Dear Sam: I am struggling with the design of my résumé. I'm trying to make it look a little different than the standard templates, but I'm scared it won't be well received if it looks too different. How do I know if what I want to do is okay and will support, not hurt, my chances of getting an interview? - Linda

Dear Linda: First, I applaud your willingness to do something different. Can you imagine how bored hiring managers must get when so many résumés virtually look the same? Infusing your résumé with personality can go a long way to differentiating it from the hundreds of others. In order to know whether the more unique look to your résumé will be well received, just think about whether it is appropriate for the type of job you want and the audience reviewing it. You'll see from the example I am presenting this week, this client's goal was retail management or merchandising (view on Both professions require a certain amount of creativity and design skill, and as she was applying for positions in the apparel industry, a creative and trend-right look was appropriate. Look at the before résumé, does it do anything to showcase her creativity? Instead, her original résumé is void of any creativity and is simply a narration of job duties. Now, look at the after version. Her new résumé makes her look fashionable and creative before anyone even reads the first word.

Creating the right look for a résumé is really vital to its success. I am a firm believer that the most successful résumés are both great to read and great to look at. Think about it, if your résumé looks like the before version, it doesn't attract the reader, so even if your content is superb, who will read it? The after version is stronger in content and design, propelling the recipient to read more. In addition, instead of opening with an objective statement, her new résumé opens with a summary positioning her for retail management and merchandising roles. Overall, the design of the résumé is visually friendly, appropriate based on the candidate's background, and fitting to the target audience. If you make your decisions in terms of how creative you should be based on these three criteria, your résumé will be sure to be more effective and yield additional time in front of the hiring manager. Good luck!

Dear Sam: I read your column most every week and need some help handling something that has just happened to me. I had been in a position for almost 10 years and was terminated 2 weeks ago. I have never had a poor performance appraisal and never been reprimanded for anything. The reason for the termination was due to absences. Last year was not a good year. You name it, it happened! Family issues and illness, and four family deaths. I also suffered from depression and almost had a nervous breakdown. I did provide my employer with doctor and counselor's letters. When interviewing or sending out résumés how do I address the reason for leaving a job of almost 10 years? - R.G.

Dear R.G.: I'm so sorry to hear of the year you have had. One good thing is that you don't have to mention any part of this on a résumé. Your résumé does not need to present the reason for leaving a position, nor is it wise to introduce potentially disqualifying factors before you have an interview. Use your résumé to sell the value you provided for the company during your 10-year tenure. Use your performance reviews for inspiration when writing your résumé. Possibly even place excerpts from your reviews on your résumé to validate your strong performance. Presenting the value you provided to the company over the past 10 years will make the reason you left your employer (which will be discussed during an interview) much easier to swallow. In an interview, remain positive when asked why you left your last employer. Simply state that you had a series of unfortunate events in your family, including four deaths, and while your performance had been and continued to be exemplary while on the job, the time off required during the past year was more than the company was willing to provide. Go on to mention that you had provided the company with notes along the way explaining the reason for the absences, so the termination was unexpected and unfortunate. I'm suggesting you mention the latter as I want the hiring manager to know you were being proactive and communicative this entire time. I'm also not mentioning your own health concerns as this could raise a red flag that you could be battling that in the future. I wish you a speedy return to a great job!