You've made a decision: It's time to launch a job-search campaign, but you haven't updated your résumé in five years (or is it ten?). As you sit down to draft the document, your brain somehow turns to dust. You go to Barnes & Noble and buy nine dozen books. And now you're even more confused by varying formats, layouts and résumé types (chronological, functional, combination, target, creative, transitional) — and you're overwhelmed. If this scenario sounds familiar, let's look at some basic points.
• There are no (or, at best, few) "rules."
In drafting, select an attractive layout — one that commands the reader's attention, uses ample white space, uses "bullets" (symbols that set off a line or paragraph) and horizontal lines or boxes that set off parts of the résumé, and employs an attractive, easy-to-read typestyle. You do not want the copy to be too dense, the type too small, or the document too long (a résumé for a career-entry candidate should be no more than one page).
• Be sure the résumé presents useful, relevant information — information the reader wants. "Useful" means content that conveys relevant data. A résumé that solely conveys job responsibilities (without highlighting achievements) does not convey job relevance. For example, if you're a sales representative, the résumé should present evidence of quota attainment, production volume increases, account growth and retention numbers/percentages. Mention of awards is great, but make sure these awards are performance-based and provide the context. For example, if you won the "Best Salesman Award," let the reader know the award went to the top five performers in a sales force of 300.
• Unless you're an actor or model, the résumé should not include a photo.
• If there are long, multiple or unexplained gaps in your employment history, explain these briefly. If you took a sabbatical to climb Mount Everest, meet the Dalai Lama, or paint seascapes along the Norwegian coast, say, "I took a year off to travel, learn more about foreign cultures or expand/develop a latent talent.
• Be careful not to omit or overtly mask chronology. If, for example, you select a transitional, combination or functional (or similar) format stressing transferable skills, make sure the reader can easily identify where you gained these skills and experience.
• Finally, neatness, factual accuracy and good grammar remain constants for getting your readers' attention, and getting you selected (or, as I prefer to say, "elected") for an interview.
Always include a personal e-mail address. Not listing an e-mail address sends a negative message: "I'm not keeping up with technology."