I'm not going to read any of the post content here, but I think this is worth saying anyways. For what it's worth, I'm an ex-engineer and my resume circulating from over a couple years ago still gets me unwanted interview requests from staffing agents. And before you think I had some kind of special credentials or experience to get in, I didn't. I had zero previous experience and trained myself by reading manuals. After passing a technical interview over the phone, I got offered a contract for $125k a year. Once I got my foot in the door, sheer guts, hard work, and resourcefulness allowed me to eventually be hired permanently and promoted before I left a couple years back. I'm not saying my case is typical, I'm saying that principally speaking it can be done if you don't psych yourself out and are willing to put out for it.
Throw everything you think you know about writing a resume out the window and look at it with strict cost-benefit analysis. The CBA of this is that what you can gain by breaking the "rules" will net you more than what you will lose from people who will throw your resume out of the pile strictly because it's not a classic resume, especially when you may have gotten thrown out of the pile anyways.
A lot of the reason certain people have trouble finding a job when they're otherwise qualified is because the system fails them. Not being one of these people requires you to understand how the system works. Now of course, this varies depending on the size of the organization, the field you're trying to get into, things like whether the employer is hiring through a staffing agency or contractors, etc. but generally it goes like this:
1) You submit your resume, online, in the mail, or in person, whatever. Somewhere along the lines, you've specified which position you're applying for, and your resume gets put into a big stack along with the resumes of everyone else who's also applied.
2A) An intermediary of some sort will look at your resume. This is where things get complicated. If the company is doing it's own hiring, then someone from HR who likely knows almost nothing about what the reality of the actual position entails will be the person determining whether you make it to the next step. They will be given criteria from the hiring manager (who is also the person who provided the info that went into the job position posting) about what signifies a qualified candidate and anyone who fits the description will be short listed.
Usually, the hiring manager has their head stuck so far into the specifics of what they'd like in a candidate that they often times will ask for things which are overly specific. Sometimes, a person will actually meet the description and that person will probably end up getting the job, but usually, nobody fits perfectly and so the HR person will approach the stack of resumes with a bias confirmation-ish approach.
2B) If the company is using a staffing agency, they are probably looking to fill a position that is more specific so the candidates tend to be from a wide array of backgrounds. A staffing agent will try to estimate whether you'd be worth sending and is making a CBA of their own as to whether they refer you.
So as you can see, there are a few factors involved including who's thinning out the field, what they know, what their motivation is, how many people could fill the position realistically and how many people applied for it.
3) You make the short list and the hiring manager actually sees your resume. For all intensive purposes, this person does not want 15 resumes in their inbox every morning. In the course of hiring for a given position, they will probably only see about 10-20 resumes total depending on how hard the position is to fill (and therefore how long it is open) and from that, only select 2-3 for an interview.
4) You make the second level of short-list and get an interview. From there, you'll have to be selected again out probably less than 5 other people at the very most. Considering just getting an interview to be a success, because chances are you are finishing in the top 5 of a race that may have had hundreds of competitors.
Considering all this, here are a few tips to help you get through the selection process.
First, there are two major challenges in the hiring process... winning the battle on paper and then actually locking down the job with interview performance. People often times think these two challenges intermingle with each other more than they really do and write a resume in light of how they think it will be useful in an interview. This is wrong. You should design your resume specifically so it makes the cut and you get an interview, then deliver a solid performance in the interview because once you're face to face, your in-person impression is going to far outweigh whatever they thought about you from reading a piece of paper. That's just how people operate.
So how do we do that? Depends. (I know, I hate that answer too) The first step is to consider your audience.
If you're working through a direct hire HR person, you need to tailor your resume specifically around the job posting itself. Understand that they do not know very much about this job, they only have a description of qualifications and responsibilities from the hiring manager which they used to publish the posting.
