November 2014 Articles

Alumnae Career Services

Tips to Bolster Your Chronologic Resume

By Cori Ashworth, M.Ed., C.A.G.S., Director for Alumnae Career Programs


As a key component of your career strategy, your resume is your big opportunity to tell your professional story—its highlights, successes, and relevant facts. Done right (showing a match to industry or employer needs and culture), it will create interest and increase your chances of securing an interview. Here are some suggestions about organizing this crucial document.

Feature your name, email address, and perhaps phone number prominently at the top. If privacy concerns preclude listing an address or phone number, list a geographic area like “San Francisco area.”

Gone are the days of including an “Objective” section. Instead, consider including four or five targeted job titles from your industry or skills you want to use and develop. Keep it short, sweet, and forward-looking to paint a picture of who you are and where you are going. One line, in boldface, works well for
this purpose.

Research the keywords and buzz terminology for your desired position and industry. They are essential to getting your resume into the process. Partly due to social media, today’s resume has evolved into a more abbreviated document. In the top third of the first page, summarize your most relevant characteristics and accomplishments in a simple-to-scan format. The idea is to allow the reader to determine quickly—six seconds is the average—whether you are worth considering.

You may include a professional profile. This is not a dense paragraph of detailed information with lots of adjectives. Use this section to paint an impression of who you are professionally with key words included. Be sure to keep it brief and succinct.

You may choose to include a skills summary and/or a section on selected accomplishments to highlight your core competencies and feature your best and most relevant successes. Fascinate the reader. Make him or her want more. Each entry on the resume should be strategic and enhance your ability to go forward.

Note your education on the first page if you graduated recently or have a new degree relevant to your future. Otherwise, note it toward the end. Regardless, be sure to add training and continuing education that demonstrates that you are staying current in your field.

In your professional experience section, illustrate how you accomplish work for your current employer either by briefly describing the job itself followed by accomplishment statements or noting your strong accomplishments.

A few words on accomplishments: An accomplishment is an important piece of work you have completed and feel very good about. Your accomplishment statement should illustrate the type of work, its breadth, relevant numbers, and a description of how you did the work. Verbs and article voice are important here. Many writers struggle with this format and slip easily from an accomplishment to a job description. A “PARS” statement can be a helpful device: What was the problem, what actions did you take to address it, and what were the results? Remember, the reader is looking for how powerfully you have worked and filled the organization’s needs. Be firm, and do your best to extract this information and present it clearly.

For each employer, note the name of the organization, the location, your job title, and the dates of your employment. If you have had multiple jobs with one employer, list them under the same lead line with relevant dates for each. The total time with the organization will fit easily at the top of the company’s listing.

Next, include sections on education, volunteer involvement, and/or additional experience to frame the full picture of your background. Each resume decision is strategic, each item inserted for a thoughtful reason. Create two lists for checking content. The first is a checklist of the skills and background that you need for the position. The second is a list of the transferable skills that must be part of your background for your desired work. Use these lists whenever you review your targeted resume to ensure that you have covered each area and that the reader can easily see that you meet the required criteria. As a final pass, ask yourself, “So what?” If you don’t have a ready answer, then reconsider the importance of this particular content.

Resumes can be a bit creative now— but within limits. Basic colors are still cream, white, and gray, but you can insert graphs, columns with data of note, and quotes about the wonderful work that you do at the bottom of the page.

Complement your resume with your LinkedIn profile, which should include more descriptive content to expand the view of who you are and the value that you bring. Including videos, presentations, PowerPoints, your website or blog on your profile can help complete the picture of who you are.

When you finish, look at the document, hold it out at arm’s length, and see if it is a good balance of black-and-white space and easy to digest. That, combined with good content, will lead to a great resume.

On a final note, update your resume often so you are prepared to share it when unexpected opportunities arise. Invest time every six months to be sure your resume is current. And always be sure to double-check that all information is correct.