Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Today's Modern Resume

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

Today's Modern Resume

Article excerpt

The hallmarks of the modern resume are Succinctness, Strategic Focus, and Storytelling Style.

Today's trends are a distinct reflection of and reaction to changes in our culture. The resume as we know it has been in use for more than half a century (Collins, 2011; Lempicki, 2011), but naturally it continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of employers and job seekers. As resume writers, career coaches, and career counselors, we need to be aware of how styles are changing, how our clients are using resumes, and how to create winning documents that are effective in today's employment market.

What is a Resume?

According to, a resume is:

1. A summing up; summary.

2. A brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job. That definition is expansive enough to still ring true today yet allow for the changes in styles and trends that have occurred over the past years and decades. So while a resume from the 1950s or 1980s will conform to the definition, it is very different from today's resume. In fact, a resume from as recently as four or five years ago will also differ markedly from a resume that conforms to today's best practices.

What's Changed and Why?

We have only to look at our modern culture to understand why the resume has evolved to its current style. We live in a world of constant interruptions from multiple media - emails, tweets, ad popups, screen crawls, not to mention calls, texts, and alerts on the mobile phones that we take with us everywhere.

Television commercials have gotten shorter. Nowadays 10- and 15-second spots are commonplace and 30-second spots feel leisurely, while in the 1950s the 60-second spot was the norm (Rodman, 2009). Attention spans have gotten shorter, and thorough reading of detailed documents is not to be expected in our fast-paced business culture.

To get noticed, resumes have adapted to meet the expectation for messages delivered quickly and clearly, in short bites of meaningful infor mation. All three of the hallmarks - Succinctness, Strategic Focus, and Storytelling Style - come into play for career professionals in creating resumes to meet today's needs.


Traditionally, in North America, resumes have been one, two, or possibly three pages in length. Exceptions to this rule have been academic or medical CVs, where length is not an issue and where more content can signal greater qualifications. Also, resumes (often called CVs) used in other English-speaking countries around the world have tended to be a bit longer. With the trend toward more succinct resumes, one or two pages is still the norm; three-page resumes have become rarer although not out of the question. So the theme of succinctness has only a minimal effect on total document length, but it has a major effect on the content and appearance of the resume. It is important for readers to be able to pick up key information in the quick six-second scan that is typical of a first read (TheLadders, 2012). Thus, resume writers should pay careful attention to:

* Text Density: A page of solid text is unappealing to readers, who are not sitting down for a leisurely perusal of the document but rather skimming quickly - often on a computer screen or mobile phone - for data. Best Practice: Present all resume information in short, readable chunks rather than dense, heavy sections.

* White Space: Blank space - where nothing is written - can be considered as breathing room on a page. Best Practice: Allow ample white space so that readers can pause, absorb, and then move on to another section of the document to gather additional information.

* Paragraph Length: Busy and/or distracted readers are likely to skip over any paragraph that is too long, because it is difficult to skim. Best Practice: Limit paragraph length to three or four lines at most.

* Bullet Length: Similar to paragraphs, bullets need to be written concisely. …

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