If you're working through a staffing or contracting agency, their job posting may be from the hiring manager but these people are usually well versed on what an attractive candidate looks like on paper. With these people, it's all about making yourself look like a good investment for them as they don't want to send someone in for an interview if they think you'll flop. They tend to like keywords so pay specific attention to what you think they think is appealing and tailor your resume to that. In other words, this is slightly larger margin of flexibility than when working with a company HR person because they will actually have some clue themselves as to a valuable candidate for you to appeal to.
Considering these two strategies as our goal, let's get into the tactics.
Go through this exercise with your resume. Putting yourself in the mindset of the person above you're tailoring to, rank every single detail on your resume with a 1, 2, or 3... 1 being something that specifically helps you based on the position you're applying for and who does the short-listing before the hiring manager, 2 being something that neither helps nor hurts you, and 3 being something that hurts you. Make sure you do everything and that you are totally honest... for instance, having only highschool under education is probably a "3" so mark it.
Now, delete everything that is a 3. "But, everyone's resume has an education section!" Look at my face. Do I look like I care? Get rid of it, because if you did that first step correctly, why in the world would you willingly include something that hurts you? Next, expand on everything that is a 1, and keep 2's to fill the rest of the space sparingly.
A good resume will be mostly 1's and a few 2s and no 3s and I will tell you why. When someone looks at your resume and sees a 3, then they will throw it out. They do not know you or care about why it's on there and they may have hundreds of resumes to sort through. However, if it's simply not on there, they do not know and the fact is that they will at least semi-shortlist you simply because they do not know and this is the best way to make the cut... one stage at a time because the smaller the stack, the more attention your resume will get. The reason you want a lot of 1s is because after they are done throwing away a bunch of resumes with 3's, they'll have a smaller stack and your 1s is what is going to get you sent to the hiring manager for consideration.
The next tactic is to word things in a way that appeals to the person you're talking to. Like I said, staffing and contracting agencies like buzzwords since they have to turn around and sell you, and HR people like close adherence with the hiring manager's criteria (which is usually copied and pasted into the job posting) since they usually don't know any better way to pick someone.
This is where getting a job takes a lot of effort, because you should custom tailor your resume for every different job posting. Don't immortalize your resume and send the same copy to everyone unless you have bomb-proof credentials in which case you probably don't need any of this anyways. Think of each resume you send out as shooting an arrow, every single one has the potential to hit the bulls-eye and be "the one" which ended up opening up the door to getting you the job. People who take the shotgun approach are often those who complain, saying "I send out resumes to everyone and I still don't get a job, I don't know what I'm doing wrong!". They make it seem like they're putting effort into their job search but they're just taking the shotgun approach and that does not bode well when you might be 1 amongst hundreds of other candidates. The only thing this does is causes you to fail at a faster rate... so make each one count.
Lastly, I would advise keeping your resume on a single piece of paper. "But LZH! How will they ever know I worked at the Men's Suit Emporium from October 8th, 1999 to January 17th, 2001??!!1!" You're a real piece of work, you know that? I know there are some exceptions to this, and you people know who you are. Otherwise... break the rules and only put what works on there. If you're really honest with yourself, chances are if you have a resume of all "1's" then you shouldn't have a very hard time fitting it on a single piece of paper. Again, with the arrow metaphor... quality, not quantity. This tends to survive much better in a stack of 100s of other resumes, it allows the person reading it to think you look like a good candidate without flipping through multiple pages of work history... it just works.
And on that note, put your most attractive information in the middle of the page, slightly above center since this is where the eyes naturally start with when scanning a page. After that, the next best stuff goes at the top because if they like what they see they'll decide to pay more attention and read the whole thing and that means they start at the top. Obviously the least helpful stuff goes below the middle... so if you have a section that is mostly 2's, put it there. (What part of "use sparingly" don't you understand! No, I'm kidding... sort of.)
Break the rules. If you don't believe this works, consider the best commercials you've seen and remember, and consider that they've usually got nothing to do with what they're selling. The ones which actually feature the product directly and prove it works don't mean you'll necessarily believe it'll work anyways. Your resume is no different.