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Last week, I posted some general comments on developing a good resume, and its importance in defining one’s career brand. Today, I want to provide some specific suggestions.

There are a ton of so-called resume experts or resume doctors peddling their services. Some are good and some are worse than terrible. Everyone has an opinion on this subject so take what you read or hear with a grain or two of salt. These are my thoughts.

Use of templates

As a rule, candidates should avoid using templates that come loaded with the computer. Most of these tend to be dated or are inappropriate for a senior level executive. Most professional associations have career centers with on-line resume tools. There are a number of relatively inexpensive software programs for resume creation for those who are not part of an organization that offers this type of career support.

Formatting the resume

Rule number one: make it easy to read! White space is good. Judicious use of boldface and italicized type can help make the document more readable. The operative word is judicious.

In selecting a typeface, be cautious. This document was created using Verdana. The font size for this guide is 10 point because that is the default of this particular blog format. If you prefer a more traditional appearance, Times New Roman and Georgia are two excellent choices for traditional fonts. It is important to note, however, that Times New Roman is more difficult to read when using the 10-point size that many candidates select in order to squeeze their career into two pages. After you have read 30 resumes, the smaller the type, the bigger the chance that the researcher who is screening the document will miss something of importance.

Candidates should never use script or any of the stylized typefaces. Frankly, those typefaces scream, “Do not take me seriously!”

Length of Resume

There are no hard and fast rules for the length of the resume other than it should be proportional to your years of experience and accomplishments. Far too many candidates find themselves eliminated from consideration because they submitted a resume that did not provide sufficient information concerning experience or accomplishments. Remember, the resume is your first interview.

Use of Key Words

Some larger companies and recruiting agencies use computer screening tools for staff and entry level management jobs. That is why some resume experts recommend the use of keywords. However, resumes for executive positions typically are personally reviewed by a researcher or recruiter. Loading your resume with “keywords” in an attempt to grab the attention of a software screening program diminishes the brand of a seasoned executive.

Use of Career Objective Statement

I advise against including an “Objective” description at the top of the resume. Recruiter Larry Tyler once said that objectives are either too general to serve any useful purpose or too specific and will lead to elimination from further consideration.

Career Summary

I am not opposed to the use of the career summary. However, there is reasonable debate on both sides of this issue. I come down in favor of the summary if the summary provides an accurate and relevant description of a candidate’s experience and career progression. In other words, the summary is beneficial if it helps the recruiter quickly gain a sense of the candidate’s experience and accomplishments.

Contact Information

Candidate identification information – name with professional credentials, address, telephone number and email address – also known as the stack, should be constructed in a simple format. Candidates who attempt to be creative in hopes of attracting attention should remember that formatting which might elicit a negative impression is not worth the effort. Less is more.

John G. Self
325 North St. Paul, Suite 3910
Dallas, Texas 75201
(214) 220-1234 (o)
(214) 577-5540 (c)

Education and Credentials

Unless you are a new graduate, education credentials should be listed at the end of the resume. A master’s degree is NOT a professional credential and should not be used after the name. Only doctoral degrees should be used after the candidate’s name.

Fellowship in a professional organization like the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) or Healthcare Finance Management Association (FHFMA), or certification as a public accountant, or clinical qualification such as RN, for example, should be placed after the name.


Again, make it easy for the recruiter and/or employer. I prefer a listing format that includes the organization, title and a brief italicized description of the business and scope of responsibility. It is important to include key metrics.

Clarity is very important. If you held more than one title (job) with a company, you should list the tenure with that company and then separately list each job with the dates you held that position. Listing multiple positions in one company – versus individually accounting for each job separately – will help avoid the appearance of job hopping.

Dot Pointing Accomplishments

One of the most common resume mistakes is to mix scope of responsibility with achievements in the dot points.

While candidates should list their jobs chronologically – from most recent to the first employment – a candidate’s accomplishments for each position should follow an old journalistic rule — inverted pyramid. A candidate should always list their most significant accomplishment for each position first, not chronologically.

John G. Self, Chairman and Founder of JohnMarch Partners, is the Firm’s senior client advisor. A 32-year veteran of the healthcare industry, he is a former investigative reporter and crime writer for a major daily newspaper. Candidates and clients say he is one of the most thorough executive recruiters working in the healthcare industry.