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What’s right — and wrong — about your résumé?

BY SAMANTHA NOLAN Modified: October 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm •  Published: October 5, 2012

Dear Sam: My résumé is all over the place! After reading your columns, I have tried to delete some unnecessary items that dated me. However, some of the jobs that I deleted really showcased select skills. This was to include some time spent as a credit union teller (i.e., cash handling, drawer reconciliation, customer service) and 5 years as a human resources assistant (i.e., supporting the recruitment and selection process and conducting new-hire orientations).

With that said, my experience also includes several years of working in a combination of two police departments; I don’t know how to mesh both the clerical and that technical side of my experience into one cohesive résumé. I’m not sure where my next opportunity is going to arise, but will be in a clerical capacity or in another law enforcement post. — Sydney

Dear Sydney: I was shocked when I opened your résumé and it was less than one page, including devoting at least one-third of that space to information that will not differentiate your candidacy—education, volunteerism, and references. Allow me to paint a picture of your résumé to the readers:

Sydney’s résumé is in a two-column format with a smaller left column containing her name and contact information. On the right she placed her “Employment History.” Beneath this heading are four sections of work experience spanning 1998 to present. Within each employment section there are three-to-four one-line bullet points presenting responsibilities.

The résumé then proceeds to “Education” and two bullet points that relay her high school diploma and time at college. Next a “Volunteerism” section appears presenting Sydney’s time working for a local animal shelter as a dog walker. Lastly a “References” section appears with 3 references listed. The résumé ends with this section and about three inches of white space. The résumé is written in Arial with a total of 351 words, 189 of which are used to describe the 12 years of experience presented.

Okay, let’s analyze each section—based on the questions I ask when critiquing and writing a résumé—and see what is not working well for Sydney.

Has Sydney defined her purpose?

No! Sydney, has to select a targeted direction to follow. If law enforcement and administrative support are the objectives, then likely that is going to take two very different résumés. Despite Sydney having performed a lot of administrative functions during her time with two police departments, to market herself to another police department she is going to have to sell her in-depth knowledge of law enforcement processes, her compliance work, her ability to cultivate relationships with officers and investigators, and the skills very specific to becoming a strong administrative/technical support person in that environment.

If she were to present this type of résumé for a general administrative support role in a business environment, very little of that content would make sense to the audience. Having two résumés, one far more technical and filled with law enforcement jargon than the other, will get her job search on the right track.

Has Sydney positioned her candidacy?

No! I feel as Sydney was trying to appeal to two very different audiences, she has diluted the strength of her résumé. For instance, Sydney’s résumé does not open with a qualifications summary. Without this section, the reader is forced to “figure out” where her skills lay and, within just a few seconds, the reader will likely move on as he/she won’t have time to determine whether or not Sydney’s background works well for the environment.

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