Resumes and Cover Letters

Resume Formatting Tips For Job Seekers

Producing a strong resume is both “art” and “science.”

Our senior resume writer – Staci Collins – held an interactive Q & A session in January 2013 to de-mystify the essential resume components for the current job market.  If a career transition is in your future in 2013 or beyond, you will need a strong resume to differentiate yourself  from the masses.

This blog post is the last in a 4 part series sharing practical resume do’s and dont’s that will strengthen your resume.  And, if you missed the Part I through Part III posts, just use our blog search tool above to quickly locate them.  You’ll definitely want to have the information from these 4 blogs in your resume refinement “arsenal.”

Format-related Questions

Q:  Why is there so much contradictory advice about how a good resume should look, or what information should be in it? 

A:  Everyone just disagrees!!!  There is no single approach.  Stay away from claims and assertions, e.g., Visionary team builder. Provide quantifiable, validated hard evidence. Everything needs to be substantiated.  You need to provide proof that you CAN; otherwise you cast doubt on your overall credibility.


-Senior Marketing Director with 20 years’ experience launching branded consumer electronics products for SONY and Panasonic into the U.S. and EMEA markets, generating over $60 MM in revenues.

-Finance Manager with 12 years’ experience in software firms, specializing in maximizing ROI on technology, saving enterprises $120 MM annually.

-Consulting Senior Manager with 8 years’ experience implementing Oracle databases in complex global health care enterprises and government-related fields, on time and on budget.

Q:  Do you prefer a general leadership profile/summary at the top of resume, or a targeted grouping of achievements?  Other?  Is it necessary to have an “Objective” Statement? If so, what goes into a good one?

A: It is not necessary to have an Objective Statement but you must have a Summary Statement.  The Summary Statement has to be very specific.

Other Questions

Q:  Resume writing and rewriting/customizing…do you recommend having it done professionally?  This could be costly. 

A:  Yes…you should have this done professionally.  It is a rigorous process, and it helps you prepare for interviews, too.  But it doesn’t have to be costly.  Your achievements are your achievements.  The rewrites are a matter of tweaking the core resume with industry specific wording after you have done the main body of work.  The history of achievements/contributions is the difficult and time consuming part of crafting a stand out resume.

Q: How do I overcome age bias?

A: This is not easy.  Some companies are looking for more senior people.  Senior people can be viewed as helpful in guiding things.  If you are more senior it’s helpful to “own” a specialty so you can position yourself as a specialist – either working as an employee or as a consultant.  Or, find something that is emerging that you can “own” and reliably deliver.

Q: What if your most recent work experience isn’t what you want to do with your life? For instance, you left a full time position and are doing contract work until you find a full time position…

A: Employers understand 2008 and its aftermath.  They “get” long term unemployment.  You can include your interim work (highlighting contributions), but make it brief so they quickly land on your prior work.  Try to find a way to make what you are currently doing seem valuable relative to the past.  Demonstrate added value as best you can.

Q:   I have a two year gap on my resume as a stay at home mom.  How should I address this gap? 

A: You could put maternity leave.  This is understandable and even admired.  A 2 year gap is not an issue.  7 years is a bigger issue.  A 13 – 14 year gap is problematic.  Meaningful volunteering – “Fundraiser” for a local youth organization generating $100 K, a 30% increase over prior year  VERSUS  “Class Mom” for your child’s Kindergarten class —  can close the gap somewhat.  There is evidence that the longer one is out of the work force, the harder it is to re-enter, and if you do succeed you often don’t re-enter at the level or salary you left.  That being said, though, strategic volunteering can help you beat the odds.

Q: How do you mention achievements covered under a confidentiality agreement?

A: “Genericize” them.  Demonstrate your contributions by addressing the scope of the project, promotions of team members, on time delivery, on budget delivery, etc. Speak about clients in terms of their industry position, brand position, category (e.g. Fortune 200 consumer package goods manufacturer….)

About the Author

Staci has over 15 years of experience partnering with managers at all levels in High Technology, Management Consulting and Healthcare Management to build their careers via career strategy, career assessment and selection, brand identification, PAR development and mapping, and strategic resume and cover letter development.