Dear Sam: I am in desperate need of help with my résumé. I have been unemployed for 18 months. I have tried to find jobs in all fields including insurance, medical, and clerical. I have a lot of experience, but all people see is that my experience is directed toward insurance. I need something that can show my diverse skills. My unemployment has run out, I have used all of my savings, and I am about to lose my home. You are my last resort Can you help me look like more than an insurance adjuster? - Stephanie

Dear Stephanie: I'm so sorry to hear of your misfortune. Let's see what we can do to get your résumé in better shape. Let me paint a picture of your résumé for readers:

Stephanie's résumé is designed using a very common Microsoft Word template that I see quite often. The design is plain, includes a large left margin of white space, and includes only bullet points to describe Stephanie's experience and achievements. Stephanie's résumé opens with an objective statement and flows into a professional experience section which fills the remainder of her one-page résumé.

Fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities to improve the effectiveness of your résumé. First, the design could be dramatically improved to increase reader engagement. Instead of using a standard Word template, consider modifying the design a little to make it your own. Engaging the reader through a less common template that is still professional and facilitates ease of readability is rather simple and would take just a little time to create. Check out professional résumé publications or websites for inspiration if you are struggling with design ideas.

Secondly, if you want to be seen as someone other than an insurance adjuster, then you will need to build a qualifications summary selling your broad and transferable skills. Omit your objective statement and replace it with a brief summary telling the readers why they should be interested in your candidacy. This area of your résumé is vital in qualifying you for positions of interest and capturing the attention of hiring managers during their ever-so-brief screening process. Consider refining the purpose of your job search-what positions you are interested in-so you can figure out what skills and experience will best attract them to your candidacy. If you are pursuing different types of roles, you may need more than one résumé; for starters, though, I would develop one strong version which positions you for your key area of interest.

Take a look at the following qualifications summary for an administrative professional in the accounting arena:

Proven to excel in environments requiring multitasking, attention to detail, and a combination of payroll and accounting acumen that drives unsurpassed quality and accuracy. Repeatedly identified process and efficiency improvement opportunities which resulted in significant cost savings and dramatic impact on department effectiveness. Cultivate employee relations, serving as a go-to person when information and results are needed; commended for taking complaints from associates to near zero through proactive communication and support. Bring refined interpersonal skills to the workplace along with a commitment to confidentiality, discretion, and employee service and support. Strong technical skills spanning Word, Excel, Plexus, Peachtree, Paychex, Paycor, ADP, and 10-Key (10,200 kph).

I hope the example above illustrates the overview you need to provide to hiring managers in order to summarize the key points of your candidacy for the 4- to 7-second screening process.

Next, re-title your professional experience section to just that, rather than Work of Experience, which I believe must have been a mistake. In this section, instead of presenting all functions in bullet points, present responsibilities in a brief paragraph and key contributions in bullet points. You will also want to make sure you are not writing in first person; in other words, the word I should never appear on a résumé. Think about each position, the tasks that were expected (i.e., your responsibilities), and the value you contributed that was over and above those tasks. You will want to highlight the latter more prominently so prospective employers can predict the value you may be able to contribute to their organization. You will also want to omit the presentation of years and months of employment and instead simply present years. This will allow you to omit short-term and possibly nonessential positions from your résumé. For example, you held one position for just 4 months in 2003 and held employment bracketing both sides of that position. By omitting the short-term role, you won't lose anything as your other roles were very similar. If anything, omitting this position will reduce the focus on your career being centered on workers' compensation administration. You could also consider omitting your 7-month position which occurred in 2000 and 2001, given you have strong experience on either side of that employment. As a side note, these suggestions are for your résumé; they would not work if you were asked to complete an employment application, but for the purposes of creating a strategic picture of your background to best position you for current pursuits, the omission strategy would be very effective.

When developing the content for your résumé, be sure to strike a balance of brevity yet communicate your value. Currently, your entire résumé sits at slightly more than 150 words, which is very slim when considering you are presenting 14 years of experience. Take a look at the samples on my website, particularly in the before and after résumés presented on the Dear Sam blog (, for visual reinforcement of the strategies I am suggesting. I can't wait to see your re-crafted resume; feel free to send it to me to review again. I know you can be successful.