The Candidate: Melanie came to me as a proactive move to prepare herself for a possible layoff. Seeking an administrative position, she had developed a résumé presenting her 9 years of administrative experience, degree, and Certified Professional Secretary designation.

The Problem: The problem with Melanie’s original résumé was that it lacked a positioning strategy and simply presented a narrative of her career without marketing that career to prospective employers. It also lacked any personality or design savvy, making it a somewhat laborious read based on long lists with no formatting.

Objective statement: Opening with an objective statement, Melanie’s résumé started on the wrong track. Instead of opening with a qualifications summary presenting the value Melanie offers, it opens with a statement which wastes the most valuable real estate on the résumé. The top of page one should be reserved for a summary of the value you offer prospective employers—the skills, experiences, and credentials that qualify you for the jobs of interest— and what predicts you will add value to that employer.

Professional experience: Melanie took the approach to list all her responsibilities in very brief 3-to-6-word statements. While this makes for a quick read, it does not allow for presentation of the value she contributed, and does not attract the reader to this section nor identify where she went above and beyond. At the end of the section it also includes an unrelated seasonal experience that should have been omitted from the résumé.

Skills: I am always confused when a candidate places a skills section at the end of a résumé. In fact Melanie had this section on page two of her résumé but for the purpose of illustrating content I have condensed her original résumé to one page. Skills, if important for the jobs you are applying for, should never be buried on a résumé and instead should be highlighted prominently in the qualifications summary.

The Solution: Through further exploration of Melanie’s career, I learned so much more about the value she had contributed as an employee. As with so many clients in the administrative field, she felt she had played a supportive role throughout her career, making accomplishments difficult for her to identify. After speaking with her about key projects, her responsibilities, and the operating infrastructure, and reviewing her performance reviews, it became clear that her original résumé was not doing justice to her career.

Formatting: It was imperative to showcase that Melanie knew her way around Microsoft Word, given she was pursuing administrative assistant positions, so a creative format was developed that presented a professional, polished, and sophisticated image.

Qualifications summary: Opening the résumé with a summary of the experiences and skills that position Melanie as perfectly qualified was paramount in getting her the attention she deserved in her search. Based on the stellar comments on her past performance reviews, I also pulled out quotes and highlighted them in the summary.

Professional experience: Presenting responsibilities in a paragraph format, with accomplishments in bullet points, ensured that the reader’s eyes would be drawn to the most important information in this section. In fact after speaking with Melanie, I had far more information on ways she had contributed value than I did about the day-to-day functions she performed, something that was vital in presenting her as a valuable addition to any administrative team.

The Result: Melanie wrote, “Thank you so much. This résumé gives me the confidence to go after my dream job.”

When developing your résumé, take the time to explore the value you have contributed regardless of whether you believe you have played a more supportive role throughout your career. Be sure to present your candidacy in an engaging manner—both through formatting and content—and showcase the value you have contributed to past employers. Chances are there are areas in which you have not highlighted your candidacy at its best.