No matter how many articles you may come across that promise the resume is over, that it’s antiquated, that something or other is the “new resume,” the reality is that a traditional resume is the most practical and succinct means to capture your background, experiences, and accomplishments. That said, not all resumes are created equally. Typos, misrepresenting career histories, endless bulleted lists detailing job responsibilities, and flat-out lying about experience doesn’t cut it when it comes to resumes. In fact, a poorly-constructed resume can be the difference between obtaining an interview or your application being tossed to the slush pile.
A compelling resume takes time to create, but the pros of compiling an effective resume abound: your ability to articulate your experiences and accomplishments on paper not only help you to get clear and concise about what you have to offer, it also informs your pitch (think two-minute bio), which is something that you will likely share everywhere from cocktail parties to business meetings. Knowing your skills, strengths, drivers, and weaknesses, too, is the key to your finding the right fit at the right company.
The key ingredients to a notable resume are as follows:
At the top of your resume, be sure to include your full name, city/state, mobile phone number, and personal email address. If you have a questionable personal email address, such as "firstname.lastname@example.org", it’s probably best to use that one for friends and create a simple and professional email address for your job search. Your first and last name or a version of it is ideal. When it comes to your street address, I opt to leave it off. You will be asked to share your street address when it comes to filling out job applications.
A succinct statement about your experience and area/s of expertise right below your contact information is a productive way to broadcast your career highlights. Additionally, if you are looking for a role which may be outside of your present experience, a professional statement presents an opportunity to connect the dots and emphasize your transferable skills, such as public speaking, leadership, digital media capabilities, etc.
10+ years of leadership experience in financial services at global banks, with expertise in operations and technology. Demonstrated experience leading multicultural teams and streamlining processes to result in year-over-year revenue growth. Opened offices in Miami and Brazil. Bilingual English, Spanish, with proficiency in Portuguese.
Remember that most people who review your resume are busy. They need to learn enough about you to get them interested in speaking with you to learn more. Think of your professional statement as the first paragraph of a book. If the reader is intrigued in some way, he or she will turn the page. Bore your reader, and they are not likely to keep going.
Your experience may go as far back as 15-20 years on your resume, or you may decide to provide a short overview of your relevant experience more than 15 years back. For example: First five years of my career, I worked in manufacturing, holding titles such as Field Electrical Engineer and Electrical Controls Engineer, until I moved into a leadership role in engineering.
The goal is to share the most relevant experience that highlights your career journey. Job experiences should be noted in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent experience, and working your way backwards to earlier experiences.
Include the following the details when it comes to your experience: company, company overview; job title, job description (2-3 sentences); and accomplishments (in bullets). Most professionals leave out the company overview on their resume, but typically, the first thing a resume reader wants to gauge has to do with a professional’s scope of experience. A CEO at a ten-person private company has different responsibilities and range than a CEO of a 5,000-person public company.
Do not expect the resume reader to look up the details about a company—do that work for your readers. So, if you work at JP Morgan Chase, include a few sentences about the organization, including that it’s a public company, global, number of employees, services offered, etc. When it comes to company descriptions, you want to note size, public or private, national or global, number of employees, offices, and locations.
In lieu of writing endless details about your job, sum up your job responsibilities in a few sentences that you include under your job title. For instance, if you are an accountant, most resume reviewers will know the basics of what you do. In your job description, focus on a few key daily/weekly/monthly responsibilities, such as accounts receivable, revenue, audits, etc. You may also want to mention the number of people you manage.
Use bullets to present your key accomplishments. Accomplishments are different from your job description. For instance, oversee daily issues and manage them to completion is not an accomplishment. It’s part of your job. An accomplishment tends to involve quantifiable data: Increased company online visibility by 87% year one, and by 100% year two. Company awards and honors may also be listed under accomplishments. Think two to five bullets for your accomplishments, and when relevant, combine them; for example: Awarded Employee of the Year in 2015 and received President’s Award in 2016.
Warby Parker, New York, NY | 2011 - Present
Warby Parker, a certified B Corporation, was founded in 2010 with a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. In the last seven years, WP has grown to over 50 retail locations in the U.S. and Canada, opened its first optical lab in upstate New York, and launched two iOS apps. For three years running, Fast Company has named WP one of the world’s most innovative companies.
Manager, Supply Chain & Planning Analysis | 2015 - Present
Analyze and report monthly metrics; drive supply chain data gathering, analysis, and report needs. Lead supply chain projects from start to finish, managing detailed project plans and implementation of roadmap. Evaluate and design processes and tools in support of continuous improvement efforts.
