Years ago, a resume was constructed to promote skills. The format was to list employer details, a detailed list of the position’s tasks/duties, and education regardless of the position applied for. Simple, right? It didn’t matter (or prove) if an applicant could do the listed tasks/duties well…

The role of the resume has changed. Formatting is always important. Plus, the initial review must include pertinent information – your work history, position titles, and tenure. These headings catch the attention of the reader but, ultimately, the content will determine the time spent on the document. If the resume is not written in a manner that encourages further review, it doesn’t matter if you spent 5 minutes or 5 hours on it.

Recruiters/Hiring Managers recognize that a resume’s design is to promote your experience. They are looking for a sign of your transferrable skills, experience, and success specific for the position. Moving away from the tasks, an employer needs to know what you can offer them to improve their bottom line. They expect you to, honestly, sell (or promote) yourself as to why you are a match for what they need.

A few tips:

Don’t Use the Same Resume for Every Job

Just as a salesperson has to prepare and adapt their sales presentation for whatever audience/buyer they meet, the same goes for a resume. While some consistent responsibilities go with specific careers, the job posting often highlights the specific experience(s) they seek. We recommend preparing a resume that will ethically promote your direct experience with the posting text. Using applicable keywords found in the job posting will help catch the eye of the individual taking the time to do the first skim of your qualifications.

How to Address Career Gaps

Some feel that a career hiatus should be ignored or removed from a resume. This, unfortunately, can cause presumptions of what you were doing. The easiest is to add one line on your resume to note the gap and give a brief explanation (e.g., coronavirus-related layoff, caring for a sick relative, medical emergency, or furlough). People in hiring know that life happens – include just enough to put any concerns to rest.

Worried about Ageism

Legally no one can ask your age, but it is relatively simple to determine a ball-park estimate based on the dates you do list. You have garnered significant experience in your career so leaving off any experience older than 15 years does you a disservice. To mitigate those doing the math, create a section called “early-career highlights” and pick highlights from your career that match the experience sought for the position. Use this section to promote the substance of your work experience.

Other tips include, a) make sure you focus on listing only current technology that is relevant in today’s job market, b) take advantage of the software available to use an up-to-date format for your resume, and c) remove the dates in your education section.

Job Hopping

Experience is gained by promotion, but listing multiple short tenures within a 1-2 year period may be cause for concern. Without an explanation for the change(s), assumptions can be made about that individual’s employability, personality, manageability, etc.

Some think excluding short-tenured employment is the solution but that can also backfire if the decision-makers hear about a role you neglected to list. With the focus on mental health, job fit, employee experience, etc., a truthful reason for leaving can hold much weight.

Long Term Roles

Just as job-hopping can be viewed negatively, believe it or not, so can long terms with the same company. Make sure you list each position you’ve held internally, especially if it shows career growth. If your title hasn’t changed, highlight the increase in responsibilities or the projects you have been assigned over the years to show variations.

In addition, after being with the same company for many years, you must alleviate the hiring manager’s impression that you are scared of change. Those in large organizations with established pension plans risk losing tenure (or bonuses) so hiring managers may be hesitant to risk pursuing a candidate to have them back out.

Missing Degree

Some careers require post-secondary education; a degree is helpful for others. Years ago, some larger companies made it mandatory that all employees have a college degree.   No degree – their application was disqualified.  It is my understanding that some companies did this to reduce the number of applications they reviewed – a simple cull.  Many large employers are now shedding this requirement.  This has, fortunately, opened up many new opportunities to those who previously have gained hands-on work experience.

However, many feel unqualified if they don’t have something listed in the education section.  First, do not bother listing your high school and graduation unless you recently graduated.  Second, if you didn’t complete a post-secondary degree, do not list it as if you did.  List the University/College and the coursework focus but don’t give the impression of graduation.

If you didn’t attend a university/college, make sure to include professional development courses.  If this isn’t applicable, eliminate the education section itself.

Career Path Change

For many reasons, some are looking at not only changing employers but changing the focus of their career path.  This is difficult to clearly show in a resume.  You want to present your accomplishments in a way that makes sense to the hiring manager.

This, however, can be difficult for someone who has absolutely no experience in the field for which they’ve applied.  The best idea is to be proactive.  Take applicable courses, or get first-hand experience in other ways, to show the hiring manager you are serious about this career path change.  There is always the concern that someone will return to what is familiar when challenges arise.

Don’t forget to use your LinkedIn profile and a cover letter to clearly show why you are making the change.  While you are taking the time to work on your resume, don’t neglect to use the rest of your “marketing” to support your career path change.

Final Tips:

Whether you are pursuing an internal promotion, a new job that is positioning you for upward mobility, or a career path change, you need to know what you are looking for – know your “why”.  Take the time to develop your career path goals.  Most of us hate that question “where do you want to be in 5 years” but it is valid when starting the career search process.  Knowing your “end game” will help you create the sales document to get there.

Last of all, whether you are a salesperson or not, invest the time to create an effective sales presentation.  Your resume is the first impression you get with a hiring manager/recruiter.  Edit, change and adapt each version of your resume some more.  Have someone else read it.  Take advantage of tools (like Grammarly) to present yourself in the best light.  Promote yourself.

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