Dear Sam: I’ve been a full-time mom for 16 years, with most of my early jobs in the retail arena. In 2017 I earned my bachelor’s degree in general studies and completed continuing education toward a Human Resources Certificate. The resume I am attaching was completed by career services at my university. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. — Wendy

Dear Wendy: It can certainly be challenging to create a resume based on experience from 15+ years ago. The career services department got you started on the right track, but I feel some areas need attention to create your best candidacy.

Formatting not pleasing to the eyes —
To me, the format is too aggressive. By that, I mean the large blocks of black shading with white text distract and create a very masculine resume. I do not think the format reflects your professional candidacy nor your character.

Questionable headings —
I am always careful when I name headings, ensuring accuracy and that my clients’ skills and experiences within those headings are reflective of that title. In your case, I feel perhaps someone stuck to a template a little too tightly. In the summary, at the top of your resume—which is not a proper qualifications summary rather a list of areas in which you have been exposed in your career—it is introduced by “Areas of Expertise.” I know this is picky, but are you an expert in all of those areas? If I am working with a seasoned professional, I may introduce select skills with that heading, but I wonder whether elevating some of your skills to this level is damaging someone seeing the “real” you. Likewise, your professional experience section is titled “Selected Accomplishments,” yet nothing in those three bullet points are accomplishments. Be careful not to overstate experience; we want to create a marketing document, but we want accuracy and honesty.

Content, or lack thereof —
I understand the need for a functional design and highlighting areas of experience versus places and times of employment. However, I would need to know your exact dates of employment to know whether the omission of all dates was appropriate, as usually, that is a red flag for hiring managers. Have you had any part-time roles while you were raising your children? Any volunteer work we could include? Think of things, other than education, that could potentially be dated and reflect recent, relevant experience. Did you work on the PTA coordinating community fundraisers or support any other causes? I rarely work with a mom returning to work who has not contributed to an administrative, customer service, fundraising, and coordination capacity at some point during her time at home. Think about other things you can highlight that are not “pure” professional experiences.

In addition, you have only three sentences conveying the value of your professional experiences. I would want to see that much more developed. Tell your audience why what you did 16 years ago matters. If you don’t develop this section further, the reader may discount all of your experience.

Lastly, you introduce your three bullet points with the subheadings “Sales, Administration, and Customer Service,” yet the latter has no content underneath it. There is zero value in something not being explained. I am confident you can “beef up” the content to better present the value of the roles you performed before leaving the workforce. Not to mention, make the content so much more relevant to human resources if that is what you are pursuing. Think about your experiences differently; it’s not always about what you did, but what you did that best relates to where you want to go next.

The bottom line is that I feel you have a launching point to start with your resume. There is significant room for improvement, however, in order to present the most relevant qualifications to compete in the human resources arena. I wish you the most success!