Dear Sam: I am 43 years old with 20 years of work experience in sales, management, customer service, and business ownership. I recently graduated with a finance degree. I am beginning my job search in the finance sector and am wondering if I should list my entire job history as I have done in the past. – Tracey

Dear Tracey: Congratulations on your recent graduation! To answer your question, no, you would likely not want to list your entire 20-year career on your résumé. As I imagine you are going to need to position your candidacy at a more junior level—as you don’t have finance experience in your background—presenting 20 years of work experience would only make you seem overqualified and too expensive. Instead, present your most recent experience, maybe 7-10 years, and utilize your coursework and any class projects to infuse your résumé with finance keywords. Depending on the abundance, or lack thereof, of projects to present, you could even consider adding a section to your résumé with your academic experiences and highlights. Doing so would allow you to fully explore the finance knowledge you have, add those ever so important keywords to your résumé, and push less related experiences further down on page one of your résumé. When presenting earlier, non-finance experience, be sure to market the transferability of those positions so the experience “qualifies” you and doesn’t “disqualify” you for your current career objective.

Dear Sam: I’m really struggling to see why my résumés aren’t effective. I have spent time explaining what I did at each job, highlighting accomplishments, and still I don’t get a response. I even developed multiple versions with different objectives noted. Help! – Rachel

Dear Rachel: I noticed that your résumés do not contain qualifications summaries, and instead use very valuable real estate at the top of page one presenting an objective statement. Defining your purpose or objective is critically important to the development of this section, but instead of simply stating your objective, this section, along with everything on your résumé, should be developed to sell yourself for the type(s) of roles you are seeking. Develop this section based on a primary objective, presenting a brief summary of your key qualifiers related to your objective. Engage the reader by performing due diligence to understand the keywords for the position(s) of interest, and infuse those keywords throughout this summary and the remainder of your résumé. I know that most candidates struggle with this section; it is, after all, the most difficult part of a résumé to write. As a tip, start writing your résumé from the bottom up, beginning with the easier sections and leading to the summary. Write the summary last so that you have a clear picture of what you have to offer your target audience. Check out samples on my website for inspiration.

Dear Sam: How important is it to try and create a “different-looking” résumé? I ask because when I was showing my résumé to a coworker who is being laid off at the same time I am in January, his résumé looked exactly like mine. I guess we selected the same template. Our experience is somewhat similar, so I’m scared if an employer receives both of our résumés, he/she will think we plagiarized one another. Should I create something that looks different? – Tom

Dear Tom: One of the major downfalls I see when reviewing résumés is that the majority lack any visual appeal, they are typically created using very common templates, and they are inconsistent in their use of fonts and spacing. While content is very important in creating a résumé that grabs the attention of a hiring manager, the aesthetics of that document can compel or repel someone’s interest. For that reason, it is imperative to engage the reader through the use of a professional and visually appealing layout. I’d highly recommend creating a different “look” to your résumé to ensure it stands out, not only because of the accomplishment-oriented content, but the great design.

Dear Sam: I am looking to relocate back to the New England area where I am from. How would I go about finding out how the job market is back there and how would I set up an interview with potential employers if they are interested? – Michael

Dear Michael: To source opportunities in the New England area, you can visit the online job boards; when searching, select the appropriate geographic region of interest. You should make sure you not only visit the major job boards, but also the local newspaper’s board to ensure you get a good idea of all of the positions available in the area.

When you submit your résumé to a potential employer, I’d recommend placing a relative’s or friend’s local address (if you have that available to you) on your résumé so you don’t look time consuming and costly to recruit. When doing this, the object is not to mislead the reader, but instead to look like a more competitive candidate considering you will be competing against mostly local candidates. In order to not mislead, make sure you place your current address somewhere on your résumé, or note toward the end of your cover letter that you are seeking to relocate to the New England area and are not seeking relocation assistance (if that is the case). Oftentimes, I will list an “upcoming” and a “current” address at the bottom of the résumé—so it is seen after a review of your candidacy—leaving the phone number(s) and email address at the top to be seen first. Now that we can take our phone numbers with us when we move, the sight of a long distance area code isn’t necessarily an indication of someone’s whereabouts, so placing that at the top of the résumé won’t likely hurt your candidacy. 

When a hiring manager calls to schedule an interview, obviously he/she will have read that you are not local and will likely conduct the initial interview over the phone before inviting you to an in-person meeting. Depending on the scope and budget of the search being conducted, your travel expenses, and even relocation expenses, could be funded by the employer. But, if you are not counting on this, make sure you mention that in your cover letter to avoid seeming too time consuming and costly to recruit.