Resume advice please.

Apropos of nothing, I have decided to apply for a new job. It has been a LOOOONG time since I’ve done this sort of thing, and I’m not sure what sort of detail to include on my resume, and how far back I should go.

I’m assuming that I don’t need to list where I got my high-school diploma because I have a degree so the fact that I have the diploma is sort of a given. Also, it was 17 years ago and I can’t imagine that it’s relevant. Is that a reasonable assumption?

Secondly, how much job related detail should I include? I’m going to list the relevant positions going back 10 years (well, 13 actually) but I’m not sure how much of a description of each position I need. I plan on elaborating on important details of each position in my cover letter. Should I offer a brief description of each position? An in depth list? Or just list each position? There are quite a number to list (I do a number of relevant things concurrently).

How many pages can the thing be? Back in the day 2 pages was supposed to be the limit (exclusive of references). Is that still accurate? Does it depend on the position?

Finally, I don’t plan on doing any of the “print it on coloured paper” or “scent it” or anything like that - I assume that was a fad that has died like a dog, correct? FWIW both the cover letter and resume will be reviewed by real live people as opposed to a computer scanning program, and will be turned in, in hard copy as opposed to an e-file.

Any tips to make this thing somewhat current would be great. :slight_smile:

I’m interested in the response to this also.

If this is for a professional position, the best advice I can give you is to locate a good resume service. They have the skills and know what HR departments are looking for today. Face it, a resume is something the average person thinks about only when they’re looking for a job. 2 years? 5? 20?

Obviously, steer clear of any that would advise you to lie or stretch something to a point you’re not comfortable presenting yourself to be.

There’s truth to the old saying, you have to spend money to make money.

Well, it is for a professional position, but it’s an internal posting in academia. The position closes this Friday and I was only just made aware of it - I was advised by the director of HR to submit my resume and a cover letter as she thought that I was potentially a good fit for the position. The final decision is still that of the man I would actually be working for but I imagine that baring anything HORRENDIOUS in my resume I should get an interview at the very least. (The woman who advised me to submit an resume is also the person who screens them to decide who to interview.)

So, this is a long and round-about way of saying that while your advice is excellent, I a) don’t have the time to do as you suggest and b) for this particular position “very good” is probably ok (as opposed to the “excellent” I would get from a service).

So, with all that being said, does anyone have any tips? :slight_smile:

I am assuming you have a Bachelor’s or Associates degree (since you say a degree) and are applying for a non-faculty position. If you have a Ph.D. or other terminal degree the recommended approach would be different.

I think you’re on the right track listing all relevant positions going back 13 years. List them chronologically, most recent first. To the extent you can, list achievements in each job, not just tasks. Quantify whatever you can. “Supervised team of 7 student workers” is better than “supervised students.” For the minor or less relevant jobs, organization, job title, dates and a very brief job description (“plucked chickens”) will do.

On the one hand, folks in academia are used to seeing CVs, which include every darn thing and are quite long. On the other hand, my general recommendation is to keep it to 1 page at the Bachelor’s level and 2 pages at the Master’s level. Think long and hard before running to the 3rd page, because by that time the person reading it is tired and wondering why you included all that. If you can do something good and punchy on 1 page, I think that would serve you well. You can use the cover letter to elaborate on a few things.

Also, have the resume proofread by at least one or two other people whose grammar and attention to detail you trust. I thought I had mine in shape, but my husband instantly noticed some inconsistent spacing and font sizes. A second set of eyes is very valuable.

As an HR person, we really aren’t generally that thrilled that someone uses a resume service. For some people it is probably the right choice, but the products tend to be middle of the road. The best resumes are written by people who know themselves, know their skills, know the market for those skills, and can write persuasively and professionally.

I actually have a BA AND and an Associates degree, and it’s a non-faculty position. Good guesses!

Ah - excellent advice. I’m going to add some quantitative details right now…

I think 2 pages is going to be about as short as I can make it. I have 8 relevant positions and if I’m going to include even a cursory amount of detail, and not make it a 6-point-migraine-inducing font, I won’t be able to get it into one punchy page.

Excellent advice.

Now another question - should I include only professional references, or should I include personal references as well? I have a standard number of professional references so it’s not a matter of needing to beef it up. I’m just wondering if I should include a reference from a co-worker and a previous employee, or would that be overkill?

