Be the Boss Over Cancer

Want to see a sample resume?

Our job search tools can help!

Visit the Job Search Tools

21st Century Resumes

The world of job seeking has totally changed in the last decade. Much of the old wisdom about resume writing is now out of date while other elements are back in fashion. What hasn’t changed is that you need a carefully-crafted resume.

Today's Resume At a Glance

  • Length: The one-page limit is out, but don’t go longer than two page unless absolutely necessary
  • Format: Strict chronological format is no longer the only way to go. Functional and skill-based organization is also popular and accepted. Check out these sample resumes: Entry LevelChronological, Functional/Chronological
  • Time covered: Cover 10 to 15 years only – not your whole working life. The practice now is also to skip the months in job tenure – just use years.
  • Summary/Profile: In two or three lines, outline your skills, experience and goals at the top of your resume.
  • Outside Interests: Use your volunteer work and outside activities to highlight additional skills.

How Your Resume Is Read

Your resume probably won’t get you the job but it could get you the interview. It’s important to think about how your resume is being read. Some recruiters use software which scans resumes and eliminates those without certain keywords. As for human scanning, most hiring professionals say during a first cut of submissions they look at your name, where you live, summary/profile and at your most recent employer. Then they flip to the back, look at your education and put it down.


It is absolutely necessary to have what you call a profile or summary on top. That is where the reader of the resume is going to get the most pertinent information about you and make a decision about whether to consider reading further down. But this doesn’t mean a return to the old “objective line.” “To get a job in the financial industry” just doesn’t cut it any more.

A good summary/profile is:

  • Written with the audience in mind
  • A succinct summary of capabilities and accomplishments
  • Is easy to read and understand
  • Focused on the kind of work you’re looking for (it’s not enough to just be looking for a job, any job.)
  • Focused on the future – what you can do for an employer not just what you HAVE done.
  • Provides an essence of who you are

If you want to change careers, state that goal right up front. You’ll make the case for your qualifications by showing how your skills will translate to the new environment.


Both human readers and resume programs look for specific keywords near the top of your resume. You can put these words in your summary profile; in a list of skills and in a list of professional qualifications. So important are keywords to today’s job search that the U.S. government even provides help to job seekers to use the most targeted words to search and get jobs. (Search for analyst instead of researcher.)

With keywords be active, specific and focus on your accomplishments – not empty descriptions or desirable personality traits.

  • Think: Created, increased, under budget
  • Not: Effective, outstanding, energetic

There are specific keywords for every industry – brand management, customer retention, cross-platform. A quick way to find the most desirable skills and traits for your situation take a look at recent job postings – they’ll use the same words and concepts.

Skills and Work Experience

Keywords are also important to use in describing your work experience. At a minimum, 80% of your content on a resume should be accomplishments. A good resume is not just a list of tasks or responsibilities. A potential employer wants to know how you’re going to make a difference for them, how are you going to contribute and they’re going to align it with the way you did that in your past experience.

  • Define job titles: Titles don’t always translate between industries.
  • Avoid clichés: Effective communicator, go-getter, dynamic leader -- it is assumed you have good communication and leadership skills and drive. 
  • Be specific: Don’t just list budget or staff management responsibilities but how big a budget and how many staff members. 
  • Quantify achievements: If you saved the company money, built website traffic, gained members, use numbers. They’ll attract the eye and are concrete measures of accomplishments. 
  • List your hardware: Highlight professional certifications and your ability to use the tools of your trade: FinalCutPro, Excel.

Styles of Resumes

There is now more than one style of resume. The traditional chronological variety takes the reader through a person’s work experience job-by-job most recent first. A chronological/functional resume is more of a hybrid
arranged by highlighting skill sets and accomplishments at the top and specific job experience lower down. The second type might be preferable for someone who has several gaps in their work history.

View samples of both here:


Dealing With the Gap

For many cancer survivors the most pressing question about resumes is how to deal with gaps. The received wisdom is that gaps are deadly on a resume, but due to the downturn in the economy many people now have long periods without a steady full-time job. (Of course that’s a bittersweet circumstance, since finding work in a bad job environment is all the tougher to do.)

It is important to remember that your diagnosis is confidential and you do not have to disclose your cancer in an application or interview situation.

There are many strategies for dealing with a resume gap:

  • List skills first: List all of your career skills at the top of your resume, and underneath each heading include three to six bullet points that summarize your core skills. Then at the bottom of your resume, briefly list the companies you’ve worked for, your job titles and the years of employment.
  • Forgo the calendar: If you’ve been out of the workforce for several years, omit the calendar year and include instead the number of years of service. For example, “Two years of managerial work in customer service.”
  • Highlight non-career achievements: Include your volunteer and community work, and show how they translate into relevant job skills such as the ability to multitask, plan events and manage volunteers.

Because the practice for all resumes is to now cover in detail only 10 to 15 years in a resume you may feel that some skills and experience you might want to highlight won’t be included. Add a heading for “Additional Work Experience” or “Additional Skills.”

Hiring experts suggest that when you reach the interview stage pick an explanation for the gap that you are comfortable with and stick with it.

Find out more at Cancer and Careers' Looking for Work center (

Final Notes

  • Length: Two pages are optimal for everyone except recent graduates.
  • Fonts and Readability: A resume should be visually appealing, with plenty of white space. Fonts recommended are Arial, Times New Roman or Helvetica.
  • Contact Information: Put your contact information on every page.
  • Customize for Specific Job Opportunities: Don’t consider your resume carved in stone – consider tweaking it to fit the opening.
  • Guard Your Digital Identity: Remember that your online identity – including Facebook and Twitter – is searchable and will likely be accessed by people vetting you for employment. For more on this: