Dear Sam: I am in a quandary and need some advice. I have more than 15 years of experience in the human resources arena, look at hundreds of résumés each week, and can't seem to create an effective résumé marketing MY skills! As evaluating the effectiveness of a résumé is part of my daily job, I find it frustrating and mildly amusing that I can't seem to write my own. Also, as human resources people are going to be looking at my résumé, I'm finding it difficult to figure out what to tell them that they don't already know. How should I go about developing an effective résumé as a seasoned HR manager? - Sonya
Dear Sonya: Don't feel bad; I have heard the same comments time and time again from the majority of my clients in the human resources field. Perhaps, as you know so much about résumé writing and are trained to have a critical eye when reviewing résumé content, it is difficult to have the objectivity you need when creating your own masterpiece! In any case, let's go through some ways to create an effective résumé when you are an HR professional.
As an experienced HR manager, you likely have exposure to all generalist areas. Be sure that you use your qualifications summary to highlight the breadth of your knowledge. I find that using a paragraph summary of your most notable achievements and experiences, followed by a bulleted list of noun phrases exploring your generalist involvement, often works best for seasoned HR professionals. This strategy allows you to focus on the factors in your background that differentiate you from the competition, while still incorporating all of the appropriate keywords.
Next, be sure to highlight your professional affiliations and/or certifications. As you know, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the leading professional organization for the industry, and highlighting membership reinforces your commitment to continued professional development. If you do have any of their certifications, such as the Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), or Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR), be sure they are highlighted prominently, even adding the credentials after your name at the top of your résumé. These coveted certifications play a key role in differentiating you from other highly qualified candidates.
Next, showcase your accomplishments, adding quantifiers to demonstrate the level you have achieved within your career. There is a big difference between being an HR Manager of a small company and being one for a 5,000-employee organization with multiple sites and a union presence. If the quantifiers work for you, be sure you leverage these to further differentiate yourself from others. I can't stress enough how the accomplishments section will play a key role in your evaluation, so take some time to review what you have done that was over and above your general responsibilities as an HR Manager.
As you noted, the reader of your résumé likely performs the same or similar functions to what you have done in the past. Having said that, you certainly don't need to go into extreme detail about everything you have ever done within the generalist arena. Certainly make a note pertaining to the areas that you have managed, but only go into detail when the efforts in a specific area were out of the normal scope. For example, you wouldn't need to tell the hiring manager that recruiting entailed placing ads, screening résumés, reviewing competencies, and interviewing candidates, as they are all too familiar with the functions entailed within such a role. However, if the recruiting you performed involved utilizing numerous channels, including job fairs, temporary agencies, and recruiters, then you would likely want to note this extensive level of involvement within the arena.
Lastly, when you have developed your résumé, it might be helpful to have a peer or friend read it over. You are going to be more critical than most when it comes to finalizing your résumé, and you don't want that to hinder getting your résumé out there working for you.
Dear Sam: I am trying to figure out how to write an objective statement, but am struggling as I don't want to close the door to opportunities based on what I state in the opening of my résumé. On the flip side, I don't want to be so broad as to not really sell myself to anyone. What should I do with this part of my résumé? - Stanley
Dear Stanley: You have just explained how ineffective objective statements tend to be. An objective statement generally serves only the candidate, not the employer, by presenting what one wants in his/her next position. Objective statements are typically so self-serving and vague, that they serve no purpose. Additionally, objective statements waste valuable real estate. The only time I use an objective statement is when I have an entry-level client who has no experience or transferable skills and we need to make his/her desired career path clear. The vast majority, 99%+ of today's value-based résumés, should instead open with a qualifications summary. Quite the contrast, qualifications summaries tell the hiring manager what you can do for the company, rather than an objective statement which only tells the reader what you want to do. I urge you to omit your objective statement and spend time exploring the key experiences, qualifications, skills, and credentials you offer that are aligned with the positions you are seeking. This will yield a much stronger résumé and a more successful job search.