Ahhh, the resume. Whether you are currently employed and not seeking a new job/career, employed and looking for a new position or currently unemployed and looking for your next opportunity, you need to have an updated, accurate resume that tells the world who you are and what you do in a style and format that will convey those elements in one minute or less.
The Executive Search Practice of Dewey & Kaye reviews thousands of resumes each year. We see all types of resumes, both good and bad. Although we are not job coaches or professional resume writers, in working with nonprofit clients for over 25 years, we have a sense of what hiring organizations are looking for in a resume. Here, we share a bit of insight.
THE NUMBER ONE PURPOSE OF A RESUME
The primary reason to have an accurate and engaging resume is to qualify you for an interview, through which you can shine. Your resume is an advertisement of who you are.
"A great resume doesn't just tell them what you have done but makes the same assertion that all good ads do: If you buy this product, you will get these specific, direct benefits. It presents you in the best light. It convinces the employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this new position or career. It is so pleasing to the eye that the reader is enticed to pick it up and read it. It "whets the appetite," stimulates interest in meeting you and learning more about you. It inspires the prospective employer to pick up the phone and ask you to come in for an interview." — Rockport Institute
WHAT IT ISN'T
A resume is a document that presents you in the best possible light, for the purpose of being invited to an interview. It is not an official personnel document, a job application, a "career obituary" or a confessional.
A resume is not a piece of art. It needn't be flashy, have indecipherable fonts or graphics, or be laid out in a way that makes it difficult for the reader to see the best parts: who you are, where you have worked, when you worked there and what you did.
The List of Do's and Don'ts
- DO place your name, address, email address and phone number prominently at the top of the page. List an email address that you check frequently and be cautious of listing a work email address if your job search is discreet. Preferably list a cell phone number rather than a home or work number.
- DO list your work history in chronological order, starting with the most recent employer. Potential employers review dozens of resumes and can become frustrated if forced to search for dates or positions. A current trend that we often discourage is building a "functional" resume, or grouping positions by the skills associated with each position. For example, one would list direct service positions separately from administrative positions. This can create confusion by requiring the reader(s) to piece together a work history and is why a chronological format is widely preferred by employers, especially if one is remaining in the same field. We recommend using a functional format only if one is changing fields and very sure that a skills-oriented format would better show off transferable skills
- DON'T use a C.V. (curriculum vitae) unless you are in academia and applying for a position in academia that requires one. No attachments should be included with your resume unless specifically requested in the job description.
- DO list how you performed and what you accomplished under each position. A good resume predicts how you might perform in the desired future job. Quantitative information is also helpful. For example, a fundraiser might list that when starting the position, a special event raised $25,000 and under his/her leadership now raises $75,000. Be honest and precise in your numbers and take credit for only that which you did.
- DO honestly approach any "gaps" in your resume. When an employer sees a year or multiple years missing from your chronological order, they are left to wonder, which is not good. Instead, honestly list what was happening during the "gap". For example:
- 1993 – 95 Full-time parent
- 1992 – 94 Maternity leave and family management
- 2000 – 2003 Travel and study – or Full-time student
- 2009 – 2010 Community Service while job seeking
- DO limit your words to be direct and meaningful. You will impress a future employer by clearly stating a problem you inherited in a position, how you helped to solve it and the positive outcomes. For example: "Researched, purchased and implemented a contact management system, resulting in efficient tracking of clients and donors, thus enabling the organization to properly recognize all constituents."
- DO list other relevant information in addition to your professional experience. The operative word here is relevant. You need not list every hobby you have or every trip you have taken. However, if your hobby is gardening and you are applying for a position with a botanical organization, list it! If you have travelled to every continent and you are applying for a position with a global organization, list it!
- DO accurately list your educational background. If you did not receive a degree from an institution, state that you did not. Employers verify educational background, so be honest.
- DON'T invest in fancy paper. Most employers prefer that applicants apply online. However, if a hard-copy is requested, regular copy paper is fine.
Simple. Easily read. Honest. Good use of language. The hallmarks of a good resume. Oh, and no typos, please.
Michelle Pagano Heck specializes in interim management, executive recruitment, development assessments, planning and strategy for nonprofits
and can be reached at 412.434.1335 or email@example.com.
Dewey & Kaye