- Within first six months, createdintegrated business planning process across Supply Chain, Finance, Brand Management, and Merchandising & Planning teams, which resulted in cost savings across the organization.
- Improved monthly metrics by 35%.
When it comes to education, list completed bachelor’s or master’s degrees. If you didn’t finish your bachelor or master’s degree but you feel it’s necessary to include that you took classes towards it on your resume, write something such as completed XX years of bachelor’s degree in psychology, but had to stop one year short of finishing due to family issues. If you are in the midst of completing a degree, it’s fine to note the anticipated date. If you took four years off since starting your degree and are not currently matriculated, list it as coursework versus a degree in progress. When it comes to graduation years, I always opt to add them in. When employer’s complete education verifications, they see the dates anyway.
New York University, New York, NY
Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, May 2000
If you are amid a PhD—either coursework or dissertation—it’s fine to write the projected graduation date. If, however, you finished your coursework and do not plan to write your dissertation, it’s okay to write ABD (All but Dissertation), but remember that you are opening yourself up to the question: why didn’t you finish?
Be sure to have a clear and informative answer when it comes to unfinished degrees. If you say you didn’t need it for work, or you got too busy, it may send a message that you are person who does not finish what you start. Plan how you will answer and address any shades of gray that you note on your resume. Honesty and clarity are your best bet.
Include any relevant certifications or trainings on your resume. Often, employers seek candidates with certifications relevant to industries or job functions. Be sure to include where you received your certification from, and the year you achieved it.
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), 2016
- Six Sigma Black Belt, Acuity Institute, 2015
If you sit on a board or chair a committee, note the details in a community involvement section. You may also include volunteer work. You will want to be sure to include your title, the name of the organization, and the year/s.
- Board Member, United Way, Los Angeles, 2007 – present
- Volunteer, Junior Achievement, Los Angeles, 2014 – present
- Taught classes at local high school to include Entrepreneurialism and Finance.
Here’s where you get to share the extra details about your experience and expertise and provide an overview of your hard and soft skills. Hard skills are technical skills and abilities, such as experience in website design, Google AdWords, graphic design, copywriting. Hard skills also include foreign languages.
Soft skills are your people or social skills, and they are linked to your emotional intelligence. They include communication, decision making, leadership, conflict resolution, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. I vote to include soft skills on a resume – just make sure that you can provide examples for each item you list, as questions surrounding your soft skills will likely come up in interviews.
Resume Myths Revisited
- One page only? It depends on your level. For a recent college graduate, a one-page resume is fine. For professionals with over seven years of experience, you are likely venturing into two-page territory. Over ten years, you may have a resume that spans two – three pages. What’s key is that your experience and accomplishments are included. Only academic resumes, or a curriculum vitae, which details publications and presentations, should exceed three pages.
- Don’t go for adjectives and clichés such as driven sales professional or fearless leader; instead, aim for details: Revenue for FY16 exceeded goals by 110% screams driven sales professional a lot louder than an adjective. Keep a file—either on the cloud or a physical folder—of your career highlights and performance reviews so that you may refer to all the great things you have accomplished when it comes time to update your resume.
- Be sure to include any gaps in your career. Explain in a succinct manner: From 2005 – 2007, took sabbatical to care for my dying mom; or, From 2008 – 2011, I raised my two young children to be amazing preschoolers, and then returned to work.
- Leave off your hobbies and special interests. While it’s nice that you love to read and may ride horses or even dapple in Ironman competitions, save that for the interview. Share personal details when/if they come up rather than revealing it on your resume. In writing we often talk about the mystery of character. Let that be the mystery of you that unfolds when you meet with the key stake holders – the something about yourself that you share over time.
- When it comes to format, keep it professional, consistent, and logical. Dates, titles, city, and state information all belong in the same location for each career entry. Do not confuse readers with funky layouts or designs. Even if you are a designer or graphic artist, simple is best. You can refer readers to a website that highlights your artistic portfolio.
- Edit, proofread, edit some more. Check for spelling, consistency, clarity, and check that you have titles, dates, and company names correct. Review your resume every 6-8 months and take a few minutes to update with relevant changes.
A resume provides an opportunity for you to present your experience, skills, and accomplishments. Think of it as the narrative of your career and life experiences. Let your story reflect all the amazing feats that you have accrued over the span of your career.