Dear Sam: I've been a full-time mom for 16 years with most of my early jobs in the retail industry. In 2012, I earned my bachelor's degree in general studies and completed continuing education credits toward a human resources certificate. My enclosed resume was completed by the career services department at my university. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. - Wendy

Dear Wendy: It can certainly be challenging to create a resume based on experience from 15-plus years ago. The career services department got you started on the right track, but I do feel there are areas that need attention in order to create your best candidacy.

Unattractive formatting

To me, the format is too aggressive. The large blocks of black shading with white text are distracting and create a very masculine resume. I do not think the format reflects your professional candidacy or your personal character.

Questionable headings

When creating headings, I always try to ensure they accurately encapsulate my clients' skills and experience. In your case, I feel that someone stuck to a template a little too tightly.

The summary at the top of your resume, titled Areas of Expertise, is not a proper Qualifications Summary but rather a list of areas to which you have been exposed throughout your career.

This might sound picky, but are you really an expert in all of those areas? If I am working with a seasoned professional I may introduce select skills with that heading, but I wonder if elevating some of your skills to this level is actually keeping someone from seeing the real you.

Your Professional Experience section, titled Selected Accomplishments, contains three bullet points, none of which are accomplishments. Be careful not to overstate your experience. You want to create a marketing document, but you want accuracy and honesty above all.

Lack of content

I understand the need for a functional design and highlighting areas of experience versus places and times of employment. However, I would need to know your exact dates of employment to determine whether omission of all dates is appropriate as this is usually a red flag for hiring managers.

Did you work part time or volunteer while raising your children? Think of things other than education that could potentially be dated and reflect recent, relevant experience. Did you work on the PTA coordinating community fundraisers or support any other causes? It is rare that I work with a mom returning to work who has not contributed in an administrative, customer service, fundraising or coordination capacity at some point during her time at home. Think about other things you could highlight that are not pure professional experiences.

In addition, you have only three sentences conveying the value of your professional experience. I would want to see this more developed. Tell your audience why what you did 16 years ago matters. If you don't develop this section further the reader may discount all of your experience.

Lastly, you introduce your three bullet points with the subheadings, Sales, Administration and Customer Service, yet the latter has no content underneath it. There is zero value in something not being explained. I am confident you can beef up the content to better present the value of the roles you performed before leaving the workforce, not to mention make the content much more relevant to human resources if that is what you are pursuing.

Think about your experience differently. It's not always about what you did, but what you did that best relates to where you want to go next.

The bottom line is that I feel you have a launching point from which to start. There is significant room for improvement in order to present the most relevant qualifications to compete in the human resources arena. I wish you the most success.

Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a leading résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at For more about Sam's résumé-writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.comor call
(614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).