Here are five steps that can take your resume from confusion to focus.
By Irene Marshall
To avoid a dozen versions of your resume, consider a master resume like this month's Does Your Resume Stink? contest winner.
For personalized resume advice contact our experts directly, or if you’re feeling lucky, old resume tried to pull all of her talents together. She highlighted specific parts of her background, but then it was unclear exactly what type of job she wanted next.
What positions was she targeting? This resume had organization but no focus.
The best solution for Nancy was a master resume that worked. The new resume is a focused but flexible document that will serve different purposes. It has a different structure so that she can change it as needed. Every part of the resume is a place holder in an organized structure that visually separates the different types of information.
Here are the five steps that took Nancy from confusion to focus:
1. A “Headline” that immediately shouts out what she has to offer
Nancy’s headline section, which defines what she can do and where she has worked, listed an obscure title, rarely recognized outside her industry: ”Productivity Consultant.”
To avoid using such a diluted title, Nancy’s new master resume allows her to change the headline for every application.
Text can be added, changed or deleted. But a specific, understandable headline is critical. It’s stronger than an “objective,” which is what you want, not who you are. If you don’t have anything here and just say “profile” or something generic, you are wasting an important opportunity to immediately say who you are.
2. A table section for areas of expertise
Another flexible part of her master resume is the areas of expertise section. Remember: A resume is written for three audiences — for a person to read it, a person to scan it and a computer to scan it.
To meet all three needs, the areas of expertise section is set up as place holders. If “Event Planning” is not relevant for her next job (even though Nancy likes it), that field can be edited to include something else instead. This section gives a lot of flexibility in what is to be emphasized. Currently it is listed in alphabetical order, but it can be re-arranged to highlight different things.
3. Use bold text to highlight specific wording
The third flexible feature is the use of bold text. Based on the job Nancy is interested in, she can bold different sentences to draw the reader’s eye to specific accomplishments.
4. Space for additional credentials.
Nancy’s old resume did not indicate that she is an attorney with a master’s degree. By including that in the new resume, the reader immediately understands her education and credentials. These sections are configured so she can easily add to the information as she gets more credentials over the next few years.
5. Keep track of changes you make to your master resume
Stay up-to-date by having a process for how you rename the file. For example you can have:
- Smith_Jane Master Resume
- Smith_Jane Bank of America Resume Nov 2009
Remember: The content determines the format and structure of a master resume – not the other way around.
Irene Marshall, MBA, PhD, is president of Tools for Transition. She has helped people get jobs for nine years, starting as a recruiter with Robert Half. She is a frequent public speaker in the San Francisco area on job search and career issues. She has more than 40 years of broad business experience. Her industry credentials include certifications as a professional resume writer, interview coach and career coach.