Dear Sam: I look forward to reading your résumé information in the paper each week and now find myself needing some advice. I have more than 30 years of human resources, engineering, and project management experience with a Fortune 500 company. I retired and moved on to a position with a nonprofit trade association. I was very successful, however, due to a difference of opinion with my employer, I resigned from that position. Since then, over the course of the past two years, I have been trying to get back into nonprofit trade association management without much luck. Since I'm applying for association management positions should I forget about mentioning my 30 years of HR experience? How should I frame my reason for leaving my last employer? – Tom
Dear Tom: I’m so sorry to hear of the lack of response you have seen during your search. While this economy is tough, great résumés are still getting great results, so it is great that you are open to feedback to see how your résumés might be contributing to the results you are not seeing.
There are a number of strategies you can employ as a seasoned professional to avoid unnecessarily aging your candidacy on a résumé, while minimizing potentially disqualifying factors that you may or may not have considered. One of which however, which I feel is absolutely one of the main reasons your résumés are not generating results, is that you have removed all dates of employment. Sure to tell a story far worse than reality, this is a huge ‘no-no’ in résumé writing. Instead, why not built a substantial qualifications summary and then highlight key achievements, allowing you to push most of your employment dates to page two of your résumé? Other tips that might help improve the effectiveness of your résumés include:
Present only the relevant amount of experience — When reviewing your career, remember that hiring managers are much more interested in what you have done recently, so including information from 20 or 30 years ago may do more harm than good. Be sure to focus on the last 15 or so years of your career, particularly if you are applying for a position that does not necessitate more experience. As you are seeking a senior-level role, you certainly can bring in earlier experiences, but be careful how far back you date your candidacy. Early experiences (I really start evaluating the cost benefit of including a candidate’s experience when I start exploring work in the 1980s) can be bylined. In this strategy, you could date experiences from titles you held during the past two decades, while making only a brief mention of earlier positions without dates.
Consider the combination résumé format — As you are a senior executive it is likely that the hiring manager will be looking for a seasoned candidate expected to have 20+ years of experience. But, because I don’t know when you worked where, or when you held each title (as you have omitted that key data from your résumé), you may have to use the combination résumé format. Say your earlier experience is difficult to break into pieces as you held one title for a considerable amount of time, then the combination format could help you present highlights of your career before the professional experience section would be presented. Therefore this format allows you the opportunity to focus the reader’s attention on your qualifiers (type of experience) vs. potential disqualifiers (dates of experience).
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