April Program – Resume Tips

First, the bad news. The economy is in the worst shape it has been in decades and the technical communication world is suffering along with everyone else.

Now, some good news. There is a way to get your resume from the bottom of the bin to the top of a company’s prospects pile. More good news, it doesn’t take the knowledge of an HR manager’s brain to get noticed.

It does require some work. Linda Brown, an instructional designer, trainer, and speaker who has experience on both sides of the hiring desk. She spoke at the April program meeting about some basic steps that make a resume what it is — an effective tool to get the interview.

“The resume is a door opener,” she said.

A good summation of the program was a list of Do’s and Don’ts that she referred to throughout her talk. Some have been obvious for years. Colored paper? Forget it. Stick with white or some very close variant. Goofy fonts? No. Times New Roman and Arial do just fine. Clever e-mail address? Keep it off. Better yet, get one just for your professional career.

Other topics were not so widely accepted and you could tell the audience leaned in more. They heard Brown talk about why you shouldn’t have an objective statement on a resume or experience beyond the last 12 years.

Rather than writing a generic objective statement which all sound the same, list a Professional Summary. This includes a paragraph that states what you have been doing, what you are good at, what your work style is, and a list of key words the best describe your skills.

You may be proud of your storied work history, but times are changing fast. The last 10 years of work experience is what companies care about most. Remove that first job from 1984. Just because you were involved in mergers and acquisitions 20 years ago doesn’t mean you know how to organize mergers in today’s markets.

“Mergers and acquisitions are completely different now,” Brown said.

Brown also targeted some of the little things that we may wish were not true in the hiring world, but they are. Age discrimination exists, so don’t date yourself by listing the dates you graduated from college. Also, don’t be so willing to offer up details about that advanced degree. Unless a job posting asks for candidates with a master’s or doctorate degree, do not include it in the resume.

The resume leads to the interview, whatever shortcomings you may see in this document can be filled in when they meet you face-to-face.

Brown saved her most cherished piece of advice for the end. Prewfreed your resume.

Linda Brown’s list of Resume Do’s and Don’ts

Do use:

  • White/beige paper
  • 8.5″ x 11″
  • Times New Roman or Arial Font
  • 11 or 12 point black font
  • Contact info (cell phone, e-mail, address)
  • A summary paragraph
  • Third person in summary
  • Capitalize key words in summary table
  • The full spelling prior to an acronym
  • Year range with company
  • Brief company description
  • Year range for each position
  • Brief company description
  • White space
  • Accomplishment statements
  • 1-2 accomplishments statements for each year
  • Past tense action verbs
  • Periods at end of bullets
  • 1997-2003 Word doc version

Don’t use:

  • Color paper
  • Personal info
  • Header field for first page
  • Template
  • An objective
  • Personal pronouns
  • Work history exceeding 10-12 years
  • >20 words per sentence/statement
  • >5 lines per paragraph
  • Slang
  • Two spaces after a period
  • Months of employment
  • Responsible for
  • High school education
  • Graduation dates
  • Salary requirements or history
  • References Available Upon Request
  • Staples
  • More than 2 pages
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