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Candidate Help & Advice

How to Upgrade Your Resume, Part 5

Resume photo from ShutterstockWould you like a resume that helps you advance your career by appealing to recruiters and hiring managers? As an executive career coach who sees hundreds and writes many resumes each month, I can tell you that less than 90% of the resumes out there are ineffective. Could yours be part of the 90%? In this series of posts, I want to help ensure you to have a top 10% resume that is optimized for HUMAN readers.

In Part 1, we reviewed the importance of your resume passing the “15-Second Skim Test” and examined ideas to help you avoid being instantly rejected by recruiters and others. In Part 2, we began the process of walking through the typical professional or executive resume from top to bottom and discussed the first page header and (optional) objective. In Part 3, we discussed various information groupings that people locate in advance of their work history, such as those labeled Summary, Objective, Profile, or Qualifications. In Part 4, we considered improvements for your reverse chronological work history.

In this, Part 5, let’s look at the section that concludes most professional and executive resumes… the one that identifies your educational accomplishments (and possibly some additional related information).

The Education Section of Your Resume

Let’s start by considering where the education section should be located within your resume. If you have a college degree and little or no paid work experience, it is customary to place your educational information near the beginning of your resume because your education is your most notable qualification. For most others, though, this section will be found following the work history because the work history accomplishments tend to be more important than your academics.

Within the education section, start with your most recent higher education degree and work backwards to your oldest one. Omit your high school education unless you have no higher education degree. There are many ways to organize each entry. Here is a suggestion:

  • M.B.A. (Finance)            Bob’s University           Podunk, Arkansas     2006

Possible Additions to Your Resume’s Education Section

After listing your higher education degrees, you may want to consider including additional formal or informal education you have completed… especially if it is related to the types of jobs you desire. Here are two examples of such entries, the first being a formal higher education program and the second being a corporate in-house training program:

  • Executive Leadership Seminar (1 week)     Emory University     Atlanta, GA     2009
  • IBM Leadership Program (4 weeks)     IBM Learning Center     Westchester, NY     2011

Additional education-related information such as licenses and certifications can be added when reasonable, either in this section or within another section that is appropriately titled:

  • C.P.A. License (active)     State of Georgia     2002 – Present
  • Series 6 Securities License (active)     FINRA     2005 – Present
  • CMC – Certified Management Consultant     Institute of Mgmt. Consultants     2008 – Present

If you have read this and the previous four installments of this series and applied my suggestions, you should have a resume that is markedly better than your competitor’s. But, before you stop, here are a few final considerations:

  • Run a spell checker and verify there are no misspellings. One notable misspelled word can hurt you!
  • Read your entire resume from top to bottom, very slowly, looking for grammatical errors or incorrect use of words that are spelled correctly.
  • Examine the formatting consistency of your overall documents… page margins, indentations, line spacing, font sizes, capitalization, bolding, underlining, italics, bullets, etc. Readers spot these errors and they are detraction.
  • Lastly, stand back from the page and look at the overall esthetics. Is the smallest font large enough to be easily read? Does the page look well organized? Is there enough white space to make it look inviting rather dense and intimidating? Are YOU happy with the way it looks?

At this point, your resume should be of higher quality than 90% of your job competitors. Readers will appreciate the finished product you provide them and you will have a higher chance of gaining their attention. For additional tips, check out Chapter 6 in my job search book Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!).