recent movement in her career) might discourage a hiring manager.

As is called for in a functional format, Sandra’s work history is presented next, with a listing of employers’ names, dates of tenure and titles held. This section is strategically placed on Page 2 to play a lesser role in the screening process.

Sandra was kind enough to contact me to let me know she was successful. She has been offered a job with one of her target employers, one of the region’s largest health care systems.

View Sandra’s new résumé below.

— 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 To find out more about Nolan, visit


Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

March 9th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Prioritize content based on career target

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Samantha NolanDear Sam: I am within my first five years post-undergrad. I am an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and a civilian employee with the government. I am contemplating making a move to the civilian sector. However, my combined military service and civilian occupations span many specialties. As an officer, I have worked in logistics and public relations — in leadership roles — both stateside and in combat. As a civilian, I work in human resources and pay administration in a nonsupervisory role. How and what should I include in my résumé? – Laura

Dear Laura: First, thank you for your service to our country. Second, that is quite a diverse background.

Now, to answer your question. What you should include versus omit depends completely on what you want to pursue next.

You will, of course, want to include all of your positions, but you can strategically tailor the content so it best supports your candidacy today. A résumé is really a picture of your background written in a way that positions you best for what you want to do next.

So, if the logistics aspects of your experience do not support your current career target, you can certainly put those on the back burner or omit them entirely.

What I imagine will need to happen is that you will have to develop two (or perhaps three) solid versions of your résumé. The first might be more operationally focused, the second in the public relations and communications arena, and the third presenting your human-resources skill set.

You could develop one main résumé, with each area of your experience introduced with a functional subheading, and then simply reprioritize content based on the type of role for which you are applying.

In each résumé, you will also want to build a targeted qualifications summary. This approach will allow you to present the targeted picture critical to success in today’s job market, while also keeping your options as open as possible.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

March 4th, 2014 at 9:41 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Winter makeover series — Transferring skills to a new career

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Samantha NolanAnna came to me seeking to transition from a successful insurance-claims career and begin her journey as a practicing attorney. After graduating from law school in 2005, Anna made the decision to stay home and raise her young children, something she did for four years until returning to the claims field in 2010. Then, having recently passed the bar exam, she was eager to be positioned for entry-level associate opportunities.

Anna’s original résumé was a sea of black-and-white text that was neither engaging nor on-target.

Page 1 presented her legal and insurance information, spanning six positions held between 1997 and 2013. The description of each position, with the exception of her current role, included a four-line paragraph containing brief, fragmented statements about the duties she performed. Anna’s current engagement was presented in a little more detail with a sprinkling of bulleted highlights.

Page 2 presented her education, volunteer experience (which was the focus of her four years out of the workforce) additional skills, certifications and professional affiliations.

It was imperative that Anna have the best résumé possible to overcome her main potential disqualifiers — a four-year absence from the workforce and having more experience than most entry-level candidates, which created assumptions of higher compensation requirements.

With incredible transferable value contained within Anna’s insurance-claims career, I focused all content on the field’s relevance to legal and regulatory matters.

Opening Anna’s résumé with a brief profile, the headline on her résumé immediately positioned Anna for opportunities of interest. By exploring the transferability of her career much further through a “Candidacy Snapshot,” I ensured that hiring managers would have ample evidence of the relevancy of Anna’s career before dismissing her candidacy based on past titles alone.

Reinforcing the image of Anna as an attorney, I used the “Professional Experience” section to dig into each of her roles in much greater detail — showing that she had gone beyond the expected duties of the role and conveying the value she contributed within each engagement.

Through this approach, Anna’s key contributions jumped off the page, were differentiated from her day-to-day responsibilities and reinforced the positioning strategy.

Anna’s new resume was actually three pages in length and contained twice the number of words that were in her original résumé. This provided unmatched level of keyword relevance.

Taking time to design an aesthetically pleasing document was also key in ensuring that Anna had a résumé that would open doors. Strategic font treatments,color usage and content placement all helped create a high-impact résumé.

Anna was kind enough to email me to say:

“Absolutely wonderful experience! I was having a great deal of trouble transitioning from a 14-year career in one field to another. I couldn’t explain the transition well and show how my skills were transferable. Ladybug did an amazing job of highlighting my skills, applying them to a new market and giving me the confidence in interviews and job applications that I needed to succeed.”

Visit to see Page 1 of Anna’s new résumé.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit

Microsoft Word - 020914 - (c) ladybug design, inc. - associate a

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

February 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Discuss job terms when time is right

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Samantha NolanDear Sam: I am looking for advice about applying for a job in higher education. I have the experience and education required for the position. The ad for the job does not specify whether it is full time or part time, so I am assuming it is a full-time role. The position appeals to me, and I feel I could be an asset to the school, but I only want to work part-time hours.

If I apply for the position, should I mention the possibility of part-time hours — or job sharing — in a cover letter or wait until I am contacted for an interview? Alternatively, should I forget the entire thing and apply only for positions that are advertised as part-time? — Rick

Dear Rick: Great question. I would recommend waiting until interest has been established in you as a candidate before you start negotiating terms of employment.

If the position is indeed full time, employers could still see something in you that they do not find in candidates seeking full-time employment; hence there may be some “wiggle room” in the position’s structure, hours, compensation, etc. So I believe you should wait until you are interviewing and moving along in the process to mention the terms you would prefer.

If asked directly about your preference as to part time versus full time, you should, of course, be honest — but I would not offer your employment preferences until you feel it is time to negotiate the terms of your employment. You will find, if only searching for part-time roles, that your choices will be greatly diminished. More positions than you would expect, however, have room for negotiations so it is entirely likely you could strike the work-life balance you are seeking, even in a full-time role.

Keep your options open, wait until interest has been established and then open discussions on possible working structures that would be mutually agreeable.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to To find out more about Nolan, visit

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

February 16th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

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