Dear Sam: I have been pouring through some of your most recent columns, and though you have offered what appears to be well-thought-out strategies for reworking a résumé with three to five years of experience, I have an altogether different issue. Having worked for a company that recently closed, I find myself in unfamiliar territory having 20-plus years of experience encompassing multiple industries and job functions. I have produced many versions of my résumé in an attempt to better tailor this information to the reader. I have gratefully accepted help from all comers but am still not happy with the result.
Dear Eric: I am sorry to hear of your company closing and am happy to offer some insight into how you can improve the effectiveness of your résumé. I should note that a good percentage of my columns are focused on the more mature candidate. Look through a few more columns, and you will see many that focus exclusively on candidates with significant experience.
Based on a quick scan of your résumé, I noticed one major concern that could potentially derail your search: You have absolutely no dates on your résumé. This is a glaring red flag for hiring managers. The omission of dates typically paints a far worse picture than reality. I do think pulling key accomplishments out and placing them in a highlights section on page one is the way to go, but you must add some dates to your Professional Experience section.
As you are a VP/C-level leader, a hiring manager would expect to see a significant amount of experience on your résumé, so going back into the early ’90s — possibly the late ’80s — would be expected. You do not need to cut your experience short, remove dates or do anything else so drastic when you are a senior-level manager seeking to stay at that level. To be at that level, one assumes you are coming with significant experience and exposure.
Follow these tips to improve the effectiveness of your résumé:
• Target, target, target! Be sure you know how you are positioning yourself in your résumé. It is imperative to send a consistent message, showcase areas of expertise and differentiate your candidacy by presenting a very targeted picture of what you have done that positions you for what you now want to do.
• Remove focus on the number of years of experience you possess if you are concerned it will age you. Within the first sentence of your résumé, you state that you offer “20-plus years of extensive experience …” By doing this, you immediately age yourself. You do not need to present the total number of years of experience you possess; let readers add that up if they are interested. Instead, be sure your summary focuses on just the highlights and key contributions associated with your candidacy.
• Make your quantifiers easier to read. Your résumé appears cluttered with numbers, and while numbers jump off the page, you will want to make them as easy to read as possible. The quantity of metrics you have on your résumé makes your Select Achievements section difficult to scan. Consider changing notations of $50,000,000 to $50M; it makes for a much quicker and more impactful read.
• Add dates to all or select areas of your Professional Experience section. As mentioned above, you must add some dates back into your résumé. As this section appears on page two, it isn’t as potentially disqualifying as if those dates appeared on page one. You can date just the most recent and not the earliest of your experiences if that paints a better picture. Just be sure to add a subheading of Foundational Experience before you break format and omit earlier dates.
Best of luck for success.
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).