Q & A Archives

Q & A Archives

Question and Answer Archives

Should my resume contain an objective statement?

Human Resource professionals and recruiters vary widely in their preferences with regard to inclusion of an objective statement. Some HR managers say they do like to see an objective statement because it makes matching your resume with available positions an easier task. Many recruiters prefer that this element is not included, since it restricts the potential positions for which they can submit your credentials. This potential for restricting your options is the reason that I believe it is disadvantageous in many cases for you to include this element in your resume.

Say, for example, you are a high caliber financial professional. Your experience and education may qualify you for any number of positions at different levels depending upon the size of the company. With a smaller or start-up company, you may be ideally suited for a CFO or VP Finance position, whereas at a Fortune 500 company, a Controller position at division level might be a realistic target. Stating your objective as “Controller” or “CFO” might cause your resume to be passed over in some instances when in reality the position would have been an excellent match!

Alternatively, there are situations where stating an objective is appropriate. This would be the case if you have a very specific target in mind, this target would be the same regardless of company size, and you would not consider any other opportunities under any circumstances.

The critical element here is that, objective or no objective, the reader has a clear idea within 10 to 20 seconds of the types and levels of positions for which your qualifications are a potential match. Do not include an objective specifying a position title unless you really would not consider any other opportunities. Avoid self-serving, uselessly broad objectives such as “A position offering opportunity for advancement and greater earning potential.” If included, always couch your objective in terms which reflect the employer’s perspective; for example, “A challenging sales management position offering the opportunity to drive growth through increased market share and account penetration.” And remember that you can always customize your cover letter to state an objective specific to the target company’s needs.

For more detailed information regarding strategies for writing your executive resume, see How to Write a Dynamite Executive Resume – With Samples. You can also view samples of executive resumes, executive bios, and cover letters here: Executive Resume Samples.

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Should I include a degree I will be commencing in the Fall on my resume ?

Certainly anything that will contribute to your qualifications for your target position should be included in your resume. However, it is important to take care that anything stated in the resume is completely true and will stand up to scrutiny now or in future.

I would recommend listing information about the degree in your Education section, with clear indication that you are enrolled in a program, where, and what the expected completion date is. This shows that you are actively pursuing professional development while maintaining the truthfulness that is absolutely essential in your resume.

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Should an executive resume include a photo ?

As a general rule, it is not customary in the U.S. to include pictures on resumes. However, in places such as Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Far East, and some Latin and South American countries, the practice is quite common and in some cases mandatory.

With the exception of industries where personal appearance is a legitimate qualification, including modeling and acting, for example, I would advise against adding a picture to a resume that is to be used within the U.S. Most likely, the picture will be ignored and discarded (this is official HR policy in many companies, and should really be so in all companies based on U.S. anti-discrimination legislation). At worst, your entire resume will be discarded as part of a general corporate policy that resumes including possibly discrimination-inducing information (such as picture, age, marital status, race, etc.) are automatically discarded.

Even in those cases where the picture (or the whole resume) is not immediately discarded, think of the possible outcomes. A reviewer or hiring executive at any point as the resume is passed along is:

1) Wowed by your personal appearance and eager to get you in for an interview.

2) Unimpressed or for one reason or another does not like your appearance, and in a borderline case, this is enough to make him or her discard the resume.

3) Driven to discriminate based on personal or organizational prejudices regarding gender, ethnicity, or age.

4) Repelled due to their personal preferences: too thin, too fat, out of shape, different fashion sense, not good looking enough.

5) Threatened based on their insecurities: too “buff,” muscular, or good looking (a threat to their self esteem).

You can see that odds are that a picture is going to hurt rather than help you.

Consider this comment made by a hiring authority on an employment law resource center’s message board, where the issue was under discussion:

“Fortunately, very few people are foolish enough to include their pictures on their resume, although when one pops up, it always makes me wonder what the candidate is ‘up to’ (same goes if they include personal data such as age, marital status, religion, etc.).

I don’t know if I’m supposed to be bowled over by their good looks, winning smile, or the fact that they happen to be Caucasian or whatever. Interestingly, I’ve never seen a photo on a resume from a female candidate – only males and almost always white males.

In truth, I don’t think I’ve ever put a resume with a photo included into the ‘let’s interview’ pile.”

Enough said.

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Which is better: a functional or chronological resume?

