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01 April 2011

The New Resume: For Experienced Workers

Long-term worker, expect resume-shock.

If you haven't explored the job market in five or ten years, you probably need a whole new resume. What works best has not changed, but what's commonly recommended has. Throw out all your old materials about resumes.
  • Older materials explain the Functional style. Recruiters and hiring managers reflexively ask, "what is the applicant hiding?" and give functional resumes a quick toss.

  • Many older samples used paragraphs; but paragraphs have given way to concise bullet points.

  • Your descriptions of achievements, employment history, and objectives may need a radial re-write..
It's not about me.

Your Achievements and Employment History sections used to describe what you did. Now, every description must state how well you did it or how it will benefit the reader.

The same applies to the Objectives statement. Replace it. First, the application or cover letter should make it obvious which job you want. Second, emphasize what you bring to the pot luck, not what you hope others will bring. Your resume is a marketing device, not a Request for Proposal.

That's tough for long-term cogs of giant machines where managers rarely communicate the significance of the work. Restating my duties as accomplishments with numbers and results, and figuring out my work's significance from 10, 15, or 20+ years ago required a lot of research. But it has to be done.

Value propositions are in.

Look at the job description and at the company's mission and objectives statements. Figure out the business case for the job. How do the job requirements support the employer's goals?

Then consider your abilities that match the job requirements. Why does the employer want somebody with your skill? What is the value of your skill? Ask and re-ask what happens for the employer if your skill provides that value. Stop when you get past your sphere of influence, and take a step back. Now you can state the value you will bring by doing what you do.

Don't claim the VP's accomplishments. State that your redesign saved the final $2 million that made selling doohickeys profitable, but don't claim to have saved the Division (unless you really did). For example, if the required life of a satellite was seven years, you could describe how you contributed to on-board diagnostics that extended the life to 15 years.

Specifics build a case for the truth of your claimed abilities.

Set a time limit to avoid agism.

By the way, only go back ten (plus or minus) years. If you haven't lost the skills you had in ancient history, they've probably become obsolete. I break that rule. I divide my employment history into Recent Employment and Early Employment (>10 years ago) and go back all the way. I enjoyed and want to return to those older jobs. Without the older jobs, I can't support some of my claimed abilities. However, if I can support my claim to be qualified for a job based on my recent employment history, I chop out the Earlier section.

Let the shoe fit the foot.

This goes to tailoring your resume for each position. The combination format allows me to sort my Accomplishments so the most relevant skills appear at the top. It also allows me to delete distracting, irrelevant skills.

If you apply for a variety of jobs on a corporate site, however, they probably limit the number of versions of your resume. In that case, you have to keep each version of your resume longer and more general.

Less is more, but more is more, too.

Starting out, one page is reasonable. Short and relevant is best. A lot of technical managers want details, though. Making them get out a magnifying glass is not the way to do it. A veteran engineer who organizes a resume with lots of headings gets the "core competencies" across in a 15-second reading. If that 15-second read catches the hiring manager's interest, the applicant will probably get away with two or three pages.

Apart from the part about job objectives, Barclay's podcast provides a great overview.

Note: Most European employers and many American professions such as academia and research require curriculum vitae (CVs), not resumes. All I know about CVs is that they can run many pages.


The worst resume mistakes of 2011 include describing what you want or what you have done. Every statement of proposed value, accomplishment, or history should demonstrate how you will support the employer's business. Keep it as short and as simple as you can, but include enough to support each claim you make.

For a good audio over view of resume writing (except that he still uses Objectives instead of Value Statements), visit The Job Stalker - PodClass III - Resumes.

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