Dear Ask Alexis,
I send my resume out a lot but I do not get too many responses. I get mixed advice from different people. Some say do not go back over seven years on your resume, and others say include all of your experience. When I add all of my experience it makes me appear as if I am unstable or unreliable, because of the amount of jobs I have had In the past couple of years.
I would really appreciate some feedback on what I need to work on as far a producing a better resume.
The Resume Runaround
Dear Resume Runaround,
Most of the time, the sheer amount of information that we have access to thanks to modern technology is a beautiful thing. However, in certain situations, it can lead to some confusion. And unfortunately for all of the job seekers and resume updaters out there, this is one of those times. Ugh.
So, when you Google "What should I include on my resume?" you're likely to come up with search results that include some combination of the following:
- Include your undergraduate education.
- Don't include your education if you're more than five years out of college.
- Include employment dates.
- Don't include employment dates.
- An objective section is a must.
- An objective section is a resume killer.
You get the point.
So, I can understand why you are a bit confused. And let me be clear, in many ways, there is absolutely no best practice and it's all a matter of what the preference is of the hiring organization or the hiring manager. Even so, there are a few hard and fast rules you should live by when drafting a resume. Below, I've listed some of our most helpful posts on the topic of resume formatting and development, along with a key takeaway from each one.
Career experts often advise leaving out any jobs dating back more than 10 or 15 years ago. This way you can present a career trajectory with few, if any, gaps in employment and avoid stressing about dates.
But there are exceptions. If a job calls for 20 years’ work experience in a certain field, for instance, why not flaunt it if you have it? In this case the years of your past jobs will establish you as a longstanding field expert.
The keys to a good font choice are simple:
- The font shouldn’t draw attention to itself—the reader shouldn’t be aware of the font while they’re reading. Any fancy but distracting options are off limits.
- The font should be easy to read, skim, or scan onscreen and in print. Letters should leave enough white space on the page for the reader to easily see the content.
Fonts come in two types: serif and sans serif. Typographers and professional recruiters have favorite fonts in both styles.
Your resume is a marketing tool: Everything you put on there should support the message you’re trying to get across and the story you’re trying to tell. If something doesn’t support your message—or worse, undermines it—it doesn’t belong on your resume.
For example, if you were a summer camp counselor four years ago and now you’re applying for a job in web design or something else completely unrelated, you can omit the counselor job from your resume. That will leave you with more space to focus on relevant skills and experience that will impress your potential employer.
Instead of listing experience chronologically, consider using a functional resume format to hone in on the specific narrative that’s best suited to the position you’re pursuing.
A functional resume is organized by theme and highlights skills over tasks and responsibilities. This could be the format for you if you’re making a career switch or have employment gaps on your resume.
As the Associate Director of Editorial and Career Content at Idealist and a lifelong nonprofit professional, Alexis offers job seekers, game changers, and do gooders actionable tips, career resources, and social-impact advice.