Dear Sam: I am so confused, and I hope you can clear some things up for me. I took an incredible amount of time writing my résumé, and it has been met with mixed reviews on everything from the format to the length to the content. How can I know what I am doing is right if everyone has a different critique of the same thing? My main questions pertain to how long my résumé should be, what format it should be in and how much experience I should include. Thanks for clearing things up for me! — Lenny
Dear Lenny: Unfortunately, when it comes to résumé writing, everyone has an opinion and every other person thinks he or she is an expert. Résumé critiques have to be taken with a grain of salt, as you sometimes do not know the background of the reviewer and whether he or she is providing guidance based on personal preferences or on best-practice-based techniques.
If you feel your résumé positions you as you want to be seen, speaks the language of your target audience and is aesthetically pleasing, then stop critiquing and start using. As far as your specific questions go, let me shed some light from an expert’s perspective.
Length — Your résumé should be two pages based on your presentation of 17 years of experience. The “one-page rule” is not a rule anymore — and hasn’t been for 10-plus years —so take some space to present the value in your experience.
Format — You have chosen a solid reverse-chronological format, which is appropriate for your background, given you do not have potential disqualifiers you are attempting to mask. Your design also is aesthetically pleasing, balanced and consistent.
Content — It is standard to present about 10-15 years of professional experience when developing a résumé unless you are at a more senior level of management. In your case, based on the tenure of your roles, I think you could present what you have or cut experience a little earlier and present just your three most recent assignments totaling 13 years. This will ensure you paint the most competitive picture and not one that suggests you are overqualified.
Dear Sam: I was thinking of placing a QR code on my résumé and wondered if this was something you were seeing more of in today’s searches. I am not in the technology field. I am actually a customer-service agent, and I am trying to do anything to get extra attention during my search. — John
Dear John: You are an early adopter if you are thinking of placing a QR code on your résumé. While it can add value, including it must be done for a reason and not just to look tech savvy.
QR codes — also called Quick Response codes, for readers who are not as familiar — are matrix barcodes that consist of small square dots arranged in a pattern on a white background. Think of it as a modern barcode you can scan with your smartphone to view advertisements, specific Web sites or other promotional information or collateral. Retailers use QR codes to allow consumers on-demand access to promotional information or even loyalty programs.
A new trend is to place a QR code on a résumé, adding a certain coolness factor; however, you have to have a reason to use it. While a QR code will catch the attention of readers, they then have to take action in order to view the content driven by the QR code. Candidates could use a QR code to connect directly to their LinkedIn profile, or perhaps to connect to their résumé or portfolio online.
There is value in showing you are tech savvy, open to new technology and willing to experiment with emerging practices, but be sure there is something on the other end of that QR code that adds value. You may want to use a QR code on your business card instead where you do not have the opportunity to convey a lot of content. That might be the best place for you to see a return on your effort.
Dear Sam: I was terminated from my employer for excess time off work. Unfortunately, I received a conviction and, based on the time I had to spend in court, with my attorney and generally repairing my life following this lapse in judgment, it was too much for my employer of 16 years to bear. While I have been successful in rebuilding my personal life — as this was my first offense I did not receive jail time — I am struggling to figure out how to get back to my career. In addition, I feel very emotional and often angry about being terminated as I never had a performance issue and now feel potential employers will see me as having a scar on my record. — Kim
Dear Kim: I can understand how difficult navigating your way through a job search must be, especially as I am sure you are possibly thinking of the interview questions you will have to answer about reasons for leaving your last role. Remember, no one reviewing your résumé knows anything about your situation. That will be explored during the interview once interest has been established in your candidacy.
Make sure your résumé promotes the value you contributed to your past employer, being sure to present all of your accomplishments and the performance you drove. Do you have copies of past performance reviews? These could add credibility to your claims and could be offered during an interview or used in the development of your résumé. Sometimes, I place excerpts from performance reviews directly on a candidate’s résumé, especially important when performance and character may come into question.
Also, develop a written statement about your situation and what you learned from it. Showing it as an opportunity for personal development will demonstrate your ability to self-reflect and not repeat those actions.
Lastly, regarding the anger you feel toward your past employer, I know the situation is incredibly frustrating. But the worst thing you can do is hold onto a negative attitude and show that to potential employers. Revamp, re-energize and restart your search with your best foot forward.
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).