Dear Sam: I am a loyal reader who is very stuck! I am updating my resume; it’s been five years since I last used this version. I have a B.A. in Marketing Communications and I’ve worked for years, my last job being the most successful in terms of income and level of responsibility – yet I can’t seem to write about it!
I need to go back to work after taking two years off to be home with my children (almost two and four years old). Having been both a working mother and a stay-at-home mom, I’ve found “returning to work” even after only two years to be very different. This is the first time in my life where I’m looking for a job and the choice I make directly impacts everyone in the house. Although I’m looking forward to going back to work, I’ve gone from feeling unafraid of applying for jobs, to being stuck even writing my resume. I truly believe I can’t be the only 32-year-old woman in this position. – Loyal Reader
Dear Loyal Reader: Thank you for your readership, please find my critique and suggestions for improvement below.
Aesthetics & Formatting
Being that your career has spanned marketing, sales, customer service, and retail management, you can afford to be a little creative in your formatting. As your resume stands, the design does not engage the reader, and the brevity of content does not support the level of employment in which you are interested. Instead, how about using a two-column resume with keywords noted down the left side of the page—leaving less space for the content of your experiences if you are struggling with writing about each role—creating a much fuller look to your resume.
This is the major pitfall of your resume – or lack thereof. You must open your resume with a qualifications summary that showcases what you can offer an employer based on your past experiences, achievements, and areas of expertise. You cannot expect the hiring manager to make a best guess as to what you want to do. With only 4-7 seconds to engage the reader during the screening process, you must open your resume with a summary that answers “why I should hire you.” Develop this section after you have written the professional experience section of your resume, treating it like the opening to an essay or an executive summary of your experience. The summary should contain all details you can’t afford for the hiring manager not to know while evaluating your candidacy.
Include only years of employment to minimize the appearance of gaps and frequent job hops. Quantify experiences to add interest to your resume, focusing more on accomplishments versus daily responsibilities. Typically resumes will include about 10 years of experience unless prior experiences enhance your candidacy. Therefore, I question the section at the end of your resume, which, if listed in chronological order, would appear in different places in the professional experience section. If they do not deserve an explanation, then why even have them on your resume? As these are all internships that I am assuming you completed as a part of your degree program, instead, list them within the education section so as not to appear like you have held 9 positions in the past 10 years.
Your resume’s next major pitfall is that you severely lack in content, with no focus on achievements. Instead, concisely present your daily responsibilities, realizing that this is not the information that gets you the interview, while presenting where you have gone above and beyond in your career – in other words, what differentiates you from your competitors. You have had some fantastic employers, but that is buried in this paragraph style format that isn’t engaging to the reader. You can use these points, quantified achievements, and a strong experience summary, to sell your career despite potential disqualifiers such as frequent job-hops.
You are no longer considered a recent graduate so this section should be relocated to the end of your resume. You can mention your degree in the qualifications summary if you choose to do so, but placing it first on your resume places focus on the wrong information. Instead, let your career sell your candidacy along with where you have contributed value to an organization.
I hope this critique helps get you started in making the appropriate additions and improvements to your resume.