Dear Sam: I have been applying for positions and getting nowhere. I have 35 years of teaching experience, 13 years of administrative experience, a BA, MA, a doctorate in Educational Leadership, and a current state teaching license. Several years ago, a professional advised me to remove dates from my resume, and I revised my resume according to her suggestions. There is a job that just opened up, for which I have the exact experience and background they’re looking for. I have applied for so many jobs; I want to get it right this time. What can I do differently? – Kimberly
Dear Kimberly: I was shocked when I opened your resume and saw it was only one page in length! I expected a multi-page document fully explaining all of your experience and credentials. I can see several reasons why your resume isn’t opening doors. Let’s review a few of the key points I think you need to address—by looking at some of the common questions I hear—that will help guide you in the redevelopment of your resume.
Should I or should I not remove dates? The answer is a resounding “No!” The only time you remove dates from your resume is from your early experience in order to avoid unnecessarily aging yourself. You would never want to do that for your entire career; otherwise, hiring managers would be left with too many unanswered questions. Think about dating perhaps your most recent experiences and bylining your earliest experiences, which means presenting the earliest experiences at the end of your professional experience section in a brief one- or two-sentence statement. Doing this would allow you to incorporate some of the value-added experience on your resume but avoid adding years to your candidacy.
Do hiring managers really want more than one page? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Sure, when you are an entry-level candidate with very limited experience, one would expect your experience would fit on one page. But, when you have 30+ years of experience, it should not be able to fit on one page. By presenting your entire career in fewer than 150 words, you have sacrificed value for brevity. You have written your resume as if it were a list of the functions performed. In doing so, you have not expounded on anything in your career, there is no presentation of your key contributions, and there is no opportunity to translate your experiences to a new environment.
Can I have a “general” resume for multiple opportunities? The answer is a resounding “No!” An untargeted resume does not get the results anyone wants. It also affects your self-esteem as you may feel you are qualified for a job, apply for the job, and get no response from the company. In this vicious cycle, you put yourself out there knowing you are qualified, yet when you hear nothing or receive a rejection letter, you start to question yourself and what qualifications you believe you have. You must target. You must translate your experiences to your desired audience. And you must paint a picture of your candidacy that is easily understood and that doesn’t require a hiring manager to “figure out” who you are and how you fit.
Can I omit certain things from my resume if they do not support my candidacy? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Your resume is not an application for employment; it is a strategic image of what you have done which positions you for what you now want to do. Similar to a brochure for a product, it should tout your features and benefits and tell employers why they should “buy” you! You can absolutely omit select aspects of your experience or education if you feel doing so will present a more right-sized image of your candidacy. I am absolutely not telling you to change facts; I am simply saying that if it benefits you more to omit something, that’s okay. A lot of candidates do not present doctoral degrees for fear of being seen as being overqualified. Likewise, it is rare to present 30 years of experience on a resume for the same reason.
I hope this provides you with some clarity—moving forward—and some actionable items to address to create the winning resume I know you can have.