By Cathleen Ash
(as published in the EBWIBR section of the Oakland Business Review Dec/Jan 2003)
Hippocrates comments to physicians, in his writing “Of the Epidemics” in 400 B.C., can easily be applied to resumé writing: do no harm. His quote originally referenced physicians and disease: ”Do no harm.” But, I’ve modified it a little to reflect our purpose – how to write a resumé.
“The writer must be able to tell the antecedents, know the present, and foretell the future – must mediate these things, and have two special objects in view with regard to the résumé, namely, to do good or to do no harm.”
While Hippocrates focuses on the past, present and future, there are (additionally), three items to keep in mind when considering your resumé.
First, it is not a static document. It is a living synopsis of you – of what you’ve accomplished and learned, what you’ve excelled at completing. Not only does your “past” change daily, but your focus on different aspects of your past changes, too. Always consider how important each aspect of your past is to a prospective employer, and what services you can provide a prospective employer.
Second, your resumé is a service. It is a service to a prospective employer or client and should be prepared much as you prepare any service: with thoughts to the needs of the client. If you are applying for a task that is skill-heavy, put your skills up front. The reader will appreciate not having to hunt for them. If education qualifications are crucial to the job you seek, put those first. Speaking of what happens first, again, I remind you, consider the reader of your resumé when listing your experiences. They want to see your experiences in reverse chronological order, placing the most recent (or sometimes most relevant) positions first.
Third, relevance is critical and will help you decide what to keep in and what to leave out of your resumé. There is a school of thought that your resumé should be no longer than a page, and in most industries, this thought still holds true. However, when I worked at Harvard, the average Curriculum Vitae was five pages long, and needed to be in that industry. You must consider the purpose of the resumé, the industry in which you will apply, and the reader. Find the specific industry standard and make sure you follow it; your reader will appreciate it.
Let’s face it, much as the resumé is about you, its purpose is solely for the reader. Make the reader of your resumé comfortable. Find out what he or she needs to know and make sure that information is readily apparent. Aesthetic use of bold, italics, underlines and bullets is a plus, except in the online application world, when it can be a curse. Plain text or ASCII text is often requested and preferred. At the same time, I am not advocating that you shouldn’t BE bold, not just in your resumé, but in the way you pursue your career. In seeking positions or considering acceptance of them, whether short or long term, low or high pay, prestigious or not, consider: will it hurt my resumé to have this added experience? Learning is a constant, dynamic, integral part of every daily experience. Live your life consciously and consider Hippocrates when presenting it in resumé form, consider your past, your present, your hopes for the future. Do good, or at least, do no harm.
Recommended resumé sites:
Cathy Ash is a Software Project Manager and Marketing Agent currently contracting in the computer and educational communities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also teaches for the University of Phoenix and serves on the OMCC Ambassador Committee. She is currently on the EBWIBR Steering Committee and co-chair of the Publicity Committee.