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Tandem Powered offers a full suite of Professional Resume Writing, Career Development, and HR / Business Consulting services.


Tandem Powered's blog is dedicated to empowering readers by highlighting best practices in the arena of resume writing, career development, and organizational effectiveness, as well as by providing readers with an insider's view of the corporate hiring process.


Kent Nolen

I think that we can all agree that an outstanding resume matters, as I get into here. I get a lot of questions - such as this one here - that reference resume feedback. The following is representative of a common type of e-mail that I get:

...I have been out of work for over three months and have received no responses to all of the resumes I have sent out.  I finally had a friend who is a director with a company look at it. He said it is not very good.  That's why I am contacting you....

For starters...  That may very well be true - the resume is probably not very effective - but not for the reason you may be thinking. Let me explain. I believe that it's likely a bad resume simply because most resumes are ineffective.  My opinion has nothing to do with what the director (or anyone) said about the resume. As I've said in previous posts, it seems that everyone has a strong opinion about resumes. With no gold standard, job candidates are usually left to give it their best shot in determining what will and will not work when it comes to putting together a resume.

When people have been job searching, particularly when it's not going well, they tend to hit the panic button and often start paying the wrong kind of attention to opinions. It becomes a vicious cycle - like a dog chasing its tail.

People are often surprised when I share this; they expect that there is some sort of cookie cutter, black and white answer regarding what makes a good resume. The bottom line is this: There is no ONE resume type that is "best."

The problem is that too many people are swayed by the opinions of others. Now, that doesn't mean that opinions don't matter, and it certainly doesn't mean that some opinions aren't more valid than others. It simply means that the opinions that most people have concerning resumes are largely subjective. More specifically - for example - one "director" might tell you he likes one kind of resume, while another "director" may tell you she likes something completely different.

The truth is that no single style works perfectly.  However, there are certain resume standards that tend to work more effectively than their alternatives.  These are things that most people don't know about even if they are "important people" in the world of work. For instance:

  • Certain fonts screen more effectively with humans and computers.
  • The optimal placement and presentation of keywords makes a difference.
  • Certain approaches (functional, chronological, hybrid) work well for particular industries and disciplines.

Beyond these standards (and some others), though, a well composed resume can take a number of different forms.  Although It's most important to follow the appropriate standards for your situation, it's also important that adherence to those standards is backed up by content and a format that makes sense - one where all of the elements maximize each other.

My resume work focuses first and foremost on those conventions, not opinions, that work. This includes those things that I've learned not only as a resume writer but also from my work on the other side of the table as an HR and business professional. Beyond that, though, my resume writing hones in on other concrete, key dimensions that make them as effective as possible. All of my work is backed up by a highly individualized approach that fosters the inclusion of incredible content and style.

Something worth repeating... People in general have a variety of personal opinions regarding resumes. Constructive criticism is always great.  Remain open-minded when someone points out things such as potential errors or lines that don't sound quite right.  That kind of feedback keeps you in a frame of mind where you are always looking to fine-tune your resume.  Be wary, though, of feedback that offers no value or is merely an opinion.

If you don't filter opinions, you become the dog chasing its tail.