It probably won’t surprise you to find that resumes have changed, since the last time you relied on one to introduce yourself to prospective employers. You have changed, too, from the days when you applied for entry level positions, and your work history could be summed up in a few short paragraphs, with an eager description of career objectives.
Several years, even decades, into your career, repurposing that resume isn’t an option, though it remains a major marketing tool for your job search. Tailoring your resume to suit your situation and the contemporary job market shouldn’t be onerous if you follow a few simple guidelines.
Set the Target
Before you tackle the resume itself, make sure that you’re clear in your mind about your ambitions. Maybe you are willing to consider a range of possibilities for the next step in your career. In that case, consider crafting a different resume for each individual goal, keeping each version tight and focused.
Once you have chosen a direction, research the industry and talk to people working in the field to get a sense of the culture and what hiring managers look for in candidates. Compare your experience and qualifications against the industry standard and highlight the ones that fit for your resume.
Study the ads for positions you are interested in for phrases and descriptions that occur frequently. An applicant tracking system (ATS) is commonly used to screen resumes and these can serve as keywords to help yours pass through the filters. It isn’t necessary to overdo them, just take the time to select ones that fit in seamlessly with the content of your resume.
Choose the Resume Format
If you have substantial experience to convey or are setting off in a new direction, you might feel that the traditional layout won’t work for you. The reflex is to turn to the functional resume style, which emphasizes career milestones, skills, and qualifications, rather than giving a chronological timeline.
Hiring managers are vocal in their preference for a chronological layout. When they are working through piles of resumes, they need to be able to quickly grasp something tangible about the applicant’s qualifications. Another concern is that the ATS will often reject resumes without a chronological work history. Instead of avoiding a chronology, be strategic about how your present your work history and other elements, to help focus attention on where you meet the candidate requirements.
One to two pages is the recommended length for a resume, especially when it is prepared for the initial screening. That allows space for relevant work history, technical skills, and other information, while retaining clarity. It also means that you will need to edit your information meaningfully to keep your resume succinct.
The Essential Executive Summary
Hiring managers love the executive summary, which opens the resume with a short statement consisting of three to five sentences that make your case for why you are qualified for the job. This is your “elevator pitch” as Rudy Bellani, co-founder of Oystir , an online jobs marketplace, describes it. The executive summary is where you persuade the hiring manager of your value and your skills, and that they align with the company’s needs. When an executive summary is done well, it also serves as a demonstration of your skills as a communicator.
Bellani recommends structuring the summary in three parts: the pitch, where you sum up your value as a candidate in a sentence; relevant skills; and the fit, where you describe your soft skills and some defining characteristic that is unique to you.
A study that tracked recruiters’ online behavior as they reviewed resumes found that they spent almost 80 percent of their time on six data points: name; current title and company; current position start and end dates; previous title and company; previous position start and end dates; and education. The results also show that recruiters favor structured resumes that are easy to follow.
Organize the resume accordingly, using clear, bold headings for work history, achievements, and education, ensuring that each piece of information is relevant to the position you want.
If you have been with one company for a long time, show the progress of your career with them. After the start and end dates, put your promotions underneath in smaller, bold font, with a short description of significant achievements and responsibilities in each role.
The Experience Factor
Outlining too many years of experience can identify you as an older worker, and though discrimination based on age is illegal, the perception at the screening stage may be detrimental for you. In many industries, experience that dates further back than 15 years isn’t useful if it involves outdated tools or technology.
If you have extensive, relevant, experience and aren’t sure how much to include, take your cue from the job description. If it calls for 20 years of experience, and you have it, then you should show it. Otherwise, it’s acceptable to demonstrate 10 to 15 years in the field.
Unless you are a recent college graduate, you don’t need to include the date that you graduated; many people drop the date after 10 years. Professional development and continuing education courses don’t need to be dated, either. Certifications should include the date, so that the hiring manager knows that they are current.
It is necessary to specify start and end dates for your work history; they can be listed by the month/year, or just by the year.
Some elements have not changed from the days of your first resume and that includes the need to proofread diligently to avoid spelling mistakes and typos. Avoid elaborate layouts or graphics; keep the presentation professional, with an emphasis on clarity and readability.
A photograph of yourself isn’t necessary or recommended. A photo can be distracting and may trigger a rejection, to guard against unconscious bias on the part of the recruiter.
Want additional information on executive-level interviewing? Check out our blog.