Right-sizing your candidacy
Dear Sam: I read your column every week about creating the best rĂ©sumĂ© we can. I would appreciate it very much if you would critique my enclosed resume.
I have been trying to get a job for two years. I have tried to downplay my age by not putting in too much experience and not providing a college graduation date, but when I get an interview, my search ends there. I am 63 years old and it seems to be having a negative effect on my ability to secure a job.
My rĂ©sumĂ© looks so â€śblahâ€ť to me; do you have any suggestions? â€“ Kim
Dear Kim: Let me first paint a picture of your rĂ©sumĂ© for readers. You are positioning yourself as a Director of Development and open your rĂ©sumĂ© with a qualifications summary and list of core skills. You then flow into a â€śProfessional Accomplishmentsâ€ť section which is organized by employer.
This section extends throughout the remainder of page one of your rĂ©sumĂ© and includes highlights from two employers without dates of employment noted. Page two of your rĂ©sumĂ© includes a â€śProfessional Experienceâ€ť section which provides minimal content on experience from 1983 to present. Education and affiliations round out page two of the rĂ©sumĂ©.
First, you have approached the structure of your rĂ©sumĂ© correctly. You should indeed be using a combination format which, just as you have done, highlights key accomplishments up front and pushes dates of employment to the back burner.
My concern, however, is that the accomplishments you highlight on page one stem mostly from experience which occurred 12+ years ago (1983-2000). While I understand this time period amasses the majority of your career, what you have done recently is of key interest to potential employers.
Why not create an accomplishments section on page one which highlights some of your most recent involvement in the development field? After all, you have been consulting in that arena for the past 10+ years. I believe additional exploration of the â€śvalueâ€ť this experience provided would ensure your development skill set looks recent and relevant.
I would also add content to the professional experience section. While you are highlighting accomplishments up front, it is still important to provide some weight to the explanations of your roles on page two of your rĂ©sumĂ©. Lastly, I would recommend only including back through 1989 on your rĂ©sumĂ©.
You could easily trim your first six-year position and still look aptly qualified for a development opportunity. Including almost 30 years of experience has the potential to make you look overqualified and potentially too expensive.
You are in a tough situation, Kim. You want to differentiate your candidacy based on experience, yet it is the amount of experience you have that could be harming your candidacy. Right-size what you show on paper, benchmarking your candidacy on the amount of experience sought by potential employers.
As a director-level candidate, I would assume a solid 15 years of experience would be prudent; however, 30 may be too much. Perhaps even list your first employer of 17 years without the dates. To do this, you would simply break formatting and create a subsection titled â€śFoundational Experience.â€ť Within that section, you can still present the brief overview you have; but when you remove the context of dates, it may appear more appealing.