Dear Sam: My résumé is all over the place. After reading your column, I have tried to delete unnecessary items that age me. However, some of the jobs I deleted showcase select skills. This includes time spent as a credit union teller (i.e., cash handling, drawer reconciliation, customer service) and five years as a human resources assistant (i.e., supporting the recruitment and selection process and conducting new-hire orientations).
My experience also includes several years of working in two police departments. I don’t know how to mesh both the clerical and technical sides of my experience into one cohesive résumé. I’m not sure where my next opportunity will arise, but it will be in a clerical capacity or in another law enforcement post.
Dear Sydney: I was shocked when I opened your résumé and it was less than one page. At least one-third of that space is devoted to information that will not differentiate your candidacy — education, volunteerism and references. Allow me to paint a picture of your résumé for readers.
Sydney’s résumé is in a two-column format with a smaller left column containing her name and contact information. On the right, she placed her Employment History. Beneath this heading are four sections of work experience spanning 1998 to present. Within each employment section there are three to four one-line bullet points presenting responsibilities.
The résumé then proceeds to Education containing two bullet points that relay her high school diploma and time at college. Next a Volunteerism section appears presenting Sydney’s time working for a local animal shelter as a dog walker. Appearing last is a References section listing three references followed by about three inches of white space. The résumé is written in Arial font with a total of 351 words, 189 of which are used to describe the 12 years of experience presented.
Let’s analyze each section — based on the questions I ask when critiquing and writing a résumé — and see what is not working for Sydney.
Has Sydney Defined Her Purpose?
No. Sydney, must select a targeted direction to follow. If law enforcement and administrative support are the objectives, then two very different résumés will likely be necessary.
Even though Sydney performed administrative duties for two police departments, she must focus on the skills she gained from that experience in order to market herself to another police department. These skills include an in-depth knowledge of law enforcement processes, compliance work, an ability to cultivate relationships with officers and investigators and other skills that are specific to becoming a strong administrative/technical support person in that environment.
If she were to present this résumé for a general administrative support role in a business environment, very little of that content would make sense to the audience. Therefore, having two résumés, one far more technical and filled with law-enforcement jargon than the other, will get her job search on the right track.
Has Sydney Positioned Her Candidacy?
No. Because Sydney was trying to appeal to two different audiences, she has diluted the strength of her résumé. For instance, without a Qualifications Summary, Sydney’s résumé forces the reader to figure out where her skills lie and, within just a few seconds, the reader will likely move on. Sydney should develop a full Qualifications Summary that presents her notable employers, the highlights of her experience and the skills she has mastered throughout.
Sydney can include earlier experience in the summary without going into detail about the positions in the Professional Experience section. This is a great way to avoid dating one’s candidacy and to highlight past experience that does not appear in more recent roles.
Based on Sydney’s stated objectives, she can easily demonstrate she is qualified for her opportunities of interest by focusing on the past 12 years.
Does Sydney’s Résumé Have the “Punch” to get Noticed?
No. Her résumé focuses only on responsibilities, and therefore is unlikely to engage the reader. Each bullet point describes a core function of her job — functions you would find on a standard job description. When competing against other administrative assistants, it is likely they have performed similar functions. Without a focus on where Sydney contributed over and above her job description, there is little to differentiate her candidacy.
Is Sydney Highlighting Potential Disqualifiers?
Yes. Sydney’s Education section jumps out as it is the first section that is not filled with content. Included in this section are her high school diploma and the university she attended with the words “no degree obtained” afterward.
If Sydney completed a considerable amount of college (i.e., two-plus years), she should present it as “Completed Two Years Toward a Bachelor’s Degree.” If she did not, then omit this section entirely.
Is Sydney’s Résumé Optimally Formatted?
No. With the entry-level format, Arial font and lackluster aesthetic, nothing about Sydney’s résumé compels people to read it. Instead, Sydney should create an engaging visual aesthetic. Avoiding overused templates is a wise decision in this economy when a hiring manager is literally receiving hundreds of résumés.
Lastly, by including references on the résumé, she has reinforced there is little content to present to even make a full one-page résumé. References should be presented when requested.
With so much room for improvement, Sydney has no idea how successful her job search could be, given she has not been marketing her candidacy with an effective tool. Revamping her résumé will turn around her job-search results.
Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service 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.com or call (614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).