Sharing What I Received On Writing Resumes

Last month I put out an open request for input on the content and design of resumes. This was prompted when my fellow Employment Counsellors and I decided that it would be prudent to look at how others were constructing resumes, and feedback from other resume professionals, job hunters and employers would ensure we were using best practices.

Those that responded provided resume samples and comments, shared the reasons behind their suggestions and ideas, and I really appreciated the time and effort they put into what I received from them. Many also asked to be advised of what we came up with in the end too.

We decided that there has to be some room for variations and exceptions to any format as there is no, ‘one-size-fits-all’ resume. Here then, in the interest of networking and sharing, is some of what we arrived at:

  • Consistent use of Ariel font size 12 (Name only up to 20 pt.)
  • Email and phone number mandatory when available; drop headings, “Email” and “Phone No.”
  • Address optional – explain pros and cons and leave the decision to the person to include or not. Generally left out if punctuality and attendance could be a red flag based on distance of commute
  • Link to a LinkedIn profile included if the profile is fully developed
  • “Objective” or “Employment Objective” dropped
  • Profile (2-3 sentences) used immediately below contact information, written to self-brand and market concisely a person’s value offer; designed to motivate a full read of the document
  • “Qualifications” as a heading instead of “Highlights of Qualifications”
  • Qualifications should be in the present and mirror both the order and the words in the advertised posting rather than be buried in the 4th bullet
  • “Relevant Experience” used as a heading to capture both paid and non-paid experience that is pertinent to the job being applied to
  • “Additional Experience” used as a 2nd heading to capture both paid and non-paid experience a person has done but is not directly related to the job being applied to
  • Each experience formatted as Job Title Organization  Date in a single line with date to the extreme right
  • Months omitted from dates to avoid making positions appear brief
  • Locations omitted from each position (i.e. name of town, community, country) to avoid any opportunity of being discriminated against
  • Verbs used to describe actions in present jobs should be present; past used in the case of past jobs: “Manage” vs. “Managed etc.
  • Bullets should be round black dots in size 12 (like I’m using here)
  • Bulleted lines should not be concluded with periods, but if they are opted for, use them all the time or never; but not mixed
  • Include all internships, apprenticeships, volunteer work, co-ops and placements but do not identify them as such, as some employers place a reduced value on these vs. paid work
  • “Education and Professional Development” used a heading to capture a mix of both instead of two sections
  • Following the same format as experience, start with what the person obtained (Diploma, Degree, Certificate name) in bold, then the name of the organization to the right in regular font
  • Avoid any reference to an alternative, on-line or adult education experience as again some employers may de-value these and infer negative connotations; name the school board instead of the actual school attended
  • 8 ½” x 11” white paper stock
  • No italics, page borders, pictures, underlines, tables or templates
  • Do not cut and paste the job qualifications into the resume
  • Omit “References Available Upon Request” as this is a standard entity; use “Exceptional References Upon Request” if warranted and desired
  • Ensure grammar and spelling are correct
  • Ensure email is professional; it could be developed to self-brand or prompt action (mary.smith.psw@, callmary.psw.smith@)

One creative idea I received was the idea of inserting a few endorsements or recommendations from others, embedded right in the resume. Presumably, the reader would view these as external validation of the person’s impact and performance, and say, “If they’ve had such an impact while working elsewhere, I’d like to have them making that same impact working for me. Let’s offer them an interview.” I’d be interested in a follow up to see if this strategy works or not.

Where the biggest split in opinion seems to be is in the formatting of a current or previous positon on the resume. Some opted to put the name of the company first and bold, followed by the title of the position held on the following line in regular font. Others, (my peers and I included) came down on the side of putting the positon held first and in bold, with the organization in regular font.

The position we embraced as a group is that the resume is a person’s personal marketing document and as such, the employer first and foremost wants to know what positions an applicant has held, rather than the companies they’ve been employed by.

As I said earlier, I am happy to share these summations with you, and this was a good example of what networking and sharing is all about. We can learn so much from each other. I’d encourage you to actively engage when the opportunities to do so present themselves. You learn if you’re open and in the case of resumes, I could well offer a Job Seeker an alternative format I’d not previously considered.

Hope you found something here of value; a new idea or reinforcing your own style.


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