“Studies and interviews have shown that, on average, an employer will spend less than 10 seconds skimming a resume,” the National Learning Center points out in The Ultimate Job Search for the 21st Century. As an employment specialist, I usually don’t even take that long.
“I can’t read this. It’s overwhelming,” or “There’s nothing here. You have to tell me what you did at your past jobs,” I’ve said to many clients who handed their resumes to me for critiquing. “If I won’t read it, what makes you think an employer will?”
Upon first glance, almost every resume I see falls into one of three categories: too much information, not enough information, or poorly formatted. All three of these categories warrant a journey to the circular file never to be seen again. The following are guidelines for writing effective resumes.
What Is the Best Resume Format? Employers Prefer a Chronological Resume
“Three out of four hiring managers say they prefer chronological resumes,” reports Karen Burns in her article, “Chronological vs. Functional Resumes,” published by U.S. News. “They’re used to seeing them formatted like this. They like to see a nice, neat career progression, preferably headed ‘upward.’ They are still really hung up on gaps in work history.”
Most of my clients benefit from the standard chronological resume: summary or objective, employment history, education, certificates and licenses, and notes/other information. The following are guidelines for creating a chronological resume that can be read in 10 seconds.
Resume Objective Statement
The resume objective statement is perhaps the most controversial element in a resume. Resume writers and job coaches advise against using them; however, a well-written resume objective may be just the ticket for landing your resume in the “yes” pile.
Many companies hire for several positions at once. Large companies may hire for hundreds or even thousands of positions at one time. For this reason, it is important to clarify which position you wish to obtain. Using the employer’s name further targets the resume and can be especially impressive when visiting job fairs.
The resume objective statement should contain three elements:
- name of position;
- name of employer; and
- relevant experience—the experience an employer wants to see is usually listed in the job ad.
- Assists with general business decisions, including insurance decisions, policy changes, and alliances with other advocacy groups that protect the assets of the organization and advance its cause
- Informs mountain bikers throughout the State of Michigan of upcoming events and important advocacy issues by writing and editing the monthly email newsletter and posting to social networks
- Coordinates the Annual Meeting & Expo including arranging the contract for the venue, soliciting vendors, inviting guest speakers, delegating tasks to volunteers, and running the event
Seeking a position as Communications Coordinator for Mountain Biking Association. Experience in designing email newsletters, websites, and brochures; writing, editing, and publishing online publications and newsletters; and promoting events and news items via social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The employment history will ideally contain the last two or three jobs from the last five to 10 years; these jobs will be relevant to the job for which you are applying; and there will be no gaps in employment. Unfortunately, employment gaps happen for different reasons, both good and bad.
In her article, “Resume Dilemma: Employment Gaps and Job-Hopping: How to Handle a Spotty Work History,” Monster Resume Expert Kim Isaacs explains how to positively address employment gaps. “You might have experience relevant to your job target, regardless of whether you were paid. Volunteer activities, community involvement, special projects, consulting engagements, and continuing education can be used in the [Work] Experience section. If you’re returning to the workforce after an extended absence, show how you’ve kept up-to-date with changes in your industry.” Isaacs also suggests using only the year for employment dates to minimize the perception of gaps, and combine work experience for multiple, short-term jobs that are similar.
For each position, list three or four bullet points that demonstrate how you can be of value to the employer. Each situation should include an action and a result.
Mountain Biking Association, Lansing, MI
01/2009 — Present Communications Coordinator
Education is the easiest part of the resume to complete. Simply list the degree or number of credits completed, major, and school.
Associates of Applied Science
Major: Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Baker College of Owosso, MI
60 Credits Completed
Michigan State University, MI
Certificates and Licenses
Include this section if you have any certificates or licenses that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. For example, if I am applying for an electrician job, the employer will not care that I have a certificate as a Labor & Employment Specialist, so I should not include it on the resume for that employer. Do not include expired certificates and licenses.
Labor & Employment Specialist, National Veterans’ Training Institute, CO
Case Management, National Veterans’ Training Institute, CO
Notes and Other Information
This section is optional and should only include information that could not be listed in the bullet points for Employment History. In Michigan, employers want to hire military veterans. Since my military job is not relevant to those jobs for which I am applying, I include a brief summary of my military history here.
United States Army (Honorable Discharge, Top Secret Clearance, National Defense Service Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Label Button, Marksman Badge with Rifle Component, Sharpshooter Badge with Grenade Component Bar)
Most job seekers should be able to create a one-page resume highlighting how their strengths can be beneficial to the employer. Avoid fluff and practice brevity to ensure that hiring managers can easily scan your resume for the information they need. Keep in mind that the point of writing a resume is to market yourself well enough to an employer to get an interview.