Dear Sam: I am 21 years old and I have 3 years of experience in administrative assistant and customer service roles. It seems like the opportunities in my field are slowly dwindling, so I know I need to really sell myself in my résumé; my problem is that I do not know how. About a year ago, I received some money due to a family tragedy, so when my previous employer laid me off due to cutbacks, I decided to use that time to get my family back together. Now, I am ready to get back in the game. As a single mother with a toddler and one on the way, I really need a job badly. Can you point me in the right direction? - Rebecca
Dear Rebecca: Thank you for submitting your résumé for my Notes of a Résumé Writer series; I am pleased to be able to provide some guidance to help you create an interview-generating job search tool. Let's touch on a few key areas of your résumé which should be addressed:
Résumé Length & Design
As an entry-level candidate with just a few years of experience, you should have a one-page résumé. Your résumé currently spills onto two pages, due to the large font size and wide margins. As an administrative specialist claiming technical proficiency, I'd like to see a more aesthetically pleasing design showcasing your Microsoft Word skills and ability to produce a well-designed document. Look at some books or examples on my website for ideas of different designs; don't use templates in Word if at all possible, as many other candidates will have used those too. For your field, you should choose a conservative look that is well organized and very pleasing to the eye.
Objective & Qualifications Summary
Your objective statement is taking up important space at the top of page one, and does not tell the hiring manager anything about what you can offer. I suggest replacing this with a summary which highlights your key skills and attributes. In this summary, you may want to talk about the high-volume, customer-centric environments in which you have worked. You could also note your technical skills so they are not hidden within the professional experience section. Use this section to sell why the hiring manager should interview (and hire) you! See the example I have presented for an idea of how this section could be designed and written.
An effective presentation of one's experience and accomplishments typically comes in the form of a paragraph overview of his/her responsibilities followed by bulleted achievements. In your case, you presented a paragraph of your job description, and while providing this information is important (to an extent), what you really want to focus the reader's attention on is where you truly contributed value. From reading your résumé, I'd imagine you would have some additional highlights to present. Think about things you achieved while on the job. Did you help with any special projects? Did you receive customer commendations? Did you collaborate well with a customer service team? Did you singlehandedly manage administrative functions for a busy office? All of these things are areas in which you could present a more achievement-oriented statement to validate your claims in the summary and predict the contributions you could provide to your next employer.
Next, remove the months of employment you have listed. You only need present the years you were employed, especially important in your case as by presenting the months of employment it is evident you haven't worked in almost a year. Lastly, remove your hourly compensation from your résumé, as this should only be provided when a salary history is requested.
It is assumed you have a high school diploma, so typically I would advise not to list that on your résumé. In your case, however, as you received multiple academic honors, I would suggest pulling those items out and including them in your qualifications summary. You could say something like, Graduated from high school in the top 10% of class, receiving numerous awards including Honor Roll, Super Honor Roll, Perfect Attendance, and Student of the Year. I would then omit an education section (as you have stated you are a graduate in your qualifications summary) and relocate your community involvement work to its own section to highlight your participation in the Kids Voting program.
I am confident if you revamp your résumé, based on my recommendations, you will emerge as a highly competitive candidate. You have a strong background for an entry-level candidate; it just needs to be presented a little more strategically than you have done thus far. I truly wish you great success in your search and with your newest little one on the way.
Sample: Rebecca's critiqued résumé which has many opportunities for improvement
Sample: Well-written example of a qualifications summary