You would think that with all the books and materials written about how to write a resume, that each and every one that came across my desk would be close to perfect. Well, you would be wrong if you thought so.
Under the heading of “explaining the meaning and purpose of life,” I thought I would write about the how’s and why’s of resume writing to perhaps explain the unexplainable to those who have, through no fault of their own, “strayed from the path.”
Let me start with a few simple ideas. Although a resume appears to be a reverse chronological recital of your work history, it is actually a selling document. One point of particular importance is that it is a selling document that most readers only give a 15 second scan. This being the case, it is vital that your opus have a clean and easy to read format. (8 point type ANYWHERE on it is a BAD idea.)
Let me also make the point that it should be in a conventional format. Just as you would object to your morning newspaper appearing in a different sequence each and every day, so too, resume readers cringe when they have to search for the obvious road signs in your resume.
To start at the beginning, it is always a good idea to have your name and address at the top of your resume and your name and the page number on each subsequent page. The reason is that if someone drops a stack of paper, they will be able to match your second page to the first in short order. Although it appears that some experts believe you should have your name in capital letters, I would suggest that if your name contains any upper casing and lower casing that it will look silly and not to do that. I may be wrong, but I think McCarthy looks better than MCCARTHY.
The next section is the summary section. A powerful statement, much like a well spoken 90-second announcement is what is needed here. Forget what you have heard about “lists” in this section. I don’t like them and I don’t think they read well. In most cases, I have found significant redundancies in all lists. If you can’t weave the specific points found in your lists into your summary, keep trying. The purpose of the summary is so the reader will know what flavor of senior financial executive you are and what to look for in the body of your resume. In effect, these are promises you have to keep later in the document.
The reverse chronological approach is the only one I recommend. If you think about what you have heard about functional resumes, they are to be used by those with some problem in their work history such as frequent job changes. If they are only used by those with problems in their work history, then consider that every resume reader knows that if you send a functional resume you have a problem, as in, I don’t need to read further. If you are a potentially valuable employee, I will never know because I have been trained to stop reading.
All of the companies in your work history need to be shown. I don’t care how old you are or how many pages it takes. If you have worked somewhere, it needs to be listed. The rumor is that only the most recent 10 years is of interest. While true, this doesn’t mean you can delete your earlier work history entirely. What you want to do is provide less and less detail for jobs earlier in your career. Just providing the years you worked at a particular company and the titles you held is sufficient for your oldest jobs. Use whole years, not months. The purpose is to, at a glance, provide information about your career growth, not to account for every minute. I may be an accountant by trade, but I still don’t do well adding and subtracting months to see how long you worked somewhere and I don’t have time to apply my HP 12C to the task.
All of the companies in your work history need a short definition. While I wasn’t born yesterday, (and I have the birth certificate to prove it), many of the individuals reading resumes were. They won’t have a clue what the company where you worked did, or have any sense of its scale of operations, all of differing importance depending on the job for which you are applying.
And last, but not least is your education. Please SPELL IT OUT and provide your dates of graduation. I know there is a diversity of opinion on the dates of graduation, but I have yet to hear ANY argument that carried the day with me or anyone I know. You may be able to “cheat” a few years by not showing it, but if you provided your first employer I will assume it was before that and DUH, you are over 35. (If you weren’t, you most likely wouldn’t have been accepted as a member of The FENG.) To further the spelling out idea, I know that UCLA is a fine school, but as far as I know, it should be shown as the University of California at Los Angeles. Nick names for your schools, like “Thunderbird” or “MIT”, while easily understood and probably well known, are simply not appropriate in the context of a formal document like a resume.
Model resumes are out on our website if you wish to download them. You will find them after signing in under: Member Area, Member Downloads, Other Useful Documents.