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Resumes - stay current without being trendyRésumé trends come and go, and some are more extreme than others. As with fashion, the more outlandish the trend, the more quickly it disappears. And once a trend has come and gone, it quickly looks out-of-date. Remember when we were told that résumés should never exceed one page? That advice has been widely discredited, but for years people tried to showcase their careers on one 8.5 by 11 inch page. How about “functional résumés”, with your accomplishments front and center and your job history condensed at the bottom? These were recommended as a way to pretty-up a less than pretty career track, and have since been abandoned because they came to be viewed with suspicion. If you are using these approaches today, you are hurting your chances of getting an interview.

As an executive recruiter who has lived through many of these trends, I recommend you stick with the résumé version of a navy blue suit – a well-organized document, easy to read, in reverse chronological order, with quantifiable accomplishments listed objectively, on two to three pages. Here are the basics:

Contact Information

Name and mailing address including zip code. It is not sufficient to simply list your city or state, no matter how virtual you think you are. A minimum of two telephone numbers, with an indication of which is home, which is mobile, etc. An e-mail address that is easy to read (avoid mixing letters and numbers) and professional, and that you can continue using even if you move or change jobs.

Opening Statement

Avoid the “Career Objective” and provide a “Career Summary” instead. Whereas an objective focuses on what you want, a summary draws attention to what you can do for the recipient.

Experience

List your jobs in reverse chronological order, with the name of the company, your title, and the dates shown clearly.

Your résumé should not read like your job description, because your job description is the same whether you are a success or a failure. Instead, provide a brief overview of your duties before getting to what really counts — your accomplishments.

For an accomplishment to be worthy of being on your résumé, it needs to be quantifiable, specific, and relevant. Instead of saying “responsible for revenue growth”, say “grew revenue by 10% a year to a forecasted $15 million in 2011.” Rather than “managing the schedule and budget for a large customer service operation”, say “reduced overtime hours by 3%, effectively cutting headcount by 57 FTE”. Those specific accomplishments are going to resonate with the person reviewing your résumé, and will help to keep you at the top of the stack.

Education

Education should be listed in reverse chronological order, with the highest degree obtained showing first. Include the school, the degree, and date of completion. Show the GPA only if it was excellent. If you attended school but didn’t graduate, include the course of study (business administration) and the span of years attended (1996 – 1998).

Other Professional Credentials

This section should include all other relevant classifications, certifications, designations, memberships, speaking engagements, advisory groups, councils, and volunteer work.

Many résumé consultants recommend that you customize your résumé for each job you apply for. I don’t agree with this. Their idea is that you should try to appeal to a company’s culture by mirroring it in your creative design. For a job with a bank, they suggest you stick with plain typeface and go easy on underlining and italics. For a job with on online media company, they recommend you go heavy on the web links, color logos and buzz words.

However, the problem is that once you’ve e-mailed your résumé to a recipient, you can’t call it back to modify it. And you can’t stop the recipient from forwarding it. The edgy document you created for a job in new media may be forwarded for a job in another department, and your creativity could relegate it to the rubbish bin. Buzzwords quickly become dated – when was the last time you heard about the information superhighway or a paradigm shift? The jargon you are using today will look just as tired in a few years, but your résumé will still be out there.

The place to be creative is in your cover letter. There, you can take some risks, make some subjective statements about yourself such as “I am a proven leader…”, and leave the reader with a positive impression. After all, the cover letter is specific to one job and has a date on it, so it won’t live on indefinitely.

Once you’ve completed a draft of your résumé, make absolutely certain that you are consistent throughout. If you put a period after one bullet point, put it after every bullet point. If you put a dash between some dates, put one between all dates. Don’t switch between active and passive verbs, or past and present tense. Don’t switch between narrative and bullet point. Then, spell check it. After you spell check it, proof read it for proper grammar, sentence flow, and misused homonyms. And then have someone else proof read it before you spell check it again. Finally, read it backwards, looking at each word individually to find words that don’t get caught by spell check. You’d be surprised how many “mangers” I’ve received résumés from!

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