Today I met with one of my resume clients. She is getting overwhelmed not only with the whole job search process, but also what she sees as conflicting viewpoints from recruiters and hiring managers about what they want on resumes.
Do use bullet points; don't use bullet points. Do have a keyword-based competency list, don't use the space up. One page, two pages. More details, less content.
OK first things to consider. That 1/3 - 1/2 of the top front page is your valuable real estate. This is where you get the "most bang for your buck". More and more commonly (thankfully, IMHO) we are seeing professional summaries. This is the single most effective place to put some *punch* if you are a seasoned professional. You probably want to put a short profile or summary statement at the top to orient your reader. It should indicate your profession (and also what you *want* to do, as so many professionals wear many hats today) in 2-3 sentences. Talk about specialties or industries as appropriate. It will be different for each person, and you may have more than one resume with this section.
Next comes the "keyword" section. Now, way too many people take this literally to be a set of "words". In my last post this is where I mentioned the generic soft skills vs. competencies. Personally, I prefer to see a list of 5-7 examples of things you have done *with those key words in them*. No more than that or it starts to look too much like a functional resume. Below are some terms that I received last year from someone asking for help with her resume. This was literally her second page and the front was crammed and unreadable.
Electronic and Desktop Publishing
Documentation Layout and Design
Technical Documentation Group (international
and domestic and reports)
Bids and Proposals
Basically she wasted all that space telling me a variety of things she could do, without any context whatsoever. So what we did was take her competencies and put them in context:
-Freelance writer with expertise in authoring scientific articles on subject such as geology, meteorology, and biology for academic journals.
-Technical writer with a strong understanding of software documentation such as user manuals, training materials, software SDK, multi-lingual localization (French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean).
-Experience with contracts such as software licensing agreements, construction management RFP's, web development bids and project proposals
Then, below each of these statements she outlined the appropriate skills or projects for the audience she was addressing rather than one list of skills that *might* turn up in a keyword search for fifteen different different positions.
Your reader wants context, not just a list of words.
It's also important to note that *this is the section that should be tailored for individual jobs you are pursuing*. In the example above, because she had such a diverse background, each of those points would set the tone for the rest of her resume and more examples. So she had one scientific writing version, one for software technical writing, one more focused toward project management and internal business communications.
Regarding format: *most* recruiters I have spoken with prefer a short outline of each position with bullet points highlighting your accomplishments.
As the technology that recruiters use for evaluating candidates has changed, so has the style of resume construction changed to meet that technology. Long ago, candidates were advised to keep their professional history to one page. "Less was more". Your resume is a "teaser". This was when you were typing your resume on a typewriter and then mailing it with a paper cover letter to a company. Those days are long gone.
Nowadays, recruiters *do* use keyword searches, based on the job description. *Resume database search tools return results stack ranked based on the number of times a search term is repeated in the resume.*
What does this mean? Basically you want to make sure you repeat key terms at least 2-3 times throughout your resume. But again, not just as a string of words. *CONTEXTUALLY*. How did those skills relate to your professional history? This includes your *title*, your *accomplishments*, your *summary*, your *company*.
Most importantly to remember, your resume is a work in progress. It should morph and change and you shouldn't be afraid to try a new format or restructure it. If it works, stick with it. If not, try something new.
What Is That Acronym?
Resume Summary: Generic Soft Skills vs. Career Competencies
delilah: Re: Kristen Fife: What Do You Mean By "Keyword"?
I wanted to know what to i answer in the keyword section? if i need to apply for a job
This article also appears on