Beth came to me with an ordinary résumé. It consisted of 10 bullet points attempting to encapsulate 11 years of work experience, totaling fewer than 200 words to communicate the value she provided her employer throughout her career. The bottom line was that Beth seriously underrepresented her career on paper and positioned her candidacy in an underwhelming manner.
Like many of my clients, Beth had always heard that a résumé should be one page. In today’s hiring market, that is no longer true. Instead, the length of your résumé should match the value you have to communicate. Beth’s one-page résumé was doing serious harm to her search by hampering a full exploration of her positions and key contributions.
While Beth opened her résumé with a career summary — a good start to accomplishing a great résumé — she had not positioned herself as anything in particular. Instead, Beth focused the summary on a lot of the soft skills she possessed, leaving a hiring manager to decipher what Beth wanted to do. With the screening process lasting only seconds, this would inevitably result in Beth’s résumé being passed over due to a lack of focus and inadequacy in telling her target audience what she could do for them.
During conversations with Beth, we explored her positions in greater detail, talking not only about her jobs but also about the challenges she faced, the reasons for the segue out of her main career path and the contributions she made throughout.
I also asked Beth if she had performance reviews available for me to read, which she did, as I knew I would be able to glean additional valuable content from reading her supervisors’ comments. Through our discussions, I also learned about Beth’s current career target, which was to return to commercial loan origination or portfolio and asset management.
Like so many employees in this economy, Beth had been asked to step into what was supposed to be an interim role with her company, but due to the economic climate the position became more permanent than expected, leaving Beth to do something outside of her true passion. While she enjoyed her role, she felt compelled to segue back into her field of interest, and hoped her résumé would help facilitate that move, hopefully within her existing organization.
Dramatically improving content and design of Beth’s résumé was my No. 1 priority. Knowing that Beth’s résumé should extend to two pages, I now had the room to really explore her background. Through a Qualifications Summary, including a headline, taglines, summary and core skills list, I positioned Beth exactly as she wanted to be seen, leaving no unanswered questions as to what she could do for potential employers. Moving on to a Professional Highlights section, I opened each position with a shaded box of excerpts from Beth’s performance reviews. Adding excitement and energy to the page, the formatting and content would jump out at the reader while providing critical third-party validation of her claims.
A paragraph was used to present each of Beth’s position overviews with bullet points following to communicate the value she had provided or the key contributions she had made. From fewer than 200 words to more than 650, Beth’s résumé is now telling a complete, yet succinct, picture of the value of her career and candidacy. Through the new content and design, Beth’s résumé will get the attention it deserves.
I loved Beth’s reaction to her new résumé: “I am in awe of the final product. You have captured my experiences so well, and it is unbelievable the way you incorporated quotes from my prior performance reviews (I wasn’t quite sure why you had asked for those, now it makes sense). Ironically, a position just opened up that I’m interested in. … Regardless of the outcome (Beth did indeed get an interview for the role), I intend to pursue other opportunities in an effort to find the dream job. Your work updating my résumé will be a big factor.”
Find your way in today’s crowded job market by focusing on your value and selling it to your target audience through your résumé’s content and design.
View Beth’s before and after résumé on ladybug-design.com/blog.
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).