Dear Sam: I have read several of your columns and was intrigued by your ability to improve a resume. After 12 years with my current company, I was recently informed that my position is going to be eliminated. Having not updated a resume or being interviewed during that time, your thoughts on modernizing a resume are of great interest. I saw you had mentioned several times that the resumes you receive are often outdated in format. Could you share what a current resume format looks like? I want to try to get this correct the first time and get back in the workforce. – Paul

Dear Paul: Thank you for your readership; I would be happy to share more about the structure of a best practices-based resume, and I am sorry to hear of your impending layoff.

First, determine what direction you will take your career as this plays a vital role in building your brand. If you have not figured this out, it is time to do so, as, without that key target, you will not know where to aim your resume and its content.

Next, start writing down the basics. Remember that hiring managers will want to know about the last 10-15 years or so of your career, so focus on your most recent roles. Think about your jobs not only in terms of what you did every day, but most importantly, what you did that added value to the company. If you have access to past job descriptions, performance reviews, letters of recommendation, or anything else that will help jog your memory, now is the time to use those resources, preferably before you leave. Start talking to current and past co-workers, not only to build your job search network, but also to reach out to those that may have valuable information on what you did that added value to your employer.

Once you have the basics drafted, carefully craft your resume’s content and design, being sure to not fall victim to often-committed branding mistakes. Your resume should be structured as follows…

Heading: Include your name, cell phone number, and personal email address. We omit physical addresses these days and list the city and state of residence. Home phone numbers are increasingly rare, so if you have a mobile number, only list that as a preferred method of contact. Be sure your email address does not contain numbers that look like birth years nor uses what could be seen as an “older” carrier (sorry, AOL and Hotmail).

Qualifications Summary: Up-to-date resumes open with qualifications summaries, serving as an executive summary of the information contained throughout the remainder of the resume. As an experienced professional, you should have a two-page resume, making the qualifications summary critical to the four-to-seven-second screening process. Take the time to make this summary market you well, conveying why a hiring manager cannot afford not to bring you in for an interview.

Professional Experience: When reviewing your career, remember that hiring managers are much more interested in what you have done recently, and of course, what most relates to their needs. Be sure to focus on the last 10-15 years of your career, particularly if you apply for a position that does not necessitate more experience. Structure your content with more focus on accomplishments versus responsibilities, realizing that many of your competitors may be coming from similar roles with identical job descriptions. Your achievements or key contributions are what are unique about your candidacy.

Education: Present your college degree (if you have one) and never include your high school diploma unless you are pursuing a blue-collar job. It is assumed you possess a diploma, so if you do not have a degree, including a high school diploma only highlights the lack of a college education.

Value-Added Information: End your resume with any other value-added details such as affiliations, certifications, training, volunteer work, and anything else that brings credence to your professional candidacy.

Check out professional resume writing websites like my own for ideas on attractive formatting, being sure to create your own look that doesn’t look like an overused Word template available to the masses. The look of your resume says a lot about your candidacy, your attention to detail, and your ability to create an engaging document.