one girl’s guide to surviving unemployment

resume 201, from the former recruiter

I’m skipping the 101, as you likely already know how to do a basic resume.  

In a previous life, I used to work as a recruiter.  I’ve seen hundreds of resumes, some good, some bad, and some downright ugly.  Here’s are ten things that stood out that made the difference between good and kick-ass.

  1. You don’t need an objective any more, but you do need a resume summary statement.  The summary statement is the immediate introduction to you and your experience.  Think of it as a thesis statement, a business card, or your “elevator speech.”  (I hate the term “elevator speech” but it gets my point across.)  The summary should be quick, easy to digest and offer a quick synopsis of what you’re about to hash out in detail.  Example: Clark Kent is an accomplished journalist, with over 100 years experience, at a bustling major print news outlet.  He believes in solid research, sourcing, red tights and a cape in his approach to stories. 

    Why no objective statement?  They serve little purpose.  Most people tailor them for the job for which they are applying, so they’re no longer even close to relevant any more.

  2. Unless you’re fresh out of school, or your education has some strong bearing on the job that you’re applying for, it looks a bit silly to have it up at the top.  Hiring managers want to see your experience. 
  3. There are two major types of resumes out there that tell a good story — functional resumes and chronological resumes.  Functional is great if you’ve had some disjointed experience in the jobs that you would like to have.  It lists your major (and related!) career accomplishments up front, and gives a short listing of the actual jobs after that.  The second, chronological, is more traditional, and lists your jobs from most recent to oldest.  I personally think that chronological is the way to go if you can, but the accomplishment-focused has yielded me some good results in the past. (NB: there are many other types out there, so consider Googling resumes types for your career if you’re in a specialized field, need a CV, or are applying for federal jobs.)
  4. Pay attention to verb tense.  If it happened in the past (which, assumably it did if you’re reading this blog), you should refer to your experience in the past.  Pay ultra-special attention to this if you’re simply updating an old resume.
  5. Look for consistency issues in your resume: verb tense, fonts, capitalization, italics, bolds, bullet styles, headers, punctuation.  There is no hard and fast rule for these per se, but just make sure it’s consistent across the entire resume.  This goes for how you describe your experience — if you start your bullet points with a verb, make sure they all start with a verb.  And preferably, vary your verbs. 
  6. To that end, don’t bother getting creative with fonts, colors, logos, fancy bullets and the like.  It looks sloppy, and unless you’re in a highly creative field (design, architecture, fashion, etc.) it looks strange.  Along those lines, factor that you’re going to be doing a lot of cut-and-paste into online forms, so consider making a text version of your resume for that purpose.
  7. Don’t try to cram it onto one page, especially if you have a few jobs under your belt.   Nothing is harder for a hiring manager to read than 6 pt font with .25″ margins all around.
  8. To the extent possible, discuss results and metrics for your successes.  This shows that you can drive results, and there are few things that employers love most.  Also consider a skills listing for each role or accomplishment — or how you got to that result.  (This is one of those cases where you’ll need to make some strategic decisions.  If you were using MS Word and MS Excel for everything that you did, perhaps a separate skill section will suffice.)
  9. Don’t include references or the statement “references available upon request.”  If they want your references, they will ask you for them and (should) let you know before they contact them.  It’s also a given that you have them.  (Now wouldn’t be a bad time to contact those folks . . . )
  10. Have two other people read it.  Don’t rely on your own proofing skills, as the eye reads what the mind intends, not what is written.  People have caught some amazingly silly errors in mine, as well as given me feedback on the elements that are unclear.  You don’t need to pay one of those resume “services” to do this either — friends, family and/or former coworkers will suffice.

Now get to it, and make sure that you save a copy to a few places other than your hard drive.  E-mail it to yourself, put it on a jump drive, burn it to CD.  Don’t let all the work go to waste if your computer up and dies.

Ready for Resume 301? More tips to come.


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  1. * kasey says:

    Is a summary statement recommended for all fields of work? For example, I work in the legal field and have not seen it done so far, but think it makes sense to do one.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
    • * unemployedhipster says:

      @ kasey – i think they’re generally a good idea across the board, as they provide a quick introduction into what you want to do. I am not sure the best practices within the legal community, but the ABA has two interesting resources that you may want to check out.

      The first is an article on general legal resumes, although it doesn’t address the objective statement directly – The second is a Q+A forum via the ABA. I can’t access it, but it may prove useful for getting more insight from your community: My hunch is that it would also be a good place to gather some direct feedback.

      Best wishes – and let me know what you found!

      | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  2. * dowhutnow says:

    UEH, just looked at kasey’s question, and unfortunately I can’t really answer it. While I’m in the legal field, I work in the Federal government which has its own specialized format to use. I couldn’t say whether private legal practice requires a summary statement.

    Sorry, kasey!

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
    • * kasey says:

      Thank you both. I really appreciate the feedback!

      | Reply Posted 9 years, 2 months ago

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