Here is the second part of “Resume Essentials.” In this section, we’ll discuss some of the nuances of a resume and how it can attract the right people to you and your work history.

Brand Names: Everyone likes the familiar, so if you’ve worked with an organization that has high recognition, prestige, or is considered a leader in your field, you are ahead of the game. If you’re part of a lesser known division of a high profile company, make sure you make the connection for the reader—don’t assume. The fact is, most of us work for lesser well known employers; therefore, it is important potential employers understand the size, scope, and focus of your experience. You know what I mean, R2G maybe the most dynamic and forward thinking group but if they’re under the radar, the resume reader might dismiss them as minor. That’s why I suggest each company listing have a brief description under it. Using my example, beneath R2G you might want to write “A $2 billion networking infrastructure design group. Winner of ADC’s ‘Company of the Year’ award.” It gives the reader a reference point and allows you to brag a bit.

Consulting: Many people consult during times of unemployment. If the work relates to your career and is more than a few pieces of advice--put it on your resume. If you’re advising name brand firms, make sure to note them. Listing consulting work says to the employer or search professional, “I am current and active.” It also makes you look less desperate.

Long Ago: With the speed of technology, the accelerated rate at which people switch jobs, companies, careers, as well as the overall pace of the world, our sense of time has changed. Five years is the new decade; a year is nine months or two quarters. For these reasons, and many more, having a resume that is time specific dates you. Can most of us remember what we were doing ten years ago? I mean remember enough to talk about it in current terms? Does anyone care? If the answers are “no,” then why put it on your resume? Or at least, why detail it? Sure, if you clerked for an important judge soon out of law school people want to know. But that’s probably all they want to know, not every silly little task you handled. I strongly recommend you talk about your current or most recent position in great detail. It’s what interests the listener and easily answers “what can you do for me?” Assuming you have been there more than two years, former jobs mean less and less. I suggest job searchers have a separate, short, section after “Business Experience” titled “Other Relevant Experience.” It’s there where you can put that clerkship or time in the Peace Corp. List the company/organization’s name, location, and your title, that’s it. I would avoid dates (see below).

Dates: The age old question, “Should I place dates on my resume?” There is much debate and my opinion is strictly that--my professional opinion. Anyone over the age of 49 or under the age of 25 who does not believe there is age discrimination in the workplace is kidding themselves. The prejudice may not be intentional but it’s hard for many people to hire someone older than their father or younger than their daughter. It’s a cold hard fact and human nature. My personal approach to this is to present as ageless. What this means is your dress, speech, manner, and points of reference do not put you in any age or generational category. It helps but it is not the entire solution. I tell clients to avoid dates past 10 years. It reads like ancient history and often the work you did is. Unless you are a recent graduate, keep school dates off. There are coaches in the field who will tell you leaving off dates sends up a red flag. I argue putting dates on is the red flag. The goal is to make the issue irrelevant and for the focus to be you and the present.

Technology: If you’re in the tech fields, this one is easy; it goes directly into your experience description. But what about non-technology people? This is when stated proficiency is required. We’re long, long past the, “Can you send an attachment on an email?” but not over levels of experience in PowerPoint. With almost everyone, there are a slew of applications, specific to your field, that you must be fluent in. If all you know is the basics of Microsoft Office, don’t list it. On the other hand, if you’re the PowerPoint wiz of your group, know a specific computer language, or an important customer data collection application, then it’s an error of omission not to state it at the end of your resume.

Language: Speaking a foreign language is something people who can dismiss and those who don’t envy. Even if most business is conducted in English, the ability to converse with clients and colleagues in their native tongue is an asset. Make sure if you claim to speak another tongue that you are well practiced and beyond basic conversation. Never know if the interviewer, Ms. Smith, grew up with a mother who spoke to her only in Spanish and would be happy to continue the interview in the language.

Right about now, are you feeling closer to the pit of your stomach than you have in a long time? Is the thought of writing or updating your resume so low on your “to do” list that you would have to scroll a number of times? That’s a large club you belong to. It’s also, career-wise, irresponsible. You wouldn’t have work of this importance so outdated and neglected but when it comes to you, somehow your resume never takes precedence.

How about a jumpstart? That’s what hiring a coach can do--get you started. I offer clients some templates and examples to follow; it makes the whole process smoother and less stressful.

Tired of hearing your good friend and colleague moan, “Writing a resume is too hard!” Don’t try to fix it, redirect them to a coach.

Here’s your action plan.

  • Open up your resume file.
  • Give it the 30 seconds glance it will receive from most employers or the computer.
  • Rate your resume for look, content, and accuracy. How’s it doing?

If you’re not pleased, set a time when you will at least make it current. Book another few hours to take it to a 2011 format. Finally, nuance the entire document with keywords and editing. Voila! You're ready, willing, and able to send your resume.

Before the end of the year has come and gone, make a promise to yourself and your career to get things right. Start with your resume.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.