Resume Writing

by Bob
(New York)

Over the years I have been a sole owner/operator of 3 small businesses. They were all start up businesses and were very successful for 20 yrs.(multi million dollar business each) I decided to sell all of them and took on a management position with a student loan collection company as a unit collection manager. I was the only manager that was hired outside of the business and put right into a unit manager's position. I was there for 18 months and was displaced by their downsizing. I have to be truthful, I couldn't stand the work or position.

My question: My last place of employment would be collections, and my references would need to come from there. Which would be fine. But I have a proven background in start up businesses, management, sales and everything that goes with business ownership. All of this out weighs the 18 months in collections.

It seems like everyone looks at the last position held, and doesn't move on to the other work history.

I feel that many companies do not want a person with a strong business ownership background, for those in the position of hiring manager, do not have the understanding of this strong business background, and feel that you would be too independent and would not be a good candidate for taking directions from other levels of management.

I need some input on how to structure a resume that will make my business ownership be a asset to any large corporation, it needs to get past that HR person that doesn't understand what it takes to produce a successful business employee.

Lisa's Response to "Resume Writing"

Bob, I'll outline my suggestions for structuring your resume here, but because my space is limited, I'll also provide links to additional information in order to give you a thorough answer.

Based on the information you've provided, it appears that you have two concerns that you need to address when writing your resume:
  1. You want to highlight skills and accomplishments from work experience that you gained prior to your most recent job.
  2. You need to minimize false assumptions hiring managers can make about people who have been self employed and are now searching for a traditional job.

The best resume format for bringing forth accomplishments from previous experience and for highlighting accomplishments (as opposed to job titles like owner/operator) is a combination resume.

A combination resume includes a skills or accomplishments section before the work experience section. This resume format allows you to highlight the skills and accomplishments that are most relevant to the job you are seeking no matter when (or where) you developed those skills.

You'll find more information about the three commonly used resume formats in the article Best Resume Format, and you'll find a combination resume outline on the page Sample Resume Format. You can use the outline to get a sense of what a combination resume looks like, but I'd suggest you make a few changes to this format, as I'll describe below.

Resume writing is a bit of an art and a bit of a science, so please keep in mind, I'm providing these suggestions without seeing all of your work history. Based on the information I have, here's the resume format I'd suggest:

Contact Information

In your case, because you have a strong career history and have worked in more senior level positions, a profile would be more appropriate than a job objective here. You'll find more information about how to write resume profiles here.

Professional Accomplishments
This section is what makes your resume a combination resume. You'll use this section to highlight your most marketable skills and accomplishments. It will allow you to demonstrate your accomplishments as a business owner without highlighting the fact that you were self employed, and it will allow you to bring accomplishments from previous experience to the forefront of your resume.

Sometimes people think of this section as a skills summary where they highlight important skills. This is appropriate in some cases, but in your case, I'd suggest using this section to highlight accomplishments rather than just skills. I've included information about writing accomplishment statements in my answer to another reader's question. You'll find that information on the page Job Application Question.

Writing this section is typically the most difficult part of resume writing. It will take some time to think through and create strong accomplishment statements. Be sure to quantify your accomplishments whenever possible.

You can tailor this section to suit each specific type of job you are seeking. For example, if you are seeking a job that requires management skills, highlight management related accomplishments in this section. If you are applying to a job that requires sales experience, highlight your sales related accomplishments here.

Tailoring your resume to suit each type of job you apply to can seem like a lot of work, but, particularly in a competitive labor market, it can really help you to stand out from your competition. In order to make the job of tailoring your resume to specific jobs easier, I'd suggest writing out as many accomplishment statements as you can think of. Divide your accomplishments into relevant headings (research, marketing, sales, management, etc.), brainstorm all of your accomplishments in those areas and write out accomplishment statements (quantified where possible) for each point.

You may end up with 20 or more accomplishment statements when you finish this process. You will not include all of those statements on a single resume (about 6-8 statements is common and typically appropriate), but each time you want to submit a resume, you'll be able to choose from your list of accomplishment statements the ones that are most relevant to the job you are seeking.

Professional Experience
List your work experience in reverse chronological order. There are some strategies for moving your more relevant experience to the top of this list when your last job is less relevant than others. However, this can get a bit dicey and can raise red flags in the minds of HR staff, so, based on the information I have, I'd suggest simply keeping your work history in reverse chronological order.

You can also call this section Professional Development if that is more appropriate for you.

Community Involvement
This section, which may also be called Volunteer Work, is optional. Only include this section on your resume if it adds relevant information that supports your application to the position you are seeking.

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