Resumes: What's the Same as 20 Years Ago? What's Different?

Mar 5, 2015 12:00:00 AM · by Karl Dinse

Even though the Internet provides tremendous resources on how to build a strong resume, it amazes me how many candidates still do not understand how to convey their background in a powerful, compelling biography.

What are the ingredients for an effective résumé that haven’t changed over the past 20 to 30 years? A strong résumé begins with a strong format, which includes a description of features, accomplishments, and benefits. The most widely used format still has a chronological listing of employment experience. And, in most cases, it’s one or two pages in length, although addendums are becoming more popular today. (I will address this later.)

Most résumés begin with a career summary. This may include a title of your most recent position (clinical analyst, informatics pharmacist, healthCare IT consultant, Cerner application analyst, etc.).

This is followed by a brief description of who you are, what you do, your strengths and areas of expertise. This description should be no longer than two to three sentences and finished with a brief listing of your core competencies, which can be stated as bullet points directly below your career summary statement. This section, which includes your name and contact information at the top, should run no longer than one-third of the first page.

Next, you will want to include a chronological listing of your work experience, with the most recent experience listed first. The features are the “facts,” stating each position’s role and responsibilities. In formatting this section, state the features in one to two sentences at most, directly beneath the position title and dates of employment. Following the features, the best format will continue with bullet points specifying your accomplishments and benefits.

Accomplishments should be quantified whenever possible, specifying results that saved your company time and/or money. These results are benefits the employer derived from your efforts; projects that were completed ahead of schedule and under budget will be relevant and impressive to your prospective employer.

Every work sector has metrics associated with performance. It’s very important to describe your individual performance in relation to the stated goals of an organization: in sales, exceeding quota by a certain percentage, in technical projects, in coming in ahead of schedule by specific times and under budget by certain dollar amounts.

Your ability to quantify results can’t be overstated and can clearly be a differentiator to a prospective employer when he or she is evaluating your résumé. This is your value proposition.

It’s just as important to have a well-written résumé today as it was 25 years ago. It’s still your framework of reference when you engage with prospective employers either over the phone or in a face-to-face meeting. It will serve as a resource for you to amplify your qualifications when personally engaged. 

So, what’s different today? Video résumés and presentations are more widely used; this requires that you be able to articulate your experience and qualifications in “story” form that’s both informative and compelling. You will want to practice your presentation repeatedly so that you can develop confidence in your communication skills. (This will be the subject of an upcoming blog post.)

To finish, I mentioned earlier that addendums are being increasingly utilized to expand and enhance background and qualifications. The addendum is simply a listing of specific projects that you’ve personally been involved with; it provides precise detail as to your roles and responsibilities, as well as information that quantifies more deeply than your résumé the financial savings, time savings, increased productivity, etc. that resulted from your accomplishments.  Many times, this will require some consideration as to number of hours you may have dedicated to a project multiplied by an hourly or monthly rate and then valued accordingly. This level of detail may be a significant differentiator for a prospective employer to fully understand the value proposition.

For more detailed information on this topic, check out our website or contact us with questions via email. 


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