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.
Sydney should develop a full qualifications summary presenting her notable employers, the highlights of her experience, and the skills she has mastered throughout. To include earlier experiences that would potentially date Sydney’s candidacy, she could include some of those in the summary without going into detail about the positions in the professional experience section.
This is a great way to highlight past experiences that possibly do not appear in more recent roles. However, based on Sydney’s stated objectives, I believe she can more than demonstrate she is qualified for the opportunities she is interested in by focusing on the past 12 years.
Does Sydney’s résumé have the “punch” to get noticed?
No! Not a reflection on whether Sydney’s career has the “punch” to get noticed; her résumé focuses only on responsibilities, therefore is unlikely to engage the reader. Each bullet point presented describes a core function of her job, functions you would find on a standard job description.
When competing against other administrative assistants, it is likely they too have performed similar functions, so without a focus on where Sydney contributed over and above her job description, there is little to differentiate her candidacy.
Is Sydney highlighting potential disqualifiers?
Yes! Sydney’s education section jumps out at you as it is the first section that is not filled with content, so your eyes are immediately drawn to that section. In this section, she included her high school diploma and the university she attended with the words “no degree obtained” afterward.
If Sydney completed a considerable amount of college (i.e., two-plus years), then I would present this as “Completed Two Years Toward a Bachelor’s Degree”; if she did not then, I would omit this section entirely.
Is Sydney’s résumé optimally formatted?
No! With the entry-level format, Arial font, and lackluster aesthetic, nothing about Sydney’s résumé compels people to read it. Instead, Sydney should create an engaging visual aesthetic that draws the reader in. Avoiding overused templates is a wise decision in this economy when a hiring manager is literally receiving hundreds of résumés; when many use templates, the résumés all start looking the same.
Lastly, by including references on the résumé, she has reinforced there is little content to present to even make a full one-page résumé. References should be presented when requested.
With so much room for improvement, Sydney has no idea how successful her job search could be, given she has not been marketing her candidacy with an effective tool. Revamping her résumé, I feel, will turn around her job search results!
Would you like ‘Dear Sam’ to critique your résumé? For a critique, send résumé to firstname.lastname@example.org