Rate my résumé

We had hiring managers and HR professionals look at six résumés. Here are their critiques.
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The applicants

college graduate

College graduate

  • Age: Early 20s
  • Wants: Her first job.
Technology professional

Technology professional

  • Age: Mid-50s
  • Wants: To find a way to compete with younger job searchers.
Financial services

Financial services

  • Age: Early 30s
  • Wants: To make his resume better show his knowledge and experience.
Biotech professional

Biotech professional

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: To change companies after 18 years at present one.
legal secretary

Legal secretary

  • Age: Mid-40s
  • Wants: To change industries, from legal to biotech. Looking for a career rather than a job.
social sector

Social sector

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: A job in public or nonprofit industry.

The experts


Maureen Crawford Hentz is a manager of talent acquisition, development and compliance for Osram Sylvania Inc., a lighting manufacturer. She is a nationally recognized expert on social networking and new media recruiting. With more than 15 years of experience, her interests include diversity recruiting, college student recruiting, disabilities in the workplace, business etiquette, and GLBT issues.


Jayne Mattson is senior vice president of client services for Keystone Associates, a career management company. She has extensive experience working in the corporate and private sectors of business; partnering with mid- to senior-level clients to support them in career transitions.


Bob Eubank is the executive director of the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA). He joined NEHRA in 2007 and his background blends human resources with general business management, legal, information systems, operations and strategic planning.
Legal secretary
College graduate
social sector

Social sector

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: An administrator/director position in a public or nonprofit industry. His current résumé has only gotten a few responses in over three months. Wants to know if he's overqualified, or if his résumé is dated.
See the résumé

11. Does the person provide enough information about their past or not enough? What should they have left out or included in their résumé?

Mattson: He should remove his earlier experience perhaps starting with the proprietor's job from 1987-1990.

Eubank: I think in general enough information is provided as to the description of each job. As mentioned, I think the résumé would be much more effective if there were examples of accomplishments associated with each position.

12. What is the résumés greatest flaw?

Mattson:The greatest flaw is the difficulty in seeing the candidate's accomplishments. Eliminate words that add no value; show success in each line.

Eubank: The lack of objectives and the failure to show accomplishments. I really want to know why this person is seeking another position and what he is looking for.

13. What is the best feature of the résumé?

Mattson: The competencies are the best feature, however be careful with listing a sense of humor or integrity as key competencies — they are values, which are more easily spoken to on your references or in person.

Eubank: Probably the format and the readability. Education is a big plus too.

14. Does the person successfully sell themselves? What did they fail to do?

Mattson: This candidate needs to highlight more of the accomplishments with results that show the value he added to the role. He should also focus the résumé toward the type of roles he is targeting and make sure the right language is used to attract attention.

Eubank: See question 13.

Additional comments

Crawford Hentz: Competency section (or professional summary) should be three short, demonstrable hard skills:

Financial acumen in nonprofit and public settings

Experience working with multiple constituencies

Demonstrated project and program management ability

Having worked in a major public nonprofit in Boston for a number of years, I’ve seen lots of nonprofit résumés. One of the important things to remember is that directors at nonprofits have primary responsibility for fundraising and I don’t see a lot of fundraising experience here (some grants experience administration experience from NCLB yes, but not heavy-duty fundraising). Perhaps serving on some nonprofit boards in fundraising capacities would help round out his experience in this regard.

I would recommend that this candidate focus the search on director of operations positions, which would capitalize upon his financial and finance experience. Scope is going to play an important role as well. By quantifying the budget numbers in the positions without them, recruiters will be better able to understand what a next step would be.

Hands down, the best place to look for nonprofit jobs is idealist.org. They have been around for a number of years, have an extremely robust job site and the candidate can use automatic job update feature. When I was working in nonprofits, this was often the only place I would post.

Also, once last piece of advice: Don’t wait to set your wedding date! You can’t put your life on hold for the job search.

Mattson: Make sure your résumé is meeting the needs of the hiring manager. You don't need to create a new résumé each time you answer an ad, but it should speak to the nature of the position you seek. I would recommend changing each cover letter to specifically address the needs of the prospective employer.

I looked at the additional information about the candidate after reviewing the résumé and I am not getting the sense he is using networking as his main method of finding a job. Job seekers who apply only to advertised positions have a success rate of about 10 to 15 percent. While candidates who use networking to uncover that hidden job market find that their rate of success increases to 70 or 80 percent. For additional information on networking, you could attend a workshop at one of the state's career centers to really understand how this process works. You might be experiencing age discrimination, but by making some tweaks to your résumé you can minimize it and the updated format should help in getting lots of interviews.

Good luck!

Eubank: Best of luck on your job search. You sound like an interesting person with an interesting life/career path.

I think that you are having difficulty because your background can be construed several different ways. You should tailor your résumé and cover letter to specific opportunities. This is a lot more work, but will pay off in the end. Secondly, I think in your case especially you need a statement of objectives. You say that you are actively looking for an "administrator/director position in the public/nonprofit sector" but your résumé does not say that. As I said above, you also need to show more accomplishments in each position. You are just telling the reader what the job was, not why you did it superbly.

Your cover letter can tell a great story, i.e., you have all of this wonderful experience and you have determined that your next move to this situation is the culmination of it all. In the right settings, you are therefore not over qualified, and it is completely understandable why you would look for something under $100K. Money is less important to you than the value of what you do. (You'd also take something more than $100K !!)

While there is age discrimination, at 50 you are in your prime!!! DO NOT think otherwise or even let yourself fall into the trap of presuming that you are going to be ruled out of situations because of your age. What you need to show is energy and ability and excellence. The purpose of your résumé is to get you an interview. When you interview, impress them with your energy and no one will even think about your age.

With senior level positions it takes longer. This is just a fact. Don't be discouraged (easier said than done I know) and work just as hard as you can on your job search. I mean eight hour days every day. Keep a positive attitude and believe that your best days are ahead of you — especially with your new fiancée.

More résumés:

Legal secretary
College graduate

The applicants

We took résumés from six different people looking for jobs and asked professionals to give us their opinion. See what they had to say.

College graduate

College graduate

  • Age: Early 20s
  • Wants: Her first job.
  • Biotech professional

    Biotech professional

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: To change companies after 18 years at present one.
  • Technology professional

    Technology professional

  • Age: Mid-50s
  • Wants: To find a way to compete with younger job searchers.
  • Legal secretary

    Legal secretary

  • Age: Mid-40s
  • Wants: To change industries, from legal to biotech. Looking for a career rather than a job.
  • Financial services

    Financial services

  • Age: Early 30s
  • Wants: To make his resume better show his knowledge and experience.
  • Social sector

    Social sector

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: A job in public or nonprofit industry.