Dear Sam: Those of us who have been unemployed for some time do not have money for next month’s rent, let alone money for a resume. Has America lost its core values to help its own, especially for those unemployed for a year or more? I have attached my resume for an honest look and a little help. – Stevie

Dear Stevie: Thank you for your letter. I feel your frustration, and I am so sorry you have been unable to find a position. I’m happy to help you and will address your concerns.

Many resume writers like myself volunteer their time to local organizations, facilitating train-the-trainer workshops and seminars for those looking for work. I often host presentations and resume development workshops, and I know many of my colleagues in the industry do the same thing. In addition, I have been invited to several Job and Family Services One-Stop Centers to train their resume counselors, and I have done that same thing with local nonprofits that focus their efforts on helping unemployed and under-employed candidates. So, I encourage you to reach out to local assistance available at no charge.

As for the real reason for your email—to receive an honest critique of your resume—at first glance, I think the mechanics of your resume are sound. You have followed protocol in the qualifications summary, and I believe the content is quite good. I have, however, identified three key reasons behind perhaps a lack of success in the job market:

1. You need to remove the focus on your most recent custodian role of two years as it does not support your objective of gaining entry back into district/regional sales management.

2. You need to pull out accomplishments and not blend them—albeit you have tried to attract attention by bolding them—with responsibility statements, as they are difficult to read.

3. You are dating yourself by including experience from 1976.

So how do we fix these issues? Well, the good news is there is a “fix” for almost everything on a resume. Let’s review what you can do to improve the effectiveness of your resume by minimizing the impact of these four potential disqualifiers:

First, to remove focus from your most recent and unrelated tenure as a school custodian, deploy the use of a combination format. In this format, you would include a Career Highlights section, which would allow you to pull from your related experiences and achievements. Organize this section—which will appear after the Qualifications Summary and before the Professional Experience section—by employer or key action area (turnaround management, talent acquisition, business development, etc.). The goal of using this strategy and format would be to push the custodian experience to page two, so it plays a lesser role during the screening process.

Second, differentiate your responsibilities from accomplishments using a paragraph and bullet point combination. Highlight other achievements in the Professional Experience section, but do so with bullet points. Bullet points are easier to read, and subconsciously, our eyes go to the bullet points when we read a resume.

Third, figure out a way to “break” your experience from your first employer, which spans 1976 to 1996. You can do this in many ways. One option would be what we call a byline. You would present the following statement: “Additional foundational experience with ABC Employer, serving in DM, (list other titles here) roles.” By using this byline strategy, you can use all of the outstanding accomplishments from this timeframe in your Career Highlights section but avoid aging your candidacy by going back to the 1970s.

I hope this candid critique helps you identify the potential challenges in your resume despite a fairly solid-looking document. I am confident if you work on these items, a stronger and more helpful resume will emerge.