The year 1985 is remembered for Back to the Future with Michael J. Fox, the recording of We are the World and the launch of Neighbours. It’s also the year I created my first resume.
If you are still using your ‘1985 resume’, you are not alone. Many clients I work with simply add to their original resume when they change jobs or organisations and it looks old and dated.
How do you know if you have a 1985 resume? It probably includes your birthdate, a work history stretching back to the year dot, a laundry list of tasks for each job, your high school and graduation year and fonts like Times New Roman.
These indicate that you are not contemporary and worse still, ‘old’ and potentially subject to age bias. We can’t hide our age, but similarly we don’t want to shout it from the hilltops
Taking this into account I recommend the following structure and content for a contemporary resume:
1. Personal details
Name (without your middle name), mobile number, a professional email address (using Gmail or Outlook) and a link to your LinkedIn profile.
A brief overview of your title, some industries and companies you have worked for as well as 3-4 technical skills and another 3-4 generic soft or leadership skills.
3. Professional experience
Going back 8-12 years, list out each job with 5-7 ‘Key responsibilities’ (what you DID in the job), and most importantly 3-5 ‘Achievements’ (specific and ideally quantifiable examples of how WELL you did the job).
4. Employment before 20xx
Aggregate jobs beyond 8-12 years ago with your title and company only without dates. There’s no need to list every job you’ve held.
University or TAFE qualifications, minus graduation dates. Exclude high school.
6. Professional development
Any company-sponsored training in leadership, technical or soft skills. Again, no dates!
7. Other sections
Professional associations and memberships, volunteering, and languages, where relevant.
Include ‘Can be supplied upon request’.
Additionally, write your resume in ‘neutral’ language (e.g. ‘An experienced chemical engineer…’), use a modern font like Calibri or Arial, keep to 3-4 pages (as readers only spend 15-30 seconds ‘skimming’ the resume), ensure spelling and grammar is perfect and send the resume pdf unless asked otherwise.
Unfortunately, resumes are the most subjective document on the planet – everyone has an opinion on what they contain and what they should look like.
A Google search on ‘resume template’ returned an astonishing 75,700,000 results! After a career in HR and career coaching, I know that what I’ve shared in this article works – it gets my clients more interviews.
Why? The strong summary creates a good first impression and draws the reader into the document, while the achievements, give actual examples of where you’ve added value in recent jobs. This is what really impresses employers!
It’s also imperative that you tailor your resume for each application. Around 50% of applicants do this which means that they are automatically in the top half of candidates for a role.
Look at what the employer is asking for and ensure these are addressed in your resume (via key words, key responsibilities and achievements).
Finally, only apply for jobs that are a good fit. I regularly hear clients saying they’ll ‘throw their hat in the ring’ for a job knowing they are a poor to average fit for it.
Unfortunately, in most cases, the hat comes flying back with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ email.
As you prepare to apply for your next job, replace that ‘1985 resume’ with a new and improved 2017 version!
- About the author: As The Career Medic, Paul works with corporate professionals and managers over 40 who have lost their jobs due to redundancy or who are in jobs they don’t like and want to change. He has an honours degree in psychology plus over 25 years of corporate experience in senior Human Resources roles in IT, transport and logistics and manufacturing.