Notes of a resume writer


Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with a graduate degree in Marketing and Communication, and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume writing and interview coaching firm. For more information, call 1-888-9-LADYBUG or visit

Communicate with brevity, value, and finesse

Dear Sam: I recently graduated with a Master's degree in Library and Information Science. I am heavily applying to a wide variety of jobs, and try to adapt my resume to each position; however, I feel as though I am not giving enough detail. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts! – Angela

Dear Angela: Thank you for sending your resume so I could effectively diagnose the issues. From looking at your resume, I can confirm your fear that you are indeed being too brief with the explanation of your experience. Let me go, section by section, and highlight opportunities for improvement.

Nix the objective statement and replace with value-added content
First, you must develop a compelling qualifications summary showcasing the value you have to offer a prospective employer. Think about this section as the way you will get your foot in the door—as this is often the case with an ever-so-brief 4- to 7-second screening process—and take this opportunity to present evidence as to why you are more qualified or skilled than your competitors. Currently, and as is the case with most objective statements, the most important real estate on your resume is not communicating anything other than what you want. In my entire 10-year career writing resumes, objective statements have never been part of a best practices-based resume; therefore, in 2012 your resume should absolutely not be opening with such a section.

You need to present content to convey value in your experience
As you suggested, you have been so brief in the explanations of your experiences that there is little value a hiring manager could glean from your presentation. If attempting to differentiate from your competitors; imagine that a considerable percentage of your competitors, especially in a field as specialized as library science, will come to the table with similar credentials—likely an MLS degree and some related practicums or internships. If this is the case, then stating the basics or obvious aspects of your experience will do little to nothing to differentiate your candidacy.

You currently explain your three library roles—from 2009 to present—in fewer than 45 words, which not only doesn't allow for you to disseminate key factors of each role, but also puts you at a major deficit should your resume be screened by a computer system searching for keywords. You need to add value to this section, incorporate full explanations of your responsibilities, and highlight key contributions or differentiating factors, all the while keeping in mind you are answering the question, "Why should I bring in Angela for an interview over her competitors?" Go through your resume, bullet point by bullet point, and think about your statements more fully. What does a statement like "marketing development" really tell a prospective employer? I would argue that such a brief statement actually communicates very little without additional context of your role and impact in that arena. The hope on your resume is to answer questions before they arise; in essence, providing a hiring manager with a document that doesn't evoke unanswered questions that are potentially disqualifying, but rather piques interest in your candidacy by providing enough content for the reviewer to determine you have value to offer their organization.

You may not be a designer, but a compelling page layout critical to success
While some would argue that resume format takes second seat to content, I would often argue, especially in the entry-level situation in which you find yourself, that the design and layout of your resume are critical to your resume's success. In your case, you will be vying for limited positions amid a crowded field of similarly qualified candidates. When this is the environment, you must do all you can to get noticed; that means constructing a well-crafted and well-written resume packaged in an aesthetically pleasing, compelling format. I urge you to take the time to reformat your resume to become more engaging, eliminating the overused template you have used for a more unique presentation of your candidacy. Take a look at a library science resume I completed for a client (also available online at, noticing attention to detail when it came to content and format.

The great news is that you have not had a tool to effectively open doors. Your qualifications are solid, your experience is on target, and once you revise the approach you are taking to presenting your candidacy, I am certain you will begin to yield responses. Best to you.

Would you like ‘Dear Sam' to critique your resume? For a critique, send resume to her.

Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).