The resume has a long and established history in our country, and while from time to time I see “variations on the theme,” the standard resume format is the one I always recommend.
I would hope that all of us have lamented as Chief Financial Officers about our crazy vendors. Why can’t everyone who billed our firms, at least those from the same industry, take the time to come up with a standard format so our staff would know where to look for invoice numbers and balances due? If only they did. Alas, they don’t.
Much the same story is true about the resumes I see on a daily basis. For the most part they revolve around a few themes, but there is always a renegade out there who thinks that he has come up with something new. By the way, we have model resumes out on our website for those of you who would like to have a peek.
A good resume starts with your contact information at the top. (Yes, the top, not the bottom.) It should include your home address, phone numbers and your email address. (Hard to believe, but I even saw a resume recently with NO contact information.) You should also put your name at the top of each page in case the pile happens to get dropped on the way back from the printer. The file naming convention is LastNameFirstNameMI.doc, or in the case of mine, BudMatthewR.doc. (Notice that I have used those annoying, but very useful uppercase and lowercase keys so easily accessed on both sides of your keyboard to aid readability.
A summary is always a good idea to have at the top. Think of it as your written 90-second announcement. I know that “lists” of some kind are suggested, but I personally don’t like them. I generally find significant redundancies in each and every list. Such things as Budgeting and another item for Planning are very common and I would suggest, pretty much the same thing. If you use a list in this section, be sure to think hard about why you can’t merge it into a sentence of some kind.
As we get into the body of the resume, list each company, the years you worked there (not the months) and the titles you held. Be sure to provide a short “definition” for each firm. Following this you may include a few accomplishments, providing few or none for those very early in your career. Even if you are “as old as the hills,” I recommend including the years you worked at each firm. Leaving out this information raises more concerns than the benefit it presumes to provide in my opinion. If you think you are old, others lacking this data may assume you are even older.
Finally your education should appear. If you list degrees you did not complete, make that clear. It will make you appear dishonest if you say things like “attended.” (What does that mean? Did you get a degree or not?) The same thing is true about other credentials such as “sat for the CPA exam.” Did you get your license or not? You don’t want to try to fool anyone. They will only be embarrassed when they present you to their supervisors who in turn ask you for a clarification. The answer never sounds good.
Your resume can be a powerful communication device, even within the context of the standard format. Going wild is for beach parties and beer blasts and perhaps football games. It has no place in job search.