My resume is for technical positions (I’m an engineer) so it may differ from the standard form for more touchy-feely types. Also, I haven’t really worked on the resume or had any reason to send it out for the past few years, so I may be “out of style” with what’s hip and cool, but whatever; I like the format that I use and don’t really intend to change it, regardless.

I list secondary (college) degrees and professional training first, then a brief bulleted listing of specific skills that I know are of interest to particular employers (specificially, skill with CAD/structural modeling/engineering analysis codes, as well as programming skills and operating system experience), followed by a listing of positions each listing three or four major responsibilities or accomplishments. I used to try to keep this all to one page, but it’s leaked over to two, so I went ahead and spaced it out to even out the whitespace and mostly fill the second page, which also makes it look uncluttered. (Plus, I figure the earlier positions are less relevent to prospective employers.)

Owning to the unstable industries I’ve worked in previously I have had a series of jobs every year or two and thus consolidate everything under one title, even if my title may have changed a couple of times. If you’ve had several positions over a span of multiple years, you’ll want to list out each position seperately. Hit the highlights, but don’t go into too much detail, as it becomes repetative and the interviewer probably has several candidates and only a limited amount of time to devote to reading each one. Once you get to the interview stage, you’ll presumably get a better feel for what specific experience the interviewer is looking for and you can emphasize those points at that time.

I don’t provide any information prior to college; starting out I listed various jobs I had in school (which were technical, but not strictly in my field); since then, I just list post-graduate jobs. I don’t bother with biographical information, and there’s just a line at the bottom stating “References by request.” They’ll no doubt indicate to you what they expect in terms of references, but be prepared for three professional, three personal. The professional references are more important (who the hell is going to give a bad personal reference?) but make sure they all know to expect a call and what you type of job you’re interviewing for.

I use plain white heavy bond paper, but I do print a watermark of a couple of gears, sufficiently faint that it doesn’t reproduce in faxes, but dark enough to be seen. I think it’s gotten my resume a second glance on a number of occasions–interviewers have frequently mentioned it–but obviously it’s not a deciding factor for anyone.

Although most interviewers I’ve talked to clearly haven’t read the cover letter (and many HR people say they just rip them off and toss them) I’d still attach one; it shows that you made an effort to address this job in particular rather than just shotgunning a resume out to all and sundry. Keep it short, and I wouldn’t reiterate information that is going to be on your resume anyway, except in passing; three or four paragraphs and the minimal research to say something positive about your interest in the job is appropriate. Remember to keep something in reserve for your post-interview followup letter so you can tell them how you’d be a good fit because of your blah-blah-blah being in concert with their fwingdoogle. A followup isn’t going to make the difference if you’re not in the top selection, but if there are several equal candidates it may very well put you over the top, especially if you can express an understanding of what the interviewer wanted or remind them how you fit a particular need.

Good luck to you in your job hunt,


My philosophy on resumes is that the amount of real estate should be proportional to the importance of the item. If you have eight positions, you should probably list them chronologically, but go into more detail on the positions you have had for longer or are more relevant to the position you are applying for.

To the extent you have references, they shouldn’t be on the resume itself, but if they are requested you can have them on a different sheet.

Two pages aren’t a problem. Canadian employers don’t seem to mind two-page resumes–mine is two pages, and it’s worked pretty well.

As for the “second set of eyes,” I’ll offer my services, if you like. I’m back in Calgary for a while, and have a little time before I get to a few things that need doing this summer. PM me if you’re interested.

Most strong resumes I see these days show a list of 10 to 20 skills and achievements as bullet points, then list out the relevant skill sets/experience for the position being applied for (this is the main body of the resume), then kind of a chronological listing.

I would go with 3 professional references. (Unless you happen to socialize with the Governor or something…) Outside academia I agree with **Billdo **, references wait until they ask for them. In academia and some nonprofit and government jobs, they do ask for you to send the references with the resume. Follow whatever instructions are in the posting. Those jobs pay much more attention to references than corporate jobs do. It’s a good idea to let your references know they’re being listed and even remind them a little bit of things they might want to mention in their recommendation “If you get a chance to mention how I helped with the ACME-SYS upgrade, that would be great…” Some people, while fond of you, might not have very good memories for exactly what it was you did.

Good luck!