The Anatomy of the Modern Resume

Modern_ResumeA resume, as well all know, is a key part of your job search arsenal.

As such, you have to know the requirements of today’s resumes. The strategy, positioning, formatting and writing styles are continually evolving – and have significantly changed over the last several years.

The traditional resume most of us are familiar with is ancient history – even though many career centers and professors still promote the old format. For example, objective statements are extinct and normal job descriptions won’t cut it in today’s job search. God forbid you just pull a cookie cutter template from the internet, fill in the blanks, and send it out!

Today’s resumes, those that get their authors interviews, may have all the following anatomy:

  • A strong format
  • A headline
  • A strong summary of skills
  • A list of core competencies
  • Your professional experience
  • Your education
  • Volunteer assignments
  • Affiliations, training and certifications

And that’s just the basics!

Let’s take a look at some of the elements that make up the modern resume:

What’s a Headline? And a Summary? Of What?

The headline should be the first text after your name, address, phone number, and email address. This line of text should be a concise description of what you can offer the company or a snapshot of your achievements related to the position (the headline can be modified for each position). An example: “Highly accomplished professional, recognized for driving profitable sales growth throughout multiple business units.”

Your summary, which immediately follows the headline, should be five to eight shorter sentences which briefly describe your key strengths, abilities, and skills.

The summary should typically be followed up by a core competency list in bullet form. Each bullet should describe a skill (i.e.: Strong Relationship Building Skills).

What Are Keywords and Where Do They Go?

Employers are using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), better known to job seekers as ‘keyword’ or ‘buzzword’ scanners. When these systems are used, your resume will first go through the ATS to scan for keywords. If your resume does not have these keywords, it will not be seen. Due to the number of people applying for each job, employers use these systems to weed out candidates.

This system is the gatekeeper.

You will not know the keywords in advance, but common keywords are achievement-based words (implemented, maximized, developed, created, streamlined, etc.) and words related to your job field. Most job postings have keywords right in them – if you have those skills, make it known.

Make sure you integrate the keywords into the resume (within job descriptions, the summary, and your core competency list).  Properly place your keywords so that your resume reads and flows naturally.

Avoid using first or third person references within your resume. Using the words “I”, “me”, “my”, “we”, etc., or referring to yourself in the third person will have a negative impact on your resume (and your job search). Instead, use self-describing adjectives for your summary and use descriptive and achievement-based words when describing your positions.

But My Resume Has to Be One Page!

No, your resume does not have to be limited to one page. The “a resume has to be one page” story is a fictional account of reality. Don’t get me wrong – many people will have a one page resume, but your resume is not limited to just a single sheet of paper. If you have a strong work history and achievements, a two page resume will almost always be more effective.

Leaving duties, achievements, and skills out that are pertinent to your career field and your individual background will be detrimental to your job hunt. Don’t undermine your talents by limiting yourself to only one page. In most cases, I don’t recommend going over two pages, but two pages are enough for most people.

You have something unique to offer a company, but if you don’t show it, how do you expect them to know? Present yourself in the most honest and compelling way possible and show the value that you can bring to their company.

Remember, you only have a few seconds to make an impression.

Landing a job is 70% presentation and 30% skills and abilities – if you don’t present yourself properly, those skills and abilities mean nothing because they won’t be seen. If you are having trouble… if resume anatomy isn’t your strong suit… consult a professional.

Don’t be discouraged by the economic news and don’t get impatient when your phone isn’t ringing after the first resume you send – this is a common occurrence.

Dedicate yourself to your job search… and you will find the job you need and deserve.


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About the Author: Marissa Letendre is the owner of Resumes by Marissa. She is a professional resume writer and job search strategist, as well as a former Human Resources Manager.

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