Dear Sam: I’m struggling. I have 23 years of work experience with multiple employers and can’t fit it all in a nicely buttoned-up one-page résumé. My sister-in-law, who used to hire a lot of candidates, told me that hiring managers only want to see one page and anything else is ignored. How can I communicate what I have done in that small space while still accurately conveying the breadth of my career?
Dear Charla: Oh yes, the old “your résumé has to be one page” rule. In my more than 10 years of writing résumés, that has never been a rule. With today’s more sophisticated résumé structures, we are not limited to one page as it no longer makes sense.
If you can place 23 years of history on one page, either you are severely under-representing yourself on paper, or you contributed very little value to past employers. Neither picture is a good one to paint.
Today’s résumés open with a Qualifications Summary that serves as an executive summary of what is to come on a résumé, regardless of the length. A recent survey by Global Hiring showed that only 6 percent of hiring managers actually agree with the one-page rule. I urge you to explore the value you contributed with a two-page résumé, or even three pages if that is what it takes.
Open your résumé with a summary to provide the easy-to-screen snapshot of your qualifications critical to the screening process. But, following the summary, explore your career with the presentation of a blend of your responsibilities and accomplishments. Follow this with additional value-added sections such as education, training and community involvement.
I’m glad you wrote so I could help you prevent creating a résumé that really would under-represent you on paper. Best of luck to you.
Dear Sam: I don’t understand why my résumés aren’t effective. I have spent time explaining what I did at each job, highlighting accomplishments, and still I don’t get a response. I even developed multiple versions with different objectives noted. Help! — Rachel
Dear Rachel: I noticed that your résumés do not contain Qualifications Summaries and instead use very valuable real estate at the top of page one presenting an Objective Statement.
Defining your purpose or objective is critically important to the development of this section. But instead of simply stating your objective, this section, along with everything on your résumé, should be developed to sell yourself for the type(s) of roles you are seeking.
Develop this section based on a primary objective, presenting a brief summary of your key qualifiers related to your current career target.
Engage the reader by performing due diligence to understand the keywords for the position(s) of interest, and infuse those keywords throughout this summary and the remainder of your résumé.
I know that most candidates struggle with this section. It is the most difficult part of a résumé to write. As a tip, start writing your résumé from the bottom up, beginning with the easier sections and leading to the summary. Write the summary last so that you have a clear picture of what you have to offer your target audience. Check out samples on my Web site for inspiration.
Dear Sam: I have proven I can step into any role and excel. With my job search lasting for nine months now, I really need a job and am willing to do anything. How do I make my résumé reflect that I can do almost anything?
Dear Mike: While creating a general résumé may seem like an effective strategy, it is actually quite the opposite. I cringe when candidates tell me they can do anything and don’t have an idea of what type of jobs they will be applying for.
While I understand the need to not limit options in today’s job market, a one-size-fits-all strategy is rarely effective.
Instead, identify a primary target, even if this means you require alternate versions of your main résumé. If you try to present yourself as a jack-of-all-trades, you suddenly become a master-of-none — clearly not a good presentation of your candidacy.
Defining your purpose is the critical first step in crafting an effective résumé, a step that facilitates your understanding of what your target audience is looking for and what keywords to incorporate into your résumé. While you may think broadening the scope on your résumé will yield more responses, it is likely to do the opposite.
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).