This is one of the most contentious topics regarding resume preparation (second only to the “How many pages?” question). Functional and chronological presentations each carry both advantages and disadvantages, and each style is suitable in different situations. Several things are clear on this issue:

  • Executive Recruiters and Human Resource professionals generally do not like functional resumes.
  • Chronological resumes are the most commonly used and generally accepted style.
  • Functional resumes tend to raise a red flag: This individual may be trying to hide career gaps, age, or job hopping.

A chronological resume highlights progressive advancement in responsibility, provides a clear picture of employment history, and enables you to tie your responsibilities and accomplishments together in a logical fashion that makes hiring authorities most comfortable.

A functional resume allows you to highlight major accomplishments up front regardless of where in your work history they occurred, categorizes accomplishments from different positions, and eliminates repetitiveness in a work history consisting of very similar positions. It also permits de-emphasizing current or recent positions not related to your career objective, frequent job changes or gaps, or apparent demotions in responsibility. These last characteristics of the functional resume are, of course, the very reason that employers and recruiters generally do not like them!

Generally I recommend preparing a chronological resume unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise. If a functional format is used, you will want to be certain to include a brief employment chronology after your functional presentation of experience and accomplishments. There is another option which allows you to have the best of both worlds: the combination or hybrid style resume. In this style, you create a powerful profile or overview section which states up front your skills, knowledge, and capabilities. You then back up those statements with a work history providing specific examples of when, where, and how you have applied these skills, knowledge, and capabilities to benefit your employers.

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What about personal information? Should I include marital status, health, hobbies, and personal interests on my resume?

Personal information such as marital status, health, number of children, and birth date are potential discriminators for which an employer can face severe consequences under the law. For this reason, it is better not to include this information in resumes intended for use in the U.S. market. If you are seeking an overseas position, inclusion of some of this information is in some cases appropriate. If you are of foreign origin, you will want to include your status as U.S. Citizen, Permanent Resident, or Green Card holder, so potential employers will be assured of your eligibility for hire.

Hobbies and interests are generally not included unless they are considered unusual enough to spark the reader’s interest and serve as an ice breaker, indicate an exceptional level of accomplishment or skill (e.g., Olympic medalist, marathon winner), or are particularly relevant to your target position (e.g., avid amateur golfer applying for position as manager of a country club).

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How long should my resume be? I’ve heard it should never be longer than one page.

Your resume should be as long as necessary to adequately portray your qualifications and experience. It’s as simple as that! If this task can be accomplished in one page, you are probably not an executive or senior manager! If it takes two pages, that’s fine. And if you have advanced to a very senior level or are in a highly technical or scientific field, academia or medicine, three or even four pages may be appropriate.

Two caveats to keep in mind are:

  • Remember that your resume is not intended to present a detailed accounting of your entire life story and of each and every task you have ever performed for your employers. It is a marketing document which summarizes and highlights your experience, qualifications, and accomplishments in answer to the employer’s question: “What’s in it for me if I hire this person?” As an advertisement, it touts features and benefits. So do not include information which is irrelevant, boring, excessively repetitive, or damaging to your ability to close the sale!
  • The critical factor is to make absolutely certain that your reader’s interest is piqued within the first half of the first page. If you’ve sparked their interest, they will be hungry for more and will continue to read whatever you have provided (within reason). If you have not succeeded in capturing their attention, one page or ten will make no difference in the ultimate outcome.

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What is the proper length for a Latin American resume?

Typically a resume in Latin America (including Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America) is 2 to 3 pages in length, and cover letters are held to 1 page.

Although Spanish is spoken in most Latin American countries excepting Brazil (where the primary language is Portuguese), the majority of employment opportunities for expatriates (people from outside the country) tend to be either subsidiaries of international corporations or large domestic public companies. For this audience, English as the international business language is generally used, but you may also need to supply a copy of your resume in Spanish or Portuguese.

As is the case in other countries, the resume (or “CV” as it is called here) must be a marketing tool for your capabilities rather than a detailed autobiography. Present your work experience in reverse chronological order and include full education information. It is also advised to include information on the languages you speak and your availability for travel or relocation.

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How do I best frame or explain an absence of several years from the work force due to illness?

There are no easy or one-size-fits-all answers in a situation such as this. However, it is usually advantageous to create a resume that leans towards a “functional” format and de-emphasizes dates, so that your reader will see your valued experiences and capabilities and not immediately focus on the gap in employment.

With a gap of this length, you may want to provide an entry indicating unpaid/volunteer work, academic pursuits, travel, or personal fulfillment activities during this time period. Or you may also simply state in either the cover letter or resume that you were absent from the work force due to a health condition (no details needed). Indicate that you are fully recovered and released for work, and you are enthusiastically seeking employment.
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