Don’t sacrifice value for brevity

By Samantha Nolan Published: December 4, 2009
Dear Sam: I am 57 years old and was downsized in February after almost 9 years on the job. I suspect the lack of interviews I have received relates directly to my résumé. My previous income was $70K with a $7K car allowance and all of my gas paid for. I have been a hiring manager, so I know a lot of applications require you to present a salary history; when providing this information, I am afraid this is pricing me out of the market. What do you suggest? – Art

Dear Art: When you are required to submit a salary history, be sure your previous salaries are placed on your résumé and not on a separate sheet of paper, which would allow for quick disqualification based on an assumption of desired compensation. I actually suspect, however, that your résumé is hurting you in more areas than that. From taking a look at your résumé, I can see you haven’t done your experience justice. It’s good that you haven’t included all of your professional positions; instead, you have included a nice listing of those held more recently. My concern, however, is that you have described, in one section of your résumé, a 10-year position with 8 words. Even your most recent 9-year position was only afforded 51 words. How can the reader see “value” when you only give those long-term positions that much space on a piece of paper? Please take another look at your content, take time to explore—and quantify—your accomplishments, and use your résumé to take the reader through the journey of your career as you climbed the ladder from assistant to regional manager. I think when you really develop your résumé, you will find your phone isn’t quite so quiet.

Dear Sam: My résumé is three pages long. How do I condense it without omitting important information? – Cindi

Dear Cindi: While I do not know the extent of your career, let’s cover some general principles to help determine the appropriate length for your résumé. First, a résumé is not a narrative of your entire career. Instead, it is a strategic image of what you have done that positions you for what you now want to do. Think of your résumé like a brochure for a product. A brochure doesn’t tell you all of the technical details of the product being marketed; instead, it highlights key points to gain the interest of and prompt action from the target buyer. There is a “rule” in résumé writing that you should “present the big and save the small,” meaning your résumé should focus on the high points of your career, leaving supporting details to be discussed during a personal interview.

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