Check out Part 1 here.
If you still have your very first job on your resume – please, take it off. No one needs to know that you once worked at McDonald’s, or like me, worked at Taco Time (sshh, don’t tell anyone).
As a best practice, include only the last 10 years of your most relevant experience on your resume.
When employers look at your resume, they are not looking for the person who’s had the most jobs. Employers are looking for the person who has the most relevant experience. So, what does this mean? It may be a bit of an inconvenient truth, but if you want a specific job bad enough, you should tailor your resume for the position to increase your chances of a callback.
Over time, you are bound to have a variety of skills that can fit into multiple job areas. At one time, I think I had three different versions of my resume to send out, depending on the job. Instead of trying to cram everything on one resume, making your job experience relevant to every possible job you may apply for – tailor your experience appropriately.
Let’s look at a set of job resumes. Each one can be tailored to have the most relevant details:
- eLearning Developer (focus on eLearning software and design experience. Include web development and languages)
- Senior Technical Writer (focus on documentation completed and writing skills. Highlight Information Management projects)
- Change Management Professional (focus on training and implementation of change across organizations)
I’ve pulled this example from my own experience, but you can do the same with your own personal job experience.
Lastly, draw a line in the sand to determine when your official job experience began. On my LinkedIn account, my official job experience starts around 2000, although I had multiple jobs starting in 1996.
Some layouts work better for junior people, and some layouts work better for managers. Let’s look at some best practices, according to your job experience.
When you are a junior, you won’t have a lot of experience in the job force, yet. Things you want to highlight include your volunteer positions, organizations you belong to, your education, and personality traits/skills.
- Objective – use a few sentences to describe what type of position you are looking for, and use it as a way to introduce your strengths. As a junior, you probably don’t need a skills section yet, so you can use the objective statement as a way to highlight your best traits
- (Section 2 or 3) Volunteer/Jobs – if you have some experience that may look better than your education (e.g., you are still in high-school), then list this before education. Otherwise, education will come first and then volunteer/jobs
- (Section 2 or 3) Education – if you have post-secondary education, list education in section 2, after your objective. If Education is not your strong suit, then list it third. If you have recently graduated from college, or university, ensure this section breaks down the details of your curriculum, and outstanding grades, as appropriate
- Memberships – next, list extracurricular activities, membership and organizations you may belong to
- Awards – include any awards you may have received
When you’ve obtained at least two jobs related to your Education, then you can graduate to an intermediate resume. If you have not completed post-secondary education, then continue to use the junior format: Objective> Jobs > Education.
In the intermediate resume, you no longer have to rely heavily on your education to get you a job – you’ve graduated into a more experience worker. Your resume should be slightly less personal, and more professional overall.
- Skills – you could still use an objective, but it’s less important now. You’ll likely need a cover letter instead, so your first resume section now highlights your skills. In bullet point form, include highlights from your positions, applications your proficient with and personal traits (e.g., leader, organized, quick-learner)
- Other Skills – I’m including this because some individuals may need an extended skills section when they have a specialized job, like a software developer. You may have an additional section that highlights, for example, computer languages you know, or applications you support. In this intermediate resume, you can start thinking of your first page as a summary of your skills, meant to sell your abilities
- Job Experience – list each job, and include details of your responsibilities
- Education – include your official education (college, university)
- Certifications – if you’ve expanded your education further to include some type of certification, highlight this separately from your education, in its own section
- Professional Memberships
- Career Awards/Highlights
- Social – include links to your website, portfolio, LinkedIn account, etc.
As you become more senior, your resume will change, yet again. At this point in your career, you’ll have to pick and choose what experience to include. Using the best practices suggested above, and these recommended sections, will help you to create a dynamite presentation.
For the most part, your resume follows an intermediate style, however, your first section should be your accomplishments.
- Accomplishments – this section is extremely important for managers/project managers. Your potential employers want to know how you’ve performed and improved processes in your previous positions. Your accomplishments should include specific, measurable numbers (e.g., reduced client complaints by 30% the first year)
- Relevant Experience – as stated above, try to limit your experience to 10 years, and to the responsibilities and jobs that are most relevant for the position
The way you present and summarize your key skills could be a huge difference between getting a call, and being passed over. Here are a few best practices to help you:
Technical positions: You must include every technical key word and application you can think of on your resume. This may sound excessive, but these days, if your resume is in a database, it will be found according to the key words you have listed. The trick will be to format a long list of applications. Try including a nice list of the most relevant technical applications on the front page, and completing a full list on the last page of your resume.
Rate your skills: This is a popular technique that I use on my resume. Show a visual scale of proficiency for all of your key skills. This provides a potential employer with an easily digestible visual idea of your skills.
Include meaningful skills: There’s only so many ways to present your soft skills. Generally, a skills section works best for technical skills, so if you are struggling to know what to include in a skill section – maybe you don’t need it. Don’t force a resume format to work for you, choose a style that fits your experience (See junior resume best practices, above).
I should almost change this point to Know Your Industry. This is especially important if you are working with a designer to create your resume. If someone else is writing, and adjusting the content of your resume, they may not understand how to target the correct audience.
When you are applying to a company outside of your traditional industry, understand that each industry has their own acronyms, lingo and even job titles. The best way to ensure you’re using relevant terms that will speak to your potential employers is to do a little research. Check out other profiles and resumes on LinkedIn.
Avoid buzzwords. Just because you see other people using them, doesn’t mean you should! Buzzwords are jargon, that may actually end up making you look unprofessional, instead of knowledgeable.
Last, but not least, don’t forget that you are your own brand! Don’t be afraid to stand out and be noticed. A boring list of details about your career will blend into the background, along with all of the other resumes out there.
- Add some color
- Use a template and customize it to suit you!
- Break up text with sentences and bullet point for visual interest