Dear Sam: I was just let go from an administrative assistant position I held for 14 years. I loved my job until about 5 years ago when the company hired a new supervisor. Since that time I have just seemed to have constant disagreements with that person, mostly stemming from different viewpoints, philosophies, and approaches to work. Although my recent separation was mutual I am concerned about how this will look on my résumé and in an interview. How can I present this situation? - Lilly

Dear Lilly: First, there would be no need for any mention of why you left an employer on your résumé, so really you will only need to know how to handle this question during an interview. During the interview be sure to smile, stay positive, and remain focused. Script your answer and practice it in front of a mirror (so you can recognize any non-verbal cues you might be exhibiting) and in front of a family member or friend. The hope is, by practicing your response, that your answer doesn't seem scripted and allows you to stay focused without veering into a long story that reveals too much information.

To answer the question about why you left your past employer I suggest stating something like this: As you can see, in the 14 years I spent with the company I thoroughly enjoyed my position, made significant contributions, and played an integral role in the effectiveness of the administrative environment. Recently however I felt the company and I stopped sharing the same values of collaboration, teamwork, and cohesion. I therefore took the opportunity to reassess my current career goals and seek a position that better emulated the environment that I enjoyed so much-one focused on empowering team members, holding individuals accountable, and fostering close collaboration to drive shared successes. Hence my interest in the opportunity to join your administrative team.

The point in answering the question is to do so in a way that reinforces the positive aspects of your candidacy, staying away from directly stating anything negative about the company. I wish you the best of luck.

Dear Sam: I am surprised to see graphics on the beautiful résumés that you design. I was always taught that graphics, pictures, and colors did not belong on a professional résumé. Is this a new trend? Are they acceptable for only certain career fields or for use only at a certain level? - Sue

Dear Sue: Making a résumé look as good as it reads is a key technique to get your foot in the door. You are correct in that graphics and color should be reserved for fields and candidates in which it make sense, but even if you are in a field where a more creative design won't work, take the time to create a great aesthetic to help your résumé garner the attention it deserves.

Typically I will reserve colors and graphics for my creative clients, but there certainly are times when a symbolic image will reinforce the tone of the document and position a candidate as how they want to be seen before even one word is read. Now, if I were working with a CFO I wouldn't use color or graphics as the audience reviewing the résumé would expect a very conservative image, but I would still take the time to create a great-looking and balanced design. Check out the samples on my website ( for ideas of when images and color may be appropriate.

Dear Sam: I have been in the accounting field for about 15 years but want to switch and get into the medical field. I have taken a Health Unit Coordinator course that will lead to national certification. Is there anything I should put as my objective on my résumé to really help me in this pretty intense transition? - Barbara

Dear Barbara: You should actually not have an objective statement on your résumé. Instead you should develop a qualifications summary to position you for the transition into the medical field. Map the requirements and key qualifications sought for the positions that currently interest you, and build your summary around the ones that you possess. This will likely pull mostly from your academic training in addition to the transferable skills from your accounting career. Be sure also to not present too much of your accounting career, but make that decision based on the years of experience sought in the roles you are interested in. If you find that most of them require entry-level experience-say 3 to 5 years-then you may want to look at cutting off your experience around the 5- or 10-year mark just to avoid unnecessarily aging your candidacy and positioning yourself as potentially overqualified. Best of luck.