Dear Sam: I read your column every week, and I like your advice on how to build a compelling resume. I wonder if you could give me your expert opinion on my resume. I have worked in the electrical design and drafting field, am 62 years old, but want to continue contributing. – Michael
Dear Michael: Thank you for the opportunity to look at your resume and provide some guidance on reshaping your brand. First, let me paint a picture of your resume for readers.
Your resume opens with your contact details, followed by an objective statement. You then present a handful of technical qualifications that precede your Work History section and presentation of experiences since 1996. Page two of your resume includes education, licenses, and certificates.
Let’s diagnose the issues in each area.
Nix the objective statement! Today’s job searches are about presenting what you can do for an employer, not stating what you want to do. Instead of an objective statement, open your resume with a qualifications summary showcasing the pillars of your candidacy. What is differentiating about your experience and candidacy? How would you say you are “better” than one of your competitors? Sell me on you and how you can add value!
Qualifications presented are not unique! Wouldn’t every candidate in your field know the technical programs and tools you listed in this section? Why then would you open your resume using precious real estate to convey the obvious? Think about the top third of your resume as the prime real estate, the curb appeal of what’s to come, and leverage it wisely to secure interest and engage the reader in what makes your candidacy stronger.
Brevity has gone too far! Look at your resume Michael; can you see it is very bottom-heavy? Do you realize that you are communicating your most recent position held for 7 years with a mere 11 words! Take a moment and think about the value you are communicating about that role. You are essentially saying that the past seven years mean very little. Even if it isn’t as related to your next career move, it is non-negotiable to find the transferability in that experience and communicate such.
You focus solely on responsibilities! It is expected that if we get hired to perform a job, we do just that. While we must communicate the overall scope of the position we were paid to perform, what adds value is telling a potential employer where you went beyond that job description and added value. Buried in the middle of your content is one tiny little note about the awards you received. That is the sole accomplishment I see listed on your resume. I am confident, however, that this is not the single accomplishment you have achieved in your career. Think more deeply about how you were challenged in the workplace, what actions you took, and what results you achieved. How did you go beyond the job description and add value to your employers, clients, and teams?
Education reversed your strategy! You did not include all of your professional work history, fearing the potential of being too expensive, perhaps too close to retirement, and other potential disqualifiers mature candidates often face. That was the right decision; by dating your education, though, you completely undid that strategy. If you are strategically omitting foundational experiences, remove dates on your education; otherwise, you are still “showing” your entire work history despite not presenting the employers.
I hope this step-by-step dissection of your resume helps you identify how you can dramatically improve the picture of your candidacy.