With the number of folks competing for every available job these days, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to “cheat” in some way to create a competitive advantage for yourself. The sad truth is that most of the approaches I see on a daily basis do exactly the opposite.
The traditional resume format has your name, address, phone numbers and email address at the top. The end of the resume has your education. A summary is always nice to have at the top, just don’t use any trite phrases like “bottom line oriented,” “team player,” etc. The firms that have enjoyed the pleasure of your services should be listed in reverse chronological order with year ranges. (Month ranges are like Roman Numerals, and I missed that day at school.) Each company name should be followed by a one line description so your industry experience is clear.
Here are some things that I see constantly that I would strongly suggest to you don’t work.
First on the list are functional resumes. The logic usually expressed is that if there is something wrong with your background, a functional resume will cover it up. Let’s think about that for a second. If you are using a functional resume, there must be something wrong with your background. I see a hand at the back of the room. Please explain why I would waste my time reading your resume?
For those of us who are older, while you are not required to start your summary with “Over 40 years of work experience,” leaving off your early work history is a really bad idea. Just as your auditing skills can easily tip you off to someone cheating on their expense report, those who read resumes for a living are not likely to believe that your first job out of college was as a Chief Financial Officer. I’m sure you were a child star, but don’t try to kid a kidder.
Along these same lines, there is no purpose in leaving off your college graduation dates. Hey, if you have your first job on your resume with dates, I can see no advantage to leaving off these dates. Believe it or not, it is a legal question that is usually asked for the purpose of verifying your degrees. When there is a significant difference between achieving your BS and your MBA, I view that as a positive. Anyone who can go back to school late in life gets points from me.
Are you an out of towner on a “local candidates only,” job? The place to discuss this issue is your cover letter. Do you have family in the area? Did you go to school in the area? Have you been sincerely exploring a move to the area? All of these are better approaches than leaving off your physical address. If you think those who read resumes for a living don’t have all the area codes in the USA memorized, think again. Local area codes at the very least are obvious. Yours isn’t one, so you must not be local.
Innovative formats are another point of constant amusement. There is a one page format that crunches your work history into the bottom 25% of the page. It always gets me to shake my head in dismay. The middle is a functional resume. (See note above.) One page is simply not sufficient space to tell me anything about what a wonderful person you are. (By the way, anything over 3 is too much information.)
We live in a wonderful age of easy word processing. In the old days, you actually had to retype the entire document if you wanted to make a change of any kind. So, what’s your excuse? You can write, rewrite and rewrite again to your heart’s content.
The only way to actually create a competitive advantage with your resume is to have one that is well written. It’s hard to beat someone who has written a powerful piece of communication.