21st Century Resumes
Due in large part to the expansion of online communities and brands, the world of job-seeking has completely changed in the past decade. Much of the old wisdom about resume writing is now out of date. And while what you put into a resume today may be different, what hasn’t changed is the fact that the final product must be carefully crafted.
Resume at a Glance
- Length: The one-page limit is out, unless you are entry-level; but don’t go longer than two pages unless absolutely necessary
- Format: Don't be fancy, make sure it is easy to read and well organized.
- Time covered: Cover 10 to 15 years only; not your entire working life. The general practice now is to skip the months in job tenure and specify only years. Be sure to move your dates to the right side of your resume.
- Summary/Profile: At the top of your resume include two or three lines that outline your skills, experience and goals. It’s also recommended that you add two or three professional characteristics that describe who you are and give your profile a little personality.
- Education and professional development: Degrees, courses and certifications are important to list. Don’t list your high school.
- Outside Interests: Use your volunteer work and outside activities (avoid religious and political affiliations) to highlight additional skills.
How Your Resume Is Read
The goal of a resume (and cover letter) isn’t to get you the job; it’s to get you the interview. It’s important to think about how your resume is being read. Many recruiters use ATS (applicant tracking system) software, which scans resumes and eliminates those without specific keywords. As for human scanning, most hiring professionals say that during a first cut of submissions, they will look at your name, where you live, summary/profile and your most recent employer. Then they flip to the back and look at your education.
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-style objective line. “To get a job in the financial industry” just doesn’t cut it anymore.
A good summary/profile is:
- Written with the audience in mind.
- A succinct, interesting 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 your next employer.
- Provides an essence of who you are.
If you want to change careers, state that goal right up front. Then make the case for your qualifications by showing how your skills will translate to the new environment.
- Diverse work, student leadership and volunteer experience in fundraising, member recruiting, call center supervision, event planning, publicity and childcare. Characterized as persuasive and sincere, perceptive at reading people and situations and ambitious and goal focused with a natural ability to recruit, train, motivate and manage the performance of large teams. Technically proficient with Microsoft Office, social media and iPhoto; possess strong writing and presenting skills; fluent in Italian.
- Marketing professional with comprehensive experience in brand development, product marketing, internal communications, social media strategy and trade show management. Demonstrated agility at managing projects and collaborating with and influencing multiple stakeholders, including senior management, colleagues, clients and vendors. Characterized as dynamic, creative, passionate about learning and undertaking new projects, with a great facility for excelling under tight deadlines. Recently earned MBA in Marketing.
- Extensive experience in various senior administrative, executive support and communications positions for Fortune 500 companies. Significant accomplishments executing large-scale events flawlessly and creating and redesigning presentations and reports, with demonstrated agility at successfully managing multiple projects and tasks while meeting aggressive deadlines. Possess a great facility for influencing and collaborating with senior management, headquarters and field colleagues, vendors, customers and other key stakeholders. Career success is attributed to integrity, high standards, strong organizational skills, outstanding verbal and written communication skills, and the ability to remain composed, focused, and efficient under extreme pressure and with changing priorities.
- Finance professional with in-depth and wide-breadth, progressive experience in financial analysis, treasury, and accounting roles across a range of industries. Committed to implementing quality- and process-improvement techniques that drive business operations to success and achieve corporate goals. Significant accomplishments increasing profits and reducing costs by using analytical and business skills. Characterized as decisive, organized, and proficient at leading and managing projects.
Keywords & Action Words
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.)
You also want to think about active words to describe your contributions that are specific, and focused on your accomplishments, rather than 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. A sample list of keywords for popular specialties can be found in our Charts & Checklist section.
Skills and Work Experience
Keywords are also important to use in describing your work experience. At a minimum, 80% of the content on a resume should be your 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 you are going to contribute, and they’re going to align that with your description of your past experience.
- Define job titles: Titles don’t always translate between industries.
- Avoid clichés: “Effective communicator,” “go-getter,” “dynamic leader” mean nothing; employers
assume that you have good communication and leadership skills and drive..
- Be specific: Don’t just list your budget or staff management responsibilities; specify how big a budget
and how many staff members.
- Quantify achievements: If you saved the company money, increased website traffic or gained
members, use numbers. They’ll attract the reader’s eye and are concrete measures of accomplishments.
- List your hardware: Highlight professional certifications and your ability to use the tools of your trade:
More on crafting accomplishments for your resume can be found in Writing Resume Accomplishments.
Styles of Resumes
The traditional, chronological resume is still the most common and it takes the reader through a person’s work experience job by job, starting with the most recent position.
View resume examples 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 changes in workplace trends, the economy shifting, the pandemic and so much more many people now have short and long periods without a steady full-time job.
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 current practice for all resumes is to cover in detail only 10 to 15 years of your work history, if you want to include earlier skills and achievements, do it under a separate heading such as Additional Work Experience or Additional Skills. Or mention your earlier experience briefly in your profile or summary.
When you reach the interview stage, you'll want to have picked an explanation for the gap that you are comfortable with and stick with it.
Find out more in Cancer and Careers’ Looking for Work section.
- Format: Convert your resume to a PDF file, if possible, to guarantee that the layout and fonts are not altered when you email or submit it online.
- 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.
- Content: Don’t consider your resume carved in stone. You should be able to customize it to fit specific positions you’re applying for.
- 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, read “Building and Protecting Your Online Image.”