by Hunter R. Slaton | January 01, 2010

With the unemployment rate at its highest in more than a quarter century, meeting planners have been particularly hard-hit, both by layoffs and, for independents, the loss of key client events. And that means many qualified candidates are fighting for the same few jobs.

The challenge of finding new work in such a tough environment makes it vital for seekers to have a stellar résumé. To help readers craft a more perfect curriculum vitae, M&C enlisted Dawn Penfold, CMP, the New York City-based president of the Meeting Candidate Network, the Meeting Temp Job Network and, to help obtain examples from planners who thought their résumés needed work. We received nearly 130 responses within just a few days.

We then hand-picked two planners for a résumé revamp -- Donna O'Donnell of Danville, Calif., and Martha Conti of Boston. Their documents were sent to three experts: Penfold; Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services; and Tom Washington, founder of Bellevue, Wash.-based Career Management Resources and author of the books Résumé Power and Interview Power. The pros made suggestions for improvement; results for O'Donnell's résumé are on the following page. (Conti's critique can be found here.)

The résumé doctors also offered some additional words of advice for anyone seeking a new job:

•  Focus on specific accomplishments, return on investment, bottom-line results and growth, rather than providing a rote listing of duties at each job.

•  Choose your words wisely. The copy should not be conversational in tone (i.e., "My work has included…"). Avoid first-person pronouns (I, me, my).

•  Each résumé should be tweaked to fit the specifics of the position. Include some of the same keywords that are specified as requirements in the ad.

•  Never provide your salary history on a résumé. If requested, this belongs in the cover letter.

•  If you are under 35, you should have a one-page résumé. If you are over 35, it's OK to have two pages. It should never be three or more pages unless you are applying to be an educator, a CEO or work in a highly technical field.

•  Include professional development classes or events, membership/leadership roles in industry organizations and volunteering stints.

•  Your résumé should never be an afterthought; it should be a tool that propels you forward. Stay involved and keep engaging yourself, even if you are not working at the moment. Professional development is a great way to make your résumé a dynamic document. As such, you should not look at professional development as a cost, but rather as an investment. 

Resume thumbnail   Click the résumé to see a critique.