Dear Sam: I am submitting my resume for review. I lost my job in 2020 and went back to school to earn my MBA in Marketing. I have not, however, been able to break into the marketing field. Can you look at my resume and tell me what causes an adverse reaction to employers. – Steve

Dear Steve: Absolutely! Thank you for sending your resume so I could triage it and provide insight into the opportunities you may have for improvement. Several areas may be causing an adverse reaction.

1. You do not have a qualifications summary. It is critical to “position” yourself in the reader’s mind—the hiring manager—through a summary of your candidacy. Without that, you ask the reader to “figure out” who you are and what you want to do based on past experience alone, which is not practical during a four-to-seven-second screening process.

2. You have focused on non-differentiating qualifications. Opening your resume with a skills list that most in marketing can also claim does nothing to differentiate your candidacy from the competition. While software skills are important, the fact that you know Adobe Creative Suite, MS Office, and other industry technologies do not present a compelling reason why you should be brought in for an interview. Is this what is unique about you? I would answer no. Instead, hang your hat on the uniqueness of your experience.

3. You have not conveyed value. Your resume consists of bullet points presenting job descriptions instead of paragraph summaries and bulleted highlights presenting the critical value you added. While it is important to be able to perform the job you are hired for, that is also the expectation, so presenting the expectation does nothing to differentiate you in a crowded market once again. Be sure you are presenting a blend of your roles and highlighting how you added value, what you achieved, and how you went above and beyond expectations. This will predict contributions to a future employer.

4. You have included too much information. It is unlikely you need to go back to 2000—20 years—to qualify for your next opportunity, so I would question the approach of including most of your career. I imagine you have trimmed some of your experience given you graduated in 1992, but that too is communicating too much information. By including 20 years of experience and dating your graduation year, you allow employers to determine your age and potentially consider you as overqualified. Being over-qualified can be worse than being under-qualified, so perhaps trim what you are presenting to the expected 10-15 years of professional work history.

5. Your education and training are mixed. Pull your education apart from your training so that your education section leads with your MBA degree. Currently, given you are listing education in reverse chronological order, the section titled “Education” opens with an Internet Marketing Certificate, making the reader immediately assume you do not have a degree. List training in its own area to avoid this assumption.