Dear Sam: I just started reading your column and wondered if you could provide me with a critique of my resume. With so much—and often conflicting—advice available, can you give me some of the key points on your recommendations to create a top-notch resume? — Jami

Dear Jami: Absolutely. And, yes, there is far too much advice floating around out there much of which is dated in nature and goes against anything best practices-based. Here is what I promise is up-to-date advice to developing your resume—your brand!

Aesthetics & Formatting

One of the major downfalls in resumes is that the majority lack any visual appeal and are typically created using very common templates. While content is very important in creating a resume that grabs the attention of a hiring manager, the aesthetics of that document can compel or repel interest. You must engage the reader through the use of a professional and visually appealing layout.


While most may feel that this section is self-explanatory, I often see major mistakes in this area. The heading on your resume should include your name, address—just your city and state is fine—cell number, and email address. You may list your home phone number but only do so if you are the primary person answering the phone. There is no need for someone else to be giving your first impression. Be sure to take a moment to look at your email address and verify that it reinforces the professional tone of your resume. I noticed many email addresses that contained birth years, ages, and other personal information that should not be presented on a resume.

Qualifications Summary

I am concerned that a large percentage of resumes still do not contain qualifications summaries, and instead waste space disclosing a vague objective that serves no purpose. Defining your purpose or objective is critically important to the development of this section, but instead of simply stating your objective, this section, along with everything on your resume, should be developed to sell yourself for the type(s) of roles you are seeking. Develop this section based on a primary target, presenting a brief summary of your key qualifiers related to your objective. Engage the reader or screener by performing due diligence to understand the keywords for the position(s) of interest, and infuse those keywords throughout this summary and the remainder of your resume.

Professional Experience

Next to the qualifications summary, a strong professional experience section, with achievements highlighted, is critical in driving a successful job search. A lot of readers struggle in determining how many years of experience to disclose on their resume, and unfortunately while there are guidelines, there are no steadfast rules on this topic. As a general rule, you should plan on including about 8-15 years of experience depending on how much of that experience enhances and supports your candidacy. Executives can plan to include more experience as it is assumed that when you reach a certain level, you have the experience to complement your high-level objective. Include only years, not months and years, of employment in order to minimize the appearance of gaps, overlaps, and job-hops. And when presenting accomplishments, highlight them as such, do not intermingle them with daily responsibilities or the hiring manager will not be able to ascertain your “value.”


A lot of the resumes I review included unnecessary information within the education section. Don’t be afraid to omit the education section if it detracts from your candidacy. If you never went to college, that’s okay, but this does not mean that you have to have an education section presenting only your high school diploma.

I hope these tips will help you identify where you may be able to make changes with your resume to improve its effectiveness.