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Trimming down a resume that's too long

Q. I am a finance professional and my resume has gotten rather lengthy over the past few years. It is now 3 pages, which I understand is too long even with 15-plus years of experience. I would like to make my resume look as professional as possible with the help of a resume writing professional. This is my first time doing this so any recommendations on where to find a quality, reputable person to work with would be appreciated. Also, what I can expect to be charged?

A. Revising resumes can be as challenging as starting from a blank sheet. Deleting descriptions of work you were invested in, accomplishments you toiled over, and success of years ago, can be so difficult that people go to three or more pages, and reduce font size to the microscopic.

For a professional with 15 years of experience in finance, a two- page resume is appropriate. A recent college graduate should plan on one page, and three pages or more can be acceptable for PhD's, academics, and researchers, or those with many publications.

You may decide to use a resume writer, or a career counselor to help you write and format an accomplishment based resume, and you must stay deeply involved in the process to get the best final product. There are many questions to be answered to get a great resume, and you need to provide this information to the writer or counselor.

First identify the target audience, and the target role. What do you need to highlight? What will the hiring manager need to see as far as experience and accomplishments? Your goal is to make areas stand out which compel the hiring manager or recruiter to bring you in and find out more about the skills you bring to the job.

Next begin to edit your older roles. Start at the bottom of the last page of the experience section of your resume and see what the job says about you. Is the company name, your title and dates enough? Is there really that much more that needs to be said about your first professional job? If you have the choice between a line there, and another line describing the most important accomplishments or responsibility of your current role, how would you use your limited real estate?

If you can show promotion, do so. Other than that, move on to the next job. Review each line with a "So what?" Will each line matter to the hiring manager? Does it tell a story of accomplishment, problem solving, quantify success, or show significant increases in responsibility? This material survives the "So what" test.

As you look at each line, focus on the problem, the action, and the result or resolution. These PAR statements are used by most resume writers and career counselors. Make sure you show growth in each job, a diversity of areas of success, and quantify as much as possible.

Follow this process with each of your positions. Your most recent job should have the greatest detail, and typically those positions you held for the longest time will also offer the most information.

Your education and training or professional development, listed in reverse chronological order also need to be edited. Unless you were No. 1 in your class, or won some spectacular academic achievement, no GPA's are needed for professionals other than at entry level.

Civic and volunteer activity need to be edited for what they reveal about you. Proceed with caution with political affiliations or any activity to extremes.

A summary offers more information than an objective. At the screening stage, employers are more interested in how they can use your skills, which is why they want to interview you, than what you are seeking.

After you have gone through your own resume review and edit, you may decide you still want to work with a professional. The Association of Career Professionals lists local professional career counselors who you can work with in person to help you finalize a quality document. Ask for a referral from your college or university. Resume writers are also certified, and services can also be found online, and I encourage you to ask for references. You can expect to pay between $80 and $150 per hour, or $500 to $750 for packages that include resume writing and production.

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