Dear Sam: I have been struggling for the last four years to find a teaching job. I want to find a way to make myself stand out from the crowd and I was hoping to be able to do that with my résumé. What suggestions do you have to make my résumé more powerful? – Kendra

Dear Kendra: If almost every teaching candidate has the same licenses and educational qualifications, then why open your résumé, and spend half of the first page, presenting qualifications that don’t differentiate you from your competitors? While those credentials are important, it would be much stronger to open your résumé with a summary presenting your key qualifiers in addition to information about what makes your background unique.

In the summary present a blend of your core qualifications, highlights of your teaching experience, and some information about the skills you possess that facilitate your ability to do the job well. By presenting this summary, you can highlight your most notable qualifications without wasting very valuable real estate on page one stating the obvious.

In your professional experience section I’d like to see more complete thoughts. I dislike four and five word bullet points as they appear as incomplete statements, which due to their brevity, hold little weight on paper or in the mind of the reader.

For example, consider the following four bullets appearing in one section of your résumé: “Collaborated with teachers & therapists; Wrote IEP progress reports; Involved in IEP goal writing and IEP meetings; Created weekly parent newsletters.” 

Now, let’s rewrite: “Fostered open, proactive, and productive communication amongst teachers, therapists, and parents by creating weekly newsletters, updating progress reports, and developing IEP goals.”

The rewritten statement is more complete and instead of taking up four very valuable lines on your résumé, will now only consume two.

I’d also recommend taking a look at the design of your résumé. You truly have almost limitless possibilities to be creative in the design of your résumé when you are in the early education field. Your résumé, while uncluttered and clean, has no personality…and isn’t that part of what you need to “sell” as a teacher? Open with your teaching name (Ms. Kendra?), a tasteful graphic (ABC blocks, a chalkboard, etc.), and a fun (could even be colorful) design. Check out the teaching résumé samples in the “Results” section of my website for some inspiration!

The great news is you have a fantastic background to present. I don’t see any disqualifying factors, just qualifications that aren’t optimized solely based on the choices you have made with your résumé. Rework and I think you will yield much success.

Dear Sam: I have proven I can step into any role and excel. With my job search lasting for 9 months now, I really need a job and am willing to do anything. How do I make my résumé reflect that I can do almost anything? – Mike

Dear Mike: While this may seem like an effective strategy, it is actually quite the opposite. I cringe when candidates tell me they can do anything and don’t have an idea of what type of jobs they will be applying for. While I certainly understand the need to not limit options in today’s job market, a one-size-fits-all strategy is rarely effective. Instead, one should really try to identify a primary objective, even if this means you have a second or third objective requiring modified résumés. If you try to present yourself as a jack-of-all-trades you suddenly become a master-of-none; clearly not a good presentation of your candidacy. Defining your purpose is the critical first step in crafting an effective résumé, a step that facilitates your understanding of what your target audience is looking for and what keywords to incorporate into your résumé. While you may have thought broadening your scope on your résumé would yield more responses, it is likely it is doing the opposite.